Saturday 31 January 2009

Colour Test

Knowing how much you like to take tests (!!) here's one to assess how well your left and right brain communicate with one another. It's quick and simple but much harder than it looks. Make sure you read the instructions very carefully before you begin. Strictly speaking, you should only take the text once. Let's see how well you do. Please comment with your first score only. It would also be good to know whether or not you approve of the three colours the Design Group have selected for the new school (see previous post). We may be making the decision pretty soon and want to know what you think.

Colour in School

Plans for the new school are now well advanced and we are being asked to make some decisions about the design of the interior. One of these decisions involves a choice about the colour coding of the building. The new school will be considerably bigger than the current one and the architects have proposed that the different blocks have a feature colour, partly to make the circulation spaces more exciting and also to help everyone find their way round. The Design Group, a group of teachers and students who meet with the architects to discuss the design of the building, have the task of selecting their favourite colours. We are hoping that there will be enough money in the budget to have colours we really like (some materials can be produced in any colour whereas others are more limited). Either way, we feel that the colours we choose could have a very positive impact on everyone's mood and ability to learn and interact effectively.

Here are the colours we like at the moment. They would be used on the floors of the circulation and main social spaces. What do you think?

Do you have any favourite colours? Do you think that colour is important in affecting how you feel and how you learn?

Teachers TV is one of my favourite online resources because it has lots of really useful films about all kinds of subjects. This film, "Colour in Our Hall", is one of my favourites. It describes how a group of students in a primary school in Cornwall worked with the designer Kevin McCloud to revamp their school hall as part of the Sorrell Foundation's Joinedupdesignforschools project. The idea behind this initiative is that students act as clients throughout the design process, learning how to identify problems, set challenges, write a design brief and evaluate the success (or otherwise) of the professional designer's solution. Occasionally, as in this case, the final concept is agreed and put into action.

The Danish Connection

Back in November, I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at a conference in Denmark about new technologies in education. Following my presentation, I was approached by Hanne Søgaard, a lecturer at University College South. We chatted briefly about our shared interest in Web 2.0 applications and Flickr, in particular. She mentioned that she was setting up a project for her students and we promised to stay in touch. We have managed to do this and I recently got this message from Hanne on Flickr:

"Our blog iscenesatte billeder in english "staged photos" is used for a project. I have tried to translate some of the Danish description:

Through the spring of 2009 Dorte Rizzi and I, Hanne Søgaard, both employees at University College South, Denmark, are working with staged pictures along with the students. Both during the process and in the presentations we will as far as possible use web 2.0 technologies: blogs, flickr, etc. On the blog, we will post inspiration material, links, manuals, tasks, etc. We will use labels that correspond to these categories. Everyone, including those not participating in the courses can comment on the blog posts and they are welcome. We will love it.

In the flickr group staged pictures - process the participants post photos in process and comments on these. Their final product will be placed in the group staged images - exhibition."

Hanne has used one of my photos on the blog header and we have set up a Flickr group called The Danish Connection, as a way of encouraging students in both countries to respond to photo challenges like Signs and Symbols and Emotion Capture. I'm really interested to see how Hanne's project develops and I've put a link to the blog on ours.

Have you come across any new applications online that might be useful for learning? What is your favourite online resource? Let us know so that we can all take a look!

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Promise, tool, bargain

I'm currently reading a book called "Here Comes Everybody" by the brilliantly named Clay Shirky. It's about the role that social networking is playing in enabling people across the world to organize themselves without the need for organisations. The final chapter describes the common denominator in all the stories told in previous chapters about how people are becoming better connected using the Internet: "a successful fusion of a plausible promise, an effective tool, and an acceptable bargain with the users." The author goes on to outline what this means in terms of social networking technology but I began to read his explanation in terms of the bargains we strike as learners in schools. What do you think of the following as a summary of successful learning?:

Creating a promise that enough people belive in is the basic requirement. The promise creates the basic desire to participate. Then come the tools. After getting the promise right (or right enough), the next hurdle is figuring out which tools will best help people approach the promise together...Then comes the bargain. Tools don't completely determine behaviour...One possible bargain is: "We expect politeness of one another." Another very different bargain is: "Anything goes." A successful bargain among users must be a good fit for both the promise and the tools used.

