Sunday 20 December 2009

Argument Map

I've been playing with aMap, a web 2.0 tool that enables you to construct a reasoned argument and then challenge your friends to contribute to the debate. It's pretty easy to use and could easily be set up as a home learning assignment. You can create an argument for up to 30 people and generate a Flash based animated widget for your website or blog. You can also invite argumentative types by email. Click the link above to take part in this argument about the importance of creativity to 21st century learning. Why not experiment with an opposing view to the one I expect you have? What's more important than creativity in education? Is creative learning the best way to attain exam success?

You can also buy printed examples of particular argument maps. There's nothing like a good old fashioned argument during the festive period I say!

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Thanks to everyone involved in the Action Research Group for a wonderful year of creative problem solving. I hope you have a great break and return refreshed and invigorated for further innovations in the New Year.

Monday 14 December 2009

Nicholas Serota from the Tate with headteacher Rob Thomas at Thomas Tallis School

Corridors of power … the Tate's Nicholas Serota with headteacher Rob Thomas at Thomas Tallis School, south London. Photograph: Martin Godwin

A moving assembly – then a scream in year 13's art class

Tate director Nicholas Serota takes charge of Thomas Tallis school, London

Nicholas Serota is sitting on a small plastic chair in a school hall, facing a sea of expectant 11 and 12-year-olds in blue sweatshirts. The director of Britain's Tate galleries is stepping out of his comfort zone – becoming, for one day, the headmaster of Thomas Tallis school in south-east London. Assembly begins and he listens intently as teachers from Ghana, St Lucia and Malaysia tell poignant stories about their childhoods as immigrants to Britain. "It was," he says later, "incredibly moving."

If the 1,670 pupils at Thomas Tallis – a specialist arts college in a deprived area of London that's just been christened a "national school of creativity" by Arts Council England – are surprised to find one of the country's top curators in charge for the day, they don't show it. This may be because their usual headmaster, Rob Thomas, is hovering in the background, showing Serota the ropes.

The men are taking part in a series of job swaps organised between headteachers and arts leaders by the Culture and Learning Consortium (an umbrella group of arts funders). Earlier this year, it published a report saying cultural organisations, such as galleries and theatre companies, should work more closely with schools, in order to get more creativity on the curriculum. Serota is here to see how he can make this happen.

Strolling through the narrow corridors, he pauses at some brightly coloured collages on the theme of the 2012 Olympics: the pupils were divided into 57 groups, each representing a country, and had to put together a bid to host the games for that nation. Many children chose countries their families originally came from. Serota has reason to pay attention – he's on the board for the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. "It makes me conscious," he says, "of the tensions that exist in people's identity. Are they going to be cheering when a gold medal goes to someone who's ostensibly British, or are they going to be really thinking about Jamaica, or Bangladesh?"

Next on the timetable is a year 13 art class. Fascinated, Serota moves around the room, stopping to ask one student, who is painting a woman screaming in agony, if he's familiar with Francis Bacon; and to see if another, creating a photomontage of a street scene, knows the work of Jeff Wall. The answer, in both cases, is no. The whole experience, says Serota, is a bit like entering an artist's studio: "You go in and you're looking at something you've never seen in your life before. You have to tune in really quickly."

A meeting with the pupil-led Creativity Action Research Group, set up to explore how teachers and students can make lessons more creative, follows. Serota works hard at drawing out the quieter students. "Like in Tate meetings," he says, "sometimes the quiet ones have the best ideas." Then, after tea and biscuits in the crowded staff room, and a tense meeting with a pupil about behavioural issues, he's interviewed by Tallis TV, the school's very own TV station, and drops in on a year 8 lesson in internet technology. "We did not," he says, "have anything quite like this at my old school."

Serota is not called on to issue any detentions and, when the bell rings at the end of his command, he seems to have enjoyed himself. "The great thing about teaching," he says, "is stimulating young people's curiosity. It reminds me of some of the best moments I have – working with younger curators who haven't had it all beaten out of them." Has going back to school taught him anything? "I need to get out of my office and into the gallery. I need to get to know my staff better." Laura Barnett

'We think this is boring. So go crazy. Show us what you can do'

Rob Thomas, headmaster of Thomas Tallis school, takes over the Tate

In a small meeting room overlooking Tate Britain's elegant entrance, a team are unfolding a guide to the organisation's vast website. Made of several dozen pieces of paper held together precariously by sticky tape, it looks a lot like a school project – the sort of thing that Rob Thomas, headmaster of Thomas Tallis, is very familiar with. And he wouldn't give this one good marks. "It looked quite funny," he says later. "Our pupils would be a bit more advanced than that."

