Tuesday 28 April 2009

The Happy Accident

Lewis Hyde's brilliant study of various Trickster myths is subtitled "How Disruptive Imagination Makes Culture". The Trickster enjoys happy accidents. Hyde compares the Trickster attitude that he observes in the ancient Greek god Hermes and the Yoruba character Eshu to various modern artists like Picasso. Accepting good fortune and recognizing the unexpected gift is essential to creative imagination, he argues. "The agile mind is pleased to find what it was not looking for."

He quotes Picasso as having said, "In my opinion to search means nothing in painting. To find is the thing."

How do we help to create learning experiences that facilitate discovery and embrace chance? To paraphrase Milan Kundera. Repetition is mute but chance talks to us.

Monday 27 April 2009

T-Shirt Competition

I think we should bestow members of the Creative Tallis team with a suitably inspiring and immediately identifiable fashion accessory so I propose that we design our own t-shirts. Obviously we need a witty slogan for the front so let's get our thinking caps on. The winner will have the joy of his/her words appearing on the shirts and may even receive a free one to wear with pride at the next non uniform day.

Suggestions on a postcard please to the usual address...

Sunday 26 April 2009


On Tuesday the 5th May I am hoping that we will have an opportunity to meet the Leadership Team and make a brief presentation about our activities so far this year. How do you think we should approach this? It may be our only chance this academic year to enlist the support of senior managers in helping us promote our understanding of creative learning across the whole school so I think we need a really good plan of action.

Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Describe briefly what we've been doing and how we've been doing it using the blog as a reference point (Keynote presentation?)
2. Present our Manifesto for a Creative Tallis both on paper and in the form of a
3. Present a list of recommendations for action on whole school policies

Classroom observations should include comments on creative learning
Student representatives should be included on all interviewing panels
Students and teachers should have the opportunity to swap skills on a regular basis
Can you think of anything else we should do? Are you all able to make it to this meeting? Perhaps we can talk about some of these issues when we meet on Friday.

Friday 24 April 2009

Home is where the art is

This afternoon I spoke to a former Tallis student, Kat Joyce, about two exciting projects. I taught Kat when she was in Year 8 (I think that was 1991) and she was later in my sixth form tutor group. She has since gone on to bigger and better things, working in the performing arts as a writer/director. The first project is called Home. This is how it's described on the website:

Whether home is a mansion, a shack, or a tent, we all strive to protect the place of safety that we’ve created. Is home a place, a language, a network of people, or a four-walled structure? How fragile is the membrane between home and the rest of the world? We wanted to challenge ourselves to create a show which did not rely on a traditional theatre building – which has its suitcase packed and is ready to be performed anywhere. A homeless piece of theatre that can happen in tents, car parks and in woods, in fact anywhere. The concept for the show sprung from a desire to challenge and stretch the ensemble’s ability to react honestly and freshly to each new performance, making each show real and live. Home is a nomadic performance which we are continuing to devise and test in many different spaces – inside and outside, in the woods, in underground tunnels, in nightclubs and at festivals, for audiences of many and audiences of one. We are still finding out what Home might become, but we are excited by the idea that, rather than making a show which has a finished, fixed form, we could create a show which is like a resourceful camper, with the outfit and gadgets to adapt to each new circumstance, which is formed afresh each time from an expanding repertoire of work, responding live to each new temporary home.
The film above is a document of a previous residency carried out by Tangled Feet at a school in St. Albans. I like the way the performance uses different spaces around the school, takes people by surprise and asks some challenging questions about the idea of home. It occurred to me that the project echoed many of our thoughts about the nature of creativity (risk, challenge, imagination, collaboration, exploration etc.) and the ideas we have shared about a site specific event at Tallis. One of the key issues we face, of course, is our own change of home as we move to a new school. This mirrors the creation of new residential homes to replace the existing Ferrier Estate just on our doorstep.

Kat is also working on a project called 1 Mile Away in collaboration with Nathan Curry. It is a new play about a one-mile-radius area of London. From Parliament to Elephant, Vauxhall Farm to Lower Marsh, Kat and Nathan are collaborating with many local people to build a literary picture of the many narratives in this complex area. Kat will be weaving all the ideas into a new play, which will be performed by a professional cast in the summer. I really liked the idea of a community generated story, the strands of which are collected using social networking tools.

