In a few hours I will be making the hellish trip across the Pacific from Australia to Los Angeles for the second time in as many months. While here, I keynoted a conference, led PD at a school, did some consulting, met with new clients, caught up with old friends and was once again a Visiting Scholar at Trinity College (The University of Melbourne). I love Australia and have been here approximately 50 times over the past twenty-two years. It’s my second home.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of this trip was during its final three days. I had the opportunity to spend hours in conversation with great educators who inspire me.
Steve Costa, Deputy Head of the Methodist Ladies’ College Junior School, is the most important educator in the world in the past quarter century. There. I said it! In 1989, Steve became the first teacher in the world to teach an entire class of primary school children each with their own personal laptop. In addition to his administrative duties, he continues to teach a class of 6th graders every single day. He does so with relentless energy, passion and creativity. He continues to inspire me. Steve keeps up with the latest technological trends and has sophisticated personal computing skills, but more importantly, he respects, cherishes and preserves older valuable learning experiences like MicroWorlds (Logo) programming because he knows that it is good for kids. It is rare that one can pinpoint the “patient zero” of a historical movement like 1:1 computing in schools. Steve Costa is the reason why your students have or will have their own laptop in school. He can also kick the butt of men 1/3 his age on the basketball/squash/tennis court. (read another blog post I wrote about Steve’s contributions to the world of education here)
The following night, I spent many hours engaged in fantastic conversation with another hero of mine, Anne Nelson, principal of Spensley Street Primary School. Anne was a wonderful teacher turned principal of a P-6 public school that preserves the progressive tradition of open education and MAKES IT WORK every day. Not only that, but Anne and her teachers do such a good job of communicating sound educational values to their parent community that parents must opt-in to have their children take the national standardized tests. Parents must write a letter requesting that their child be tested, not the oter way around. Approximately 5% do. Anne Nelson is a principal who really knows what’s right for kids and knows her kids. (read more here)
I met veteran educator Leonie White six years ago, not long after she became principal of Thomastown Secondary College, when I was in-residence at her exurban school. Despite the challenges of running a high school in an economically challenged community with a large immigrant population, Leonie’s school feels calm, productive and headed in the right direction. She is a thoughtful school leader with the right priorities who knows every single kid in her school intimately. Leonie fights the good fight for kids and her teachers while proving that it indeed possible for principals to be part of their school community and not locked in their office buried under a pile of paperwork (real or imagined).
Oh yeah, Anne and Leonie went out on strike WITH their teachers on Thursday. (read more here)
I am so fortunate to have been able to get to know and often work with my heroes over the past thirty years. Steve, Anne and Leonie are at the “chalkface” every day and prove that a rich, mindful, joyous and creative education is possible for all children. I am lucky to have such inspirational friends.
Veteran educator Gary Stager, Ph.D. is the author of Twenty Things to Do with a Computer – Forward 50, co-author of Invent To Learn — Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, publisher at Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, and the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute. He led professional development in the world’s first 1:1 laptop schools thirty years ago and designed one of the oldest online graduate school programs. Gary is also the curator of The Seymour Papert archives at DailyPapert.com. Learn more about Gary here.