Tuesday 31 March 2009

iWork and iWork.com

Mr Nicholls, Mr Murray and Myself have been experimenting with iWork as a way of collaborating and developing projects. Basically iWork.com beta allows for you to upload a Pages, Keynote, or Numbers document to a virtual site where people can comment and annotate your ideas. So if you put together a draft Pages document you can get interested parties to leave stickies with comments to help you move your ideas on, or you can leave a "note' on the idea and this feedback is collated so you have a history of responses and comments.

Could this be an effective way for us to collaborate on our summer project? Could staff share an outline of their teaching plans and invite students to have some input on how a topic might be taught, or the different options for students to share their learning? Could it be an effective way for the school council to share their plans and get feedback?

Monday 30 March 2009

A Visit to Rivington Place

Rivington Place

Thanks to everyone who visited Rivington Place today and contributed lots of valuable ideas. I thought the Liminal exhibition provoked plenty of fascinating debate and helped to fuel a brief but exciting brainstorming session. Don't forget that we have arranged to meet every Tuesday at 3:45pm in Room 80C (the sixth form computer room) so that we can continue planing our summer events and gain our Arts Award accreditations.

Here is a summary of what we discussed in the afternoon session:

Tom really liked the theme of change and the use of role play in a radical alteration of the physical space of the current school building. What might it be like to transform the school into a country ruled by a despotic leader? Could we change the function of internal spaces, create our own currency and economic conditions, form a government, arrange political protests etc.?

Amber and Matthew definitely wanted to change the building, especially the corridors and other in-between spaces using sound. How could we explore the idea of absence and leaving a building behind? What does the building sound like? The school appears very geometric, doesn’t look very engaging from the outside but is interesting inside. How important is sound in learning? Could we create a Maze/Labyrinth type game using the whole site? A promenade performance or quest? What for? Moving between locations where performances/activities take place. Changing perceptions of the school building and what happens in it. Demonstrating the importance of new media technologies in learning. The element of surprise; the unexpected. Part of a consultative process with parents that could become an annual event. Need a place to gather at the end of the event – a meal and conversation.

Billy and Tom wanted to create a massive game of Quasar Laser to engage parents and students in learning together. Young people become experts. Could use Twitter to keep a record of a conversation about learning. Guide visitors around the school. Turn the school into an alien landscape using special effects, a series of strange occurrences and making the school unrecognisable through strange lighting. Perhaps we could change the story about school; create a different narrative about learning by challenging conventions and expectations about how learning is structured.

I am really looking forward to reading your reviews of the exhibition. This is your first task for the Arts Award. Perhaps you could add your thoughts as (very long and detailed) comments to this post?

Thursday 26 March 2009

Deaf Create

Deaf Create is a new blog set up by Mr Hawes. Here is his description of what it's all about:

"So what is 'Deaf Create'? Deaf Create is a blog forum for interested parties and participants in a new scheme set up by Greenwich Deaf Advisory Service. The Deaf Support Centre at Thomas Tallis School have, over the past year , been experimenting with using new media technologies to support their deaf students, and it seemed a good idea to share their experiences and knowhow with other schools and units across the borough that support deaf students. To make this happen three primary schools, a secondary school and a post-16 college have been included in the plan to create a pathway for using new media from early years education to post-16. I hope that this blog will allow all the different participants to share their work, technical difficulties, solutions and successes, as well as creating an archive of examples of new media in action."

Head on over to the blog to check it out. Don't forget to leave a comment or two.

Monday 23 March 2009

The Vertical Grouping Experience

This short film captures the views of staff and students about the vertical tutor group experiment that took place recently. We are engaging in a detailed piece of research about the potential value of a vertical pastoral system and the film contains a full spectrum of views which will help inform debate.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Generating Ideas

What follows is a list of useful web resources designed to promote creative thinking, specifically the generation of ideas:

The Idea Generator
You can get this application on your iPhone but it works just as well on the web. Simply click a button and scramble a three word phrase. We play it at home. I shake my phone, a phrase is created and the kids have 5 minutes to design an "eco-friendly kinetic instrument", or whatever it says.

