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The new Todd Learning Enhancement Commons: the academic heartbeat of St Alban’s College

| November 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Dylan Postmus and Pam Gebhard

A far cry from the dark, dingy interior that once was, the new Todd Learning Enhancement Commons (LEC) is a hyper-modern, bright and spacious new facility at St Alban’s College in Pretoria, Gauteng.

The existing building, the Todd Information Technology (IT) Centre, was designed as a state-of-the-art computer centre in the early nineties. A dodgy roof requiring serious maintenance prompted a good look at the configuration and inspired a makeover to bring the building and facilities into the 21st century.

Learning and leisure

Complete with conference rooms of various (and, in some cases, adjustable) sizes, each named after prominent staff members; soundproofed rooms for individual or group learning; a library named after the founder of the college library; a roomy and central common area; computers; stable Wi-Fi connection and an adjacent staff room (complete, in turn, with a graciously donated billiard table to afford our hard-working academic staff an opportunity for recreation), it is a place where boys can study, but is also arranged to allow for socialising and relaxation.

Immediate occupancy

The facility was originally opened by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1992 and named after Ronnie Todd, the principal of St Alban’s at the time of the building’s initial completion. The official reopening of the long-awaited, remodelled Todd LEC took place on Friday 30 May 2014, but occupancy had already taken place the preceding week. As early as Tuesday, a staff development session took place in the new staff room and innovative teaching methods were demonstrated in an ‘ideas slam’. The LEC has flexible internal spaces, with room dividers that open up the flow for exhibitions or provide right-sizing for cooperative teaching venues. Art and photography were on display during the week and on Friday, those in the centre were treated to entertainment from staff, whose musical ability is not showcased nearly enough during our regular whole-school music concerts and displays.

Paying tribute

After the welcome by Kuben Pillay, chairman of the St Alban’s College Council, Bishop Jo Seoka proceeded with the ceremony of the cutting of the ribbon, the unveiling of the plaque and the rededication of the facility. The interior venues were opened by Ronnie Todd on behalf of Ron Beyers (once assistant academic director at the college and for whom the Beyers Conference Room is named), Gill Alexander (once the college librarian; the Alexander Conference Room is named in her honour) and Barbara Richards (after whom the Richards Library is named, as she was the one to establish the college library).

Current principal, Tom Hamilton, and Pillay spoke of the significance of the new facility as a centre of enhanced learning and innovative teaching practice, and thanked all those involved – from the architect, Helene Potgieter (mother of past pupils, Herman and Fred Hoogenboezem), to the contractors and IT specialists, as well as the Planning Committee.

LEC designed to promote peer learning

There followed an address by Todd, after which Magalan Pather, director of the Todd LEC, outlined the essence of the purpose of the LEC: “The core business of the college is academics, and there is no doubt in my mind that the LEC is going to be one of the major contributing factors in our quest to enable all boys at the college to achieve academic results that reflect their true ability. This place is going to be the academic heartbeat of the college. It will be the place where informal and formal learning will take place between educators and boys, but also, most importantly, between boys and boys; that is, peer-to-peer learning. This building has been designed to promote self-learning – allowing boys to take control of their own education through research and interaction with others. Therefore research, collaboration and innovation, which are the new trends in education, are the principles of the LEC.” After the speeches, those present were allowed to explore the facility. The Todd building has come full circle – from its progressive origins in 1992, to its ground-breaking repurposed identity suited to the technological support and learning needs of today’s pupils. Innovation rules!

Category: Summer 2014

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