Again, I thought it would be great to chat to Kat about the possibility that we could collaborate with her on our event, perhaps incorporating elements of both Home and 1 Mile Away. As a result, I have asked Kat to come in to talk to us next Friday after school. I think this will help to put some meat on the bones of our emerging ideas. Come prepared to explain to her what we've been doing and ask her questions about both of these exciting projects. I look forward to seeing you all then.

Thursday 23 April 2009

The Art of Listening

I met John Riches, our Creative Agent, very briefly this afternoon for a chat about our progress as a School of Creativity. We had a very productive talk, mostly about what we might hope to achieve by the end of this academic year and what our ambitions for next year might be. I think we are both now in agreement that the work this summer, that will contribute to you all hopefully achieving an Arts Mark Silver Award, might be better conceived as a series of smaller events/happenings/interventions rather than one huge one. Here are some ideas for you to mull over before next Tuesday's meeting:
  • I am hoping to talk to an ex student who is now a playwright and theatre director about the possibility of Tallis hosting a performance of a new improvised piece called "Home" by the company Tangled Feet.
  • We could commission a range of artists to respond to the school environment using a variety of strategies (sound, illustration, graffiti etc.) so that work is installed at the weekend and we return to unexplained and surprising spaces on Monday morning
  • We could commission the Sixth Form Guerilla Art squad under the direction of our artist in residence Michael Shaw, to complete a series of interventions in the spaces of the current building. They have already developed some work along these lines and I can ask Mike (who is a very respected sound artist in his own right) to tell us more about what they've been doing at a future meeting.
  • We could work with a photographer to create unusual photographic representations of the building
  • We could present our manifesto for a Creative Tallis to parents at a special event and ask parents to volunteer their talents in future school projects
  • We could attend a future Leadership Team meeting to present what we've been up to and make recommendations about the support we need from the school to move the creativity agenda forward
I realise that these ideas don't really fully capture the more ambitious ideas about transforming the school into a kind of game experience. I wonder if we might need a bit more time to make this work effectively? I would appreciate your thoughts about this. I suggested to John that we could use some time in the summer holidays to work more intensively with various practitioners to plan this project (a kind of creativity summer school). We could then hope to stage this event in the Autumn Term.

Finally, I would like to draw your intention to The Experiment. It is a podcast created by Kevin Quigley for The Institute of Contemporary Arts. It's a bit bonkers but, if you like strange music and abstract soundscapes, yu'll love this. I particularly like the episode entitled "The Art of Listening Part 1". Check it out!

Sorry, No Java is installed!

I hope that I am making a valid point here ?

As the group who is promoting creativity in Tallis and promoting amazing websites etc, I think that we need to look into why the school does not seem to have Flash, Java and other players installed on the network? Does the group think that this is something which we should try and promote to get installed onto the network... so that the web 2.0 applications will run in school?

Also has anyone looked into Microsoft's Silverlight? I use this quite a bit because Microsoft offer a superb online storage system which allows you to use remote desktop too! (Macs work on this too I believe) It's called Live Mesh https://www.mesh.com/Welcome/default.aspx and all you need is a Windows Live ID (MSN Log in)

So what do people think?

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Mindmap Part 2

The meeting began to notice that some elements of the mindmap that made for effective and interesting links. Lots of people were really interested in the idea of mapping and that then drew us into the idea of exploration, pathways and quests and game play. It seemed that these ideas were really interlinked.

We then had a discussion of outcomes. Tom said there seemed to be a real move to make outcomes explicit in lessons and wondered if that might restrict opportunities for exploration. This then led to the idea of an experience where visitors would walk away with very different personal experiences and outcomes. There was a real interest in the idea of navigation and pathways - the idea that students wanted more opportunities to make choices and travel their own creative journey. There was a desire for people to experience the exhilaration, frustration, uncertainty and excitement of beginning something without being certain of its outcome - an experience that alerted and challenged visitors to think about the impact of creativity on learning.

Monday 20 April 2009


I've been reading a Futurelab document entitled Curriculum and Teaching Innovation which makes reference to an organisation called 5x5x5=creativity. Based on an early years model of student centred education, the project's philosophy and aims (listed below) are clearly related to our own and those of Creative Partnerships generally. Much of this thinking is also reflected in Futurelab's own alternative to the national curriculum which they call Enquiring Minds. I wonder if we could learn anything from their research so far? How easily might some of these principles and working practices translate into a secondary school setting?

