Wednesday 29 December 2010

Livescribe Pencast of Sir Ken Robinson

brought to you by Livescribe

I've just listened to this Livescribe recording of Sir Ken Robinson talking at the Creativity World Forum in November. It was recorded by Shannon, one of the educators from Canada we met at the conference, using her Livescribe smartpen.

This is a fascinating device that allows you to record and keep notes simultaneously, then publish them to the internet. It's certainly not cheap but I like the fact that analogue note making can be connected to a search-able, digital parallel recording that can be published and shared with others. I also like the way the 'Pencast' is interactive when viewed in full screen mode. Presumably the cost of these pens will eventually come down, making them more accessible to the average student and teacher.

Monday 27 December 2010

Manifesto for a Creative Tallis

Thanks to Ms Keville and Ms Piwko we have begun the process of re-thinking our Manifesto for a Creative Tallis. The original manifesto, which has been shared with the whole staff body and was ratified by the Leadership Team, has helped to put creative learning at the centre of the school's learning and teaching vision. It is sent out to all new prospective members of staff and a question related specifically to creative learning features in all new job interviews. In our discussions at the start of this year, we felt that the manifesto needed to be revisited. It was perhaps a bit long and not very memorable. It needed a refresh and, possibly, some serious reflection on making the ambitious statements a reality.

Here are Ms Piwko and Ms Keville's initial thoughts, presented in suitably diagrammatic form:

Here is the first draft of the new statements:

We encourage:
  • all learners to become inquisitive, imaginative and innovative
  • all learners to take risks, accept challenges and learn from mistakes
  • everybody to reflect on their learning experiences
We support our students to become:
  • resourceful and active learners
  • effective collaborators and communicators
  • independent learners/thinkers
We believe:
  • in the exchange of skills and knowledge between students and staff
  • that the use of new technologies is a crucial part of learning in the 21st century
We value:
  • our students' talents, skills and interests and provide opportunities to develop them further
  • feedback and ideas from students about their learning experiences
  • effective communication about creative learning with parents, carers and members of the local community
We discussed this proposal at our extraordinary meeting before the Christmas holiday and decided to make the following revisions:

(Section 1: We ENCOURAGE……)
  • ‘all learners to become curious, imaginative and innovative ( the word curious has replaced inquisitive in the statement )
(Section 2: We SUPPORT……..)
  • Resourceful, active and independent learners
  • Effective collaborators and communicators
  • Co-creators of the curriculum (this statement has been added as we discussed the importance of students creating the curriculum/ learning experiences with teachers)
(Section 3: We BELIEVE……)
  • in the exchange of skills and knowledge between students and staff.
  • that skills should be transferable
  • new technologies are a crucial part of learning
We talked about the possibility of employing a graphic designer to help us re-present these statements in a more visually stimulating form, perhaps even creating an interactive web based resource that would allow the viewer to explore some of the implications of each statement with examples of successful creative learning, ideas for further research and short video clips of discussions with students, staff members, parents/carers, experts etc.

Whilst browsing in a book shop this evening I discovered a new book by one of my favourite artists, Keri Smith. It's called 'Mess' and describes itself as a 'Manual of Accidents and Mistakes'. This prompted me to check out her excellent website and Flickr account, where I discovered the following manifesto:

Here is the text in full:

The Rebel's Manifesto:

1. Do the opposite of what you were taught in school.
2. Care not for the opinions of others. They are based on their own thoughts and fears.
3. Study the work of other rebels. Steal things from them. Research with fury.
4. Forget about the competition. They are on a different path than you. Trends are for suckers.
5. "There's nothing we really need to do that isn't dangerous." John Cage. Do the things that scare you on a regular basis.
6. Make a mess.
7. Embrace your darkside. Your so called "dark qualities" (or labels) are a source of great power. Find a way to incorporate them into your work. Feature them. pay particular attention to what makes you angry.
8. Exercise your voice. Put your thoughts out into the world even if it scares the shit out of you (see number 5).
9. Expand your horizons. Leave home. Visit other places/cultures. Wander aimlessly.
10. Never limit your play-time. Even if your brain is telling you otherwise. All of your best stuff comes from it if you allow yourself to remain open to the unknown.
11. Question everything.
13. Follow your heart.

I love this for several reasons. The language is quite informal and includes some direct challenges. It's quite irreverent and funny. It feels exciting and surprising. Number 12 is missing. I wonder if we can learn anything from existing manifestos?

As promised I will begin to do some research about potential sources of funding to employ a designer to help us re-present our Manifesto. In the meantime, I wonder if we ought to give some thought to the next document needed to make the statements in our manifesto more of a reality in school - an implementation strategy.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

hey guys im joe and im really excited to start being and working with the creative tallis ARG group cant wait to meet everyone and start welll.......being creative :)

Creative Tallis Welcomes Three New Members

Joe and Will have joined the Creativity ARG, and mighty pleased we are to have them! We are so fortunate to have had such fantastic student involvement, but many of our current group are in the year 12 and 13, so its good to know that the next generation of innovators are getting involved. We warmed up with a quick game of exquisite corpses (see photo) and Will and Joe got sorted with the permissions they needed to add posts to this blog.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Learning Score

I've just renewed my version of Learning Score. I haven't really got to grips with it properly but have decided to plan my lessons using it from now on. I like the idea that I can share my thinking about lessons and learning both with students (via the interactive whiteboard) and colleagues. I like the musical analogy and the visual simplicity of the interface. I also like the fact that web links and media can be embedded inside the score so there's less hopping about between tabs in the browser. I think this might be a really great way of making the art of lesson planning more explicit and engaging students in constructing their own learning experiences.

