Sunday 29 November 2009

We Think

Check out this video which summarises the ideas in Charles Leadbeater's excellent book We Think. In the spirit of collaboration and shared creativity, you can download the first three chapters of the book by following the link. What implications do these ideas have for the future of learning and schools? I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Friday 27 November 2009

Inspired by London

Here's a Flickr slideshow of the images from our amazing day at Delfina making the Inspired by London installation with Clare. If you have any pictures from the day, please upload them to the Flickr site:

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Meeting with our national School of Creativity advisor

We are fortunate to be meeting our new School of Creativity advisor on Monday. His name is Julian Sefton-Green and he is a leading authority in the following fields:
  • youth, media and technology
  • regeneration, community and education policy
  • creativity, learning and arts research.
This is a great opportunity for us to gain a national perspective from Julian about creative learning in the context of our own regeneration project, our community cohesion agenda and our interest in new technologies, emerging literacies and digital media. Julian's experience of working with young people in a variety of contexts (most recently at WAC) and his research about learning and creative production beyond the classroom, will help us to frame our own thinking about curriculum reform and the transition to the new school.

Here is the agenda for the day:

9.50 – 10.50 Meet with Rob Thomas, Headteacher


11.10 – 12.10 Meeting with Jon Nicholls, Arts College Manager

12.10 – 1.10 Lunch with staff and students in the Creativity ARG Group (Room 208)

1.10 – 2.10 TallisLAB Staff INSET session with Soren Hawes, Creative Learning Co-Ordinator, Andrew Davids, Lead Teacher of Creative Learning, Jon Nicholls, John Riches, Creative Agent
and staff delivering the TallisLAB course

2.10 – 2.40 Feedback to Rob Thomas and Jon Nicholls

2.40 – 3.10 Further discussion with Rob Thomas (if required)

I hope many of you can make the lunch meeting in 208. Your collective contribution to our achievements as a School of Creativity have been very impressive and I am sure Julian would be interested in how we work together and your ideas for the future.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Student Commissioning Group

As the Creative Agent for Thomas Tallis’ School of Creativity, I’ve been very interested in the idea that students want to set up a Student Commissioning Group – it could be a really exciting and unique approach for the school to undertake.

In developing ideas about who to commission, you should consider:

  • What are you trying to achieve? (this should include the artistic ‘outcomes’, as well as whether there are particular individuals/groups either within or outside the school that you want to ‘target’ for participation, or whether the project is open to all?)
  • Which artists would most effectively fulfil the brief?
  • How would you go about contacting and contracting them?
  • Who within the SCG is responsible for what?
  • Who else within the school needs to be involved?
  • Timescales? Budget?
  • How will you evaluate the effectiveness of the project?

As I have many years experience in commissioning, managing and evaluating artists and arts projects, I thought that you might want to consider using me as a ‘Consultant’ for the SCG; I could attend some meetings with you to establish a brief, and/or consult via e-mail/blog throughout the project.

Also, as I am an Arts Award Trainer and Moderator, I would be able to assist you in focusing your work in order to achieve your Silver Arts Award, should you want to do it. (Indeed, the Award can, in my experience, help students to think about and structure a successful project – you can find out more here – but of course there has to be a commitment from you to undertake some extra work, so it’s up to you as to whether you want to go down this route).

I am attending the ARG on Tuesday 1st December, so if it’s OK with you I’d like to put this up as an item for discussion at that meeting.

Monday 23 November 2009

The thrilling potential of 'SixthSense' technology...

Pranav Mistry is an amazing inventor from India. He has created this device that can make real objects react with the digital world...

Must be watched! Truly Amazing!

Sunday 22 November 2009

Mr Barrett I have got glue on my laptop!

This Voicethread comes from Tom Barrett's excellent blog. I like the idea here of blended learning tools - the laptop, the glue, the colouring pencils etc. - and the ambition to have such tools available for all learners when they are relevant. I suppose this is what we're aiming to do with Tallis LAB and, hopefully, in all classes in the new school.

The other important thing to remember here is that we need to get to know the learners very well in order to be able to provide the tools that will suit them best when they need them or, to put it another way, we need to have the tools available so that they can choose the best tools with which to learn. Another implication of this approach to learning is that assignments may need to be a bit more open ended, open to interpretation and, well, just more open. Learning can be presented in so many different ways so maybe we could allow learners to choose how to tell us and each other what they have learned? When I think of Creative Learning, this is what I imagine.

I had a conversation with a colleague the other day about what he perceived to be competing agendas. He implied that the drive to raise standards, particularly at KS4, was somehow in competition with what he called the "liberalisation" of the curriculum and messages about increased opportunities for creative learning. I understood what he was saying but I think this is another good example of the way creativity and creative learning are almost willfully misinterpreted to mean soft, woolly and lacking in rigour. My view, and I believe the view taken by experts in the field, is that this is plain wrong. Creative learning requires discipline, imagination, resilience, time-management, self-control, energy and commitment. Surely these attributes are just what is needed to raise standards of learning? It seems that there is still a linguistic battle to be fought and definitions to be agreed upon but those in the standards camp are surely not suggesting that learners need to be less creative. Are they?