In terms of the above analogy (if you accept there might be one) between successful social networks and successful learning, what promises do we make to convince learners to make a commitment? "Work hard and you'll end up with a good job" perhaps, or "follow these instructions and you'll pass your exams". Mr Shirky reminds us that the message "Buy Cheesy Puffs" is a very different message to "Join us and we'll invent Cheesy Puffs together." Are there more interesting promises we could make? And do the tools we use to engage in the learning process make a difference? What, other than Cheesy Puffs, could we all invent together?

Saturday 24 January 2009

Maslow and a creative curriculum

Apologies in advance for a relatively lengthy post! I was reminded recently of Abraham Maslow's Hierachy of Human Needs model (see above). The basic premise of the model, created in 1943 and adapted in the 70s, is that all humans experience basic needs. Beginning with physiological needs (breathing, sleep, food etc.), these needs progress to higher states, in clearly defined stages, until we are ultimately able to achieve "self-actualisation", a kind of wisdom. Until each stage of human need is achieved, we are unable to progress to the next. In other words, it is difficult to contemplate the level of your self-esteem when you haven't slept for three nights and are starving hungry.

One fascinating blogger has compared this hierarchy of needs with the rise in Web 2.0. Her theory is that social networking tools satisfy many of the mid-level needs in Maslow's hierachy because they are "open source" and positively require the active participation of users to develop the service, thus enabling them to achieve a sense of belonging to a community of peers and boost their self-esteem through acquiring the respect of others. Examples of these Web 2.0 services would include Wikipedia and Flickr, which are continually developed in partnership with users.

I began to wonder whether the above diagram would still make sense if you replaced the phrase Web 2.0 with School. Whereas needs such as security, belonging, learning and achievement all seemed to fit easily, I was less sure about ideas like control, ego, aesthetics and giving back. I've also been giving some thought to the idea of Open Source Education. More and more commentators are predicting the end of school as we know it Jim. This article suggests that a revolution in the free international distribution of online learning tools is just round the corner. The author refers to the massive amount of information (in all forms of media, not just text) already available online:

The number of songs available on iTunes – over 3.5 million
The number of books on Amazon – over 4 million
The number of blogs available online – over 60 million
The number of entries on Wikipedia – over 4 million
The number of user accounts on MySpace – over 100 million
The number of videos on YouTube – over 6.1 million

Several universities, such as the prestigious MIT in the States, have already made course material free to anyone in the world and initiatives like Wikiversity and Moodle are available to anyone who wishes to educate themselves. What does all this mean for the future of schools? Are classrooms the only place where successful learning happens? Do learners always need teachers?

So, if we put these ideas together, what have we got?

People want to learn. But what they want to learn isn't always what schools want, or are able through the limited availability of expertise, to teach. People like to learn. But not always in classrooms, at particular times of the day. If learners had greater control over the education process, there might be more opportunity to fashion it to suit themselves. If schools trusted young people (and their teachers) to work collaboratively to design learning opportunities not necessarily rooted in the classroom, everyone in school (regardless of their role or position in the institution) could learn together and from each other. If the objectives of learning were clearly defined by everyone with a stake in the process, and the relevant learning tools made available (in other words, made "open source"), could we not work together to create a new kind of education system that enabled all learners to progress successfully through a hierarchy of needs and ultimately achieve a measure of self-actualisation that includes, according to Maslow, the ability to be creative and solve problems?

Thursday 22 January 2009 in action

My Year English Literature group have been investigating how might support their collaborative efforts to prepare for their A level exam on the Lyrical Ballads. Although it took a little while to set up accounts and to create the collaborative group, within about twenty minutes we were ready to make a start. We soon got to grips with how to make our own mind maps and found it relatively straightforward to amend and develop existing mindmaps. One difficulty was that you can't have two people working on the same mind map at the same time, but that wouldn't be a problem with homework tasks, and it is quite easy to make multiples of the same mind map - or you could even have a carousel of mind maps that you move around.

It will be interesting to see how the mind maps develop, and also how effectively people collaborate. We might try to encourage the other groups that are studying the same text to join in , thereby creating a larger group of potential collaborators.

Can we think of other potential uses?