Here's my first attempt at a Photography lesson. Interestingly, the discipline of thinking about all the elements of the lesson by dragging and dropping the various modules onto the score really helped me conceptualise the kind of learning hopefully taking place. I'll feedback about the lesson tomorrow. I plan to share the score with the students and ask them if they'd like to make any adjustments before we start.

Using google docs to share ideas

Add Image
I have just made my first contribution to Tom Barrett’s “Interesting ways to use …” series. For the full list, you can visit Tom’s blog. I think these shared google docs presentations are genius because:

* it’s a great way of sharing ideas
* all of the ideas are based on things that are really happening in the classroom, so they are pre-tested
* it creates networks of collaborators (most of whom will never meet) - it’s great to feel part of a shared project
* It’s always growing and developing - education can have a tendency to inertia, but this is always updating
* it’s a great example of how online tools can be used to make links


Saturday 11 December 2010

The vision for using ICT to support learning

I thought people might be interested to see some of the ideas that came out of the InSeT on the vision for using new technologies and ICT to support learning. It was a really positive evening and there was a tangible enthusiasm and interest for how new tools could be used as a part of a blended approach for good learning. As ever, and is entirely healthy, they were debates and differences, but the overall outcome was positive.

In addition to the teachers’ thoughts the students in the Creativity ARG created a Stixy noticeboard with their vision for what learning should look like in the near future. The Stixy was much admired by staff, and I have absolutely no doubt that it played a huge part in creating such a positive and progressive outcome.

I am also collating the responses to a survey linked to the InSeT session, and once I have chased a few more responses I will add them to the blog,


In the news

Our Oklahoma Pop Up School is still in the news thanks to various blog posts like this one from the University of Central Oklahoma. Scroll down a bit for a great picture of Billy charming visitors to our booth on the conference floor.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday 5 December 2010

Tallis Mobile

This is a slideshow we are sharing with parents and carers on Tuesday evening at the Year 7 consultation event.

We will soon be officially launching this new project designed to encourage learners in Year 7, and their families, to tell us what makes learning successful for them. We will select 15 families, based on their completion of an online application form and ensuring that the group is representative of our learning community. Each will receive an iPod Touch, complete with several applications preloaded. Students will be encouraged to communicate their experience of successful learning, using a range of strategies, both in and outside school. In addition, we will expect each family to write a blog post reflecting on each week's learning. We are interested in good learning wherever it happens to take place and whoever is responsible for initiating it.

We have set up a blog to capture these stories and a private social network (Ning) to support the participants. We anticipate organising fairly regular get-togethers where we can discuss the project, share great ideas and learn about the latest apps to support learning. We are also hoping to make some of these devices available to members of staff so that we can all contribute to understanding the ways in which mobile, handheld devices can support learning.


We have just returned from a really exciting trip to Oklahoma to present our thoughts about creative learning and the future of schools at the Creativity World Forum. Representatives from Thomas Tallis and 2 other London schools (Stormont House and Gallions) took part in a 3 month long collaboration with partner schools in Oklahoma that culminated in our presentation to 1500 delegates at the conference and the establishment of a Pop Up School.

The idea resulted from our investigation of the Pop Up phenomenon in London and beyond - dance, architecture, shops, galleries, all had appeared and disappeared as quickly during the summer of 2010. At Tallis, we had commissioned a Pop Up Gallery/Classroom for the school concourse in which we had installed The Measurement Shop in collaboration with Tangled Feet Theatre Company during our arts festival.

We were interested in the idea that school might become more of an event than a building in the future. Our Tallis Lab curriculum is concerned with exploring the benefits of Web 2.0 tools and a more project based approach to learning and we have begun to make really effective use of blogging, web design and social media. We admired the work of visionaries like Sugata Mitra and the research of Charlie Leadbeater on education innovation.

Our experience at the conference was fascinating. We established a school (of sorts) in an unofficial corner of the conference hall (Booth 100.5) and engaged delegates with a variety of tasks hosted on our #popupschool website. We used Twitcam to broadcast live from the stage during our presentation. We made films, did research, created podcasts - mostly from our new iPod Touch devices equipped with the relevant apps - iMovie, Audioboo, Tumblr etc. The younger students sang songs in the foyer (rather like a Flashmob event) or asked a series of challenging, open-ended questions. We aimed to give our students an opportunity to engage with adults as equals, co-learners and to publish their thoughts and reflections to a real audience online.

The response was very positive:

was by far my favourite thing at the RT @ the future is unwritten

One blogger even suggested that the concept of a Pop Up School could apply to music lessons.

