Powerful partnerships, personalised learning and a bit of foo for thought

Personalised Learning, Powerful Partnerships!

This statement outlines two of the central philosophies of Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

Personalised learning for us means that our students will be in a position to negotiate and shape their own learning. We will aim to provide opportunities for their interests and passions to translate into extended projects and possibly even shape their entire course of study. How exactly this will be achieved is still to be decided, with our timetable and year structure being developed over time, especially as we continue to view other schools and environments for guidance and inspiration. So far we have visited with Albany Senior High School and tomorrow we visit Ormiston Senior College - two Auckland secondary schools that have led the way in modern learning environments. Like HPSS, both schools have open and flexible learning spaces and have challenged traditional notions of subject and curriculum defined departments and the role of the tutor teacher. In April we look forward to visiting a number of "self-directed" schools in Canada and the "big picture" Met School in Rhode Island. Another school on our radar includes the Australian Science and Mathematics School. If you have any other suggestions we would love to hear them!

Powerful partnerships are also key. Whether it be the reciprocal learning partnership between student and teacher, student and student or the the school and community. The strength of the partnership between teacher and student will determine how successfully learning can be personalised, the partnership between the school and community will help us in offering an education that goes beyond the school boundaries as learners develop mentoring relationships with businesses and seek out ways to contribute and care for the community and surrounding environment. Again, the way this is to be achieved is still up for discussion, and any suggestions, ideas or contacts are welcome.

Finally, over the weekend, I was lucky enough to attend Kiwi Foo, an annual unconference organised by Nat Torkington that sees a rich range of thinkers and doers camping out and sharing experiences and ideas for an intense 48 hour period. Once I got over my initial intellectual inferiority complex and recognised my camp companions for what they were - a stunningly rich and varied collection of generous, passionate, funny, candid and clever folk - I got down to business, making the most of an opportunity to connect with, learn from and share ideas with as many as possible. By the end of foo, not only was I mentally exhausted, but I also had more ideas, new friends and connections than I know what to do with. Interestingly, it was this experience that really made it hit home - authentic and relevant personalised learning can only take place when the content is crowdsourced and the schedule is entirely co-constructed (this being what defines an UNconference) and that when you bring people together, with a little time time and space powerful partnerships can be formed very quickly.

Some personal highlights from the weekend included robot building, the Ignite presentations, discussions about playing games in public spaces and sitting in on a number of discussions ranging from 'how to talk to the media' to 'what and how we should be teaching our kids'.

But actually what I think I enjoyed the most was the chance to move beyond the "educational echo chamber" and the opportunity to see a range of topics and issues though the lens of academics, entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers from a range of disciplines. I do wonder how we might apply this interdisciplinary model in a school environment....I mean why couldn't school be one big unconference?

Hmmmm. Foo(d) for thought indeed.


  1. I imagine 'unconferencing' has a similar feeling to 'de-schooling'. 'Unconference' - I like the concept. Imagine creating a similar environment where students and teachers come together and co-construct teaching and learning around passions and interests they bring to the forum and from links they make during the 'experience'.
    - students need de-schooling too

  2. Great to meet you at KiwiFoo, Claire. You've got a rich opportunity in front of you with the creation of a new school.

    1. Thanks Becca. Will definitely be in touch sometime soon!


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