Perhaps we should re-visit Bloom's Taxonomy. I hear a lot about "higher order thinking" in school, especially from certain colleagues who are creativity skeptics. I'm sure they are of the opinion that creative learning is all well and good when you have the time and maybe for a couple of weeks in the year when the exams are over. I'm not sure which version of Bloom's Taxonomy they are familiar with but I've recently added a section on the latest one to the Creative Tallis site. This is what I've written:
Benjamin Bloom first published his "Taxonomy of Educational Objectives" in 1956. It attempts to classify different forms and levels of learning. Bloom identifies three domains in which this learning takes place - the cognitive, the affective and the psychomotor. The most discussed of these is the cognitive domain. The original levels within this domain were: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Educators often refer to the notion of "higher order thinking". The belief is that, once the lower order thinking skills (knowing, understanding, applying) have been acquired, higher order thinking can take place (analysis, synthesis and evaluation).

In 2001, Anderson and Krathwohl proposed a revised model of Bloom's taxonomy for the cognitive domain. The illustration above provides a link to an animated resource describing this model. There are two significant changes:

1. the shift from nouns to verbs
2. the top category has changed from "evaluation" to "creating"
According to this model, the ability to create new knowledge, to create something original and of value, belongs with the higher orders of thinking.

Perhaps we should re-visit the notion of creativity as the highest order of thinking? What we also need are more concrete examples of creative thinking for the website. If you have any such examples from your experience at Tallis please let me know and I will be sure to include them on the creative learning page of the site.

Friday 20 November 2009


Check out the great new accessibility feature of our blog. Above this post, and every post on the blog, you should now see a "listen now" button. This service is provided by Odiogo. The text in the post is converted into a suave sounding American voice. There's also a link in the menu to the right that enables you to subscribe to the podcasts. This means you can listen on the go via services like iTunes. The main benefit for visitors to the site is that the content is now accessible for everyone.

Web Play

Web Play are an organisation that work on developing projects that link schools through drama and new technologies. Billy, Seb, Billy and myself went to visit Sydney Thornbury from Web Play to find out more. She was really interested in the idea of students having a role in managing and developing projects for other students and would like to work with Tallis and the Creativity ARG to create something for later in the year. She suggested that we collaborate with some of the primary schools in the area as a way of making links to future students and also as a way of helping students at primary schools develop their skills with new technologies. It would be great to have Tallis Students making blogs, films, podcasts and so on with Year 6 students at schools like Wingfield and Brooklands. What do we think?

Mr. Hawes

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Inspired by London

Here's a first draft of the film about yesterday's Inspired by London event. I was really tired when I got home last night but also really inspired by our team's efforts and very proud of the students from the Action Research Group who were such fantastic ambassadors for the school.

I Hope you like the film. I'll try to get hold of some the other footage this week and attempt a redraft soon. Thanks again for being such brilliant young people. Thanks also to Mr Hawes and Mr Wheeler who provided amazing support.

Monday 16 November 2009

Our first Twitdoc

This is our first ever live Twitter documentary using the excellent TwitCam service. We broadcast live to the Twitterverse from Delfina this morning as we made our sculpture inspired by the London skyline with artist Claire Burnett. It was really easy to set up and we even managed to attract the interest of four other tweeps. I'm writing this from the event about half an hour before the guests arrive. The space looks amazing, the dancers are ready, the primary school kids have arrived and our sculpture is almost ready. It's been a great day and the student members of the ARG have learned a lot about abstraction, working to a tight deadline and collaborating on a difficult brief. Here's another Twitdoc from later in the day:

Sunday 15 November 2009

Tangled Feet at the Nabokov Arts Club

"The waters were rising and the bankers were desperate to escape the flood, the only way they could go was up.... but when the money is gone all there is left is light...."

Friday 13 November 2009

Wallwisher update

I've made reference to Wallwisher in a previous post but I thought it might help to demonstrate how it works with a specific example. I decided to use Wallwisher with my sixth form photography classes. They are currently developing their Personal Investigations which require them to research, generate ideas, document the process, present them appropriately and evaluate the outcomes. Sound familiar? What I needed was:

a) a way to support them between lessons
b) a virtual notice board to post ideas
c) a resource that was available as a link on the department blog
d) a way for students to share ideas

Wallwisher has delivered all of these requirements. It's free, easy to set up and can be embedded as an interactive resource on any web page.

What I discovered today was that it's flexibility enabled students to post thoughts when they had them (at any time of day or night) and attach a relevant media file from the internet. Today, in the lesson, I asked them to refine their original thoughts, adding more precise information and defining a more specific area of study. So, for example, I had a conversation with Micah about knitting. I saw him knitting (for pleasure and relaxation) in the sixth form common room the other day. I told him that I had recently discovered a phenomenon called Guerrilla Knitting which describes radical knitters who decorate the urban environment with their work.

