Today I had the opportunity to visit the Hwa Chong Institution, one of Singapore’s five Future Schools. This was one of the pre-conference sessions arranged as part of the ICTLT conference that I am attending in Singapore.
The five Future Schools are Singapore’s response to recognising that students will use even more information and communications technology (ICT) in their everyday school-life in years to come, and that they must ensure that their experience at school provides a seamless journey into that future.
Hwa Chong has a roll of over 4200 students (combining it’s junior boys and junior girls and senior mixed school rolls), 390 teaching staff and has an enviable record of all round academic excellence, and a self-declared mission to develop future leaders.
The Future Schools project reminds me of the approach taken with the Navigator Schools in Victoria over a decade ago, and of some of the beacon school projects in the UK, where a small group of schools are given special funding and privileges to ‘pave the way’ for others to follow. At HCI I saw evidence of innovation in terms of some 3D resources that were being developed, and an interesting LMS that they are developing, based on a combination of Web2.0 technologies – but apart from that, I didn’t see a lot else that demonstrated to me that ICTs were being infused into the learning life of students and teachers.
This is in part because of the philosophy of the school’s leadership, who told us [quote] “you won’t see a lot of computers around the school because we’re not a computer training centre – we’re a school for learning.” While on the surface this sounds an honourable stance to take, I do wonder how effectively the school can prepare learners in the 21st century without incorporating a widespread use of ICTs to support and enable learning activity.
All of this set me thinking a lot about the whole concept of Future Schools, and the questions we should be asking ourselves in terms of imagining what they might be like. It got me thinking again about the two key questions posed on a slide I’ve been using in a number of presentations over the past few years – see below. I guess I might get some clearer understandings as I participate in this conference over the next few days?