So if you’re looking for a model of a school that’s heavily invested in social tools but using all open source or home grown apps to begin to teach even their youngest kids the benefits of publishing and networking, read on. During my visit to Melbourne I met Richard Olsen, a former teacher and ICT co-ordinator at the Concord School who now has a role at IdeasLab, a group that is exploring the best ways to implement large scale technology projects across Victoria. We talked at some length about the ways in which over the last three years he implemented everything from blogging, to photo sharing to bookmarking with his students in some big ways. Big like in over 70,000 photos that are housed on the school’s server documenting just about every aspect of learning that goes on there.

Embedded below you will see a brochure that Richard created before he left documenting his efforts. You can see from the introductory statement that Richard’s attempt to leverage the potential of these tools is pretty visionary.  Lumil was the Flickr-type app that Richard himself coded. It uses tags, sets, albums, the whole deal. As you’ll see, you can even sort the pictures by a particular date range, so viewers can get a sense of what’s happening at any given moment. They used Scuttle to house their own social bookmarks, WordPress MU to blog, and Scratch and others for social game making activities. Be sure to spend some time on the skills matrix at the bottom. All in all, it’s an impressive suite of tools and pedagogies that did much to change learning at his school.

What’s most compelling to me here is not necessarily the tool set, however, as much as the vision that brought this to fruition. While most all of this work is done locally on an internal network, the concepts are preparing kids at Concord for the very global network they’ll inhabit once they leave the system. And here is the best part: Concord is a special needs school, a place where kids with all sorts of disabilities attend. The work that these kids do in these contexts is very rewarding on a number of levels.

The larger point here is that this isn’t too far out of the reach of most schools provided they have the courage and the leadership to make it happen. Aside from the photo-sharing tool, the rest is freely available. There’s nothing really too difficult about it aside, perhaps, from creating good teaching around the tools. Makes you wonder what so many other schools are waiting for.

Concord School Web-Based Social and Collaborative Learning