Friday 23 November 2012

ARG meeting presentation

A Manifesto

“Democracy cannot flourish where the chief influences in selecting subject matter of instruction are utilitarian ends narrowly conceived for the masses, and, for the higher education of the few, the traditions of a specialized cultivated class. The notion that the "essentials" of elementary education are the three R's mechanically treated, is based upon ignorance of the essentials needed for realization of democratic ideals.”
John Dewey

Check out Seth Godin's manifesto about schools:

Saturday 10 November 2012

Assessing Creativity

I had a lovely chat with three colleagues from Burnside School in the North East on Friday afternoon. Despite a dodgy Skype connection we managed to discuss our respective school contexts and the issue of how to establish and assess creativity and/or creative learning both within and beyond the arts.

At Burnside they have developed, in partnership with the excellent Susan Coles (@theartcriminal on Twitter) a framework for assessing creativity as a separate subject within the arts curriculum (see images above). The one hour a week course blends aspects of the arts disciplines taught at the school - art, music, dance and drama - but with an explicit focus on developing creative capacity and learning skills. We discussed the pros and cons of teaching creativity within the arts and the responsibility of other curriculum areas for teaching and assessing creative learning attributes.

I shared out brief flirtation with a Creative Learning APP framework and the Creativity Wheel that was created by the Centre for Real World Learning at the University of Winchester. I also talked briefly about our Tallis Lab experiments at KS3 and our commitment to creative learning in the context of ICT.

I really hope we can continue to share ideas and thinking about this area of curriculum development. I also hope that the team at Burnside is able to create a blog to document the progress of their work in this area. I am sure colleagues across the country would be interested in what they have to share.Thanks again to Susan for putting us in touch.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Tony Benn on art and work

I read the following text today in the latest edition of the Tate magazine. The piece is a discussion between Barbara Steveni and Tony Benn about his role in helping to establish the Artist Placement Group (APG) in the early 1970s. The group sought to position artists in large organisations, in industry, the health service and in government.

In response to a question from Steveni about why Benn was interested in lending his support to the APG he has the following to say:

"I believe that the really interesting things in life are when two disciplines interact. I don't believe in breaking people up into little sections. I think everyone has an artistic, an administrative and a creative talent, just as they have a destructive and bureaucratic capacity. What you did with the APG was to bring out these aspects in everybody. I think society finds it easier and more convenient to maintain the hierarchies so that nobody gets out of their place. It's designed to keep us in our place by using words we don't normally use and making us feel inadequate. I think what you've done is to break down the barriers."

I love several things about these observations, primarily Benn's commitment to the value of the arts in ordinary life and his understanding of the need to facilitate inter-disciplinary conversations. Having seen a fairly impenetrable exhibition in a contemporary art gallery today, the arts are as to blame as any other institution for reinforcing the separation between artists and non artists through technical language (jargon) and modes of production and display.

However, Benn's words also seem to me to be a powerful argument for the importance of artists (and other creative practitioners) playing a role in articulating the tensions, opportunities and energies present in all places of work. There have been several initiatives like the APG, Creative Partnerships being just one example. Imagine how exciting it would be if every workplace had its own artist in residence. It's clearly an idea supported by the current government since Eton College has at least four artists in residence working with the school at any one time.

Isn't it time that all schools (and other places of work) had the same resource at their disposal?

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An alternative curriculum

As part of the Hayward Gallery's Wide Open School in July 2012 members of the Huddle, the Southbank Centre's young people's group, worked with artist Yara El-Sherbini to come up with an alternative syllabus. Exploring important life lessons you can't take a class in -- how to avoid people you know on the bus, how to believe in government, how to stop comparing yourself to people you went to school with -- the Huddle staged an intervention in the Royal Festival Hall, taking over the public announcement system to ask the public what they thought. 

This would be a fantastic cross-curricular project to undertake in school, drawing on the experiences of young people and their curiosity about life and learning. Like cultural institutions, schools are equipped with public address systems, bells that tell you you where to go and when, a programme of activities and a team of backroom and front of house staff. Wouldn't it be interesting to try to disrupt this system of activities, roles and responsibilities, even for just one day, to reawaken our curiosity and love of learning?

Sunday 16 September 2012

Pif Paf: creative computer science from Al Ma on Vimeo.

