A great start to the year

Term 1 draws to a close today and what an eventful and enjoyable start we’ve had to the 2018 academic year!

This term we’ve focused on our school value of connectedness, expanding relationships within the school community, regionally and abroad.

Many of our senior students are in India with Antipodeans, supporting local villages through community projects, while others are visiting regional NSW, sharing their musical talents with the locals and raising awareness of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.

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Our Library leaders Glynis Martin and Karen McBride have returned from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The insights they have gained from the Library Leadership in a Digital Age symposium will inform plans for the future IGS Bibiothèque, a library and flexible learning centre at the heart of the Reg St Leon building. We anticipate that this new centre will significantly enhance the School’s learning environment next year and beyond.

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Meanwhile, construction of the Global Learning Centre for Languages in the Kerrie Murphy Building begins next term. While construction is underway we will begin to design the IGS Bibiothèque.

But back to today. Throughout Term 1, Deputy Head of High School Paul Galea has urged our students to put their devices away and to talk to each other more. As a result, our students are thinking in new ways about connectedness.

We are not alone in this quest to strike a balance between using technology as a tool for teaching and learning, while also ensuring that our students don’t become disconnected from each other and from the real world because of an over reliance on their phones.

Over Easter I travelled to San Diego to visit High Tech High (HTH), America’s leading project-based learning school. There I presented the IGS SAGE program at the 6th annual Deeper Learning Conference.

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It’s a fascinating school.

The curriculum at HTH is taught through interdisciplinary projects, and the way students curate their work is spectacular, creating a vibrant gallery or learning museum that is constantly changing. HTH reminds me a lot of IGS, and next year we’ll send a team of teachers to spend time there and gain fresh insights from the international Deeper Learning Community that gathers there in March each year.

I attended a workshop at the conference called, “Do your students have nomophobia? Or fear of no mobile phones?”

Nomophobia: a fear of being without your mobile phone or a fear of not being able to use it for some reason.

We know that excessive phone use can harm teenagers’ health, as well as the health of those around them.

According to Dr Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, teenagers who spend significantly more time on social media than their peers have a greater likelihood of being unhappy, getting less sleep, and performing less well academically.

As a school community, we want to find the right balance in our use of technology, and in that spirit I am excited to share with you the IGS Offline Challenge Project.

At today’s assembly, I invited all High School students to take part in this project over the holidays.

The aim of the project is to encourage students to be more intentional in the use of their phones.

Students I met in San Diego reconnected with the real world by adopting an offline activity of their choice each day for two weeks. I’ve encouraged our students to do the same thing.

One student sat with his grandfather each day and wrote down his life story. Another student made dinner for her exhausted single dad each night rather than being on her phone when he walked through the door. Others simply watched the sunset. The teacher who ran the project walked his dogs daily for two weeks. Many beautiful stories emerged from the project.

I hope our students will take part. If there is an activity that they’d like to do during the two weeks of the holidays, please encourage them to jump on board. You might like to as well.

I’ve asked students and staff to simply send a photo to our Communications Coordinator Olivia Axford (oliviaa@igssyd.nsw.edu.au) that captures what they did. Next term we’ll create our own offline challenge exhibition that will grace the walls of our new Blue Room on Level 2.

Students on the Antipodeans Tour of India have already started to reflect on how it feels to use their mobile devices less often. Here are some of their reflections:

Jean: “I’m paying more attention to my surroundings and feeling more relaxed.”

Ben: “I feel free and more observant.”

Katya: “I’m talking to more people, reading and writing.”

AJ: “I’m reading books to find information instead of relying on the internet.”

This isn’t about “no technology”. Instead, it’s about modelling the intentional and mindful use of technology while having a bit of fun with it in the spirit of connectedness. It’s part of our broader whole-school focus on stillness this year.

It’s also a community project so please feel free to join us. I’m planning to spend time each day of the holidays out in nature. Autumn is such a beautiful time in Sydney. Many of my colleagues are looking forward to joining the project as well. As I said to the High School today, this is a journey we are all on.

I look forward to seeing what our students discover during their holiday break, as we prepare for another vibrant term ahead.

Thank you for all of your support this term. We couldn’t do what we do without the support of our parents.

Shauna Colnan
Principal