Although he and his pupils do visit Tate Britain and Tate Modern, Thomas knows he can't rival Nicholas Serota's art expertise. So, for his first appointment as Tate director for a day, he's sticking to what he knows: bringing in his own pupils to help Tate make its website, well, funkier. They begin with the site's pages on The Kiss by Rodin. "The problem," says Sharna Jackson, Tate Kids editor, "is that these are just boring. Go crazy. Show us what you can do." The kids promptly pull the pages apart, demanding a comment forum, colours that feel less "angry" and "sad", as well as a 360-degree, Matrix-style view of Rodin's sculpture.

Meanwhile, Serota talks Thomas through one of his job's less enviable moments. In September, police urged that a part of Richard Prince's exhibit, featuring a photograph of a naked, 10-year-old Brooke Shields, be removed from Tate Modern's Pop Life exhibition. The gallery did so, a decision that earned it an unfavourable and, in Serota's view, irritatingly inaccurate newspaper article. Thomas recognises this kind of fire-fighting. "A lot of the issues I face around student well-being involve negotiating with the police and social services. Like Nick, I need to be skilled in diplomacy."

Thomas takes a taxi to Tate Modern. First stop is the cavernous Turbine Hall, dominated by How It Is, a 13-metre-high steel container by Polish artist Miroslaw Balka. Thomas follows Serota inside it, groping blindly in the dark. "It just got blacker and blacker," he says afterwards, somewhat relieved. It reminds him of Eye for an I, an installation made by his A-level pupils. "You went into a box, with letterbox-size slits around the wall, through which you could see students' eyes, expressing different emotions. Like this, it was about going into the unknown."

Lunch takes place in the seventh-floor restaurant. The stunning view across the river to St Paul's is, Thomas admits, nicer than the one from his school canteen. Summing up his day, he says: "I could see that Nick and the Tate really want to engage younger people, when traditionally that hasn't been the case. They make an effort to listen, which is what we do at school. It's about mutual respect. Once you build that, it works both ways." LB

Creative Communities Annual Report 2008-9

Sunday 13 December 2009

Collaborative Learning

I've been playing around with a couple of new collaborative Web 2.0 online tools today. Stixy is a bit like Wallwisher but maybe even more useful. Revizr is a great way to collaborate with other folks on editing a document. It's different to Etherpad since you, the author, retain control of the work but you can allow numerous others to help you mark it up. I'm attempting to use both these tools with colleagues at the moment so can report back later about how effective they are.

An interesting news report on using iphone/ipods in education

Creative Learning SSC Group Research

Creative Learning SSC Group Research

What follows is the collated feedback from Faculty Meetings in response to a request from the Senior Staff Conference Creativity Group to define creativity and describe what it might look like in the context of particular subject disciplines within the school. The group is attempting to identify good practice with respect to creative learning strategies for wider dissemination. This is seen to be the first step towards promoting a more cross-curricular approach to creative learning in the longer term. The English and Humanities faculties were unfortunately unable to provide us with a response due to competing demands on their time.


Creativity is doing something different in approaches to teaching e.g. using a selection of VAK strategies in lessons. Creative approaches to learning should be engaging, help students to learn and be vocational


What does creativity look like in Media?

Creativity in Media includes:

· Working independently using a variety of media processes and techniques to create an outcome

· Learning through discovery and experimentation with media technology, processes and techniques

· Reflecting/evaluating critically on the learning and creation processes, and their outcomes

· Working collaboratively to generate ideas and solutions

· Working within given parameters/constraints such as time, method, available technology, client brief

· Acknowledging existing levels of skill, knowledge or understanding and establishing what new learning is necessary and how to access that in order to achieve goals

· Learning from ‘mistakes’ and reassessing strategies used – therefore developing resilience

· Developing their own expertise and interests within the subject area

· Challenging accepted perceptions and encouraging students to approach things differently

What creativity looks like in learning:

· Students using their own ideas and inspirations as a vehicle for their learning

· Students learning through a process of research, experimentation, documentation of process, creation and evaluation/reflection

· Students being encouraged to take risks, learn through ‘mistakes’ and develop resilience

· It transcends the walls of the classroom – via visits, valuing the existing personal interests and expertise of students and engaging students with learning as a continuous process

· Students thinking critically about their own work and the work of others, including professionals

· Students solving problems independently, or through collaboration alongside the teacher as facilitator

· It looks fun, purposeful, engaging, enjoyable

· Students exhibiting, performing, publishing and sharing work in order to receive feedback from wider audiences


The act of producing new ideas, approaches and actions.