Jump Start
This site asks you to state a challenge you are facing and then, once you have clicked a button, presents you with three randomly generated adjectives for you to use to help create a solution. This theory can be found in Edward de Bono's book on Lateral Thinking.

This site encourages you to engage in some divergent thinking based on responding to a random graphic shape (What is it?). It's quite a long process to complete all the steps but I found it very useful.

Magnetic Poetry
An online version of the fridge magnet game. This link takes you straight to The Artist collection. Try different techniques for making your poem. Choose words randomly, or words beginning with the same letter, or words of only one syllable. Don't worry too much about the poems making sense. Use your intuition and if it sounds good to you, then maybe it is really good. If you create any particularly beautiful poems, why not post them as Comments?

Generate a word that dosen't yet exist in any language and volunteer to define it. Hours of fun!

A web based collaborative mind-mapping tool.

An A-Z of Creativity Techniques
It does what it says on the tin. I was quite taken with Superheroes in which participants pretend to be a fictional (or real) super-hero (Superman, the Incredible Hulk, Batman, James Bond, Wonder Woman, Sherlock Holmes, Spiderman, etc.) and use their ‘super’ characteristics to trigger ideas.

Oblique Strategies
This one's a bit clever clever but what else can you expect from Brian Eno? The application for the iPhone is really lovely. This website is less than lovely but provides you with refreshable statements for those who've reached a creative impasse and is based on the original decks of cards.

That's enough to be going on with. I'd be interested to know if you found any of these tools useful.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Food For Thought

I've had a play with Slideshare and worked out how to attach an audio track, courtesy of Internet Archive. I hope this presentation helps to prepare everyone for the event on 30th March at Rivington Place. It would be good to lay the table (so to speak) with a cornucopia of ideas about our Food for Thought project. I strongly recommend that you have a go at making your own Slidecast. Hours of fun!


Check out this SlideShare Presentation by Zek Hoeben from Fortismere School in Haringey. Slideshare is a cool application that enables you to create web based presentations. This one features ideas related to this year's Edexcel Art & Design theme "Discord". Why keep your teaching resources on the hard drive of your computer when you can share them with fellow professionals around the world?

360 Street View

This is my attempt to create a 360 degree view of the world at the end of my drive, inspired by Google Maps Street View. I took about 45 pictures on my iPhone and stitched them together using Photoshop CS3. I've cropped the resulting image slightly at the bottom and filled in a couple of gaps with the clone stamp. Other than that, it's all the result of the automated photomerge function. There are a couple of strange sections - the neighbour's house looks like it's on fire and the edges of the pavements don't meet up, but you can see similar glitches in the Google pictures. Apparently, Google have had to remove some images from Street View because of complaints. One man was pictured throwing up outside a night club, for example. There's also a function for blurring faces. I'm pretty sure that most people will find the new service extremely useful and very entertaining. But does it have any educational benefits? Could we create our own virtual tour of Thomas Tallis School? Would this be a great way to capture the old building before the it is demolished? Could this building be embedded inside Street View? Could we make a ghost version of Tallis that could be explored, by people who had never set foot inside it, from the new building?

A Street View of British Art

Following on from Tom's excellent post about Street View, it appears that Tate Britain have joined the bandwagon by creating links to places across the UK depicted in famous paintings in the national collection. The image above is an example of a Turner painting of The Thames from just outside Tate Britain on Millbank. The idea, I suppose, is that you can now visit the locations using Street View and compare the painted and real (as photographed by Google) landscapes. There are some fairly profound philosophical issues about all this virtual tourism and I've read a couple of interesting comments in the papers about invasions of privacy. I wonder if we could create an inter-disciplinary project linking subjects like art history, geography and photography? I'm going to attempt a 360 degree photograph today in imitation of the joiners on Street View. I'll post the result here if I can make it work.

Friday 20 March 2009

Google Maps Street View

My first blog post so here goes...
Yesterday "Google" released Street View UK. This has been out in the States for over a year (?) and France and Italy were way ahead of us. The way the images were captured was by cars (pictured below getting a parking ticket) driving up and down every street of London (and other parts of the UK) capturing the images which created one huge joiner.