The most valuable lesson we learned was just how easy and powerful it is to connect with other learners and learning professionals (we're not very fond of the word teacher) in far off places. Tammy Parks at Howe High School was our partner in the project and has proved to be an inspirational colleague and a leading figure in our PLNs (Personal Learning Networks). We conducted several Skype conversations with her and her students in the lead up to the conference and we were inspired by her story. Howe is literally in the middle of nowhere. It is 3 hours from the nearest town. The school is smaller than one of our year groups at Tallis and, apart from the school building, the only other significant architectural features in Howe are the convenience store and the lumber yard. Despite this, Tammy and her husband Scott (the superintendent of the school district) have created an ICT rich learning environment using state of the art equipment. The school uses a satellite truck to conduct virtual field trips. They have high quality video conferencing equipment and lead learning experiments across the United States. Their physical isolation has been a spur to innovation. In order to give their students access to 21st century learning they have harnessed the power of the internet and the skills of broadcast journalism to connect them with the rest of the world.

Oh, and we met Sir Ken Robinson too. What a trip!

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Action Research Group Meeting

We met today for the second time this year. I updated the group on progress made since our last meeting as follows:
  • The Year 7 family learning with mobile technology project (we need a better name for this!) is progressing well. We have purchased 20 new iPod Touches with parasync and protective case. We are writing home to parents about the project and will launch it officially at a parents' consultation event next week.
  • The trip to Oklahoma for the Creativity World Forum was a real success. More info can be found here. We made several great connections with other educators, particularly in Canada and in Oklahoma (Howe High School).
I have invited new members to the group to become authors of this blog.

We took a quick look at the Manifesto for a Creative Tallis and agreed to refresh it. Here is a link to the Google Doc version of the document.

We agreed to meet next out of schedule on Wednesday 15 December at 4pm.

The agenda for the next meeting includes the following items:
  1. Reviewing the Manifesto
  2. Contributing to the ARG blog
  3. Researching examples of best practice in promoting creative learning and sharing the evidence of the website.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Graphics Project blog

As promised here's the link to the new blog for the Tallis Graphics project. This is where you can find out how the designers are responding to the brief and contribute your thoughts and ideas about the development of the wall graphics and signage for the new school.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Designers Selected

I am delighted to announce that we have selected Gilles & Cecilie, in association with Nina Ansten, to be our designers for the new school graphics and signage. I met with four designers last week, all of whom had strong portfolios and great ideas. It was a very difficult decision but I made the selection based on several criteria:
  1. Did the designer(s) understand our ambitions for the various spaces?
  2. Were they willing to collaborate closely with our Design Group?
  3. Did they have good communication skills?
  4. Were they enthusiastic and sympathetic to the spirit of creativity at Tallis?
  5. Did they have relevant experience?
  6. Were they able to cope with the scale of the commission and within the time constraints?
We have arranged two day long design workshops in December at Tate Modern. I felt it was important that the Design Group (a mixture of staff and students) was able to work offsite, uninterrupted and in an inspiring space. As you probably know, Tate Modern has made use of its various circulation spaces to create engaging and interactive displays that support the work exhibited in the main galleries. The first workshop will focus on developing ideas and a general concept for the wall spaces and signage. The second, about 3 weeks later, will be an opportunity to review the initial designs and provide feedback to the artists. They will then have about a week to create the finished designs. This Thursday the designers will meet the architects, the building contractor and signage company and visit the new school site.

I will create a blog specifically for the project so that we can keep the whole community informed about the progress of the designs and gather useful feedback. Watch this space!

Thursday 14 October 2010

Graphic Designers

I have contacted four graphic designers to see if they are interested in working with us creating images for the walls of the new school. Here are the links to the websites of those designers or collectives so you see what kind of work they do:

Le Gun
Gilles and Cecilie
Simon Vince
J P Hartnett

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Nice typography

I spotted this today at Stratford Station. I really like the use of typographic illustration in public places, especially this kind of vintage type. It reminds me of the sign paintings of Bob and Roberta Smith. This could be an interesting approach in the new building and would certainly be cost effective.

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Sunday 10 October 2010

Tate Modern wall graphics

I visited Tate Modern today and was again struck by the use of wall graphics in the corridor spaces between galleries. The art history timeline, a combination of painted plasterboard and vinyl stickers, is a relatively inexpensive solution to covering a large area. I like the handwritten text, especially when it meets other signage in the Tate's own corporate typography. It occurred to me that we could use a similar strategy in the huge atrium spaces of the new building, perhaps using a mixture of famous names related to the disciplines in a particular learning space and inspiring or thought-provoking quotations.

Perhaps we could get existing staff and students to produce the writing so that they are represented on the walls and can spot their handiwork when we move into the new spaces.

We could then use a more expensive digital wallpaper in areas like the cafe and sixth form common room. Again, perhaps these images can be collages of existing students' work or the result of a design competition?

Any thoughts?

