Sheldon College: The ideal environment for learning

According to Vanessa Noonan, Head of Digital Pedagogy and Innovation at Sheldon College, teaching isn’t just about instruction, it is about creating the right conditions for learning.

The College’s philosophy regarding pedagogy, technology and learning spaces centres around our Student Exit Outcomes and providing opportunities to enhance the future learning capabilities of our students. Sheldon College’s LINQ Precinct (Learning and Innovation for a New Queensland) is where the journey begins.

Envisioning the College’s ideal environment for learning was confirmed here at Sheldon College as early as 2015 with the unveilling of the LINQ Precinct. A state-of-the-art facility, it provides students with a globally-connected, digital learning environment as well as opportunities to become Australia’s innovators and entrepreneurs of the future. Consisting of two storeys, the LINQ Precinct, with robotics, artificial intelligence, engineering and rapid prototyping lab, business and incubator hubs, an industry-standard film and television studio and accompanying editing suites, provides a stimulating, energising, agile and proactive educational experience for students from Prep through to Year 12.

Learning environments and facilities have marginal impact without educators, industry and partnerships between sectors and academic institutes working together. The technologies adopted within Sheldon College’s learning spaces do not replace the human interaction occurring in classrooms today, but rather bring together deep connections and networks for our teachers to professionally and progressively grow with their students as well as the rapidly changing times.

ArtScapes, the latest extension to the College’s LINQ Precinct, officially opened in early 2019. The unveiling revealed the building’s cutting-edge mixed media facility which features a dedicated Virtual Reality laboratory, digital art studio, and an exhibition space housing the three-metre multi-touch enabled Learning Galaxy.

Sheldon College’s Learning Galaxy is an explicit example of where pedagogy, technology and learning spaces combine. The Learning Galaxy features a number of interactive experiences, some of which include a touch and RFID Card enabled Museum Gallery, whereby our staff, students and alumni can showcase their digital and creative arts journey whilst enrolled at school, as well as post Sheldon College.

The Learning Galaxy also features an interactive scanning application that allows students to scan learning objects which then become interactive 3D objects, thereby allowing a range of touch-enabled learning experiences.

Educators don’t know exactly what lies ahead in terms of technological changes and the impact this will have on our students, but one thing is certain – companies, cities, economies and schools that don’t embrace and adapt to the new ways of working through adaptive trends will all be left behind. Staff were, and will continue to be, inducted in the area of advanced digital pedagogies that will increasingly become the pedagogical practices for our staff. Teacher professional development becomes essential in this model of educational practice.

Encouraging collaboration between education sectors, in-house faculties, schools and industry is another vital key to creating the ideal learning environment. Cross-pollinated collaboration is particularly important as both educators and students no longer learn through traditional ways of constructing knowledge but moreso through connecting and networking with each other in person and through the use of various technologies.

The College’s in-residence program and partnerships with universities support our professional learning plan for both teachers and students. The College’s in-residence program appoints professionals in the field of Robotics and Mixed Reality to work alongside staff and students to provide industry-guided opportunities.

A partnership with Dr James Birt, Associate Professor of Information and Computing Sciences from Bond University, has seen our learning spaces now become the hub for other educators Australia-wide, being used for professional learning, staff tours and walk-throughs as well as networking opportunities across diverse education sectors.

Sheldon College’s latest commitment champions radical learning redesign and the way in which we should approach teaching and learning its newly developed IDEAS (Innovation, Design, Engineering, Arts and Social Entrepreneurship) curriculum.

A collaborative project involving River City Labs, Future Anything, Greater Outcomes and the University of Queensland has seen the development of a new program of learning and innovation.
IDEAS aligns Years 9 and 10 to the ACARA Curriculum and our Student Exit Outcomes by way of an array of initiatives developed with external partners, allowing our teachers to go beyond simply selecting topics but moreso enabling students to construct solutions to problem and place-based learning scenarios, thereby navigating their learning needs and utilising all facets of the LINQ Precinct and ArtScapes.

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