I just thought I would share this to see what people think.

Below are a few grabs I got outside school:

Is it a bad thing that you can clearly identify individuals on the street?

Thursday 19 March 2009

Any ideas

What did you think of the Living cinema event? Were there any ideas that we might want to use for our event in the summer? Did you like the fact that the birds were being controlled by a wii remote and the colours and speed changed when a drum beat was played?

Monday 16 March 2009

Science Club on YouTube

The Science Club at Tallis has got its own YouTube Channel. Mr Davids has purchased a cool camera that takes video at hundreds of frames per second. This one of a cymbal crash is my favourite although the one of Mr Davids getting a slap, to demonstrate the elasticity of the human face, comes a close second. Photography and science are closely related and some of these videos remind me of Harold Edgerton's famous series of high speed flash photographs. Now that the new school is about to be built on the back field, we thought we'd try to record the whole process using a special camera mounted on the roof. The idea is to take a couple of pictures of the site every day throughout the build. We can then make a time lapse film of the construction. I suppose we should also think about doing the same thing when the old school is demolished.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Becta Report about Web 2.0

Last September (2008) BECTA (a government agency promoting the innovative use of new technologies in learning) published a report called: ‘Web 2.0 Technologies for Learning at Key Stage 3 and 4′. Below are some extracts, which make interesting reading:

“Overall, although most learners use the internet for learning, there is only limited use of Web 2.0, and only a few embryonic signs of criticality, self-management and meta-cognitive reflection.”

“Many learners lack technical skills, and lack an awareness of the range of technologies and of when and how they could be used, as well as the digital literacy and critical skills to navigate this space. Teachers should be careful not to overestimate learners’ familiarity and skills in this area. There is a clear role for teachers in developing such skills.”

“Findings on impact are cautiously positive. The research team identified four potential benefits to learning and teaching from using Web 2.0 to establish and sustain a participatory, collaborative, creative ethos of enquiry. These were found in the data, though in differing degrees:

• Stimulating new modes of enquiry
• Engaging in collaborative learning activities
• Engaging with new literacies
• Online publication of content

When used effectively, Web 2.0 technologies had a positive impact on motivation and engagement through involving students in more participatory learning.”

You can see a video on the use of web 2.0 in education here. It features some amazing work being done by Clunbury Primary School which has adopted a huge range of new technologies, including portable mp3 recorders for podcasting and the Nintendo DS for maths and literacy activities, in order to inspire staff and students, encourage collaboration and develop students' creativity. The film also makes the point that there needs to be a much closer connection between the devices used by young people at home and at school and that we need to develop ways of rewarding collaboration in a system which is focused almost exclusively on individual testing. As Ken Robinson often remarks, if young people work together to get an answer we call it "cheating" whereas in business it's called "teamwork".

Thanks to our good friend Zek Hoeben for drawing attention to this illuminating and timely report.

A New School Day Proposal

I am on the student voice action research group and we have lately been discussing the timings of the school day. I have to ask ten different students what they think of the new plan and get their suggestions to make it better.

(apologies for the small text.)

On wednesdays all students will start at 9:30, 6th formers will have enrichment until 4:30 and in the new school it is hoped that eventually on wednesdays all students will be able to partake in enrichment activities (sports, making things, "SKILLS SWAP" etc.)

This timetable will enable us to make better use of all the amazing new facilities we will be getting in our new school. If we want to keep offering the fantastic range of courses that we do now, we need to find the space to do them.

What are your thoughts and suggestions?

Saturday 14 March 2009

A Planning Day at Rivington Place

The kind folks at Rivington Place have agreed to open their fantastic arts space especially for us on Monday 30th March so that we can spend some quality time planning our School of Creativity "Food for Thought" event for the summer term. Mr Hawes and I visited the space today to check it out. It's in a great part of town, near Old Street, in an exciting building designed by David Adjaye. In addition to letting us use their meeting room, we have been able to arrange a talk with the curator and one of the artists responsible for the current exhibition, Liminal: A Queston of Position. A range of artists have used digital media to explore how we relate to the city both physically and culturally. There are some exciting installations which may help us to think about how we engage our audience.