Students working independently, developing new skills to enable a better understanding of the creative aspects of music. Discovering creative aspects outside of the musical sphere; words, mathematics, history, art etc...

What does it look like within the planning, delivery and outcomes of lessons?


How do we plan for creativity? We have to plan our lessons so that the students are constantly questioned and challenged. Questioning is the key to the students ownership of their knowledge and by challenging them we develop the resilience needed for a healthy creative environment in music.


Delivering key skills in music is absolutely essential to the student’s creative freedom. Without the key skills the students will be forever frustrated creatively.

Whilst following the curriculum or any of the qualifications we offer at key stage 4 and 5 we always try to bring our own experience of music making to the class room. This, we feel, brings a certain authenticity to our delivery.


At best a student will want to take music into further education and have the skills and creativity to cope with it. However, it is hoped that we would instil a general love for and an eclectic approach to music making.


Key words and phrases the faculty think are important for creativity: differentiation, flexibility, imagination, interactive, tolerance, variety of approach, thinking outside the box, open-ended


Creativity is:

· An expression of oneself

· Ideas and problem solving

· Problem solving in a variety of ways

· Using your imagination

· Being original

· Thinking ‘outside the box’

· Taking risks with your work

· Exploring at a deeper level

Creativity in Drama:

· Performance based

· Development of characters, settings, story lines

· Group work and problem solving

· Group/peer discussion

· Freedom to explore

· Opportunities for facilitating learning, rather than teacher led

· Flexibility and enjoyment of lessons


Creativity in Dance is:

· Taking given material, phrases or skills and manipulating them into something new.

· Accepting that mistakes can take you somewhere unexpected and that it is not always bad to have a mistake.

· Working in pairs or larger groupings to create work around a given theme.

· Being able to explain what was done and why/if it was effective.

How creativity looks when planning delivery and outcomes of lessons.

As dance is creative by its very nature creativity is planned through out all schemes of work. SOW follow this rough progression.

· Introduction of theme and skills.

· Practice of skills to improve technique and safety.

· Introduction of Key words (opportunity to use key words in group dialogue so that creativity can be correctly labelled and understood)

· Manipulation of skills into a dance.

· Opportunities to discuss experiment and explore.

· Performance of work to class/teacher

· Assessment and evaluation.

· If time allows further development of the dance to implement assessment targets.


Creativity in Photography includes:

· Working within given constraints e.g. a deadline, a technique or process, a conceptual framework

· Creating original solutions to a given problem/challenge (these can be original to the individual rather than on a world scale!)

· Thinking imaginatively and generating new ideas/thoughts

· Assimilating existing information and using this to create new work

· Combining materials, processes and techniques to make hybrid works

· Evaluating work to establish its value

· Embracing the role of chance in the process of making

· Working collaboratively to generate ideas with others

What creative looks like in learning:

· Students are encouraged to solve problems independently and arrive at original solutions

· Students learn through a mixture of research, practical experiment, documentation, creation and evaluation

· Students are rewarded for experimentation and encouraged to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them

· Students learn various techniques and processes but are encouraged to play with them, find new combinations, break them down and see accidents as potentially useful

· Students publish their work to a large audience online and receive feedback

· Students discuss their work and the work of others in class, arriving at value judgements. They are encouraged to think like critics.

· Students are questioned about their work by the teacher, prodded to think imaginatively and encouraged to be inventive.

· The skills of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are crucial to creating original work of value.

· Students evaluate the achievements of reputable visual artists and encouraged to take inspiration from non-photographic forms of art

· Students exhibit their work in an end of year show. They are encouraged to plan an installation that makes full use of the space available and surprises the audience.

· Students visit galleries and museums throughout the course in order to expand their frame of reference and enhance their cultural awareness.


Creativity is an approach to realising an idea through creative thinking and problem-solving (cognitive). It can be a creative approach to designing or making something (physical). The extent of someone’s creativity is very much down to personal interpretation and self expression. A creative response implies that a person thinks or acts in a way that isn’t necessarily the most obvious or conventional. They think “around” the task or issue raised and try to find more alternative, unique ways of responding.

Creativity takes on many forms in art:

Initial planning and thinking skills through discussion and brainstorming in groups. Personal designing and compositions and images with some freedom of choice. Personal selection and application of media (especially at KS4 and 5). Creative manipulation of individual 2D/3D work through the use of tools. Written evaluative responses to tasks, personal interpretation and response to the work of others (contextuyal study of artists and practitioners). Experimentation with materials: test strips, practice prints, maquettes.


