Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday at WAB

Today we visited Western Academy of Beijing (WAB), and many of us came away thinking "I want my school to be more like WAB." At the left you see a picture of the WAB campus model. It's not a great picture, but you can see the elementary school (top left), middle school (central), and high school (bottom left). They also have an early childhood and kindergarten building and a hub where middle school and high school students study the arts, science and technology. You can also see the new sports fields, which are used to support student learning in several ways.

Of course everyone wants well-designed, visually pleasing, comfortable, and new buildings, but that wasn't our main source of admiration. The open, innovative, enthusiastic, and progressive attitudes from faculty, staff and students alike inspired admiration. Last year they implemented one-to-one laptops. Sutdents brought their laptops from home, and fiasco might not be the right word, but they learned some lessons. This year, students were required to bring a MacBook, a specific MacBook, with specific software so that consistency would head off a lot of the problems encountered in the first year. This attitude of trying new things and dealing with the problems, embracing technology and experimenting is missing in most US schools.

Also missing from US schools is student ownership. Most US students are content to be spoon fed information and take a test. We had the opportunity to see 5th grade students working with new broadcast equipment. One student was the director who controlled which camera was on screen, slo mo and instant replay feeds, while two other students operated the cameras. As our tour group crossed the field, they focused on individuals and did an instant replay of the action. Students recently contributed their skills to an international live broadcast of the "regional" basketball game viewed in over 22 countries. What a great way to demonstrate skill and responsibility!

Students at WAB are also taking charge to help Jiashan Primary School rebuild after the 2008 earthquake. Jeff Holte, the director of technology and our tourguide today, told us about how five students are leading committees in charge of Education, Sports and Recreation, Technology, Fine Arts and Facilities at the school. According to Jeff, these students aren't shy about taking charge, asking questions, and demanding responses. This is how future leaders and thinkers are born. How can we integrate these fun, innovative, and scary ways to learn into our schools back home? Well, one thing we can do is implement Flat Classroom Projects, which I'm sure I'll be writing about soon!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post Jen, I wish I could visit the school with you. I hope that one day our college will switch to the one-to-one model as well. After all, most students have their laptops already!