Thanks to all those who came to my workshop and keynote speech at the III Forum Microsoft Educacion, Madrid (#IIIForumEdu). This was a really well organised and well attended event – and thanks to my Microsoft colleagues, especially Juan Ramon Alegret Crespi; Maria Zamorano Alberruche; Irene Ocaña del Rey; Lola Chacon Gutierrez; and Fernando Bocigas Palma.
Here’s a link to the OneNote file complete with on-the-fly annotations:
Think of something you are really good at – something that you excel in to the point that others would comment on just how good you are at it.
Now think about how you achieved this. What did you do to become excellent at that particular thing? Which of these best describes how you acquired your excellence:
1. Trial and error
If you picked “Practice” you will have been in the majority. If you picked “Lecture” you will have been in an extreme minority. And yet, lecturing is how most of education is “delivered”.
So starts Erik Mazur’s talk on “Memorisation or understanding – are we teaching the right thing?”
Erik Marur is a Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University and has spent his teaching career applying scientific principles to teaching and learning. Making extensive use of data, Professor Mazur shows that much “instruction” only gives an illusion of learning as its based on memorisation, not understanding.
“I thought I was a good teacher until I discovered my students were just memorising information rather than learning to understand the material”. Professor Mazur explains how he came to the conclusion that it was his teaching that caused students to fail, and how he changed his approach with the result of significant improvements to his students’ performance.
For the full story, watch this Youtube video (fast forward to 3:02 if you want to skip the intros):
With top rankings in PISA and TIMMS, Singapore is the envy of many schooling systems around the world. Whilst ICT is just one of a range of factors that affect learning outcomes, it is a key tool for meeting at least two of the four key desired outcomes of the Singapore schooling system – for all students to become self-directed and collaborative learners.
Singapore was one of the first countries in the world to have a national strategy for ICT in Schools. A succession of well-planned, funded and executed programmes focussing initially on infrastructure and training, and more recently focussing on self-directed learning – has driven effective use of ICT. For details of Singapore’s main ICT projects, see http://wp.me/P16Iyp-46
A great showcase for the effectiveness of this investment is Crescent Girls’ School, a member of the “Future School” programme, and recently awarded the status of Mentor School by Microsoft. Crescent also hosted the CRADLE conference on 1st – 3rd August.
On the surface, Crescent could be any other Secondary School, but a quick glance at the trophy cabinet next to the reception makes it clear that this school is totally committed to high performance. Crescent’s aim is to be at the forefront of harnessing technology to enhance learning outcomes. ICT is used extensively in both delivery and assessment and the school’s 1300 students each have their own Tablet PC. The goal of using ICT is to give students a degree of choice over what they learn and how they learn.
The students engage in a wide range of activities including 2D, 3D animation and robotics; multimedia production; photo-shooting and editing; and development and use of e-books. Particularly impressive is the use of Tablet PCs’ “inking” features for a range of activities including highly impressive manga artwork.
Crescent is moving towards project based learning with a series of “Integrated Secondary Curricula” programmes.
Virtual Reality is used at the school too. For example, in Geography, students experience immersive content showing erosion in a river – a concept that is much easier to grasp when viewing 3d animated rocks being swept along by the current from the perspective of the river bed.
Particularly impressive at Crescent is the way that teachers engage in the content creation process. For example, a complete suite of applications and content have been developed for the Tablet PC that not only exploits the pen and inking technologies but also address a range of different learning styles.
Taking this process further, teachers specified collaborative games to take advantage of the MultiTouch features in Windows 7 and HueLabs’ “Heumi” multitouch (Surface) devices. This means that students can now engage in a wide range of collaborative learning experiences, such as learning to write Chinese. As impressive as the technology itself is the way in which the room in which the Heumi devices are deployed. Here, in the “iCove”, strong colour coding of the devices and the seating, enable teachers to group learners according to their learning objectives.
