Sunday, 5 December 2010


We have just returned from a really exciting trip to Oklahoma to present our thoughts about creative learning and the future of schools at the Creativity World Forum. Representatives from Thomas Tallis and 2 other London schools (Stormont House and Gallions) took part in a 3 month long collaboration with partner schools in Oklahoma that culminated in our presentation to 1500 delegates at the conference and the establishment of a Pop Up School.

The idea resulted from our investigation of the Pop Up phenomenon in London and beyond - dance, architecture, shops, galleries, all had appeared and disappeared as quickly during the summer of 2010. At Tallis, we had commissioned a Pop Up Gallery/Classroom for the school concourse in which we had installed The Measurement Shop in collaboration with Tangled Feet Theatre Company during our arts festival.

We were interested in the idea that school might become more of an event than a building in the future. Our Tallis Lab curriculum is concerned with exploring the benefits of Web 2.0 tools and a more project based approach to learning and we have begun to make really effective use of blogging, web design and social media. We admired the work of visionaries like Sugata Mitra and the research of Charlie Leadbeater on education innovation.

Our experience at the conference was fascinating. We established a school (of sorts) in an unofficial corner of the conference hall (Booth 100.5) and engaged delegates with a variety of tasks hosted on our #popupschool website. We used Twitcam to broadcast live from the stage during our presentation. We made films, did research, created podcasts - mostly from our new iPod Touch devices equipped with the relevant apps - iMovie, Audioboo, Tumblr etc. The younger students sang songs in the foyer (rather like a Flashmob event) or asked a series of challenging, open-ended questions. We aimed to give our students an opportunity to engage with adults as equals, co-learners and to publish their thoughts and reflections to a real audience online.

The response was very positive:

was by far my favourite thing at the RT @ the future is unwritten

One blogger even suggested that the concept of a Pop Up School could apply to music lessons.

The most valuable lesson we learned was just how easy and powerful it is to connect with other learners and learning professionals (we're not very fond of the word teacher) in far off places. Tammy Parks at Howe High School was our partner in the project and has proved to be an inspirational colleague and a leading figure in our PLNs (Personal Learning Networks). We conducted several Skype conversations with her and her students in the lead up to the conference and we were inspired by her story. Howe is literally in the middle of nowhere. It is 3 hours from the nearest town. The school is smaller than one of our year groups at Tallis and, apart from the school building, the only other significant architectural features in Howe are the convenience store and the lumber yard. Despite this, Tammy and her husband Scott (the superintendent of the school district) have created an ICT rich learning environment using state of the art equipment. The school uses a satellite truck to conduct virtual field trips. They have high quality video conferencing equipment and lead learning experiments across the United States. Their physical isolation has been a spur to innovation. In order to give their students access to 21st century learning they have harnessed the power of the internet and the skills of broadcast journalism to connect them with the rest of the world.

Oh, and we met Sir Ken Robinson too. What a trip!

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