Fluffy graffiti! Micah did a bit more research today and found a variety of useful links online. I posted an idea to the wall for him and he responded. You can view our virtual conversation on the wall above. I hope to continue to prompt him, and others in the class, with a series of provocations over the coming weeks as they further develop their investigations.

All in all, this has proved to be a simple, elegant and free solution to a challenging problem.

Skills Swap

I've had a go at creating a poster for Skills Swap. can you tell me what you think? Is the information OK? Have I missed anything? I'm going to take some more photos of staff and younger students so this can one of a series. Any comments would be gratefully received. We're hoping to launch the first Skills Swap session soon so I hope members of the ARG will come along for tea, biscuits and skills swapping type activities.

Mr N

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Wave Invites

I know its been awhile since I posted about Wave so was not sure if people had got there Wave invites from other sources - Today my account has been given 08 so if anyone wants an invite drop a comment :D


Tuesday 10 November 2009

Meeting with Clare Burnett

Here are the notes I made during our conversation with Clare this afternoon. Thanks to everyone for coming and I look forward to working with you next Monday. make sure you get your permission slips back to Mr Hawes ASAP.

to create an abstract sculpture based on the London skyline

Delfina at London Bridge

a journey down the river, rhythms, 3D drawing, demonstrating the process of making the work, a corner space so not completely 3D, time to explore the river setting, bring sketch books to draw on site, add labels to the sculpture with people’s views, how do we feel about London and its skyline? travel to Delfina on the riverbus?

How do we capture the combination of industry, commerce, tourism, poverty, wealth, history, regeneration etc? How will we make the most of the lights available? Favourite places in London…

Arrive at about 10am. Put up photos, play with the wood, then do some sketching, then build in the afternoon (?) We need to be finished by 5pm. Visitors arrive at 6pm. Finished by 7pm.

Sketchbooks, coloured pens/pencils, paper straws, lollipop skills, 2 drills, elastic bands, still camera, video camera, tripod, laptop(s)

Bring an idea, artefact, story, poem about London to the event next Monday.

Sir Nicholas Serota visits Thomas Tallis School

During the recent visit by Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of the Tate galleries, to Thomas Tallis, the Tallis TV crew took the opportunity to interview him and Headteacher, Rob Thomas, about the similarities and differences in their roles. Here's a sneak preview of the interview that will form part of a future tallis TV broadcast.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Skills Swap

Skills Swap is an idea that we discussed last year. It's simple really. One night each week, students and staff meet to share their skills. That's it. This advert for Skills Swap was made using Xtranormal. It's great fun and very easy to use. I'm going to try to create some images this week to help advertise Skills Swap. Mr Hodges came up with the excellent idea of basing them on Gillian Wearing's photo series "Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say". Here's an example:

I'm going to need some volunteers to hold up a card that says:

I can .....

I would like to be able to ....

I trust I can rely on you lot! You might want to have a think about what skills you could swap and what skills you'd like to have.

Here's the second advert in the series featuring me and Ms Beauchamp. Why don't you have a play with Xtranormal. See what you can come up with...

Thursday 5 November 2009

Yes we should!

Should students be allowed to use the internet in exams?

Pupils in Denmark will soon be doing their final secondary school exams while being able to access the internet. Will this give them an unfair advantage over other students? Education chiefs says that Danish students already use the web so prolifically that they should be allowed to use it while writing tests. Denmark will be the first country in the world to allow the pupils to search the internet while being examined. The idea is to introduce it across the country by 2011. The government says the use of a calculator was heavily criticised when it was first introduced into the exam hall but is now standard practice.
Should students be allowed to use the internet in exams? Is this a good way to test knowledge? How important is the internet in education?

It would make more sense doing the exam on the computer, think how many trees it would save!

Monday 2 November 2009

Tactical Soundgarden

Check out this interesting project. Clicking on the image above will take you to a satellite map of an area in Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state of Minas Gerais in South Eastern Brazil. Each of the green tags represents a sound that has been planted in a park in the city. This is essentially a sound garden. These sounds were recorded and planted using various portable devices - phones, PDAs, laptops etc. Anyone equipped with a mobile device can wander through this park and, via a WiFi connection, tune into each of these sounds.

We attempted something like this before at Tallis and we talked a little last year about the possibility of doing something like it again. I think Mr Davids has been experimenting with recording sounds and embedding them into Google Earth. A project like this would be an amazing way to capture the sounds of the existing school and replay them when we are in our new building. The site of the current school building will eventually be a grassy play area. We could, in effect, plant sounds in this area before it has even been developed for the benefit of future listeners. Given advances in mobile technology and the increasing use of them for learning, I think we can anticipate that most people in the new school will have the tools to access our recordings and hear what it was like to work in the "old building".

What do you think?

Sunday 1 November 2009


I've created this Wallwisher page which is designed to collect our ambitions for this year's activities as a School of Creativity. I've posted a few ideas that we've already discussed but it would be great to have a whole wall full of everyone's thoughts. You can post a sticky and link to another web resource if appropriate. Once we have posted our thoughts we can then use this as a basis for prioritising actions and delegating responsibilities.