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Wall graphics for the new school

I've been playing with a new thinking tool today called Cognition. It's an application that you can download free online and is designed to equip the user with a set of thinking tools called Cogs. On Friday I discovered that we have about six weeks to come up with some design ideas for the interior wall graphics for the new school. I decided to use Cognition to help me think through the issues. I chose the '17 must ask questions for planning successful projects' Cog. The above image shows you what the interface looks like. Once you have identified your project, the Cog presents you with a series of questions to prompt your thinking. You can find both the questions and my responses below (the final mindmap is exported as an .html file which can then be read in a word processing programme.)

Although I might have been able to think this through without the help of Cognition, the sequence of questions was really helpful in supporting the logic of my thinking process and causing me to reflect on the most significant information needed to make the project a success. I now have a clear plan of attack and know what issues need resolving before the project can proceed.

I'm going to try the Edward de Bono 'Six Thinking Hats' Cog next time. There are a number of free Cogs and more that can be downloaded for a small cost from the website.

17 Must Ask Questions for Planning Successful Projects
Plan for Success

What's the name of your project? : Wall graphics for the new school

How would you describe Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Decorative and educational resources to enhance learning

What are your goals and objectives for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : To stimulate learners. To represent our specialisms. To surprise and delight. To provoke thought.

Who will benefit from Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Teachers, Students, Parents, Members of the local community

What products, if any, will you be creating for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Vinyl text/graphics Textured wallpaper

What services, if any, will you be creating for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : N/A

What methods will you use for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Employ a graphic designer

What kind of schedule do you anticipate for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Six weeks approx.

What partners or collaborators will you need for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Convene a design group (teachers, students, parents, member of SLT) Collaborate with Modulex and the architect

What specific information or advice will you need for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Go-ahead from SLT. A clear brief (who will create this?) Authority to make decisions

What special systems or equipment will you need for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Design meetings. Time. A means to share ideas (Facebook?)

What special tools or templates will you need for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Exemplars from other schools/public spaces (e.g. cultural institutions)

How will you evaluate the success of Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : The community enjoys and is stimulated by the finished designs. They don't exceed the budget

Who needs to review and approve decisions for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Not sure?

How might Wall graphics for the new school evolve over time?
Your thought : Need to check lifecycle plan. How often can the graphics be replaced/renewed?

For Wall graphics for the new school who will be responsible for what?
Your thought : Design: design group, SLT, architect, Modulex Upkeep: FM contractor

What risks should you plan to manage for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Overspend. Insufficient time for design process. Lack of community support

What open issues remain for Wall graphics for the new school ?
Your thought : Who creates brief? Who has veto over decision-making? Who will be the designer? How much can we spend on design development?

Saturday 9 October 2010

Meeting on Tuesday

On Tuesday 12 October we will be meeting the other students attending the Creativity World Forum trip to Oklahoma. We've been asked to make a small presentation to them describing our views about the Pop Up School. Can you give this some thought prior to our planning meeting on Monday? I'm happy to put something together - a short film or Prezi, for example - on Monday evening based on our discussions but I'd be even happier if one or more of you was able to do this. Can you all make sure that you have read the OKLDN blog posts and made some attempt to contact your colleagues in Oklahoma (either via the Ning or on Facebook) before Tuesday. We will be Skyping with Howe High School at 2:30pm on Tuesday.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday 30 September 2010


I had a fascinating chat today (via Skype) with Simon Kavanagh from the Danish organisation KaosPilots. I can't remember where I heard about them but Grethe, one of our colleagues Denmark who visits Tallis each year in January on her way to the BETT show, happened to know the folks there and made a connection on out behalf.

Here's a brief introduction to the School:

The KaosPilot program is a 3-year education divided into four disciplines:

Creative Business Design
Creative Leadership Design
Creative Project Design
Creative Process Design

The students learn how to build a viable business according to their and clients visions and values, they learn how to be leaders, and how to initiate and execute creative and sustainable projects, as well as design and conduct change processes for different clients.
The KaosPilot program is a three-year, fulltime program, divided into six semesters. Each year corresponds to 60 points in the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) and each semester last 19 – 21 weeks.

The program is integrative and multidisciplinary in the sense that it draws upon different, traditional sciences and combines aspects of these with new approaches in the core disciplines and their components. The traditional disciplines are Social Studies, Psychology, Anthropology, Pedagogy, Leadership and Organization, Complexity Theory, Creativity, Design, Communication, Project Management and Business.

My chat with Simon consisted of us exchanging some news about what each of our schools was up to. I mentioned our specialist status (Arts, Leading Edge and School of Creativity), the trip to Oklahoma and our interest in new models for creative learning. I'm particularly interested in the idea that schools could become real agents of change in emerging communities, like the one on our doorstep. Simon spoke about a new collaboration with the community of Paddington in West London where a huge new social enterprise scheme is being established with their support and that of The Hub.

I've arranged to continue this chat tomorrow and will attempt to find out more about the Paddington project. Sounds fascinating. I'll report back in due course.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

First meeting of the new academic year

The Creative Tallis Action Research Group met for the first time this academic year this morning. We have a great combination of new and existing members with the adults outnumbered by students. We really appreciate the students attending this morning since they would officially start school today an hour later. Some of them, in fact, only came in at all because they belong to the ARG. Very noble!