More recently the school has introduced a biometric system that not only automatically records the students as present but takes their temperatures as they come into the school in the morning, enabling their health to be monitored.
The infrastructure that sits behind Crescent’s ICT provision is highly impressive. The infrastructure foundation is a Campus-wide wireless network with 100 Mbps Broadband. Tablet PCs are stored in steel lockers, and batteries are charged at charging stations.
Approximately 30 on-premises servers perform a range of essential back-end functions from authentication to content management. The Server infrastructure – based on a Microsoft platform – supports a rich tapestry of capabilities including:
i-Connect Learning Space – a role based portal for organising student’s learning and activities
HeuX – Huelabs Classroom Management System – with lesson management, digital book library, real-time Communication and Collaboration include notes-sharing and social media; screen monitoring and broadcasting; Presence awareness; attendance; Video Conferencing
i-Media – content management system.
These solutions are supported by Windows Server; SQL Server; Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server; System Center; Live Communications Manager; Hyper-V and Live@Edu. Much of the learning that takes place at Crescent happens after school hours, and the Virtual Private Network enables students to have 24×7 access. It’s not uncommon to see the portal being used by students at home at 2.00AM.
Singapore schools benefit from very high quality teachers (only 10% of applicants get admitted into teacher training). This is reflected in the staff at Crescent. Principal, Mrs Eugenia Lim, supported by Chief Technology Architect for Learning, Mr Lee Boon Keng, have a highly structured and team orientated approach, underpinned by a strong focus on continuous professional development.
Every hour, the chimes of Big Ben ring across the school signifying a change of lesson. As with Cornwallis School in Kent in the UK, I was totally inspired by what I saw at Crescent but couldn’t help wondering whether a shift from time-based to a performance-based model would better fit such a technology rich approach to learning. Nonetheless, Crescent’s use of ICT is without doubt world leading.
Whilst Crescent Girls’ School is clearly a leader amongst leaders, it’s far from unique in Singapore in the way in which it innovates with technology. Singapore schools benefit from long term, consistent policy and investment in ICT in schooling. With their structured approaches, strong management and deep understanding of how ICT can make learning more effective, Singapore schools look set to continue to show the world how it’s done.
Fortunately for us all, Crescent Girls’ School are “giving back” by encouraging people to visit the school – both physically and virtually.
Thanks to Eugenia Lim, Lee Boon Keng and all the staff and students at Crescent Girl’s School.
On August 1st I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to deliver the Keynote at the CRADLE conference in Singapore.
The presentation contained a mix of material contained in “Schooling at the Speed of Thought” and some of the articles in this blog, especially the Transformation Phase article. Here’s the key points:
Singapore was one of the first countries in the world to have a national strategy to roll out ICT to all schools. Key challenges addressed in this initiative are to:
Prepare students to meet the challenges of the 21st Century
Bring about improved learning and increased engagement through the use of ICT
Enable more self-directed learning
In summary, the challenge is to make schooling in Singapore even more effective through the use of ICT.
To address this, we need to ask three key questions:
1. How can software accelerate the learning process?
Computers in learning are increasingly being used as tools for creativity rather than as machines to deliver the curriculum. So, with a proliferation of new hardware and software developments, what new creative options are there for learning? How can software help to personalise the learning experience and open up completely new learning opportunities?
2. How can software be used to make better decisions?
How can schooling information and data be leveraged to get maximum impact from precious resources; what do we mean by “intelligent intervention” and why it is so important; how can we empower all stakeholders with information; and how do we drive alignment and performance towards strategic goals?
3. How can Cloud Computing be exploited to cheaply deliver massive-scale, high-quality learning solutions?
We don’t normally expect a school to generate its own electricity – but we have expected our education institutions to be experts at running their own “IT Power Stations”. How can Cloud Computing change this?
