Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century

01 February 2017

Understanding the language of education in the 21st century can be a little daunting. Throughout the 19th and 20th century, students and parents had a clear and simple focus – reading, writing and arithmetic, the 3Rs. Children would often leave school by the time they were 14 or 15 and move into employment, helping support their family’s weekly earnings, with a solid grasp of the basics.

The 3Rs are still critically important but now we refer to pedagogy, learning platforms, curriculum mapping, student tracking and how to create successful lifelong learners.

All these things are critical to the learning journey; but what about relationships, home-school partnerships and the importance of communication between parents and staff. How should educators be relating to their students? Should they be having conversations about their social, emotional and physical needs as well as their academic progress? The answer is definitely, yes. All of these elements are crucial in providing a comprehensive and individualised approach to a holistic education.

Immanuel Lutheran College emphasises individual and community growth in a supportive environment where all are encouraged to become the best they can be. The core values of Lutheran Education (love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, service, humility, courage, hope, quality and appreciation) are evident in Immanuel’s vision, core values and daily activities. At Immanuel, children are taught that anything is possible. Striving for personal best, whether it be in an academic, sporting or cultural pursuit, the message is communicated to the College’s youngest learners through to Year 12 graduates.

“Immanuel offers a seamless education from Pre-Prep to Year 12, with students working alongside and within a pristine rainforest environment. It’s the perfect setting to do what we do best – create confident, well-rounded learners who will be creative, competent and capable of making a positive contribution to their country and the world,” said principal Colin Minke.

“Our students are shaped by myriad experiences. They are encouraged to reach their potential academically, spiritually, physically and emotionally through various sporting, cultural and pastoral opportunities; they are taught the value of service to one another and the wider community, and the importance of stewardship of the environment,” he said.

In a rapidly changing world, staff are committed to helping students realise the importance of being lifelong learners; adaptation is crucial to work through the challenges that lie ahead and learn how best to embrace them.

“We’ve evolved from the traditional ‘cookie cutter’ model of education to a version that talks about life-wide learning: Resilience, Relationships and Reflection (Siegel, 2012),” adds Mr Minke. “As these traits develop, students become independent, confident and self-reliant. Literacy and numeracy skills are fundamental but there is so much more to offer and equip our young people for.”

Part of Immanuel’s ‘education for life’ philosophy is the College’s acclaimed outdoor education experience at its Mt Binga Outdoor Education Centre, a four-week residential program which all students embark on when in Year 10. The lessons and experiences taught at ‘Binga’ build resilience and teamwork, encourage reflection and cement relationships.

Students from Year 2 through to Year 11 participate in an outdoor education program which is integral to creating confident problem solvers who learn how to make the best of challenging situations.

But Mt Binga and outdoor education is only one part of Immanuel’s learning program.

“From Pre-Prep to Year 12 we are a connected and engaged community. Academically, students are engaged through activities and assessments that are relevant, authentic and life related,” said Mr Minke.

“Our Innovation@Immanuel strategy provides students with ready access to flexible learning spaces with iPads, Surface Pros and other devices in a blended learning environment. In the classroom, students attend lessons but also engage virtually with their teachers when gaining feedback on tasks and completing online workbooks. Our learning management ecosystem provides teachers with information about each student’s academic, social and emotional progress that allows staff and families to work together to promote positive outcomes for each student,” he said.

Immanuel’s virtual learning platform has three distinct portals for staff, students and parents. Each is a dedicated space that allows teachers to view their administrative and curriculum work; students to tap into rich resources which allows them to view their grades and interact with their teachers and peers; and a parent portal that allows parents to view their child’s timetable, reports and other daily occurrences.

Immanuel’s virtual classrooms are further supported by the Remote Desktop Connection which allows students and staff to access files and applications from anywhere via an internet connection.

So too is the physical space being transformed. From January 2017, $9 million will be invested in creating a series of new, flexible classrooms for Years 1 to 6 students that will be multidisciplinary and communal. These spaces will be configured for specific learning experiences allowing students to work together in new and creative ways.

“Whether it’s on the soccer field, at a chess tournament or prepping for senior exams, the most important part of Immanuel’s learning strategy is the quality of our relationships across the community,” said Mr Minke.

“Improving students’ relationships with teachers has important and long-lasting implications for students’ academic and social development. Positive relationships draw students into the process of learning and promotes their desire to learn,” he said.

Whether it be outdoor education or sporting experiences, classroom instruction or learning in a virtual space, communication between parents/caregivers and staff is at the core of learning at Immanuel. Facilitating a continuous conversation regarding the academic, social, emotional and physical needs of students provides an individualised approach to education. This is the way forward.

Relationships, engagement and relevance, the building blocks of success for 21st century educators.

Written by

Kids on the Coast/Kids in the City

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