Our discussion focused on three things:

1. What do we want to achieve this year?
2. Who do want to collaborate with?
3. Who will benefit?

After a detailed and lively discussion we agreed to three foci for the year:

1. Developing a creative learning conference/Teechmeet and supporting the whole school creativity festival in the summer term
2. Establishing a creative learning project with a groups of Year 7 students (and their parents/carers) using handheld technologies. The idea would be to encourage the students to document their positive experiences of learning so that these can be shared with the whole community and inform the development of our pedagogy.
3. Working in collaboration with the maths, English and science faculties to develop inter-disciplinary creative learning strategies, possibly through a Teacher Exchange programme.

Thanks for everyone's contributions today. It promises to be a very exciting year again for us.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Creative Learning Reflections (Part 1)

The Element of Surprise

Prompted by several excellent blog posts and the practice of a colleague in a local primary school, I have been thinking about the importance of surprise in learning. The first five minutes of a lesson or meeting can be a crucial period of time in which to generate space for creative thinking. Surprising students before or as they enter the room might be a really effective strategy for challenging their expectations of the lesson. A curious sign on the door, a song or video playing in the room, a provocative question on the board, unusual equipment out on the desks ... These might all open up the potential for new and unusual forms of enquiry. I'm going to play around with these ideas over the next few weeks to see how effective they are in generating more creative thinking in my lessons.

On a related, but slightly different, note I've decided to steal an idea from a primary school colleague for my Tallis Lab lessons. She rewards children in her class who have demonstrated personal learning and thinking skills by giving them the honour of wearing a hat. Each hat has a different name, representing a specific learning skill or attribute, and they all hang expectantly on an old fashioned hat stand in the corner of the room. So, in any one lesson, children may be wearing the bowler hat of perseverance, the tiara of creativity or the beret of collaboration.

I'm off to scour the charity shops of South East London in search of my PLTS hats right now. I'm certainly hoping that my new hats will add an element of surprise to my next few lessons and help students get to grips with the notion of explicit, transferable, personal learning and thinking skills.

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Monday 9 August 2010

For Your Frame of Mind

Hey guys! It's Chenai here and I'd like to invite you to the Mind Frames exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (details on image above). It is part of writing sessions I have been taking part in at the South Bank Center with author Courttia Newland who worked with us to create written pieces based on images from the collection at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. We also worked with fine artist Drew Sinclair  who helped us mere writers create a visual response to our written piece. Read more about the project here . 

If you are able to make it, I will be very grateful for your support. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Kat and Nathan talk about The Measurement Shop


This is a short online radio interview with Kat and Nathan from Tangled Feet about their installation, The Measurement Shop, in Unit 214 at The Elephant and Castle shopping centre.

Thursday 29 July 2010

The Measurement Shop

I've just received this invitation to see The Measurement Shop by Tangled Feet. Part of their development process involved a week long residency at Tallis where we set up our own Measurement Shop. I'm really interested in the idea of a Pop Up School at the moment, influenced by our pop up gallery on the concourse and Tangled Feet's pop up shop. I'm hoping to get a few more ideas from going to visit the Measurement Shop at the Elephant and Castle next week. Here are the details if you fancy coming along:

"We would like to invite you to tangled feet’s new research and development project The Measurement Shop...

What if experiencing theatre was as easy as entering a shop? What if a theatrical exchange mirrored a shopping exchange? What if the theatre was an empty shopping unit and the opening times were during the day with no evening performances? Who would the audience be?

The Measurement Shop is a creative exploration of how we measure complex and simple things and what effect measuring has on the measured thing. How do you measure happiness, hope and pain? As well as age, population and health? The project will never be a finished performance, rather an ongoing open exploratory experiment with the audience arriving, measuring and adding to the piece of theatre- it is our aim that The Measurement Shop tours across the UK and opens in cities up and down the country for up to a few weeks before moving on – just like a pop-up shop.

Our shop will be open:
Dates: 2nd – 5th August
Times: 2pm – 6pm (pop in anytime and stay as long as you like). We are also holding an evening of sharing on Wednesday 4th between 7pm and 8pm.

We hope you are able to come and share the work we have created and talk about its future. Look forward to seeing you there!"

Best wishes,
Lucy Oliver-Harrison

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Tuesday 27 July 2010


I just stumbled across this doodle/illustration wallpaper which seems like a really good idea for the new school - (I might get some for my room)
just a thought...


Friday 23 July 2010

When ideas have sex

It's not IQ that matters, according to Matt Ridley, it's how well individuals in a society communicate and exchange with each other. Another great rational and optimistic TED talk.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

More ideas for wall graphics

Here are a few more great images from the Blik website featuring projects they have completed using vinyl stickers. I really like the variety of approaches, the use of abstract forms, typography, children's drawings and sophisticated digital artwork. I'm keen to employ a range of designs in the new school building; images that reward repeat viewings. What do you think?

This kind of treatment might look great in the new café where there is a long unbroken surface running the length of the dining area.

Text obviously gives us lots of scope. There could be quotations from students, teachers and members of the local community or famous artists, dramatists, musicians, mathematicians, scientists, authors etc.