 When we decided that the school uniform needed refreshing we could have adopted two different strategies:
  1. decide on an off-the-shelf solution from known suppliers and not worry too much about the design or the ethical or environmental impact of the production process
  2. establish a student led design group to work with a qualified designer experienced in ethical fashion to create a bespoke solution
Obviously, we decided on the second strategy and we were lucky enough to work with the fabulous Alina Moat, a recent graduate from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion. She came highly recommended by the equally fabulous Professor Helen Storey with whom we have been on a number of creative learning adventures. The entire project is documented on this blog.

Alina recently visited our new building to see the students wearing her designs. It was lovely to see how pleased she was with the end result of the project and we are equally proud of the fact that our students are wearing clothes that are genuinely sustainable and distinct. Alina's real reason for visiting however was to tell us about her latest design project and to ask whether we would be interested in collaborating with her. Entitled Pif Paf, the project aims to teach young people how to use programming software by employing a number of creative learning strategies.The video above describes succinctly how a playful combination of physical, emotional and intellectual enquiry results in students mastering complex processes.

We are hopeful that we can support the next phase of the project, testing the model with a class of Year 7 students over several months as part of our Tallis Lab curriculum. We are very excited about the potential of working alongside Alina again on such an innovative solution to the issue of rebooting computer science education in the UK.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Matthew Shlian's paper engineering

Matthew Shlian is an artist who works with paper. His attitude to creativity is really interesting. He has also managed to create a life for himself which allows him to continue to make art in his studio. He is inspired by the desire to continue experimenting with paper engineering, to test the limits of what is possible. He uses any technology available to him. I love what he says about the process of making something. He failed maths and geometry in school. He relies on imagining forms and testing the possibilities of his material in his hands. If he can see it and feel it he knows he can make it but says that if he knew exactly what the work was going to look like before it was completed he would not bother making it. In other words, the element of risk is all important and the process of solving problems is what motivates him to continue to create.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Webr app

Very impressed with the Webr app for creating fully featured sites from a mobile device. Brilliant for school journeys, field trips and project based learning activities.

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Thursday 24 May 2012

Progression in Creativity report

The Progression in Creativity: Developing New Forms of Assessment report has been published on the CCE website. Year 9 students at Tallis took part in one of the field trials in collaboration with The Centre for Real World Learning (CRL) led by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas at The University of Winchester. The aim of the research was to establish the viability of creating an assessment framework for tracking the development of young people’s creativity in schools. Initially an assessment tool was established by the researchers (see above).

This tool comprised of 5 habits and 15 sub-habits of creativity:
  1. Inquisitive (wondering and questioning, exploring and investigating, challenging assumptions)
  2. Persistent (sticking with difficulty, daring to be different, tolerating uncertainty)
  3. Imaginative (playing with possibilities, making connections, using intuition)
  4. Collaborative (sharing the product, giving and sharing feedback, cooperating appropriately)
  5. Disciplined (developing techniques, reflecting critically, crafting and improving)
Following two field trials the principal findings were that:
  1. The concept of an assessment framework for creativity in schools is valid and relevant. There was a strong sense among teachers that our framework encompassed a learnable set of dispositions. There are strong grounds for now seeking to develop a more sophisticated prototype, of use to teachers and learners, to track the development of creativity in schools.
  2. The framework should initially focus on the 5-14 age range, although some practitioners may find it useful with younger and older pupils.
  3. The evidence suggests that the primary use of any assessment framework will be formative, supporting pupils to harness more of their creativity and helping teachers more effectively to cultivate creative dispositions in the young people they teach.
As the report indicates "measuring creativity, for teachers, would appear to be a fundamentally different task from measuring literacy or even assessing performance in the creative arts."

Recommendations for further development include from the team include:
  • Maintaining the emphasis on the learnability of creativity;
  • Development of training materials and ‘best practice’ resources for teachers;
  • Incorporating the tool into schools’ reporting systems;
  • Separation of the sub-habits back into three distinct sub-habits;
  • Scrutinising language and selecting a clearly legible printed font;
  • Developing best practice;
  • Developing a more formative tool to point pupils to areas for development;
  • Capturing ‘breadth’ more systematically in the tool;
  • Developing a more systematic evidence collection process;
  • Developing the tool for the virtual environment; and
  • Trialling the tool with the ‘unconverted’.
Read the Report

Saturday 24 March 2012

Our focus this year

I've just received the Signature Pedagogies report from researchers working for CCE and shared it on the Creative Tallis website. It makes for very interesting reading and references the work that Tangled Feet theatre company did with us last summer in the lead up to the performance of 'All That Is Solid Melt Into Air' at the Greenwich + Docklands Festival. In the report, Tallis is called 'Delius High School'.

