Wooranna Park Primary School: A paradigm shift in education

“Wooranna Park is an institution that we not only idolise but also hope to emulate in our efforts at revolutionising education in India.” – Parmeet Shah, Marathon Group.

“… two educators I admire told me about a public elementary school that I simply must visit. One of these colleagues, a big thinker in school reform, said that this just may be his ‘favorite school on the planet.’ A little web research, a few email exchanges, and a long flight later, I was on my way to Wooranna Park Primary School.” – Suzie Boss, Edutopia.

In 1993 WPPS was appointed a ‘Gifted & Talented Centre’. In order to facilitate this responsibility the school initiated a program of workshops for talented students. While the workshops were always oversubscribed, the school recognised that students still returned to classrooms where little attention was given to differentiating the curriculum, or providing opportunities for students to negotiate their learning. In response to this, the school established the ‘Autonomous Learning Unit’ for Year 5 & 6 students in 1997. Since that time the school has sought to create a paradigm shift in education for all their students.

Shelf life of education is shorter than ever

Today’s students live in a world vastly different from the one their parents lived in: the shelf life of education today is shorter than it has ever been; 47% of the world’s jobs are at risk; information is only the press of a button away and most workers in the future will work freelance – and this requires a paradigm shift in education.

For Wooranna Park, this paradigm shift is characterised by the following underpinning practices: Entrepreneurial & Maker Practices; Interdisciplinary Studies; Personalised Learning; Application of Existing Knowledge; Differentiating the Learning; Creation of New Pedagogies; Global Citizenship; Building a Thirst for Learning; Leveraging the Digital World; Mindsets for Learning; Student Agency; Authentic Engagement in Real World Challenges; Establishing Partnerships with Outside Agencies and Using the Learning Environment as the Third Teacher.

The pedagogy used by staff could be characterised as an amalgam of Best and Next Practice; and the ultimate goal – implant the following attributes into students’ “DNA”: Collaboration; Citizenship; Communication; Creativity; Curiosity; Character and Critical Thinking.

No fear of failure

WPPS is a lighthouse school for technological innovation, with a strong focus on being open source. The pedagogical practices and philosophy underpinning WPPS have allowed for a technological paradigm shift to transpire. Students have been allowed to traverse a multitude of digital terrains without fear of failure. As a result, the students have been a driving force in the development of these innovations.

The school has establishing strong links with the Royal Society of Victoria and numerous business houses, including Intel, Telstra, Immersive Education and the Melbourne Bitcoin Centre and is presently seeking the Government’s endorsement to trial the use of cryptocurrencies and the underlying blockchain technology. The school has played a major role in arranging support from the Victorian Government and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology for Immersive Education to hold their international conference in Melbourne later this year.

New initiatives

With the introduction of new technologies, the school has led the way in establishing Victoria’s first CoderDojo; Australia’s first Immersive Education Club; and the world’s youngest CISCO class. Students have developed everything from virtual reality games, to fully functioning virtual and physical CISCO Networks, and recently started work on creating a life-sized, 3D printed, open source robot.

WPPS was the first school in Australia to explore space collaboratively via a Kerbal Space program server; the first school in Australia to educate students on the importance of blockchain technology and ‘proof of existence’. WPPS was also the first school in Australia to be involved in an international Minecraft project with ‘Immersive Education, USA’; developing an Australian landmark to scale for students from Boston to explore in Virtual Reality.

For a number of decades now education policy has focused on testing and measuring students, with little success. More recently, innovative schools around the world have focused their attention on engaging and inspiring students and helping students develop the skills and character traits that matter. Yes students need to be literate and numerate, but more importantly they need to believe in themselves and feel empowered to change the world. This is happening at WPPS!