5x5x5 aims to:
  • demonstrate ways in which creativity can be fostered in young children and fire their interest in learning
  • influence educational practice by establishing creativity as an essential foundation of learning
  • produce research to demonstrate the value of creative enquiry, relationships and environments in helping children develop as confident, creative thinkers
  • share the research findings as widely as possible, creating a legacy for the future
  • provide integrated training and mentoring for participating teachers, artists and cultural settings

5x5x5 philosophy

The project is inspired by the creative educational approach of early years settings in Reggio Emilia. This internationally celebrated approach pioneered a collaborative way of working with young children that allows them to express their ideas in many creative ways, ‘in 100 languages'.

The key philosophical principles of 5x5x5:

  • children are seen as innate and creative knowledge builders, explorers and co-constructors of their learning
  • educators and artists are enablers and companions in the children's learning within a culture of listening
  • learning is focussed on the process of the children's explorations, not the end product
  • documenting children's learning journeys is our method for evaluating and reflecting upon the children's thinking and learning
  • the development of a creative learning community of teachers, artists, co-workers in cultural centres, parents and children
  • involving family and community in life-long learning

'Children need the freedom to appreciate the infinite resources of their hands, their eyes and their ears, the resources of forms, materials sounds and colours. They need the freedom to realise how reason, thought and imagination can create continuous interweaving of things, and can move and shake the world.'

Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia preschools


Sunday 19 April 2009

Dipity Timelines

Dipity is a cool online service that allows you to create a timeline. This can be automated using a variety of feeds (e.g. blogs, Twitter, Flickr etc) or you can add information manually. I've set up a Creative Tallis Dipity account. Here are the details:

Username: creativetallis
Password: kidbrooke

At the moment the information is popultade via feeds from this blog, our Twitter page and our new Flickr site. If you'd like to post to the Flickr site, the login details are as above. I've only had a quick play with Dipity but I can see lots of useful applications. Each manual post can have several sources of information associated with it - video links, pictures, text and, crucially, a date or period of time. I am currently attempting to create a blog so that students who wish to study for an A level in History of Art can do so via the internet without having to attend any formal lessons. I will be using Dipity to keep track of the learning and post useful resources.

What uses can you think of for this tool?

Felix's School of Rock

Over the second week of half term I was working for Felix School of Rock which is a week course where kids can go and join with some other kids to form a band and they learn 3 or 4 songs to perform in a gig at the end of the week, which I think is a wicked idea. Anyway I was working there as an assistant so basically I had to help teach some stuff a bit and set up the rooms for the bands and I had to set up the stage for the gig. When I got there Felix said I would have to play for a band because they didn't have a Drummer which was wicked! Seriously I had so much fun and I got to play at the gig and do the Drumageddon which is where each drummer comes up on stage and does a 1 minute drum solo (I was the best of course!) Check out my my Drum Solo in the video at the bottom of the post. Check out my behind the scenes photos on Flickr. This doesn't have much relevance to what we were talking about but I just wanted to tell you what I got up to during the holidays. What about you?

Saturday 18 April 2009


James Harkin has written a great piece in this month's Observer Film supplement about how our appetite for non-linear stories has been shaped, in part, by the internet. You can find the full article here. What follows is an edited extract:

In her speech accepting the Nobel Prize for literature in December 2007, for example, Doris Lessing delivered a sermon warning against the dangers of spending too much time on the net. What we urgently need, she argued, was a new appreciation of the ancient art of storytelling, which was, under the weight of all this new technology, in danger of being forgotten. "The storyteller," she insisted, "is deep inside every one of us... It is the storyteller, the dream-maker, the myth-maker, that is our phoenix, that represents us at our best - and at our most creative."

Lessing was right about the power of storytelling... Stories are everywhere, and the reason they are so popular is that they offer us meaning and a way of making sense of the world and our place in it. For as long as we humans have existed, stories have entertained us and helped us hand down knowledge and lore from generation to generation; they are so fundamental to us that they must somehow be hard-wired into our brains.