I really like the definition of pedagogy used in the report: Learning to Know, Learning to Do, Learning to Live Together and Learning to Be. The descriptions of various creative pedagogic approaches also help to capture the distinct and highly valuable contribution of visiting practitioners. The necessity of disrupting the dominant culture of prevailing orthodoxies of 'normal' classroom practice are made evident in terms of the quality of learning that takes place. These might include, for example:

  • Provocation
  • Use of artefacts 
  • Moving out of the classroom
  • Making an occasion
  • Use of ‘the texts of our lives’
  • The self as a teaching resource
  • Costume
  • Use of the body
  • Different classroom discourse patterns
  • The creation of a rich narrative environment
  • The use of professional norms
  • Alignment with disciplinary expectations
  • The valorisation of collective endeavour
  • Managing behaviour differently
  • The use of routine
  • Flexibility in pacing
  • The use of open-­‐ended challenge 
  • Building commitment to the community
  • Permission to play
Whilst these are not always beyond the realm of the classroom teacher, the report identifies some of the barriers that might prevent members of the profession from utilising a full range of these approaches, framed as they are by the "institutional context of school", "national policy", "public expectations" and "local institutional interpretations of policy and educational purposes".

I think the conclusion of the report is also spot on:

Artists arrive in schools as visitors, even if they work as artists in residence, their position is as an institutional ‘other’. They bring with them frames of reference and purposes from their life worlds, and as they and teachers work together they create more and less stable time/spaces where their frames and purposes produce new practices...We suggest that there will always be a role for artists to play in schools, as the positions of artist and teacher are not the same, not interchangeable. We have suggested that artists have much to bring to the renewal of pedagogy in the English school. To what extent teachers will be encouraged to admit them to the conversation is a question upon which much depends. 

Our current work with a range of practitioners - journalists, game and graphic designers, sculptors, dance and theatre practitioners - demonstrates the value of bringing expertise into school from outside and engaging with the institutional 'other'.

Perhaps our decision as an Action Research Group this year to pursue the twin themes of Spaces for Creativity and Students as Teachers could be informed by the continued intervention of practitioners from outside school? Part of our role then is to make a strong case for continued financial support of this process.

For access to this report and other research documents please visit the CCE website.

Sunday 5 February 2012

iStopMotion on the iPad

I've just discovered that iStopMotion is available for he iPad with the addition of the free remote camera app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. I think this is going to form the backbone of a scheme of work for the equally new GCSE photography course! I just need to give some thought to keeping the iPhone/iPod/iPad steady during image capture. Looks like a bit of research into mini tripods is in order. 


Friday 20 January 2012

Wreck This App

I was delighted to discover that the wonderful Keri Smith has an iPad app called (predictably) Wreck This App. It's a digital version of Wreck This Journal but with some interesting extra functionality like the use of the inbuilt camera. It's not flashy or over designed. In fact it's intuitive interface and simple but provocative instructions are what make it perfect for the iPad.

This would make a wonderful addition to any lesson but has obvious appeal for the visual and media arts as a way to encourage students to experiment with their journal making and documentation strategies.

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Action Research Group meeting

Thanks to the new Creative Tallis team who met for the first time this year to discuss how we can continue to support creative learning across the curriculum. The discussion was stimulated by an incomplete page on our Manifesto for a Creative Tallis Manifesto website entitled "Practise Wonderation and Newology". Suggestions included: using exciting starters to stimulate enquiry; developing more immersive learning experiences and prolonged investigations; and acknowledging the skills and experiences that students bring to the classroom.

We had a brief look at the various websites and social networking opportunities the group had created.

We all agreed with the principal that teachers should maintain their own fascination for learning and model this attitude for students. We discussed how to recruit some young folks to the ARG and agreed to bring along at least one student to the next meeting.

Finally, we used Popplet to begin to capture some thoughts about what we wanted to accomplish this year, our intended audience and how we might achieve our goals.

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