The MLC school in Sydney has arguably one of the longest 1-to-1 computing initiatives in the world. Whilst attending the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong, I met Westley Field their Director of Online Learning and was immediately impressed by the vision he shared of technology infused learning. I was fortunate enough to visit MLC and spend a morning with Westley and his team.
Setting the Mood
The brand new primary campus is the pride of the school and epitomizes a contemporary, flexible, and lively learning environment you would expect to see in Silicon Valley. Â A funky lime green reception desk sets the mood in the reception area. Natural light floods the building through generous and clever use of floor-to-ceiling glass, modular furniture loosely arranged in expansive wall-free rooms with both wet and dry zones, a floating glass staircase leads you down and outside to open play areas, and large glass rooms provide temporary isolation if desired.
We asked a staff member for her perspective on teaching and learning in this environment and she remarked that the design naturally encouraged group work and students were learning to control their voices. Since no desks were assigned to students, there was less conflict and more openness to sharing, she said.
I then met with the IT team and was surprised to learn that they are running both “G” and “N” wireless frequencies. This they explained was to ensure their “N” bandwidth is not being driven down by mobile devices. Â Interestingly, they are moving towards a dual-partition software image for increased data integrity. The support center is well resourced with two dedicated staff and a desktop that allows students to log their own help requests.
By far my lasting impression was the fantastic collaborative work Westley has been doing in the virtual world with ‘Skoolaborate’. He shared with me a video of MLC students engaged in challenge-based learning with students in Japan. They were attempting to construct a bridge across a river that separated the two groups, demonstrating almost all of the celebrated 21st learning skills.