Sunday, March 2, 2014

Combined College and Community Centre for Sydney Inner West

Jamie Parker MP, Member of the NSW Parliament of the inner west for Sydney, has proposed vacant government land be used to expand the Sydney Secondary College's Leichhardt Campus. I suggest this could include community facilities, modelled on Gungahlin College Canberra with have dual purpose teaching/community spaces based on the Inspire Centre at University of Canberra.

Gungahlin College is an ACT Government upper secondary school, which has on the campus the Gungahlin Public Library, community meeting rooms and a Canberra Institute of Technology TAFE campus. Most of the school is only for students, but the library/TAFE building is open to the public. I suggest such an facility could be built adjacent to  Sydney Secondary College and shared by the students and the wider community.

The Inspire Centre is a purpose building on the University of Canberra campus for the teaching of new computer assisted learning techniques to ACT school teachers. The building has a large "TEAL Room" (Technology Enabled Active Learning) and smaller flexible class rooms. The rooms are very flexible and robust spaces, with flat floors, movable furniture and whiteboard/projection walls. These can be used by one large class or small groups and the furniture can be arranged as require, or packed away. I suggest such rooms could be used by the Sydney Secondary College students during the day and by the community outside school hours.

One use for the facility would be for face-to-face classes to supplement low cost on-line courses. Such courses (including Massive Open Online Courses, or "MOOCs"), are being offered by the world's leading universities for members of the community to undertake informal study and also for school students to supplement conventional courses. However, it has been found advantageous to supplement the purely online courses with some face-to-face classes.

The Inspire Centre has video projectors covering about one third of the walls, leaving the rest of the space for use as whiteboards.  The cost of projectors are dropping, so I suggest the new facility could have the capability of projecting onto all wall surfaces. This could be used to create an effect reminiscent of the "Holodeck" of the fictional starship Enterprise. One seamless moving image could completely surround the students.

Such a facility could be built and operated at a lower cost than separate educational and community centres. A first step could be for the Leichhardt Municipal Council to commission some sketches from an architect experienced in designing combined educational and community facilities.

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