I like the idea of a graphic that incorporates real work by our students. We would obviously need to start collecting this in a meaningful way for inclusion at a later date. This could be really motivating for existing students.

I love these big, overlapping abstract forms. These shapes could refer to lots of different areas of the curriculum but not in a literal way.

My partner has just completed a project in a primary school where students' poetry has been transferred to wall spaces around the building. I like the way these words overlap and jostle for attention.

Wall Graphics

Following on from my last post about the interior design of the new school, here are some images taken from the Blik website. These are custom vinyl transfers for large spaces and demonstrate how exciting and flexible this process can be. I'm still a bit concerned about durability compared with painted walls, but I'd be interested in knowing what you think of this as an approach.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Interior Design

I had a really interesting meeting today with the architects of the new school about the strategy for interior design. As well as the usual signage and wayfinding there are several large spaces in the new building that are perfect for large scale design projects. Dom Murphy from Tak! Design was also at the meeting and we are very keen for him to be involved in helping us devise a suitable approach. We currently feel that the new graphic identity should be the basis of the signage but that the large interior spaces could be more idiosyncratic, representing our specialist status as a visual arts college and involving students in helping to devise and create the work. Dom showed me the work of Lucy McLachlan (see above) who creates large scale wall graphics in monochrome paint. I wonder if we could commission a series of artists like Lucy to work with students to create large scale works of art for the walls of the new building? What do you think?

Saturday 17 July 2010

iPad blogging

This is my first post using the BlogPress app for the iPad. The large screen size and built in keyboard make the iPad perfect for blogging and this app makes the best use of its features. It's easy to set up, integrates well with various blogging platforms (although not Tumblr) and allows you to lay out images as you'd like it to appear online.

I've been reflecting on the recent successes of our specialist status today. A couple of weeks ago we held a private view of art & design work by post 16 students. Unlike previous years we decided this year to combine the work of students from four different courses - A level fine art, photography and product design and BTEC art & design. We also handed over the responsibility of curating the show to our artist in residence. The resulting show was a real testament to the diversity of talent amongst our students and the acceptance that there is no hierarchy of esteem for these courses.

Last week we staged two evening events entitled 'Past, Present & Future'. They were designed to provide a platform for the creativity evident in all areas of the arts at Tallis but also to encourage the audience to reflect on the relationship between creative learning and physical space. Much of the activity was centred on our concourse, a street that runs through the centre of the school. We aimed to create a festival of events and to engage the audience with competing delights. We had healthy audiences on both nights and the student performers often appeared to be running the show, ushering audience members to various places and making the most of the various impromptu stages. We showcased work resulting from two performing arts residencies (Tangled Feet theatre company and Dance Spinner) and screened the world premiere of a film written, directed by and starring our students. We have received lots of really positive feedback from the audiences on both nights, complimenting the school on its innovative approach and ability to surprise and delight.

On Friday we discovered that we had been re-designated as a specialist arts college for a further three years. This is great news and means that we can continue to use the arts to impact on the whole school curriculum using a mixture of teachers, assistants, technicians and visiting practitioners. It also means the support that we give our family of schools and various community organizations will continue. This confirmation comes shortly after we received the Ofsted report confirming that Thomas Tallis is a good school and one in which specialist status has had a demonstrably positive impact on learning.

Much of the innovative work we have done this term has been funded from our School of Creativity budget. We don't yet know how long this funding will last but we have consolidated our commitment to promoting creative learning by appointing a new Assistant Headteacher with this as his central responsibility. We have new heads of music and art & design starting in September, both of whom have expressed their support for our collective vision for the school as a creative hub for the local community. This summer we are hosting Felix's School of Rock at Tallis and co-ordinating a creativity summer school in partnership with Kidbrooke School and Emergency Exit Arts. We will be appearing in the Thames Festival parade and, in October, hosting a visit from an entire company of Kathakali artists from Southern India as part of our Black History Month celebrations.

I was fortunate enough to visit the site of the new school last week. Having been involved in the design of the building in the early stages, it was a real pleasure to see the building under construction and to appreciate the scale of the structure. It's a huge building with fantastic facilities. The arts are co-located, unlike the present building, and we have massively increased our capacity to host large scale events in state-of-the-art surroundings. It's been an incredible year in which so much has changed. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with such an inspiring, hard-working and creative team of professionals. I also feel very sure that the specialist arts subjects will continue to make a hugely positive impact on the success of the whole school next year and beyond.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday 10 July 2010

Grayson Perry on creativity

Grayson Perry on Creativity by fotologic

Grayson Perry is a Turner Prize winning, cross-dressing artist who, in this programme, explores some ideas associated with creativity. It's a fascinating enquiry which ends with a really interesting proposal that we may actually need less creativity. Well worth a listen.

Sunday 4 July 2010

How will new technologies change how we access and enjoy text?

