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The Immanuel experience: Managing technological change

Brian Jacobi
Immanuel College

Adelaide's Immanuel College has begun developing a technology rich learning environment in a co-educational secondary school. The decision to embark on this major project was in recognition of international developments in technology education and in response to the need to provide students with experiences reflective of the practices in the outside world.

Defining the context

Adelaide's Immanuel College is a co-educational secondary school with a student enrolment of 780 students. This population includes 160 boarding students from rural SA, Victoria, New Zealand, the Northern Territory, New Guinea and several SE Asian countries.

The College has traditionally offered a comprehensive curriculum with an emphasis on science and the arts with high profile programs in music and drama. The technology base of the College in 1991 was representative of many schools of a similar nature. The resource base was limited to one computing space with accommodation for 30 students. Near the back of the campus ageing facilities for woodwork and welding which limited programs for a small group of students. In 1991 few of the staff used computers in their daily work and a number were apprehensive about the impending change to their professional work.

Investigating options

The decision to embark on such a major development project was stimulated by observation of emerging programs in the western states of the US. These observations were supported by presentations by curriculum developers working in the field to the College Council. The Council recognised that the trend of developments in technology education required response that would provide students with experiences reflective of practices in the outside world.

The project has focused initially on the development of a technology education facility but more importantly has begun a longer term process of integrating the use of technology in all areas of learning.

Devising the model

The design of the facility was unique in that the design was based on a refined concept of a technology education curriculum which includes both contemporary content and appropriate methodology.

The model used is that which underpins the National Statement on Technology for Australian Schools. The patterns defined for delivery include the provision of resources for both discrete technology programs and the extensive use of technology as tool to aid and access learning in all areas of the curriculum.

In brief the structure used to define the discrete programs is based on the three content strands:

The methodology and therefore the manner in which learning activities are defined is heavily committed to the process strand which involves students in; The progression through the programs from years 8-12 begins with general technology programs in years 8 and 9, with increasing specialisation of programs based on separate strands in year 10 and further specialisation on years 11 and 12.

Broader curriculum access was enabled through the provision of flexible work spaces that provide for a range of learning activities and are resourced with a variety of hardware and software.

The consideration of curriculum before the facility was designed proved to be a landmark decision in the process used. The fact that the curriculum model considered was future looking rather than a reflection of the present was also a significant factor in the success of the project. Major factors influencing the design were;

Producing a result

Management and planning

The College administration has faced the challenge of providing and maintaining resources to effectively enable access to the broad student population and to reshape the skills of teachers to utilise the resource base effectively. The development of long term plans for the development of technology education at the College is pivotal to the development of the project. These plans have been developed for the next five years and include consideration of: The overall plan is subject to annual review in consultation with curriculum area leaders and finance planners.

Specific design issues

In addition to the specific content and methodology provisions the brief for the architect specified desirable characteristics of the environment of the learning spaces which dealt with the need for air conditioning, carpet, clean flat surfaces, circulation space for students. Mechanical services such as compressed air, fume and dust extraction and power were also planned with a view to maximising their benefits without adding unnecessarily to costs.

Corporate support

The development of relationships with relevant commercial organisations has provided a significant stimulus to the process of achieving the aims of the program. Within the context of developing the use of technology in schools, the development of relationships with relevant industrial and commercial organisations can provide a significant stimulus to the process. Many industrial and commercial enterprises have had considerable experience in the integration of technology to improve their performance.

However, such relationships present challenges of their own. Commercial relationships have the potential to influence the curriculum and direction of any project. The personnel in commercial enterprise frequently present challenges to the views of education supported by educators. The benefits of any relationship depend on the intention of establishing such a connection and on how it is used and maintained. The aims of such relationships are to:

Communicating ideas

Communication of information about the project has operated on a variety of levels. Throughout the development of the project all of the groups in the College community has been kept abreast of progress and events. This has been achieved through presentations, open sessions, reports and articles in newsletters

The role of the project while primarily to serve the educational program at the College is now extended to provide information and services to other schools and colleges seeking to establish technology education projects. While it is generally well recognised that each school environment will have its own unique circumstances and needs, the experience derived from this project is transferable. Since making this service available approximately 80 schools have accessed the College. Off site services are also being provided to assist schools in considering curriculum, facility redevelopment and resources.

An extension to this activity has been the development of a limited program of Community Technology Programs which are provided after hours. These programs grew out of in house staff training programs and now extend to the wider community. These programs have an important role in changing community perceptions of schools and education in a broad sense and technology education in particular.

In addition to these activities the College has made the facilities available to outside groups wishing to use the resources for training programs and conferences. This type of activity is seen as having considerable potential for growth and ensures that the resources are used over vacation periods and weekends when they might normally be idle.

Reflecting on progress

While the Immanuel College project is only 20 months old it has already started to realise some of the potential. The indicators of change both major an minor lie in the curriculum, teaching and learning, student participation and attitude shifts that have occurred.

Teachers are:

Students are:

It is envisaged that a wider review of the project involving input from staff students and parents will occur by the end of 1996 to assist in determining the future of the project.


It should be emphasised that the project is still evolving. Some areas of the curriculum are still exploring and experimenting with resources and methodology. This process is now becoming an integral part of the learning culture of the college. The flexible use of interactive databases and remote access to programs provided beyond the campus are still being developed and investigated. These features and others that will emerge in the future will all have an effect on the changing learning environment at Immanuel College. This is consistent with the concept that any project involving the development of technology education being completed is a contradiction in terms.

Author: Brian Jacobi, Manager, Technology Education Programs, Immanuel College

Please cite as: Jacobi, B. (1994). The Immanuel experience: Managing technological change. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Learning Environment Technology: Selected papers from LETA 94, 117-119. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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