Mr. Hawes

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Multiple Intelligences

Ever wondered how intelligent you were? The old way of measuring intelligence, the IQ test, is no longer adequate as a way of measuring a person's true capacities. So much work has been done on the way the brain works that we now realise more sophisticated ways of assessing a person's strengths, their multiple intelligences, are needed. Howard Gardner is someone who has done a lot of the research in this area. This web site, created by the Birmingham Grid for Learning, uses Gardner's concept of multiple intelligences to provoke discussion about learning and teaching. There is even an online test if you're curious about your own intelligences. Any discussion of creative learning must take into account the variety of intelligences that everyone possesses, the assumption being that everyone is good at something. 

This raises the question about the role of the teacher in helping young people to identify their particular strengths and weaknesses but not only in terms of their academic (IQ) ability. On a recent trip to a school in Denmark I spoke to a headteacher who had a very clear view about disruption in the classroom. She said that, in her opinion, a disruptive child is often one whose teacher has not found a way to engage him/her successfully in learning through a detailed knowledge of their preferred learning styles. In other words, the disruption is a symptom of disengagement with the curriculum, a situation for which the student and teacher are jointly responsible.  This is definitely food for thought.

Monday 19 January 2009 is a Web 2.0 application that provides online mind mapping. There is plenty of mind mapping software available but it's usually fairly expensive and/or not very good. I have only just started playing with this site and, in the interests of experimentation, have invited members of this blog to take part in a collaborative mind mapping exercise linked to our Food for Thought project. You should have received an email from me fairly recently asking you to get involved. Once you've become a member of the site, I will receive notification. I can then allow you access to the mind map so that we can work together on it. Let's see if this kind of process is useful as a learning tool so that we can recommend it (or not) for use in the classroom.

Sunday 18 January 2009


I've just discovered this amazing site which helps you create an online scrapbook or journal. You can choose from hundreds of backgrounds and stickers to construct your page by simply dragging and dropping them into place. You can import your photos either from your computer or from sites like Flickr very easily. You can even embed YouTube videos. The finished scrapbook can be saved, exported as a series of images and/or published to the web to share with friends, family, or even an examiner. I had a go at making my own book this afternoon. What do you think?

I'm going to try to get my BTEC Media class to keep a virtual workbook using the site in order to maintain a critical record of their photography work for the Portrait of Tallis project. I think it will be an excellent way for them to consider how best to present their experiments in a visually stimulating way and keep track of their progress. I wonder if we could use something like this with Year 7 students as part of some kind of personal creative portfolio? We could encourage them to reflect on their preferred learning styles, make a self-portrait video or animation and include pictures of themselves and their family. This could then be published (online) and shared with their tutor and teachers in order to build a more rounded picture of them as learners. Since it exists on the internet, the students could continue to develop their portfolio/journal throughout the year, perhaps also reflecting on their learning at Tallis as it progresses.

Saturday 17 January 2009


For a little while now, via the magic of Flickr, I have been in contact with Zek Hoeben, a colleague who works at Fortismere School in North London. On Friday, we made arrangements to meet at the BETT show, following an excellent presentation by Stephen Heppell (more about this later). It was great to finally meet Zek and we had a productive chat about all things creative and technological. His school uses the Fonter learning platform and, as an associate AST with responsibility for art, photography and ICT, he is busy getting to grips with it, both in his own lessons and with his own students and promoting its use across the whole school. It may be the case that we are given a new learning platform as part of our move to the new school and this may turn out to be Fronter, so I was keen to get a behind-the-scenes view of the platform in action. Zek has kindly given me access and, this morning, I spent an hour or so browsing through the photography pages. One of the projects that caught my eye was a photo geotagging project which enables students to take photos near to the school and post them to Google Maps which, in turn, can then be viewed in Google Earth. It occurred to me that this would make an excellent inter-disciplinary project at KS3 in terms of young people's awareness of the local area and relationship to a variety of spaces and places. In terms of Fronter's capabilities, the jury is still out. I'll keep you posted after I've done a bit more research.

Friday 16 January 2009

Desks and Pips

The result of our voting about what we'd like to see Tallis lose for a day is a tie between Desks and Pips. I think we should present these suggestions (and the general concept of a "No Something Day") to the Leadership Team to consider. What do you think?