With the advent of Cloud Computing, also comes the realistic prospect of providing anytime anywhere learning for all. So how can massive, cheap, and highly available computing services be combined with a range of access technologies and high quality learning content to open up learning opportunities to all citizens of Singapore – and especially those who are in the greatest need of it?
With highly developed infrastructure, talent and innovation, Singapore is in a great position to exploit technology even further. The concluding part of this presentation asked what world-leading innovations and software solutions can be leveraged in Singapore and how we can architect “anytime anywhere learning for all?
Thanks to my colleages in Singapore – Horng Shya Chua; Jason Trump; Gerald Tan; Puay San Ng; Eugenia Lim, Lee Boon Keng and the staff and students at Crescent Girls’ School. Thanks also to all those who attended the CRADLE event.
This is the fourth and final article on the phases of transformation that schooling systems go through. The first was “Taking the First Steps”, and this phase is characterized by access. The second, Taking the Next Steps – The ‘Enhanced’ Phase, is where technology is used to enhance existing processes. The third -“The Strategic Phase” – is characterized by using technology to meet strategic goals and help determine what those goals should be.
Feedback that readers have kindly sent me had prompted me to adjust the overall maturity framework so each of the main characteristics of each phase now look like this:
Whilst the three preceding phases were about applying technology to schools as they currently are, the Transformed Phase is about fundamentally changing the nature of schooling itself.
Using ICT to transform schooling allows us to ask questions such as “where is school”, “how do we deliver personalised and engaging learning experiences”, and “how can we develop highly effective and efficient schooling systems”?
Whilst transformation will mean many different things to many different people, there are three main ingredients to a transformed schooling system.
The first is providing anytime, anywhere learning for all citizens. The second is providing highly personalised experiences to all learners. The third is about building a culture of high performance throughout the entire schooling system.
Anytime Anywhere Learning For All
The first principle in transforming schooling is to redefine its “customer” base. At present, schooling reaches learners between the ages of 5 to 18, within narrowly defined geographic boundaries, and for around 18% of the year only. Now, there is a significant opportunity to deliver learning services to entire populations at relatively low costs. This is because the cost of digital content and software only marginally increases with the number of users, and because the cost of delivering e-learning services at massive scale through Cloud computing is increasingly cheap and getting cheaper.
To date we have thought about learning in the physical sense of going to a place called a school. Going forward, schools will facilitate learning less as a physical experience and more as one that can take place across different locations. Increasingly, we can expect the process of schooling to become less dependent on learners regularly attending a single campus over a long period of time.
Schooling will spread out of the physical confines of the school campus, and into ‘found space’ such as offices; high street locations; apartments; and even the homes of children.
The youngest learners need somewhere near their own home where they can physically go to access learning facilities; to learn with other groups of learners and access richer materials than those which they have in their own home. Older learners need learning spaces to interact with their tutors, counsellors and learning managers, but also need to learn in environments that are appropriate to their learning tasks. For example, a specialist science learning module – say optics, for example – may well be based in a traditional (campus) school laboratory, but equally there could be a company in the local community specialising in optics that would be willing for students to learn at their facilities.
In this model, there is still room for the traditional “Campus School”, but as a social, intellectual and resource hub – a place for those specialist learning facilities which might not be available in the local community such as laboratories, workshops, libraries, art studios and gymnasia. The Campus School is also a place from which to organise and manage learning and produce learning content.
The Campus School of the future will be a community resource; it will be open for 52 weeks a year, 7 days a week from 7.30 am (with breakfast clubs, computer clubs, gym facilities etc.), and will stay open until 10.00 pm (with after school clubs, homework clubs, sports facilities, cyber cafes etc). Its pupils will be aged 1 to 100. The four walls of a classroom/school will be replaced with online classrooms/schools/homes, ensuring access to technology and information for all.