In design, coming up with ideas, concepts and modifications of existing product exemplars. Pushing the boundaries of a discipline that is coherent and intelligible rather than random and unconsidered. Creating new thoughts for existing ways of working and doing things. Knowing the language of the medium and articulating new possibilities. Combining different elements to come up with new solutions. When deviating from the norm doing so in an intellectually justifiable way. In food, knowing enough about how ingredients behave, their functions, and to be able to design a product and make it. Using knowledge, subject specific knowledge, and understanding to create something new/different. Creativity is also a type of energy.


Finding original and interesting ways of teaching (and assessing) topics that requires students to explore and make links between different areas, using a range of skills and resource.

Two sides to creativity - the teacher being creative in planning and delivery of lessons, and opportunities for students to be creative in lessons.

In the first sense - from the teacher's point of view - creative lessons include different sorts of activities that require students to think and work in different ways. Standard textbook practice has a place, but other activities might include card-matching/domino type puzzles, word problems that require students to think about what's really being asked, problems that synthesise material from two different topics - in general, activities that stop students from simply learning a procedure and repeating it.

From the students' point of view, a creative lesson is one where they decide how they approach the maths being taught. I think good examples of student creativity are harder to find than examples of teacher creativity, but often group work can let students be creative - if students approach hard problems or investigations in groups, then they have a good chance of success without the teacher specifically explaining how to do the problem.

I view being creative in my lessons as using a variety of teaching techniques and allowing the students to explore/record/display their class work in a variety of ways. This can be through producing displays, discussions, recording experimental results etc. (Alternatives to ‘just book work).

I think creativity is doing something in an original way. Not just doing something the way others have before, but finding a new way to complete the task. So in theory an approach can only be creative once, then it needs modifying, updating or changing entirely.

I think we have had many creative approaches to our teaching in recent years:

  • isometric art project a few years ago, which led to parallel lines
  • the water project, South Africa project, CAME, anything we introduced to the faculty
  • using the internet to teach and set homework
  • the enrichment file for G+T kids
  • new assessment procedures such as peer and teacher evaluation forms

To still be a creative approach in the current SOW it must be an original idea, so current new ideas are:

  • emotional learning (all SG's stuff)
  • teaching via a spontaneous or random teacher not used before (we need to share these)
any new cross curricular things we do

Being able to explore ideas and express yourself in different ways/mediums

How to be creative in maths lessons - open investigations, exploring rules, patterns or relationships, exploring maths in nature, creating songs/rhymes to aid learning, playing people maths.

Creativity is a mental and social process involving the generation of new ideas, concepts or new associations of the creative mind between existing ideas and concepts. Some say it is a trait we are born with, others say it can be taught with the application of simple techniques. Creativity has been associated with the right side of the brain and more specifically with lateral thinking. Creativity is used to refer to the act of producing new ideas, whilst innovation is the process of generating and applying these ideas in a specific context.

I wonder whether it is innovation that should, more properly be included on the SOW, whilst the creativity would be at the planning stages? Further, would the very fact that we would formalise the process actually stifle a creative/innovative outcome. Discuss!

Creativity within a classroom context to me is being able to get to a point where pupils can put their personal meaning on a concept by expressing what they've learnt in an such a way that shows off their ingenuity.

I think it is when students are facilitated to think and learn in a way that is not restricted by outcomes. They have been guided to the start of a journey of discovery but the path they take is their choice. The teacher is there to support the knowledge, in some cases bring them back to the right path, and to give them the confidence to 'discover'. I felt that the old investigations used to allow students a sense of creativity but even these were reigned in by the assessment.

Creativity is new ideas and methods for teaching topics – use of additional resources, relating to outside factors. Teaching a topic in a manner that is not in your comfort zone – taking a risk. In turn allowing students to take risks in how they learn – not just “on the board – do examples” lesson after lesson. This can then be built into the lesson planning and SoW’s. Add in a creativity to SoW as it occurs. Build up a record of when, where and how it is being used.

Thinking outside the box- taking risks Shaping your emotions project

Creativity is taking something familiar and making something unfamiliar with it.

In planning lessons, changing lesson plans to be original - using alternative resources etc.

Delivery and outcomes - - Subverting the norm, eg reversing roles, using imagination and wit - adlibbing, change direction mid flow, changing targets.

