The World’s First M-School?

10 10 2006

The Sydney Morning Herald (a reputable Australian newspaper) reports: “A 24-hour school with no traditional classrooms and where students use mobile phones and laptops to learn is being built in Sydney.”

The school will support 1700 pupils from kindergarten to Year 12 who will be able to attend flexibly between 6am and 10pm, access their work and lesson materials at any time via the internet, and access online tutorials between 8pm and 10pm.

“Students will come online and enter into a dialogue with their tutors,” said Greg Whitby, executive director of schools in the Parramatta diocese.

…The traditional classroom concept will disappear, replaced by “learning spaces”. The school will be referred to as a “learning community” and teachers will be known as “learning advisers”, Mr Whitby said. “The walls of a classroom become redundant because students are able to access real-time, any-time learning.”

Technology would be a major focus of the school that will boast a “meshed wireless environment”, he said. “It will be an e-learning environment using m-learning [mobile technology] tools.”

This could mean a student might be sitting in the playground carrying out school work via a mobile phone. Laptop computers will be another learning tool.

Is this the world’s first designer m-learning school? Is this a new way of learning that leads the way for teaching and learning? Are computer- and mobile- learning systems, pedagogies, and policies mature enough to support a fully-dependant school of some two thousand staff and students? Are kindergarten students ready to depend on and be supported by those systems?

My personal reaction is that this is a visionary and very brave venture. I believe that m-learning poses new opportunities for teaching and learning that can engage, immerse and empower learners, but I don’t think I ever would have dreamed of something like this coming happening so soon.

It seems an audacious move, but a brief web search shows that Greg Whitby has a track records as an outstanding and visionary educator; he has previously championed the cause of new learning principles and methodologies such as blogs and wikis, and his education office won a prestigious award last month for Business Excellence in Staff Training and Development. He certainly sounds like a good leader, and I hope to be able to report the success of his project in this blog in future.

Thanks my colleague Bec, who brought this news article to my attention!

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