COMMENT / EDUCATION Learning without lessons

In our school the notion of a traditional ‘education’ is being challenged


At Kelvinside Academy in Glasgow, instead of becoming a member of the vast ranks who are quick to label the traditional UK educa- tion system as ‘antiquated’, ‘unfit of purpose’ or ‘broken’ - but do nothing about it - we united behind a common goal; to reimagine and transform education for the better. We started off by looking beyond Scotland

and the UK for alternate educational models. Two years ago, we discovered the NuVu Inno- vation School in Boston, Massachusetts. NuVu is the brainchild of three pioneering MIT graduates, and their educational approach answers some of the big questions faced by the UK education system around content, teacher shortages, assessment and, crucially, relevance. Te NuVu curriculum is not based around

arbitrary facts sets by an education minister, but instead real-world challenges – the solu- tions to which often involve advanced digital skills. For example, pupils might design, 3D print and code a swarm of robots to conduct search and rescue work, or they might design and fabricate wearable pieces of technology. Furthermore, pupils work collaboratively

in two-week immersive interdisciplinary studios to solve challenges; there is no jump- ing between forty-minute Maths, Science and French lessons. Te notion of a traditional ‘teacher’ is also challenged, as studios are led by coaches, who may be academics from Harvard or MIT, or designers or entrepreneurs from downtown Boston or further afield. And crucially, there are no exams. Pupil

solutions are critiqued by experts at the end of the two-week studio periods, whilst along the way pupils record their work in an online portfolio and develop many design and sub- ject competencies. A few Zoom video conferences calls later,

and Kelvinside Academy and NuVu commit- ted to running a summer school together in 2017 to see if their alternate education model would gain traction in the UK. Te school, which saw young people from throughout Glasgow solve problems in the fields of swarm robotics, biofashion and augmented reality,


Pupils work collaboratively in two-week studios; there is no jumping between forty-minute Maths, Science and French lessons

was hailed a success by not only the partici- pants and coaches, but also by industry giants such as Balfour Beatty and academics from Glasgow University. One other outcome was that Kelvinside and

NuVu formed an exclusive European partner- ship to launch Scotland’s School of Innovation in Glasgow. Building work is well underway, and the Innovation School will open in August 2019.

However, we were anxious to move our plans for curriculum development forward whilst the building is under construction. From August, our pupils have left the traditional timetable for two-week blocks to complete design studios under the guidance of NuVu Fellows. We’ve seen ‘super enabling devices’ been made to help local elderly residents re- gain limb function, and earlier this month our pupils explored the theme of hiding in plain sight, which deals with the growing popula- tion of urban animals and how we might create solutions to ensure these populations

can successfully cohabitate our built spaces with humans. It is important to note at this point that I

don’t think anyone at Kelvinside subscribes to the belief that the UK education system is fundamentally broken. Fantastic life defining things happen in our schools every day and our pupils go on to do great things across all spheres of life. However, given that the UK education system does not look too different to how it did 100 years ago, evolution is required. We think our hybrid model in which tradi-

tional subjects sit alongside a design studio ap- proach works well. And others seem to think so too. We have recently been asked to brief representatives of the Houses of Commons and Lords at the Westminster Education Forum, and last month we spoke at Ellen Macarthur’s Disruptive Innovation Festival. Te firm shared intention of the KA-NuVu partnership is to establish a beacon project in the UK, which can demonstrate to others what education can look and feel like with an ambitious goal and a little creativity and imagination. l

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