Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Christmas Making

For me the best thing about Christmas is the opportunity it offers for a whole day spent making something. On Amber's point about the lack of things prompting creativity, the lack of broadband at my parents' house certainly meant I had to look elsewhere for distraction. The camera took a long while to make, but I think I might have been a bit disappointed if it hadn't tested my patience a little bit. We have taken our first roll of film and we are awaiting developments (sorry) with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. It will be interesting to see how giving up the sort of instant technology we are familiar with changes how we plan and execute image making (there we go again Amber - your post was very prescient.)

video

No music day??


This video just made me think about how it's true that if you go without something, or even with something and nothing else for a long period of time, that your opinion of it changes once it has returned.


Creativity is not keeping something the same, it's where ideas are always moving, even if they come to no conclusion. It's the process and thinking that counts. Which is why I thought the video was relevant. If you learn in one way constantly then how likely are you to stop taking an interest or be able to correct your own mistakes if you're not questioning the knowledge you already have?

A lot of the time in school I think it's taken for granted that what you're learning is concrete and that what you are taught is what you should know, but being creative in the classroom lets students take information and think about it in their own way as well just learning the facts.

Monday, 22 December 2008

The Hole in the Wall Project



Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young people in rural India worked out how to use a PC on their own and then taught other young people. He asks, what else can children teach themselves? His view is that education is a self-organising system and, in the absence of formal education, young people will work out a way to educate themselves and each other. He refers to this process as Minimally Invasive Education:

MIE uses children's natural curiosity and focuses on providing an enabling environment where they can learn on their own. Children, in the process of freely experimenting with the Learning Station, pick up critical problem solving skills. It also provides a collaborative setting where children can share their knowledge and in the process, develop better group dynamics, all in a highly natural environment.

MIE's uniqueness is its ability to attract children towards the Learning Station driven purely by their own interests. Conventional pedagogy, on the other hand, focuses on the teacher's ability to disseminate information in a classroom setting. MIE thus complements the formal schooling system by providing a much needed balance for a child to learn on her own and provides for a holistic learning experience.


How might this approach apply to the kinds of learning experiences we provide at Tallis?

Phones in the classroom

We've dabbled with using mobile phones in class, and in other learning contexts, but maybe we should give more serious thought to the issues surrounding young people and their personal digital devices. A while ago I heard the always interesting Stephen Heppell talking about the need for flexible learning spaces with lots of white walls free of displays so that students could create all manner of interesting media products and share them with each other using simple, portable projectors. Today, whilst idly browsing the interweb I came across the above image of young people displaying their videos/webpages/whatehaveyou on all kinds of surfaces direct from their mobile phones. This technology doesn't yet exist, but a company called Microvision is making sure that it soon will. Imagine every student with the capability to create media rich content on their mobile digital device and then show it to their classmates for immediate feedback. That sounds like the kind of learning experience we should already be planning for in our thinking about new technologies and enhanced opportunities for creativity.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Enquiring Minds

For a while now I've been interested in the work of Futurelab and their research in a number of areas, particularly the relationship between learning and new technologies. Like the RSA, Futurelab have also published an alternative to the National Curriculum which they call Enquiring Minds. Begun as a research project with a couple of schools in Bristol and sponsored by Microsoft, the project is now in its third and final year and has produced lots of resources for use in schools. The basic premise of the Enquiring Minds approach is that young people's ideas, interests and experiences should provide the starting point for learning and that students should have more responsibility for the content and direction of their studies.

Perhaps we should take a close look at this model when we plan our activities this year? Maybe we could use some Enquiring Minds strategies to help shape our meetings so that we can develop a practical, as well as theoretical, understanding of the model?

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Food for Thought

Eye and I installation, Thomas Tallis School 2007

Yesterday afternoon's meeting with John Riches, our creative agent, produced lots of great ideas. Our central aim, you will remember, is to engage students, parents and other adults in thinking about creative learning and why we think there should be greater opportunities for people at Tallis to develop their creativity within and beyond the formal curriculum. To summarise, we have agreed to think about creating an event in the summer term (date to be confirmed) that includes the following ingredients:
  • a feast for parents, school leaders and members if the local community
  • stimulation for all the senses

  • opportunities for discussion about creative learning

  • games and other forms of interactivity

  • VJ projections

  • music

  • set design and lighting

  • movement

If I've left anything out or forgotten to include a vital ingredient which we have already discussed, please feel free to add a comment.

We agreed at the meeting that everyone in the group would create a new post to the blog about some aspect of creative learning over the Christmas holidays. I would just like to thank everyone in the group for your hard work and dedication to the course this term and to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a highly creative New Year.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A Creative Curriculum


In the wake of the new Key Stage 3 national curriculum and the Building Schools for the Future programme, not to mention the success of the RSA's Opening Minds, there's a lot of talk about new models for curriculum delivery. What is the most effective way of structuring learning in a school? Should schools question the effectiveness of delivering learning in discrete subjects despite the fact that they are still enshrined in the national curriculum? Is ICT a subject or a set of skills and competencies? How do schools restructure their timetables to facilitate personalised learning?

These are big questions and strike at the heart of the traditional model of curriculum management. It's no wonder that teachers and school leaders are feeling a bit twitchy about the potential impact of such considerable change. The phrase "transformation of learning" features in much debate about educational reform, the implication being that "reform" is not enough. It may be better to think of the inevitable changes that lie ahead as "evolution", since throwing out everything in the current model smacks of lunacy. Nevertheless, a school's ability to cope with the idea of change (and increasingly rapid and unpredictable change at that) seems already to be a hallmark of 21st century learning. 