Many university towns reflect this approach, where university learning facilities are embedded in the local community. Schooling is catching up. In “First Steps” we’ve already seen the ‘Kiosk’ model in India, where learning is simply put out onto the street to be consumed by self-organising groups of children. On the other side of the world, in New Zealand, Discovery Learning has schooling facilities deeply embedded in the community with locations in shopping malls and central business districts. Here, “school” isn’t a building and children are given “trust licences” to learn where they need to in the local community.
In this model, there is a vast spectrum of types of learning spaces, from traditional classrooms to cyber cafes, each type able to facilitate different levels of collaboration and self-directed learning.
New types of learning spaces will facilitate a much wider spectrum of learning methods too:
Where Is School?
“Anytime Anywhere Learning for All” means exactly that. Every citizen, anywhere, able to access organised learning. Not everyone will need to, or be able to, attend school in order to receive schooling services, which poses the question “where is school?” In the transformed schooling model, schooling is embedded deeply into the local community in the following way.
1. Community Learning Spaces
Community Learning Spaces are places in which formal, organised schooling takes place for school age learners, that are not within the walls of the traditional Campus School. These spaces are, in effect, “franchises” of the Campus School, and firmly embedded into the Campus School’s systems. Learners in Community Learning Spaces have managed internet access, and plug their personal learning devices straight into e-Learning Service. Even the youngest children can learn with ICT – e.g. games based learning, immersive environments, interactive whiteboards and programmable toys. Learning to write with a Tablet PC helps young children to acquire basic skills long before they can type or use a mouse.
Learners are registered as members of the Connected Learning Community and the process of data collection begins. Managed learning pathways and dynamic timetables ensure that students work on the tasks that are most appropriate for their stage of learning. A spectrum of creativity, productivity and learning tools ensure that the optimal blend of computer and teacher mediated learning takes place. The ICT infrastructure comprises wireless network, workstations, display, scanners. Infrastructure and Core Sofware Services mean that computers joining the wireless network are managed via a Virtual Private Network. Users and devices are authenticated, and policies – especially security and filtering policies – are imposed.
Teachers, assistants and other responsible adults – connected to peers and experts through the technology – directly support the learning process. Learners progress through the curriculum as quickly as their learning performance permits, and move to different learning spaces when appropriate. Staff and learners alike access the Connected Learning Community portal to get information, content and tools. Learners can see their assignments, feedback, learning materials and web links from a single site, and populate an e-portfolio with their work. Community Learning Spaces are extensions of
the Campus School, and both staff and learners will spend some time at there.
2. Campus School
The Campus School acts as a central point for organising, managing and creating Anytime Anywhere Learning in the community. The Campus School in effect “franchises” learning operations in Community Learning Spaces, so ICT is used to drive alignment; manage performance; and ensure high quality, paperless administrative processes. Live communications ensure that expertise within and beyond the Campus School can be “piped” into the Community Learning Spaces (CLS) on demand.
The IT Infrastructure of the CLSs are supplied as a service from the Campus School.
Learners – of all ages – visit the Campus School to use specialist facilities and IT equipment that are unavailable in the Community Learning Spaces. Whilst learners bring their personal learning devices into the campus, the site has a proliferation of multi-touch interactive displays and these enable learners to access a vast array of information and content from anywhere on the site.
In the Schooling Enterprise Architecture model, Campus Schools are branch sites from the Local Education Authority hubs and as such receive the full range of Schooling Enterprise Services for Student Relationship Management, intelligent intervention, performance management, planning, operations and administration.
A master database of resources – people, spaces, equipment and content – enables the Campus School to dynamically timetable learners so their precise learning needs can be met immediately. Predictive analysis of learning pathways enables the system to book or purchase resources well in advance.
Underpinning the IT infrastructure at the school and its “franchises” is a set of Core Software Services including Security, Identity, Comms & Collab, System Management and Directory services. Services are either delivered through on-premises servers or relayed from data centres, private and public clouds “upstream” at LEA and/or MoE levels.