I really enjoyed this article by Marcus de Sautoy in yesterday's Guardian. The article is well worth a read - not just because it is interesting and thought provoking, but also because the writer conveys his excitement and interest in exploring new technologies:

"With the advent of new technology – devices such as the iPhone or iPad, the Sony Reader or the Kindle – authors and publishers are being offered a huge challenge: to reconceive their content to provide a visual and interactive experience that the printed book cannot provide. Art books with huge numbers of accessible images; architecture books with 3D plans of buildings; travel books with videos and interactive maps; children's books with games and characters who introduce themselves; and so on and on. The potential is vast. This is not a case of simply trying to cram written content on to an e-reader; this is about taking that content and completely reinventing it."

The article also ties in with Clay Shirkey's idea of cognitive surplus (see the film Mr. Nicholls posted), and the ways in which a whole generation of devices and learners could support the active creation of meaning and the sharing of content rather than passive consumption. Well worth taking a look.


Sunday 27 June 2010

Freddie Darke's Memories of Tallis Mural

Freddie Darke's Memories of Tallis Mural from Jon Nicholls on Vimeo.

Freddie is an ex student of Thomas Tallis School and a gifted illustrator. As part of our 'Past, Present & Future' festival of creativity, we commissioned him to return to school to share his memories in the form of a mural. He did a remarkable job and this short film documents the process. Freddie's is the first of a series of creative interventions throughout 2010-11 prior to our move to a new school and the demolition of the existing building.

Monday 21 June 2010

The Crate

The pop up gallery arrived this afternoon. It's first job is to star in a film about Dr. Who visiting Tallis and exploring its past, present & future. Then it's home to The Measurement Shop in a couple of weeks and, in the meantime, will become a portal and workshop space linking Tallis with the Beaconsfield Gallery.

You may have noticed that the gallery looks a lot like a packing crate (it even has "Fragile. This Way Up" stenciled on the side). This is deliberate. The space functions as a gallery/workshop when the doors are open but also as a sculptural object, referring to the fact that we will soon be packing up and moving to a brand new school. It was important to us that the gallery could be seen from the road, as you enter the concourse from the car park and from most of the rooms adjacent to the concourse.

What will you take with you to the new school? Will they be physical or emotional items?

Friday 18 June 2010

Check out our official poster for the 'Past, Present & Future' events. It was designed by Rhea Evers, an ex student who is now studying for a degree in illustration in Brighton. I think she's done a great job and has captured beautifully the spirit of the event. Well done Rhea!

Wednesday 2 June 2010

What motivates us?

Check out this really cool animated talk by Daniel Pink, an expert on motivation and economics, courtesy of the RSA. Apparently, giving people a financial reward for doing complex cognitive tasks produces poorer work. What really motivates people seems to be three things: challenge, mastery and making a contribution.

What does this tell us about how we organise learning in school? Do students work better if we reward them, not with money, but with better grades? How would learning change if we altered the purpose of coming to school? What if we were able to harness the more intrinsic sources of motivation that really get people going and make them care about what they spend their time on?

I had a thought today in the shower (where I get most of my best thoughts). I've not ruminated on it much but I'm going to share it with you anyway. What if we encouraged all students to spend a part of their week in school working on a personal or collaborative project of their own choosing? In other words, we would collapse the curriculum for a portion of the week (maybe only a couple of hours) or maybe for one whole day every month and we would say to students, "This is your time. Use it to learn what you want, to try something new or work on something you feel passionate about."

Would this work?

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Not meeting, but learning

Jon and I had a very interesting visitor from Hong Kong today. Paul Clark visited us from South Island School in Hong Kong to talk to us about our approach to creativity at Thomas Tallis. The South Island School website is really interesting and demonstrates the ways in which the school is keen to offer a creative learning experience to its students, especially the ways in which it uses ICT creatively.

Another really interesting thing that came out of the meeting was the school's attitude to training. From what I can understand the week is book-ended by two two-hour training and development sessions for staff. At first this seems like a lot of time, and may be an impossible thing to fit into a teacher's busy week, but then, I started to count up the hours of meetings that take place during the week and realised that this often exceeds the four hours a week that the Hong Kong school uses for developing staff skills. What would happen if instead of having meetings we had skills sessions where people work together to develop their ability to innovate, solve problems and be creative? Could lots of things that take up meeting time be shared in a way that doesn't require large groups of people to sit and listen to one other person speak or deliver? If people were better at developing skills would we need so many meetings? If people were enjoying developing skills alongside other colleagues would that have more of an impact on attainment than using the same amount of time in meetings? Finally why couldn't students be involved in these skills sessions?

Another really exciting thing about South Island School is that each student has their own MacBook and they are required to have it with them throughout the school day. Presumably this allows them to use the laptop when appropriate for the task that they're working on, so students can use their initiative to work flexibly with the different tools available to them. That sounds like a fantastic idea.


Wednesday 19 May 2010


A cool way to show collaborations don't you think?


I've just had an interesting Skype video chat with Michael Dubois, the A+ regional coordinator in Oklahoma. He's responsible for setting up the partnerships with our three schools. We're going to try another Skype call at the next meeting on Monday 14th June but possibly on a bigger screen!