Wednesday 14 January 2009


Futurelab, who are promoting an alternative to the national curriculum at key stage 3 entitled Enquiring Minds, have produced an online thinking tool cleverly entitled Exploratree (exploratory, get it?!) Having registered, the user is able to create thinking guides (a bit like animated mind maps) which can be saved, printed, sent or shared with others. The site offers ready made structures for thinking that reflect the methodology of Enquiring Minds. Alternatively, users may wish to create their own guides from scratch. The real value of the site is the ability to work collaboratively on any given project and to set up groups. This means that a teacher or student could create a group, begin a thinking process and encourage others to collaborate on completing the process. In order to test whether or not this is an interesting and/or useful exercise, I have begun a reverse thinking investigation, using one of the pre-designed guides, and invited the members of this blog to have a go at helping me complete it. You should all have received an email asking you to get involved. Perhaps you could leave a message on this post to ley me know if it's working (or not) and how you're getting on following the instructions and adding to the project. The idea is to work backwards from an "ideal" future in order to work out what steps need to be put in place in order to achieve it. This kind of structured thinking exercise might be a very useful feature of the new KS3 curriculum and sites like this, given appropriate access to ICT, could provide learners with opportunities to strengthen their thinking muscles.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

The Future is Now

Dr Richard Barbrook challenges new generations to take the power of the Internet into their own hands, to resist status quo politics and to use the world’s most powerful political tool to shape their own, better, destiny. His message: if we don’t want the future to be what it used to be, we must invent our own, improved and truly revolutionary future.

True Tube

TrueTube is a relatively new website that enables young people to debate ethical, cultural and political issues using video. The site has been nominated for a BETT award and is aimed at secondary school students. It presents controversial topics from a variety of viewpoints and builds on young people's understanding and use of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. It will also soon have a younger brother/sister called Truetube Junior for primary school aged children. The designers of the site make it clear that not all content might be useful or appropriate in a classroom context, but this kind of resource might be an engaging way of debating all manner of issues related to Personal and Economic Well-Being and beyond. The site encourages users to create their own content and provides them with an online video editing toolbox. There are some very useful "How to" videos on the site covering topics like "Shooting DV" and how to get on in the music industry.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Bird's Eye View Drawings

There are lots of examples of artists and advertisers using a bird's eye view chalk drawing to defy the laws of physics. The artist Robin Rhode is a good example. Sometimes he animates the various still photographs to create short films but often he exhibits the individual shots on a gallery wall so that they appear like a disassembled flip book. Jan Van Holleben's photo series like Dreams of Flying is another good example of this kind of approach. This music video is inspired by Holleben's images. I found the above advert by Nike which I like very much, partly because it's very simple and fluid in its mixing of different viewpoints. I think Mr Hawes' idea of doing an animation/film using the concourse to describe a mathematical process would work really well, especially if students were shown other really good examples of this kind of work by a whole range of artists as inspiration.

Friday 9 January 2009

Creativity - A Call To Arms

Miss Dooley and myself are in the early stages of planning a project to do with her Year 10 Maths Group and I thought it would be great to invite members of the group, and followers of the blog, to contribute their ideas. The unit of work focuses on reflecting, rotating, enlarging and transforming shapes. There is a certain amount of jargon involved - scale enlargement, projection lines, vectors etc. but it seems that the concepts have lots of visual and artistic applications. My first instinct is to use animation to illustrate the concepts (animation is great for showing movement and transformation), or to use the students themselves to illustrate and explore the concepts physically and film it (maybe from the link and using the concourse for a grid)

Animation can be quite hard to do with thirty students at the same time, but does produce lovely films that can then be layered with music, voice over and text.

One thing I forgot to mention was that Ms. Dooley's group will be asked to make a product that they can use to help Mr Ormston's group understand the topic. What do you think would be the most effective way for the students to achieve this?

Finally, I made a short film using an online teaching resource which I captured from the desktop using IshowU - maybe this could be a starting point?