Isn't it possible, though, that Lessing was too pessimistic? Isn't it possible that the greater freedom for manoeuvre afforded us by electronic information is simply altering the kind of stories that we want to listen to? Might our cybernetic urge to forge our own path through electronic information, as the media guru Marshall McLuhan predicted in the 1960s, now be too restless to cope with the traditional one-thing-after-another plot lines that we're used to in mainstream culture? If stories are hard-wired into our brains, in other words, isn't it possible that the wiring is subtly changing?

The control of the book's author over how we read is not absolute; tire of a bad book and one can always turn its pages to find the sexy or interesting bits, like the owner of a video recorder pausing or fast-forwarding a dull film. Compared to the computer gamer or the internet user, however, the reader of a book has long been seen as passive and utterly at the mercy of the storyteller - he or she, after all, has precious little power over how the story is told. On the other hand, it's the humble reader who chooses how to interpret the work. Even in the most straightforward of novels, it's up to the reader to reassemble the component parts of the story in their minds and then scan it for meaning.

Those of us who have got used to doing things on screen, however, have a much more powerful way of taking the reins from an author or an authority. Armed with our computer mouse, what would have been a book appears to us as a stream of messages on a loop, a loop that usually encourages us to hop around nimbly from one place to another. What kind of stories do people brought up like this want to hear?

Look carefully at mainstream television and cinema: a new kind of storytelling that deliberately engages our restless, cybernetic imagination already exists. Stories like this seem to allow the audience to adjust and zigzag their way through the story - not by giving away some physical control of the narrative, like a computer game, but by adjusting themselves to a sensibility that will be familiar to anyone who has spent time sending out messages and batting back feedback on an electronic information loop.

These new stories are not structured in the traditional way - they are oblique and elusive enough to allow for a wide variety of interpretations, and broad enough to allow the reader more freedom of manoeuvre to follow their own path through the narrative. For the most part, the plots of these new stories emphasise chance, coincidence and random connections. They don't have an obvious beginning, middle and end; if they are thrown forward at all, it is by bad luck, freakish twists of fate, and the systematic inability of characters to take things into their hands and make sense of their own lives. Like all good stories, these new stories are invested with morals and meaning, but more often than not the meaning is that meaning itself is difficult to decipher. What is special about this new kind of storytelling in cinema and television is that it is becoming increasingly nonlinear.

Let's call it cyber-realism.

Friday 17 April 2009

At Home in a High Rise

I promised to provide a few more details about Mark Cowper's photographs of Ethelburga Tower in Battersea currently on show at The Geffrye Museum so here's a link to the website. What I loved about the show was the consistent view of each room and the way the images were displayed firstly around the room, then as a grid of smaller images in the shape of a tower block then finally projected in a space the exact same size as the rooms photographed.

I think this kind of typological appraoch to documenting space and the impact that humans have on adapting their environment might make an excellent feature of our summer project. What if we attempted to photograph all the rooms in the school from a similar point of view and then displayed them in a variety of ways? Would we need the help of a professional photographer to do this effectively? Would it make an interesting document of the building? Would we include portraits of people in the shots or photograph the building empty?

On the subject of photographing buildings, here's another link to the work of a photographer in Birmingham who documented the Longbridge car factory after it had been abandoned. There is something really poignant about these images in my opinion. One of my uncles used to work in the factory and I suppose the images represent the loss, not just of a building, but of a whole culture in that part of the country. We should probably plan to photograph the empty Thomas Tallis before it is finally demolished.

Wednesday 15 April 2009


Thanks to Tom DW for alerting us to the following digital graffiti installation called YrWall. Here's what the website says about it:

"The wall is used in much the same way as a conventional canvas but has the functionality of a typical computer paint program crossed with a simple animation package, enabling users to easily create and explore colours, textures and movement. Artistic creations can then be saved, recalled and played back, as well as utilized in a number of other ways to create unique and personal mementos of their digital graffiti experience. For example, the user will have the option receive a copy of their creation by email free of charge and to email friends and family with a virtual 'postcard' from the event. A recent addition to YrWall allows T-shirts and stickers to be printed for the user to take away.

This whole system has been developed and created by Lumacoustics. The drawing and interfacing is done in Adobe Flash which gives it great flexibility and allows many new functions to be added such as video or more involved interaction. YrWall can run event-focused competitions such as 'Best of Event' or 'Best Festival Logo' and can be customised for many applications.