For example, the image above represents an interactive floor based piece. The visitor types responses to four questions on a computer screen. They then stand on a pressure sensitive mat nearby which locates their position and relays the messages from the computer onto the floor at their feet. The exhibition has been created collaboratively by artists, young people, university students and visitors. Iniva (The Institute of International Visual Arts), an organisation based at Rivington Place, is committed to working closely with local artists and other members of the community to create a range of exciting projects. Check out the series of Creative Mapping activities on their website.

We hope that you will all be able to make it on Monday 30th so that we can see the Liminal show, find out about how to curate an exhibition, and collaborate on planning our own event this summer. Expect some more information soon and put the date in your diaries!

Skills Swap

Yesterday when I was walking around Tallis after school I stumbled across a group of staff who Mr Hawes was teaching to use iMovie. I thought it would be a good idea if classes like these were open to students as well as staff. Then we thought it might be a good idea to exchange our talents, know-how and expertise. Maybe we could get people to think about what they could share and what they would like to learn. Could School support a project like this? What would we need? Where could it happen? How would we get people involved?

What do you guys think?

Friday 13 March 2009

"Everybody is an artist"

'Creativity isn't the monopoly of artists. This is the crucial fact I've come to realise, and this broader concept of creativity is my concept of art. When I say everybody is an artist, I mean everybody can determine the content of life in his particular sphere, whether in painting, music, engineering, caring for the sick, the economy or whatever. All around us the fundamentals of life are crying out to be shaped or created. But our idea of culture is severely restricted because we've always applied it to art...Our concept of art must be universal and have the interdisciplinary nature of a university, and there must be a university department with a new concept of art and science'.

Joseph Beuys

Thursday 12 March 2009

North American Story

George (Year 13 photography student) showed me this today. What a great way of starting a debate about social and environmental responsibility!

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Making Space

Mr Nicholls and I visited a school today that had created what they called a 'Making Space'. For them this meant a dedicated space with technicians, artists in residence and the sort of equipment you might find in an Art or Technology room. The idea was that any subject apart form Art could book the space to work on projects relating to what they were studying in different subjects.

This got us thinking that each school could rework the concept to fit with their preferences and priorities and left us with some questions:

What equipment would we need to put in the room?
What sorts of expertise should be available to support projects?
What should the room be like, and how could it be organised?
Who might decide if a project was worth doing and who should control access?
How could the school help ensure that the quality of the making was as good as possible?

I have a sense of what my ideal 'Making Space' might be like, but first I'd like the group to outline their ideas and preferences.

Mr. Hawes

Monday 9 March 2009

Manifesto for a Creative Tallis

At our last meeting, we discussed the idea that we would attempt to create a Manifesto for a Creative Tallis.

Please respond to this post with a comment featuring one or more suggestions for what should be included in our manifesto. I am currently attempting to find a suitable venue for us all to meet on Monday 23rd March so that we can really get on with the business of planning our "Food for Thought" event in the summer. I hope you are all able to make the "Living Cinema" event next Tuesday in the Drama Studio (6:30-9:30pm). You are welcome to bring a guest with you and you should be receiving an official invitation very soon. It promises to be a really cool evening.

So, I look forward to reading your suggestions for the manifesto in the comments.

How can I persuade my family that spending lots of time on the computer is ok?

This afternoon my mum said to me, "You spend way to much time on the computer" and then she said, "It's no good for you." I then said, "Look at the benefits, it is helping me with my education and improving my skills such as communication."

I use my laptop almost every afternoon/evening and I feel that since I got an Apple laptop I use it even more.

What else can I say to persuade her?
How often do you go on the computer and for how long?
What do you think the benefits are and do you think there are any negative effects?

Sunday 8 March 2009


Glogster is a bit like Scrapblog in that it provides you with a way to make visually interesting, multimedia posters using a simple drag and drop interface. Here's one I made earlier. It took a little while to get used to, but is actually very easy to use. I like the large format of the final poster and the retro players for media files like the TV for my Super 8 footage and the radio playing a Francoise Hardy song. I can imagine all kinds of uses for this tool right across the curriculum in re-presenting learning.


