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Parklands College - Authentic Learning Experiences

Parklands College, an innovative school based on the West Coast near Cape Town, is passionate about preparing learners for the future. This is achieved by creating authentic learning experiences, where learners create products and solutions for an ever changing, environmentally challenged world. In August 2018, Parklands College was, once again, recognised by Apple as an Apple Distinguished School (ADS) for Innovation, Leadership and Excellence in Education. They are reported to be the only school in Africa and one of only 470 in the world. In addition, in August 2019, Parklands College was recognised by Google as a Google Reference School for their outstanding use of technology to drive positive learning outcomes, one of two in Africa.

In the early days of their Apple Technology Integration Programme, it was found that cross-curricular project-based learning was the best way to provide authentic learning experiences to learners. Being challenged to solve specific real-world problems, or create something user-friendly or environmentally friendly, learners are equipped with competencies such as communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and responsible citizenship, that are essential for the future world.

Work Life Experience
During a project, learners are assigned roles similar to those they may experience in the workplace. Educators have discovered that learners become highly motivated when they are addressing a realworld challenge, especially if they are creating a product for an audience beyond the classroom. This develops a deeper sense of purpose and a passion for what they are doing. As an example of project-based learning, a team of Life Orientation learners created a movie called "I am Beautiful" ( which has been used in a successful anti-cyberbullying campaign.

Time has been set aside during the school day for passion-led, experiential learning courses and interests, some of which include Film, Sound Engineering, Animation, Robotics, Mobile Application Development and Hospitality. These courses provide learners with opportunities to explore areas they would never have been able to experience in a standard curriculum.

Software Development Environment
The Mobile Application Development Incubator (MAD as it is referred to by learners) is an in-school learner application development space. The vision for this incubator is to create young entrepreneurs of the future by encouraging them to create free, relevant, educational and commercial software applications users worldwide. The focus here is for learners to give back to society and solve current challenges.

Of course, being an Apple school and using Swift as the development platform, learners distribute their applications through the Apple App store. They have developed and released five apps so far: "Simple Learning Time", "Safer Web", "Simple Learning Afrikaans", "Safer Britannica" and "A.VOID". These apps have had over 80,000 downloads to date. A past learner, Stephanus Cilliers, received three scholarships to attend Apple's WorldWide Development Conference (WWDC) between 2016 and 2018.

This year their all girls team, Proteam, won the South African Senior Regional Division of the Technovation challenge for their App, "Stream". Every year Technovation offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the skills they need to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders. They invite girls to identify a realworld problem in their community and then challenge them to solve it using technology. The Parklands College girls designed 'Stream" to offer educational support to Maths and Science learners while reducing the need to use large amounts of expensive data in the process. The team made it as far as the semifinals. Finalists in this competition get flown to Silicon Valley for the world pitch event where they have the opportunity to win funding to further develop their ideas.

Music and Film Experience
Parklands College Studios house the College's Film and Sound Engineering facilities. The vision for the studios is to give young talent the opportunity to experience the music and film industry from the creation of original work to its release on a public platform.

This space is a hive of activity as learners regularly use it for their projects and subjects. This facility has also given the College's sound engineering learners, musicians and filmmakers, the opportunity to express themselves in a professional environment. Parklands College Studios released a digital album called "Origin" on iTunes in 2014 and recently released "Origin Vol. 2". The film studio has released a further two music videos on the Parklands College Studios YouTube channel.

Robotics Offering
In 2014 Parklands College introduced Robotics as an exciting addition to its learners from Grade R to Grade 8 in order to further promote interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, Mathematics (STEAM) and Coding and develop creative thinking and problem solving skills.

This programme has been very successful with Parklands College teams representing South Africa in the World Robot Olympiad International competitions for the past four years in a row. Their teams regularly place amongst the Top 50 out of approximately 6000 teams every year. The College's best position was achieved in India in 2016 where team Robodog placed 12th.

Teams have also excelled in the FIRST LEGO League Robotics Competition, where the Hyperion Bots team placed 5th in Europe in the Open Invitational Central Europe in Hungary in 2018. This team designed a water solution which included an innovative 3D printed water brick which dispenses stored water from alternate sources. More recently, the StellarBots won First Place for Project Presentation at the FLL Plan Ceibal International Open in Montevideo, Uruguay for their interplanetary hydroponic crop growing system.

Learners can also take part in the FIRST Tech Challenge for High School Students. This competition uses Tetrix Robotics sets, advanced controllers and motors, and learners program in Java. Teams are challenged to design, build, program, and operate robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge in an alliance format. Our team returned home with the Robot Design Award. This award recognises industrial design elements and a robot that was both functional and aesthetically appealing. The team used many of the concepts they learnt in Engineering Graphics and Design to design their robot in Fusion 360. Their design also incorporated parts that were laser cut as well as 3D printed.

The College's committed educators engage in ongoing professional development that combines the best technology training with workshops on teaching strategies and learning theories that enhance lessons. They facilitate and ensure that learners are equipped to find their passions and achieve their full potential. The College believes that the best way to prepare its learners for the future is to provide a school environment where learners can focus on their own needs, interests and passions, learn by doing, innovate, make their own decisions, and work together towards solving real community challenges.

Contact Info:
Richard Knaggs, Director of Technology
T: +27 21 521 2700

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 Parklands College - Authentic Learning Experiences.pdf

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