As well as creating digital graffiti, traditional games such as noughts and crosses, hangman, and more involved, multi-wall games can be played. It really is your wall."

This might form part of a fantastic drawing/performance installation perhaps accompanied by some digital music creation and dance. We could create a digital arts environment utilising some of the ideas suggested by Mr Davids in the previous post and invite visitors to watch and/or interact with various tools. This would enable us to explore notions of skill in relation to the creation of works of art and play with a variety of new technologies. I've sent an email to the guys at Lumacoustics to see how much it might cost for us to hire the wall for our event in the summer. I'll let you know what they say. You can check out the showreel here (but Vimeo is not currently working in school).

What do you think?

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Sound Ideas

I've just received (via my school email so apology for the slight delay) this interesting message from Mr Davids. He's been having a think about ways in which we could set up sound related installations in school. Here's what he has to say:

Phew - terms finally out, and I've been giving that collaboration a good old think.

With reference to working with a digital artist, I would be very happy to do that, and I already have a concept of something that I've wanted to do for a long time, but have had neither time nor the coding skills to implement it. Do we know of any visual artists who are proficient in coding who could be involved?

I would very much like to make an interactive installation -It would be loosely based around looping of captured audio and visual input, and then playing back, or projecting live after various delays/processing. The user would be able to see a visual and audio record of their movement over the last 30 seconds, and be able to interact with it live on a projection screen. The concept links together video, audio, time/space and movement, and will hopefully encourage people to interact with the installation, and with each other.

1. Video installation with video delays/multiple copies.
Cloning and delays with visuals
Time Tunnel

These are some inspirations for this idea. The 'Through Time Tunnel' is an installation which has been custom coded, and is not available for download, but it looks incredible. I love the concept of the users being able to interact with past versions of themselves, and explore live choreography. Some of the aspects of this could be done with Isadora, but my 30 day trial has expired. I think it would be a shrewd purchase for the Arts College, as it is very flexible and can be used for lots of interactive installation/VJing. To produce something like the Time Tunnel would be a fairly hefty piece of coding I'd imagine, and we'd need to work with a programmer.

2. Audio Loop Room.
I've already experimented with looping sound Ableton Live and Looping using a free application called Sooper Looper for the Mac, which can be controlled via midi input, which I've already mentioned, can be done through Wii remotes / coloured balls / pretty much anything. Sam Murray and I have talked about this, and reckon that it can easily be done. For example, a rolling loop of 30 seconds could capture ambient noise in the room, and then playback with a delay and processing, with multiple layers of mini-loops playing over the top, sped up, slowed down. A number of objects in the room could be used to alter various parameters of the looping. Wiimotes, coloured lights etc. By embedding these controllers within tactile objects in the space, the users will have control (unconscious though it may be) of the parameters of that particular room. If visual feedback is needed, we could use something like Whitecap, G-Force or R4 to output video based on the sound.

3. Painting with light.
We spoke about this one or two years ago - It would be very easy to set up a live video feed, which let frames persist, allowing people to paint with LEDs/torches. Depending on how long the buffer is, you can build up extensive pictures, or short trails.

As long as we capture with a camera which has a long shutter speed, we can do this live, I think.

Another way to do this is to use the virtual graffiti tool, available for mac. Graffiti Research Lab LASER Tag. I've used this at parties and the like. All you need is a laptop, camera, projector and a laser pen, or LED lights, and people can paint virtual graffiti on any surface, as long as you can project onto it (legally).

I know this a lot to digest at once, but I've been in thought about it, and I'd definitely want to get at least one of these concepts working so people can have a play with it.

Tell me what you think.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Public space and its discontents

Public space and its discontents is a Flickr photo group.

I thought it was interesting and could help with some of the ideas that we keep coming back to.
Here's what they say about their group:

"This group is interested in how public use, abuse and subvert 'public' spaces. Now that we live sedentary lives, public spaces are often neglected or strictly controlled and regulated. We are interested in how public spaces can be used for 'unexpected' purposes other than their design or how that are 'supposed' to..."