3. Local Education Authority
As a Hub in the Schooling Enterprise Architecture, the Local Education Authority’s main role is to deliver Schooling Enterprise Services to Campus Schools. Their managerial functions, facilitated by ICT, are to drive accountability, alignment and performance.
Another key role is to run large scale access programmes. Using aggregated buying power and regional connections the LEA is in an ideal position to acquire devices, infrastructure components and support for the best price-to-quality ratio. As a Hub for the MoE, LEAs should be able to ‘enforce’ MoE mandates on standards, quality and Service Level Agreements.
The LEA can also be an aggregation point for data held on children by different authorities – health, social care, the police and education – to be aggregated to give a secure ‘big picture’ on children,
particularly those who may be at risk.
Anytime anywhere learning for all means delivering learning experiences to all, including those in work. Online vocational courses are available through the Connected Learning Community portal. Workplaces offer valuable learning opportunities to learners of all ages, especially where specialised equipment is beyond the financial reach of the Campus School. The workplace can also be used to house Community Learning Spaces. Being part of the Connected Learning Community Portal; local businesses can have direct dialogue with – and receive relevant learning services from – their local Campus School, FE College and University to better meet the learning needs of their organisations.
Universities offer a rich extension to the Campus School learning community by offering online access to lectures, experts and learning resources. Within the Anytime anywhere learning model, Higher Education is made available to students who are ready to take learning modules offered by the University – virtually or otherwise.
6. Off-Site Learning Environments
With community-wide Wi-Fi coverage, homes, cyber cafés, hospitals, and recreation areas can all be turned into learning environments.
Transformed schooling organises the learning around the individual, not the other way around.
Learning, by definition, is personal—no one else can learn for you. People learn different things at different speeds and in different ways. When students walk into a learning space, they bring very different sets of attributes, abilities, knowledge, skills, understandings and attitudes with them.
Over recent years, the concept of personalising learning has gained considerable ground.
From a technical perspective, personalising learning is about:
Delivering an extended range of opportunities to learn – individually and collaboratively
Delivering content that addresses precise learning needs
Managing learning pathways
Extending Opportunities to Learn
The wider and deeper the choice of content, the more personalised the learning experience can be. When providing learning to an entire community, the type of learning experience consumed will range from informal learning to structured and accredited courses.
With a wide and deep supply of learning content, learners can have a wide choice of learning experiences, modalities, pathways and assessments. For example, being able to pick from a menu of languages to learn is a more personalised experience than just having one to choose from. To be able to choose what level to study a language at – from beginner to advanced – again adds to the degree of personalisation.
Personalised learning is not about learning in isolation, however. It is quite the opposite in, fact. Learning is a social activity and personalising the learning experience is to do with providing opportunities to collaborate as well as to learn independently. A learning task that has been personalised for somebody could involve them working in a team, and part of the assessment could be how well they have managed to collaborate with other people. Therefore, another technical requirement here is to provide Communication and Collaboration tools – the more sophisticated these tools, the
greater the possible degree of personalisation.
Addressing Precise Learning Needs
Learners learn in completely different ways, and at different rates depending on prior knowledge and their learning styles. Therefore personalised learning systems need to deliver content so that different learning styles are addressed and different learning speeds are catered for. For example, in learning about the skeleton of dinosaurs, one learner might learn best by listening to a recording, another through looking at pictures, another by using a Tablet PC to kinaesthetically piece together the bones with a stylus.
From a technical point this means that content needs to be packaged so that learners can access it through multiple learning modes. Increasingly there will be automated agents that scour the internet and deliver content that precisely matches learning needs.
The relative length of time that it takes a learner to acquire the expected learning in each module shouldn’t matter as the e-learning services will adjust the personal learning pathway that the learner takes accordingly.
Managing Personal Learning Pathways
The extent to which a learning task has been personalised is a function of the extent to which that individual’s prior knowledge, skills, preferred learning styles, and attitudes have been taken into account when assigning the task.