I thought I might try and see what happens when you put a whole poem into Wordle. I'm studying 'The Lyrical Ballads' with a yr.13 group at the moment so I tried Wordsworth's poem, 'The Tables Turned'. It produced a fascinating Wordle that revealed Wordsworth's distinctive poetic lexicon. Students are often presented with the finished poem, but maybe a wordle of the poem could be a much more stimulating introduction. Maybe students could sort some of the words according to categories - feelings, colours, time, spaces ... maybe students could wordle poems to make revision activities ... or pick words to assemble their own lines and verses before they see the actual poem?

Mr. Hawes

Five Years' Time

Our Creative Agent, John Riches, ran a workshop at this year's staff conference in which he explored the notion that young people today know more about the world than their teachers did when they were young. The resulting debate was fascinating and resulted in those present making a video statement about the skills they would like young people to have in five years' time and their role in helping to make this happen.

Saturday 7 March 2009


VoiceThread is a tool I've just discovered. I think it could have some really interesting uses. Check out this demo of some of its features by another teacher and listen to/read/watch the resulting VoiceThread discussion. How do you think this could be used at Tallis?

Word Cloud

What would a picture of all the words in this blog look like? Which words occur most frequently? What does the resulting image tell us about the words we use? Wordle allows you to create just such an image. You can either paste in a whole load of text or enter the URL of a website (like this blog) to create a word cloud. Words appear larger according to the frequency of their use. It is very pleasing to see that the two most frequently used words on this site are "students" and "creativity".

Collateral learning

Steven Johnson is fairly convinced that popular culture is making us smarter. His influential book, "Everything Bad Is Good For You" identifies a whole range of cognitive abilities that have been developed as a direct result of the increasing sophistication of popular television, the Internet and video games. He argues that non- linear narratives are especially important in stretching our ability to process complex information. Even when the content of popular media is less than edifying, the way that it is presented to the reader/viewer is what counts. Johnson calls this "collateral learning." I wonder if this idea is something we could consider when we think about learning in school? Perhaps we should be a little less concerned about the content of the curriculum and more interested in the connections, processes and metaphors that provide rich "collateral learning"?

Friday 6 March 2009

Living Cinema

It would be great if every member of the Creative Tallis Action Research Group could attend this event. In a sense, it's a dress rehearsal for the "Food for Thought" installation in the summer. We also need some volunteers on the night to help with food and I'm hoping that the VJs will be able to give us an insight into the way they work. I will attempt to get a letter out to you all on Monday explaining everything. In the meantime, please show your parents the flyer and ask them if they want to come along and if they are happy with you being involved.

Wednesday 4 March 2009

New Media in Action

To continue a theme raised in the previous post on 'The Creative Economy' I thought it might be a good idea to look at a recent relevant example of creativity in action. Miss Piwko has worked with two year eight students and their Geography teacher to produce a wonderful film on the Kobe earthquake.

The film is obviously fantastic, but as well as enjoying it, it might be worth thinking about the process that made it. Firstly we had a teacher who encouraged students to explore a range of ways of demonstrating and extending their understanding. Secondly we had staff who were keen to share good practice and explore news ways of working and liaise to make the film happen. Lastly we had a way of working that was great fun, totally engaging and produced something that people can share and use again and again.

What would happen if more students had the expertise and access to technology that helped make this film? What impact would it have on motivation and student independence and self-esteem? How would the school benefit from students being able to share their work with peers and future students in such a fresh and effective way?

Congratulations to Dayo and Unathi, Miss Piwko and Mr Greig for a fantastic example of what can be achieved.

Mr. Hawes

Monday 2 March 2009

The new economy

In his book "The Creative Economy", John Howkins ends the penultimate chapter with the following statement:"At the start of the twentieth century, Lenin said, "Communism is soviet organisation plus electricity." At the start of the twenty-first, I suggest, "The new economy is creativity plus electronics." It seems to me that media literacy and the use of new tools for learning should be important areas of development for us as a School of Creativity. How do we exploit the fact that computers are more like paintbrushes than televisions? How do we make sure that students from year 7 upwards have access to and are excited by the latest technologies in the service of their creativity?