New Look

I was getting a bit bored with the standard Blogger template we were using so I've taken the liberty of opting for a bit of a re-design. There are a dizzying variety of styles to choose from. I did a simple web search and discovered hundreds of free downloadable templates. Once the zip file has been downloaded and expanded to reveal the xml file, it's simply a matter of uploading it to your blog on the Layout page. You lose your widgets in the process, but it hasn't taken me too long to move things around a bit and re-establish what was there before (almost). I chose a template that suggested ideas scribbled on the back of an envelope (thanks for the prompt Mr Hawes). I also like the suggestion of something handmade. The heading area does take up rather a lot of screen space and you may find yourself scrolling more than you used to in order to access the posts and links, but I hope you like the new look.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Secret Cinema

Nic sent through the final evaluation of the Living Cinema project at Tallis today. It makes for interesting reading and I'll bring a copy to our next meeting. In amongst the links to various websites that formed part of the research element of their project I found one for a project called Secret Cinema. Organised by a group called Future Cinema, Secret Cinema evenings involve a themed screening of a famous film in an unusual location. Recent events have included them taking over the Hackney Empire to screen the Marx Brothers’ Night at the Opera and a screening of the new Watchmen movie in transformed tunnels under London Bridge station.

The one that caught my attention though was Lindsay Anderson's If screened at Dulwich College. The film is about a rebellion at a boys' public school. Ushers seem to have taken on the roles of the main characters and the group obviously took full advantage of their surroundings to make the evening quite memorable.

I wonder if we could borrow this idea and have a film screening as part of our event in the summer. Which film would we choose to show? How might it relate to our central theme of creative learning? Where would we screen it and for whom?


My Easter Reading is "The Grid Book", a fascinating history of ten grids that have influenced human culture. The ten grids are: brick, tablet, gridiron, map, notation, ledger, screen, type, box and network. I've got as far as maps and came across the following which caused me to reflect on the ways in which we might map the school:

"This fundamental shift away from the collective grid heralds a fundamental transformation in the perception of space in the twenty-first century...Unlike the standardized road maps of the past, highly individualized maps covering specific interests sit side-by-side in a digital universe where every fear and every pleasure has its map...These new maps index a physical world in ever greater detail at the same time as they are constantly adaptable, receptive to collective and individual needs and fantasies about that world."

Could we consider ways in which maps of Thomas Tallis School could reflect this shift in perceptions as a consequence of increased access to new technologies? Might this also be a useful metaphor for thinking about how learning is changing? What might these maps be like and how would they be constructed?

Friday 10 April 2009

Annette Messager - The Messengers

I saw this today at The Hayward as well as Mark Wallinger's 'The Russian Linesman' exhibition.

This had me standing in awe for such a long time. The pieces are all very similar but it was so thought out in every little detail. I'm afraid the website doesn't provide many examples of the work but I recommend you go see it! There is quite a variety of media used but the presentation I think is one of the best aspects - use of space is definitely important to think about. 

(I still cant get the hyperlinks to work on this computer)

Thursday 9 April 2009

Ugly Knitting

The fabulous Ujino Muneteru (Ujino and The Rotators) has two works on display on the Southbank at the moment. Ugly Knitting (above) is upstairs in the Project Space at The Hayward Gallery whilst Sherbert Dab Swivel (below) is on show outside the Royal Festival Hall.

The YouTube video of Ugly Knitting doesn't quite do it justice since there are about four or five separate "instruments" which play in sequence. I was particularly impressed by the turntables which spun records with bits of wood spouting from the surface of the vinyl. As the disk turned, each of the pegs struck a metal switch creating a syncopated beat. Very clever.

Perhaps we could install something like this in a classroom in our summer project? Mike Shaw, the art technician and artist in residence at Tallis, is a very well-respected sonic artist (I think that's the right term) who performs as DJ Tendraw. He is a master of turntablism and does all kinds of wonderful things with records. He's also created soundscapes for other exhibitions and has attempted to teach the art of circuit bending at Tallis. It might be cool to commission Mike to help us interfere with the sounds of the building in various ways. He has some other cool ideas about how we might encourage people to re-imagine the school. Shall I invite him to a future meeting?

Vocal Drawing

As sad as it may sound, I just made this using only sounds that came out of my mouth, (not burping) by trying to whistle at different pitches and volumes, by humming and by clucking my tongue. It took me about 15 minutes.