An Exciting Opportunity

Young Londoners (aged 15-25) – who live in one of the 5 Olympic host boroughs can now apply to join the CREATE Programmers group – working towards the delivery of an exciting Olympics focused event for young people at the View Tube, Stratford on 17 July 2010.

The event will be young people led, and is a day long exploration and celebration of how young people can engage in London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The CREATE Programmers is a group of inspirational young people from the 5 Olympic boroughs, whose mission is to produce culturally diverse projects by highlighting the amazing opportunities that exists for young people in London through collaboration with local communities, businesses and individuals.

They aspire to make real connections around the Olympic moment and to use its legacy in east London to make life changing possibilities a reality.

A New Direction is the key strategic body for connecting young Londoners with the city's creative and cultural energy. In collaboration with the A New Direction programme team, the course will be led by an experienced professional with expertise in events management and production. Participants will have access to industry and cultural professionals (Press and PR, Olympics Host Boroughs Unit, CREATE Festival) and will work over six weeks towards the delivery of an Olympics facing event at the View Tube on 17 July 2010.

What does being a CREATE Programmer offer:

Project management of an event on 17 July 2010
Responding to a professional brief
Arts Award accreditation
Blogging and engaging with other social media and documenting
Visiting cultural events, gigs, exhibitions as part of the CREATE festival (
Team work and collaboration with young filmmakers, photographers, and journalists
Support for a pathway into further training, study and employment
How to apply:

Please read through the job description and person specification, which tells you what we are looking for and what kind of commitment is required.

Complete the application form downloadable from and email to with subject header ‘CREATE Programmer’.
Closing deadline for applications is 17.00 on Thursday 27 May 2010.

(You will be notified by Friday 28 May 2010 if you have a place on the interview day, on Wednesday 02 June)

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Oklahoma update

I had a really interesting day yesterday but have been too busy to blog about about it until now. For starters, I met with two really interesting practitioners. Joe Walking came in to talk to us about Dance Spinner. We've agreed that one of his colleagues will come in for a week next half term to work with a group of 12 Year 7 students. They will get used to using Dance Spinner to create aleotoric choreography (dance created according to the laws of chance) which they will the perform at the Past, Present & Future events. I hope they'll also be able to show some of the process of their work during the week in unusual sites around school at break, lunch and after school. Next in was Guy Connelly from Clock Opera. He'll be in with Tangled Feet for a week but we've also offered him an extra week's residency to work with Sarah (Dance Spinner) and the year 7 students, composing aleotoric music to accompany the dance. We also want to experiment with other kinds of sound installation for the evening events at the end of the week. One special project involves creating a ghost steel band.

I spent the afternoon in Stormont House School in Hackney discussing our plans to attend the World Creativity Conference in Oklahoma next November. We will be able to take a total of 9 people to the week long event and need to decide who those will be quite soon. Our task will be to collaborate with some American students from schools that belong to the A+ network on a keynote presentation to the delegates at the conference. There are three UK schools involved - Tallis, Stormont and Gallions - each of whom are dedicated to promoting creative learning. As such, we all felt it was important to think about how we could make our presentation as interactive, engaging and challenging as possible. I remembered a presentation I saw at last year's Handheld Learning Conference from John Davitt who created a school in 30 minutes using Google Docs. Our theme seems to be something to do with regeneration (schools,communities, cities), 21st century skills and creative learning. This needs to be refined somewhat. Tallis is hosting the next group meeting on Monday 14th June at which we hope to Skype with one of our American colleagues - how exciting!

It would be great to have a few young people at this meeting so, if it doesn't disrupt your exams too much (Year 11) and if anyone else in the ARG can make the meeting at 3pm, we'd love to see you there. I'll post more information soon about the new website for the project. I'd also be grateful of any offers to help out with the Past, Present & Future events on the 15th and 16th July.

Monday 17 May 2010

Being open to new technologies

I came across this article when I found myself leafing through a discarded copy of the Evening Standard last week. I thought it was really interesting to see how somebody was so willing to investigate the potential uses of the new technology, and I really like the way that someone like David Hockney, who has been so successful, was still willing to seek new ways of working and experimenting with new tools. It then struck me that this is exactly why David Hockney has been such a significant figure. Like all successful, creative and interesting people they never stop learning and never think that there is nothing new that they can benefit from.


Sunday 16 May 2010

The Poetry Channel

Check out The Poetry Channel - a great idea nicely executed. I wonder if we could do something similar this summer? We could ask students and staff to write poems about the school and film them reading the poems in specific locations.

What do you think?

Saturday 8 May 2010

Anne-Mette, one of our colleagues in Denmark, just sent me a link to this website. It's a series of YouTube videos that feature a range of instruments playing and sounds created. The visitor can create their own mix of the various sounds, each person generating a unique composition. It kept me amused and delighted for ages!

I wonder if we could borrow this idea to create our own interactive music website for Tallis, featuring our own musicians, instruments and sounds? We could try to incorporate the sounds of the building and film each musician in a variety of recognisable Tallis locations. This might then be projected during the 'Past, Present & Future' showcase events on 15th and 16th July so that visitors can make their own soundtracks. It can also be one of the artistic legacies of the old building, continuing to be played in the new one.

What do you think?