In this model, learners are constantly assessed as they move through the learning programme, and the pathways that they take continuously evolve as they work their way through. This relies on feedback loops and systems which can dynamically adapt to the twists and turns of the learning process, and set challenging learning goals and tasks. This is essentially about using “business logic” which in turn uses data to decide what students need to learn next and manage the learning process.
Setting the learning task automatically is something that intelligent tutoring systems and learning management systems such as “Success Maker” have been doing for many years. However, if completing the learning task needs more than just a computer, managing the process dynamically becomes complicated.
This is where dynamic timetabling comes in. Dynamic timetabling starts with the premise that learning should be organised on a ‘performance’ as opposed to a ‘time’ basis (see Schooling at the Speed of Thought for more details). The core idea is that dynamic timetabling matches the optimal learning experience for a learner to the resources needed to deliver it. For example, if the learner has mastered the concept of soil erosion in Geography, the next task may be to apply that learning in a practical experiment. This involves working with others who are at the same learning stage, using equipment, a physical space and teacher/assistant supervision. Ideally, the dynamic timetabling system will have predicted when these resources will be needed, organised them ahead of schedule and matched the learner to what they need to complete the next task.
Today, this can be at least partially accomplished through resource scheduling within CRM.
Once the learning task is completed, a record of achievement builds in the learner’s e-portfolio.
Culture of Performance
In the Transformed Phase the entire schooling system is working at optimum efficiency and effectiveness – what Joey Fitts and Bruno Aziza (Driving Business Performance, 2008) call a “Culture of Performance”. To get to this stage schooling systems will have gone through the following stages:
First Steps: Increasing visibility
Enhanced: Moving beyond gut feel, and planning for success
Strategic: Executing on strategy
A culture of performance is goal orientated; results are measured and members of the Connected Learning Community are competitive in a constructive way. A culture of performance is
about transparency, predictability, and the ability to adapt to changing conditions. With capabilities to monitor, analyse, and plan, performance orientated organisations can create a culture where information is a prized asset, aligned execution is the norm, and accountability is embedded.
From a learner’s perspective, this is about friction-free administration regarding courses, options and assessments. It’s about micro payments, and cashless vending, and not having to repeatedly enter the same basic data for silo’d administrative processes. It’s also about the seamless escalations of issues – such as requests for special support.
From a teacher’s perspective this is about doing the lowest possible levels of administrative tasks, confident in the knowledge that the system is dealing with the administrative mechanics of running the schooling operations. For those administrative tasks that teacher have to do, reporting, administration, productivity and communication & collaboration tools ensure that the tasks are efficiently executed and add real value to the organisation.
Administrators and managers get the benefit of using processes that have been integrated. For example, when new staff join the organisation, background checks, basic data collection, terms and conditions, salary and on-boarding systems all work together as a single function, crossing organisational boundaries automatically. When strategy is set at the highest organisational level, this cascades down automatically into the objective setting process, ensuring organisational alignment. Performance management tools linked to in-depth data about learner performance ensure that teaching staff are rewarded fairly. Business intelligence is available to provide deep insights into operations to ensure that resources are being used to maximum effect.
Bringing it All Together
The key difference between a transformed schooling system and any of the other phases is the degree to which the entire system is architected around the student.
The Transformed schooling system will integrate a spectrum of services and processes, many which would have been in silos before the transformation process, around the student. The result of this is that the student experiences a range of highly individualised services, delivered by a high performance, highly connected, lean, efficient and cost effective schooling system.
Getting to Transformed schooling is a long journey. In most countries there will be significant inertia from legacy systems. Paradoxically, one of the drivers for transformation is diminishing budgets. In the United States, for example, there is a strong surge towards anytime anywhere, personalised learning for all – delivered from outside the formal schooling system, driven by collapsing schooling budgets and widespread dissatisfaction with the current system.