Try to make one using only vocal sounds and post it.

WARNING: Your mouth might ache after!

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Steven Johnson

If you haven't read Steven Johnson's excellent book about popular culture "Everything That's Bad is Good for You", I strongly recommend that you do. Here he is talking at a recent Handheld Learning conference, updating the book with more recent examples of how popular culture is, in fact, making us smarter. I think the recent conversations we've been having as a group are also evidence that this is true and I wonder if we need to change the title of our summer event to reflect the central metaphor of a game? I'm not suggesting that the food angle isn't a good one and that it shouldn't be the ultimate pay-off, but the interactivity and non-linear nature of the experiences we are hoping to provide in our event are better represented by the game idea. Just a thought.

Collaboration Tools

Mindomo - web based mind mapping tool

Freeology - graphic organisers (scroll down the page)

Gliffy - mind mapping online again

Imagination Cubed - I like this one a lot and it has the same feature where you can collaborate together at the same time on one page. You can change the background to be different papers (like squared for example).

Easter Quiz

Well done to Billy and Tom (and Amber) for correctly guessing that the image I posted for the Easter Quiz was generated by sound. Thanks also to Zek Hoeben for his post about this amazing bit of online wizardry that enables you to draw with sound. The image I posted was actually a drawing created from a song by The Smiths called Rubber Ring (hence the clue). I wonder if we could leave this application running in a classroom for a day (or another part of the school) to make a visual drawing of the sound of that space?

I'd better go and sort out that special prize now...


Just a fast post.... Me and Billy had a go with Twiddla quickly today and I think it works rather well! The meeting was quick and easy to set up and then Billy could just join by clicking on the link! The network was being a bit odd but I think that's because I am uploading a video to YouTube. Below are a few screenshots of us using it to try and solve the Easter question!

Easter Quiz

Q: What is this?

Please post your suggestions as comments. The best suggestion will qualify for a special prize!

Tuesday 7 April 2009


I've just started a Mindmeister collaborative mindmap for the Food for Thought project based on recent discussions. Hopefully, this can help us move the project on. The Mindmeister tool is simple but effective. There are hyperlinks to relevant websites represented by small grey arrows and adding connections and new nodes is really straightforward. There is also a way of tracking various versions of the document which are saved automatically.

The password to edit the mindmap is "creativetallis". I would really appreciate it if as many of you as possible can take a look at what's there and add/edit any further thoughts about the project so that we can begin to draw up a brief for the practitioners we may need to help us.


Twiddla is an online team whiteboarding (is that a real word?) tool that contains some powerful features including live text and audio chat. Here is a demo of how it works. Maybe we should have a go at conducting a meeting with the whole Creative Tallis team online at some point? I can think of lots of uses for this kind of service, especially the possibility of collaborating with students in other countries or working with experts beyond the classroom. It's free and doesn't even require usesr to create an account to join a meeting.

What do you think?

Monday 6 April 2009


I've just discovered this fantastic new online slideshow creation site called Vuvox. It's free to create an account and there are several ways to publish content featuring photos and video. The above presentation took about 5 minutes to make (pictures were accessed directly from my Flickr pages) but there are plenty of creative editing options not featured here that I hope to experiment with in the near future. There are helpful video demonstrations to show you how to use the various features and site navigation was very intuitive. This is what the creators say about the Collage feature in Vuvox:

This dynamic media creation suite enables everyone to easily turn their photos, videos, text and audio clips into interactive stories.

A COLLAGE can be published, embedded, and syndicated into any website, blog or social networking site.

Whether you're a photojournalist, photoblogger, or a student who wants to share your world.... COLLAGE will become your multimedia expression space!

Features include:

  • Image Cut-out and Masking tools
  • Layer positioning and Compositing
  • Interactive 'Hot-spots', providing links to media, text or other websites
  • Ability to add rich media details
  • Text and Soundtrack
It would be great to see what you can make using the site.

Tallis Twits

Inspired by the Twitter feed created for the Liminal exhibition at Rivington Place, I thought it was high time we had our very own here at Creative Tallis. You can now follow us on Twitter (I've added a link to our Twitter feed in the right hand menu). If you have a Twitter account and would like to become a Tallis Twit send me an email and I'll pass on the account details. For anyone with an iPod Touch or iPhone I recommend the excellent Tweetie app.

