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Finding the Extra Horespower

I have heard our Principal, Mr Mike Senior, describing the start of a school year as akin to the take off of a Jumbo Jet – a large amount of preparation to ready the aircraft (school) to approach the runway. Huge amount of power and attention to get the big bird down the runway and into the air (Weeks 1 and 2) and then with momentum, the plane streaks away towards a distant destination (the end of a year’s education).

Our culture of learning is paramount in our preparation for and achievement of a successful year at Ambrose Treacy College. Yes the College does many things but the learning culture is front and centre with Leadership and Service.
Kath Little, our Dean of Learning is very strategic in what emphasis we place for our students to enhance our culture of learning. There is emphasis on investing in strategies that make the most difference, from targeted direct instruction around writing, to improvement centred feedback, to a dedicated study skills program. In these past two weeks, for instance, university students from Elevate Education have worked across cohorts from our Year 8 to 11 focussing on a range of topics including study planning, time management, prioritisation, memory pneumonic and strategic group work.

Boys were asked to reflect on the analogy of the iceberg. The iceberg has the top section above the water that is seen. They relate this to the standard content and presentation that all schools try to do. The extra, however, comes for the lower sections of the iceberg, what Elevate Education label as the “Non – required” tasks that lead to real quality learning.

Famous Australians, James Harrison, (left) and Barry Jones.

To illustrate my version of this I want to elaborate on two thoughts. The first is based on one of our famous Australians, Barry Jones, former Federal Science Minister amongst numerous other roles including TV quiz champion. When asked what was his secret to learning, he replied that he always looked up the meaning of nearby words in the dictionary or the encyclopedia, when he was working as a History teacher in Geelong. The 21st century encyclopedia is, of course, Wikipedia. Let’s look to see how this works. James Harrison is a famous Australian from years gone past. There is an annual James Harrison Lecture for innovation, held in Geelong. But what information does Wikipedia have on this fellow?

James Harrison

I would hope that the words in blue attract your attention. These are the words to draw the learner to the “non-required” part of learning. A brief scan shows links to geography, history, mechanics, physics and chemistry. If a student from Year 8 to Year 11 had the interest to click on one of these interesting hyper links they would benefit their wider understanding, that crucial “extra element” that Elevate Education stressed in their presentations. Students need to remember that they do not study Facebook, but they absorb information through interest and connections and using hyperlinks via Wikipedia is no different. If a student could make this a habit at least twice a day, I can’t guarantee they would become smarter but I can guarantee they would be well read and more knowledgeable.

Greg Quinn
Assistant Dean of Learning
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