I need to relate it to something specific - maths, my own experiences and then maybe to learning and teaching. The creative vibe that we generate is where all our wonderful projects come from and often are allowed to develop. I need to be even more precise.

The important thing is the gem of an idea shared. There is some brainstorming of ideas, then mulling it over for a while, then more brain storming and more sharing of knowledge and ideas. It gets bigger and bigger and sometimes needs reining in. That’s the exciting bit. Then comes the writing up/creating resources and finally the show......

Projects such as

  • Parallel lines
  • Solar system and Time
  • Stained glass windows
  • Symmetry and Dance
  • And many more

Some people seem to have natural creativity.

I enjoy introducing students to lateral thinking problems. These facilitate creativity for the students and the problem solving nature is a great workout for their wee brains!!! And mine! I think these problems allow the brain to create those all important creativity pathways.

A level students also have to learn to be creative in their approaches to solving problems. Especially those who struggle. The time they need for this is sometimes too much and we cannot give it to them sadly. They need to be able to dip into their bags of knowledge and experiment with their own ideas.

Creativity is behaviour which involves exploration, dealing with new concepts and new contexts, making connections.


Involving the use of the imagination in order to develop ideas and strategies so that tasks can be carried out and/or questions can be answered. PE is a subject that involves a wide range of skills in a wide range of spaces. Creativity is thus very different from one area of study to the next (Gymnastics – Games)


Solving problems independently, open-ended experiments, not restricted with regard to ideas, use of a range of resources and approaches in problem-solving. Transferable skills and ideas. Abstract thinking. Use of models to explain theories.

What does it look like in science?

Investigations, case studies, Badger exercises, APP exercises at KS3 e.g. planning and implementing investigation of sugar solubility

Deaf Support Centre

Friday 4 December 2009

Tree Dressing 2009

This year's tree dressing celebrations on the Ferrier Estate had a musical theme. The Tallis Year 8 steel band played to an appreciative crowd in Telemann Square, following a lantern parade around the estate led by a jazz band. The fireworks orchestrated by Emergency Exit Arts were spectacular, as was Rosa's soup served up free for everyone from the Community Hall. Listen to the festive sounds of the band as people gathered together out of the cold.


We hope to create a website this year celebrating the sights and sounds of this special occasion. Thanks to everyone who took part, to the artists, technicians, cooks, police officers and organisers, and especially our very own Creative Communities Development Officer, Lisa Sproat, who sadly missed the event that she had worked so hard to help organise because of a dodgy tooth! Get well soon Lisa.

Xtranormal evaluation

This animated film was made in my BTEC Media class this morning in about 15 minutes. I'm trying to encourage my students to evaluate their ePortfolio websites using a variety of tools. A couple of weeks ago we recorded podcasts on my iPhone using the excellent Audioboo app. Last lesson, we videod a couple of students presenting their sites on the whiteboard at the front of the room. These films will be uploaded to YouTube and embedded in the relevant sites. One student has already made a very detailed screen cast demonstrating an advanced use of HTML and CSS.

Having discussed the kind of language they need to use to gain merits and distinctions for this unit, I am keen to enable every member of the class to demonstrate their learning using the tool most appropriate for them. Today, I told them about Xtranormal and encouraged them to present their learning as a dialogue between a fictional me and them. This is one of the films that was made, published and shared with the group during the 1 hour lesson (from a laptop on a wireless connection).

What I like about Xtranormal, apart from its simplicity and speed, is the fact that films can all be remixed. This means that students who need more of a helping hand could be given a partially finished script and asked to complete it. Or, they could choose the camera angles, expressions and soundtrack to a completed scenario. The potential applications of this tool are almost limitless. For example, I suggested to a colleague at lunch that it could be used by A level Philosophy students to present competing theories as part of their revision.

If you haven't had a play with Xtranormal yet I strongly suggest that you give it a go.

Thursday 3 December 2009

We are the people we've been waiting for

"We are the people we've been waiting for" is a new documentary about British education. It describes a crisis in education and what might be needed to avert catastrophe. It is reminiscent of "An Inconvenient Truth", the film about climate change created by Al Gore, in that it presents an imminent tragedy and offers suggestions about what can be done about it. Central to the ideas is the fact that the education system is not currently making the most of human potential and creativity. Sir Ken Robinson is one of the talking heads in the film alongside Henry Winkler (The Fonz), Germaine Greer and Richard Branson.

Here is a short extract from the film from YouTube:

You can see more extracts via the official website. Take a look and let us know what you think.