Sunday, March 05, 2006

Artichoke asks why. Why indeed!

A recurring theme in Artichoke's blog has been the questioning the very essence of school as we know it. This time on the notion of life long learning, Art' is asking the important question, what environment is conducive to the development life long learning skills and values - and quite rightly suggests that it aint school!
How could keeping students in an environment that is so often the antithesis of learning, be anything more than a cynical response to the challenge of lifelong learning?
I whole heartedly agree of course, and want to start thinking about alternative models to schooling.

1. School as a community centre, where learners can access resources from family services and learning advisors/facilitators, to books and networked computers.

Loganlea State High School, in South East Queensland has a school within a school. From the outside it looks like your regular State run school. But inside it is developing radical new system. It has what is known as the Social Justice Centre. Basically a building witin the school transformed into a real student centre, decked out with a kitchen, lounges, pool tables, books and magazines, computers and meeting rooms. Around the centre are services like police, family housing, free food, welfare, and counselors.

Clearly such a place serves many functions in the low socioeconomic environment of Loganlea, but it has 2 primary functions worth mentioning here, in the context of life long learning. 1 - It is a negotiated curriculum centre, where ALL students have the opportunity to formally develop their own learning curriculum twice per year with teachers and counselors. This includes an amazing recognition of prior learning process, that captures as many of the learner's past experiences and interests as possible, and streamlines that prior learning into recognised and accredited education according to the State. This formalisation of learning into education can happen through workplace learning program, work experience, units picked up in the tertiary education and training courses, self directed learning, and the usual state classrooms of course.

Another way the Loganlea State High Social Justice Centre nurtures life long learning at an individual level is by acting as a net, catching at risk kids who get a bad run inside the school's State classrooms. When a kid gets sent out of class for disruptive behavior or what ever, they're not told to stand outside and await their discipline, they know they can visit the Centre where they just "chill out" a bit. The counselors notice when someone is "chilling out" and (with their job being to forge strong bonded relationships with the kids) are able to come and talk to them, and help them find another angle with the formal education they're having trouble with.

(Its worth mentioning that counselor work is open to anyone in the Loganlea community. The schools offers the training needed and as a result has quite a few volunteer counselors from all types of professions and backgrounds).

I personally witnessed this in action when I was there and saw a young girl arrive in the Centre fuming with rage. After a quiet word with her counselor she sat on the lounges for a while and listened to music. At the end of the period her teacher visited the counselor where they agreed that staying in that class would be no good for the girl, so the counselor and the teacher developed a flexible learning option where the girl could continue with the program, but in her own time and space, and with help from her counselor. It takes a special type of patient and committed teacher to let personality issues go here, and enter into a negotiated curriculum on the spot like that.

2. Another model I have not seen but often think about, involves the State offering more services and resources to homeschooling initiatives...

Did you hear it? The chorus of, "Oh, but kids need to learn socially.." Droning in the background. I'm continually amazed by the number of State curriculum people who have not a clue how home schooling works. They all have a story about the weird kid they knew who was homeschooled, acknowledging that the kid was very smart, but always stating how that kid didn't know how to play with other kids... oh, I guess homeschooling must be a lonely thing for kids, even with scouts, sports clubs, and other after school activities, not to mention the getting together with other homeschoolies, perhaps the things they DON'T learn in state schools - fighting, sexism, racism, drugs, teacher bullying etc are the only things that set them apart.

But anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that if State curriculum developers were ready to accept that classrooms are the problem, then maybe they might be willing and able to develop curriculum that worked in with homeshools and other slightly off centre programs more.

I have seen the growth of private providers being given access to schools. The video maker bus, all kited out with cameras and edit computers, rolling into schools to offer opportunities to make movies. Etc. Something like this...

So there's my 2 ideas on how life long learning might be nurtured in our communities a bit better.

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cj said...

In terms of doing school differently - have a chat to Trudy Graham at Allenstown or maybe check the KPS site (a tad in need of updating) -

michael said...

I'd love to find some examples/resources where home schooling is done in the local community in small groups... I've heard of this kind of thing, but not been able to find much to read.

Instead of one parent homeschooling their own kids, I wonder whether it would be possible to work together for, say, six month blocks, with a bunch of 5-8 home-schooled kids and their parents? Thats the kind of thing I'd love to see supported...

Leigh Blackall said...

In the Blue Mountains there are home schools, and this is indeed how they work. From what I have gathered talking to home schoolers, and reading their egroups, many consolidate their resources to get the social learning aspect covered from time to time. Receiving guest speakers and tutors is common too.

Perhaps you could approach home schoolers and arrange for your TAFE students to visit and give workshops in wen design...

This could be the first step to forming a relationship between TAFE and home schoolers in a range of areas.

Michael said...

Yeah I know a few home schoolers in the Mountains, but the people I know only meet up for socialisation and the odd event (excursion, bush walk etc), not say, for discussing a novel they're reading, or learning some new Maths concepts, or Web Design!

I'm going to try to find out some more... and that's a great idea about organising workshops for home schools... I wonder if it's possible?!

To be honest, it's more for my kids sake that i'm interested in all this... but still, that motivates me to learn :)