Soren Hawes

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Disrupting Tallis

I've really enjoyed what everyone has been saying on this blog over the last few weeks and I've been especially drawn to the idea of disrupting Tallis (Jon, Amber). Before Christmas  the Year 7 cross curricular project happened and culminated in an evening event showcasing the work. My favorite part of the event was the disruption that had happened in one of the music rooms just off the Tallis Room. All the furniture had been removed and the room had been transformed into a magical interactive experience. I obviously knew that the event was on, and I knew a bit about the work that was going into it, but I hadn't expected the room to feel like that when i walked in. I felt like I had discovered something exciting and new even though it was in a room I normally ignore and walk past all the time. I think school should be full of experiences like this, where little things surprise us and what we are expecting to happen is shaken up. 

Like Jon, who has written about the Cildo Meireles exhibition at the tate modern, I'd like to tell everyone about my favourite theatre company. They are called Punchdrunk and they specialise in creating theatrical environments in unusual transformed locations. During their performances the audience are free to choose what they watch and where they go. Punchdrunk’s desire is for the audience to rediscover the childlike excitement and anticipation of exploring the unknown and experience a real sense of adventure. I think it would be amazing if learning could be more like that. Punchdrunk say that they try to focus as much attention on the audience and the space as they do to the text and the performers. They took over the Battersea Arts Centre (the whole of it, offices, toilets, everywhere) and reused the space to how they felt it would work better. I think sometimes in school we are so stuck in our own habbits of how things are, that we can't see the potential of what could be. 

The Josh Beasley Award for Creativity

What makes learning more effective?

In a recent study by Professor John Hattie, of Auckland University, the most effective strategy for improving education appears to be raising the quality of student-teacher interaction. The study was based on 50,000 other studies covering all aspects of schooling across the world. Professor Hattie has produced a ranking system of most to least effective strategies. At the top comes:
1. Students assessing themselves
2. Students working at a level just beyond their current level (appropriate challenge)
3. Formative evaluation
4. Teachers reflecting on their own practice

Less effective interventions, those appearing lower down the list, include:
133. Student centered "open" classrooms
132. Giving students control over learning
131. Multi-age classes

The report seems to suggest that students, when given regular opportunities to reflect on their progress, develop a good understanding of what they need to do next and do not need excessive testing. Other strategies which seem to work well include teachers being clear about their expectations and "reciprocal" teaching - students taking turns to teach the class.

Issues like gender, television, class size and setting by ability appear to be less important in their effect. In an interview with the TES, Professor Hattie remarks "A teacher's job is not to make work easy. It is to make it difficult. If you are not challenged, you do not make mistakes. If you do not make mistakes, feedback is useless." This raises some interesting issues about the nature of challenge for individual students, the significance of mistakes in the learning process and the importance of personalised formative assessment.

Sunday 4 January 2009

Cildo Meireles

I went back to the Cildo Meireles exhibition at Tate Modern today for my second visit. It's easily my favourite show of 2008. Meireles is Brazil's best known conceptual artist. He's now 60 years old and began his career during the miltary dictatorship in Brazil in the 1960s. Consequently, much of his work is political in nature but not in any narrow, hectoring way. His artistic interventions are subtle and very beautiful. Many of his pieces involve meshes of different kinds. Sometimes they are soft like fishing nets or webs of material, sometimes not. My favourite work is called "Through" and consists of a number of see-through barriers which create a labyrinth leading to a ball of brightly lit cellophane at the centre. In order to reach the centre point you are required to walk on glass. Consequently, you feel slightly disembodied, as if you are floating through the space and, simultaneously, you are reminded of your physicality. Other highlights of the show include a tower of old radios entitled "Babel" and a room of rulers and clocks, all of which have had their numbers rearranged. In this film, the artist reminds us that, whilst the eyes are important in art, we have other senses which we must use in order to obtain a better comprehension of art (and life).

The reason I've chosen to write about this on the Creative Tallis blog is because I think we should investigate some of the strategies used by Meireles in his art to inform our thinking about the "Food for Thought" project this summer. The exhibition ends soon, but I would encourage you to try to get along and see it. You won't be disappointed.

Friday 2 January 2009

Creative Day

As well of having the summer evening event I think we should dedicate a day to promote creativity for the whole school and get every one thinking creatively. When I say thinking creatively I mean not just thinking that art, music and drama are the creative subjects but learning how to be more creative in areas such as maths, English and every day life as well. The day could include an array of activities that might be new to people and not usually taught within the normal school curriculum.

Any ideas about what events could be done and whether you think this a good idea?