Sunday 5 April 2009

We feel fine

I have just discovered a really cool website called "we feel fine"

This is their mission:

Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 - 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? Do women feel fat more often than men? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s? What do people feel right now in Baghdad? What were people feeling on Valentine's Day? Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on.

Saturday 4 April 2009

Serious Play

I've just watched a great TED Talk by Stuart Brown on the subject of play and why it's so important for us all to cultivate the art of play throughout our lives. About half way through the talk, he describes his involvement in a project at Stanford University called the d.school. This is a school of design which includes the following in its manifesto:

* Prepare FUTURE INNOVATORS to be breakthrough thinkers & doers
* Use DESIGN THINKING to inspire multidisciplinary teams
* Foster RADICAL COLLABORATION between students, faculty & industry
* Tackle BIG PROJECTS and use prototyping to discover new solutions

It occurred to me that this would make an excellent mission statement for Thomas Tallis School. He then shows a student film based on a design project exploring reasons why meetings are often so boring and suggesting a possible solution. In the spirit of collaboration I have ripped this bit of the talk and re-presented it to you in the above clip. I really like the look of the d.school and wonder if we could borrow any ideas from Stanford in re-thinking our curriculum at Key Stage 3? What if the cross-curricular learning days, for example, were structured around a problem posing and solving task? Students could work in teams, with staff to support them from a range of disciplines, to identify a design challenge and develop creative solutions. What I liked about the most recent day was the spirit of play and discovery that I saw across the school. I think we could all do with a bit more of this.

I know Ms Hawkins is an expert in the creative design process and I wonder if she would be willing to show us a couple of strategies for developing ideas? I may suggest a radical re-think of our Leadership Team meetings based on this film.

Friday 3 April 2009

Tallis Soundscapes

A couple of years ago we worked with two artists on a binaural sound project called Tallis Soundscapes. The artists worked with Year 12 students to convert normal headphones into recording devices, replacing the speakers with microphones so that stealth stereo recordings could be made around the building without the need for cumbersome equipment. When played back, these recordings capture sound in true stereo since the microphones are actually in the same location as the ears. Recordings were made around the school and photographs were taken in each location. These were subsequently attached to a map available as a web page.

The reason I mention this project from a while back is that it's a good example of how we have already attempted to explore our relationship to the building in imaginative ways using various technologies. This links in with current discussions about the summer project.

How could we continue to experiment with sound in relation to the physical structure and emotional associations of the current school building?

Thursday 2 April 2009

Manifesto for a Creative Tallis

We received a massive 6 votes for statements to go in our Manifesto for a Creative Tallis. The two most popular were:

We would like better access to digital technologies

We would like more challenging, open-ended learning tasks

Despite the small number of votes, perhaps we could begin our debate about what to include in the Manifesto by considering these two statements. What else would like to be considered? Add your comments with suggestions for other statements, so that we can begin to construct the Manifesto, and have a think about how we should agree the contents and share the results with staff, students, parents and anyone else who might be interested.

Year 7 Cross-Curricular Learning Day

This short film was made by the 30 strong multimedia team as a creative, students' eye view of the Year 7 cross-curricular learning day on Wednesday 1st April. We divided the group into four teams: sound, animation, video and photography. The task was to re-present the day's activities using each of these media, to explore the connections between them and to reflect the theme of Healthy Lifestyles. Interestingly, the group had the whole day to create their content and learn new skills. This extended period of time was invaluable and provided a real opportunity for most students to engage in deep learning. I would like to thank the students and the superb team of staff members who helped them. It was a lot of fun!

Explaining, Evaluating and Reflecting

If you are anything like me then once you've finished one thing (or, even sometimes before!) I'm looking forward to moving on to the next thing. That said, there's a lot to be gained from taking some time to reflect on what you've done, how you did it, and how you might use what you've learned to improve the next time. Unfortunately evaluations can tend to be pretty dull paper exercises that take the shine off the joys of the creative process. Richard and Ms. Piwko decided to try a different way and settled on the idea of a filmed evaluation and It's a really special bit of work. Take a look - how could you do something similar elsewhere around the school? What might the benefits be?

You can watch part two of Richard's Film on the Deaf Create YouTube channel.