So what have students and teachers at Tallis said about the changes they would like to see happen in the near future? Following a series of consultation events throughout 2008, here is the consensus:
  1. Teachers trained to be more effective facilitators of learning
  2. Students encouraged to develop personalised responses to demonstrate their learning
  3. More active learning and learning through discovery
  4. Better experiences with ICT of all kinds plus properly equipped and stimulating learning spaces
  5. A more flexible curriculum, longer, deeper learning experiences and time to take risks
This list seems to be sufficiently challenging to provide the school with a real focus for development over the coming months without threatening to dismantle the good practice currently taking place. The more consultation we do with both staff and students, the more consensus we discover. Hopefully, this will translate into a shared appetite for change and an ability to work together to make it happen.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

It simply isn't the 20th century anymore!


Professor Stephen Heppell talks disarmingly about the fact that 20th century solutions to 21st century problems just won't do, especially when it comes to new technologies and learning. It's also worth checking out the Dotsub website for all your translating and subtitling needs!

More ICT in primary schools

Jim Rose's report on the state of the primary school curriculum argues for an increasing focus on ICT. Some commentators are disappointed that the review does not go far enough in avoiding the issue of compulsory testing but others are encouraged by the focus on six areas of learning and the increasing attention paid to the central importance, alongside literacy and numeracy, of ICT. Stephen Heppell is one of those who has spoken positively about the report. What do you think? How important do you think is ICT to young people's learning at primary and secondary level, and how would you like to see computers and other digital devices used in and outside the classroom?

Monday, 8 December 2008

Opus 118


Following a conversation I had with a colleague in a West London school today I did a quick search for music programmes in Harlem, New York City. I came across Opus 118 and was struck by their vision for putting music making at the heart of the curriculum:

Philosophy


  • Learning a musical instrument is a unique way of exposing children to beauty.
  • Music education is a prime tool to awaken creativity and to teach concentration and focus.
  • Focused study of a musical instrument affects a student’s academic performance in other subject areas in a positive way.
  • Structured musical activities for students during the non-school hours are a means of preventing violence and drug abuse.
  • Music is an instrument of peace, allowing students an emotional release in a time of social conflict and stress while teaching tolerance in a diverse community.
  • In preparing young minds for a complex world, music education serves not only as a means to teach collaboration and cooperation, but also as a guide in solving complex problems.
  • Music education creates and expands horizons for children who would otherwise lack the opportunity to experience the benefits that are derived from such an education.

Twilight Tree Dressing

Last Friday I was privileged to witness this year's Twilight Tree Dressing event in Telemann Square. A couple of things struck me about this that I think have relevance for this blog.

Firstly, it was a brilliant example of collaboration between schools (including Tallis), practitioners, local agencies (the Greenwich Food Co-op and New Horizons) and the community we all serve. I'm convinced that the more learning experiences we devise where several different groups collaborate on the creation of mutually beneficial products, the more engaged learners will become. There's another brilliant example of this currently involving the Year 13 Art & Design students who have been commissioned by Rosa Goncalves to design the interior, stationary, furniture and graphic identity of her new community enterprise Guarida Cafe venture. A real client, a real audience, a real brief, a real budget and a very real timeline. 

Secondly, the event was a feast for the senses. A twilight lantern parade with adults and children from the whole community, to the accompaniment of members of the Bollywood Brass band, was followed by a beautiful firework display, vegetable soup and fruit in the community hall, dancing and conversation. I left feeling utterly replete, emotionally, psychologically, culturally and aesthetically. Creative learning rooted in the community. That's what I'd like to see more of at Tallis.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

The Amygdala Project 2008


We have been the lucky recipients of the model for Helen Storey's Amygdala installation at Tallis. It now has pride of place in the school library. We decided this year, as part of a cross-curricular arts project on "Identity", to use the book as inspiration for an activity with our current Year 7 students designed to encourage them to reflect on a time when their amygdalas were probably working overtime - the transition from Year 6 to Year 7. We have published these responses as an interactive online book using the fantastic Issuu.

What do learners need to be more creative?

Over the last 6 months, the Creativity Action Research Group have conducted consultations with staff and students in an attempt to establish what everyone thinks learners need to become more creative at Tallis. On Wednesday 3rd December, staff members met again to agree actions for implementing their previous recommendations. Working in 12 groups, each team were asked to discuss and reach consensus on 1 action each. Here is what they agreed:

* Training for staff to act as facilitators
* Encourage problem solving and reflection in lessons
* Establish a systematic approach to differentiated group work
* Encourage students to personalise the presentation of their projects
* Create a range of active tasks that offer a range of learning opportunities for students
* Audit the current range of learning opportunities for students
* Promote a variety of teaching strategies
* Create a means for students to decide how they meet their learning objectives
* Ensure equivalent access to ICT hardware and promote the sharing of best practice amongst staff
* Redesign the timetable, create smaller class sizes and create opportunities for more extended, discovery based learning both on and off site in well-resourced learning bases
* Invest in good ICT and better resources
* Establish themed workshop days
* Explore ways of organising time and class size to create learning experiences related to students' needs

The next task for the group of senior staff charged with the responsibility of co-ordinating this aspect of change management is to reflect on these 12 actions, create a list of short, medium and longer term priorities and to agree an implementation strategy in order to deliver the actions. These decisions will be reported back to staff members as quickly as possible so that everyone feels that the process is fair and manageable.

Friday, 5 December 2008

New Technologies for Creativity


Why computers should be thought of as being more like paint brushes than televisions.

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Tallis Creative Manifesto


The students of the Creativity ARG are about to start formulating their first ideas for The Tallis Creative Manifesto. Feel free to leave comments, suggestions and ideas.