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Unlimited - not for the faint-hearted

By Oli

My high school, Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti, is an amazing creation, where the people at the school actually get some say in how they learn what they need to learn to become amazing people in the future.

A lot of schools are now beginning to follow the example of UPT (Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti) by having the teenager present at the parent- teacher conferences (At UPT these are called individual education meetings or IEPs for short) so that the teen can help to plan their learning a little more than usual.

At UPT, the teens plan their learning how they and the parents and teacher are just guides to help them make the right decision. But another thing different about Unlimited is that we don’t have any “teachers” at all, we call them Learning Advisors (LAs for short), because they are there to help us set the goals and if we need information, they will either give it to us or point us in the right direction, and that way we get as much learning as possible.

Trust licences

We also have something most high schools do not have: an entire city at our disposal! (In a good way) That’s right! We get things called trust licences (but only if we complete the test and our parents think we are responsible enough) and with these trust licences when we are in year 9-10, we have to have at least one other student with a trust licence (not limited to year 9-10s, we can go with year 14s if we want!) and year 11 and up can go by themselves.

That is one of the big responsibilities, but the other (and the biggest) is that the teens have blocks free (like no classes) so that they can work on their LDE. The LDE is known generally in the wider community as “inquiry learning” which isn’t entirely accurate to call LDEs inquiries. LDE stands for learner directed experience, which implies that it is not only about making enquiries into stuff, but that the person that is doing this LDE chooses the subject/goal and then it is driven by the teens to make it a successful learning experience. But the other thing different is that the important thing is not the end product but how they got there, i.e. the learning involved and the techniques that helped them learn.

It's no experiment, Mr Yardley

About a month ago an article was published in the Christchurch Press about Unlimited by Mike Yardley. He said Unlimited is a “kooky experimental school” when in fact, it is not an experiment, because it has been proven that this style of learning works, and lets teens take more initiative (I’m a year 9 writing about how great my school is, if that’s not initiative, then I don’t know what is), therefore making them better prepared for the real world (because you don’t get everything handed to you on a plate in the real world).

The result of this is that they can become responsible, initiative, respectful young people. I’m not going to go on anymore, but I could write all day about Unlimited and how it works. If you have any questions, email me at oliver.samson@unlimited.school.nz.

June 2008