Ultimately, the point of investing in transforming a schooling system is to get an order-of-magnitude improvement in return on education budget investment, and this cannot be done in isolation. The whole enterprise of transforming schooling needs to be organised within the framework of a Schooling Enterprise Architecture, as described in detail in Schooling at the Speed of Thought.
Focusing on the “IT Platform Architecture”, the Transformed phase has 5 interconnected layers:
And finally, across each layer are the following key technology levers:
This is the last in this series of articles on the phases through which schooling systems evolve, but watch this space for related articles. All comments, feedback, questions and suggestions for articles will be very welcomed.
Thanks to Matthew Woodruff and Chris Poole from lookred for contributions to this article.
A question that I get asked constantly is “how do we implement change in ordinary ‘factory schooling’ buildings”? Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the Cornwallis Academy in Kent in the UK where they are part way through transforming out of the factory schooling model into something much more effective.
Whilst, clearly, there are significant differences between schooling systems in the UK and in other parts of the world, there are many lessons from Cornwallis that are applicable in most countries.
Cornwallis Academy is a large mixed secondary school with 1600 students and is part of a consortium of schools called Future Schools Trust, headed by Chris Gerry.
Results in Cornwallis have improved 16% since 2008 – but the ambitions of Chris, David Simons (Cornwallis’ Principal) and the staff go way beyond getting good academic qualifications. The aim of Cornwallis Academy is for their students to grow up to be happy, fulfilled citizens who can support themselves and contribute to society.
The main drivers for change at Cornwallis were:
Developing a work model for students and staff that is representative of the world outside the school
Building a team model to share good teaching practice rather than the traditional model of the ‘lonely ‘artisan’ teacher’
Developing a wider skill set such as social and 21st century skills that are relevant in modern world
These were all built around a relationship driven culture where pupils are part of the learning experience – not just recipients with the teachers in total command of the learning.
‘Attainment’ (i.e. learning performance) and ‘Wellbeing’ are the two main agendas that are used to ensure that students are successful.
The ‘Attainment’ agenda aims for 100% pass rate in examinations
The ‘Wellbeing’ agenda focuses on emotional intelligence and risk reduction, and recognises that social development helps drive academic success
An economic model underpins management decisions across the Future Schools Trust consortium. In other words, managing costs and maximising effectiveness of spend are the key management drivers. Through the lense of economics, management at Cornwallis pull three main levers simultaneously:
A key aim is to develop more creative teachers through a more modern work environment that breaks the link with traditional approaches and attitudes.
Teachers are required to work in small groups and have choices about how they manage their work.
The school’s management can provide detailed guidance to teachers within this environment if they need to.
They are designing systems that feedback information on performance to both pupils and teachers, and compare performance with averages. Exposing the data in an open way provides “nudges” to performance. There is a focus on improving lesson quality and continuously collecting data on how well pupils are learning.
The school runs a 6 weekly reporting schedule that includes reporting on the development of “soft skills”. Teaching teams are continuously collecting and reporting lesson data.
Much work has been done to remodel learning spaces within existing buildings and within constrained budgets. Much of this has involved knocking down walls to create bigger spaces and painting – low-budget activities. The aims were to:
Impact mood positively
Foster group work
Provide more space than conventional classrooms
Allow some choice of work space
The Future Schools Trust has pioneered a new kind of learning space called the “Learning Plaza” – a large space created from knocking down walls between traditional classrooms, or using an existing large space such as an assembly hall.
This space was once four separate classrooms. Knocking down walls forces a transformation at relatively low cost.
According to Gerald Haigh, a UK Education Journalist, “if we believe that transformation involves providing children with a wide range of learning opportunities, among which sitting still and listening to the teacher is one of the least important, then the concept of the ‘Learning Plaza’ immediately looks like an entirely logical solution.
There, children can consult more than one teacher. Teachers can consult each other. Children can work in groups—of any size from two to ninety—or independently, and with their technology to hand.
The figures show that the children who use the Learning Plazas are less likely to be absent from school, and much less likely to be excluded for misbehaviour”.
The Learning Plaza concept – large open spaces, and lots of technology, give staff and students room for creativity and collaboration
A key Change Management principle is “Test Bed Areas”, and through trialling Learning Plazas concept they found that it is 20% cheaper to build schools based on the plaza concept – for a start, there is less brick and mortar going into a new-build school using this approach.
At Cornwallis, they are not afraid to take the best ideas from the world of business, so they make great use of “Business Intelligence” – BI. This allows them to operate a model driven by measurement.
22 different risk areas are identified, and each student has an individual risk profile relating to likely success both at school and beyond. This enables teaching staff to make data-driven interventions, and manage risk. The system is ‘intelligent’ – over time it ‘learns’ which approaches have been most successful. The interventions are informed by the consortium’s work with Yale University on ‘life space’ which looks at how children make life choices and how they might influence these.
Underpinning this, Management Information Systems provide real-time information on how the school is performing.
Technology is used extensively in teaching and learning, with most of the curriculum online now and the intent to have it all online by the start of the 2011-2012 school year. Students and staff have ubiquitous access to devices, and Cornwallis was one of the first schools in the UK to make extensive use of Tablet PCs. The school also runs a “Connected Learning Community” through a Learning Gateway (SharePoint) portal, which provides all stakeholders a unified platform for communication and collaboration.
Students and staff make extensive use of technology, including a Learning Gateway portal
This smart use of technology leads to potential savings across a range of public sector services including welfare, health and law enforcement.
Looking to the Future
“Breaking the mould” – where there once were classrooms, there’s now a well used informal learning space, complete with coffee shop
In recognition of the lessons that can be learned from the Cornwallis experience, this summer they will host 180 leaders from China who will be there to learn how to bring about transformational change at scale.
Key Lessons from Cornwallis
Economics underpins everything. Financial autonomy is essential.
Leadership training is crucial. You can have all the physical assets you like, but without clear goals and solid management nothing will happen.
Create momentum, and advance on all three fronts – people, space and technology – aggressively and in parallel.
Invest in Test Bed Areas – don’t implement wide scale reform without first trialling it. Start with transforming the model for a single year group.
Focus on the end-user experience. It’s all about building engaging learning experiences around the student, not forcing students to fit the factory model.
The result of the new approaches at Cornwallis is that learning has speeded up, to the point that the “key stages” – the time taken to progress from one segment of the UK National Curriculum to the next – can be accelerated. The staff at Cornwallis believe that their students could complete Key Stage 3 in 2 years instead of 3; external examinations (GCSE) in 1 year instead of 2; and even university courses in Year 13.
Whilst I’m totally inspired by what I saw at Cornwallis, I think there is one crucial piece missing from the jigsaw puzzle – a full shift from a time-based to a performance-based model. This approach is brilliantly articulated by Richard DeLorenzo from the Reinventing Schools Coalition in his book “Delivering on the Promise, and underpins the approach taken by Kunskapsskolan schools. To do this at scale will require “dynamic timetabling”, something that a number of organisations are keen to develop.
Saying that, Cornwallis offer a solid, practical and well thought through model for anyone wishing to make transformational change within hard resource and environmental constraints. What’s more, they generously share their “secret sauce” for the benefit of the wider community.
A Principal for whom I once worked told me that the best way to eat an elephant is “one chunk at a time”. Cornwallis has shown that it’s better to eat 3 chunks – people, spaces and technology – simultaneously.
Thanks to Chris Gerry; David Simons; Claire Thompson; the staff and students at Cornwallis; Chris Poole and Matthew Woodruff of lookred; Andrew Wild of Manchester City Council; and to my Russian and CEE colleagues, Igor Balandin; Anton Shulzhenko; Alexander Pavlov and Teo Milev, who prompted the visit.