Category Archives: Creativity

‘Quality’ time…?

It has really hit home this weekend how important it is to stop, reflect, recharge the batteries and be kind to oneself. Even if it seems inwardly selfish. A sense of self-survival and self-nuturing is necessary. All too often we get caught up in life, in work, in school, in pressures…and all too often we forget to give ourselves the basics that will ensure we can keep aiming for quality.

Life has been busy for the last 3 months. Work has been busy. We haven’t forced blogs. We didn’t want to force ourselves into writing when we were tired. We didn’t want to ‘find something’ to write about – a ‘forced subject’. We didn’t want to take our focus away from the people we were working with to fit in time to ‘blog’. That would not have resonated with our souls.

We are currently doing lots of thinking about the world of ‘online’ connectivity. The potential 24/7. The potential of a tool for learning and connecting. The potential of it adding quality. The potential of it destroying quality. And striking that balance.

Quality is going to be the focus of the next few blogs. This blog begins with a recognition that we all need to give ourselves time to reflect and recharge our batteries in order to be able to aim for quality. We found a place to do that this weekend. And we valued it.

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Filed under Coaching, Creativity, Designing for Learning, Education, Formative Assessment, Quality Learning, Reflective Learning, Single Steps Learning, Values

Killin Time

We had been warned that it would be an ‘interesting’ drive to Killin, especially with the threat of icy roads, however, no-one had told us how beautiful if would be! Dawn broke as we passed through Callander and the magnificent mountains appeared through the morning mist.

On arrival at Killin Nursery, we were welcomed by Head of Nursery Elizabeth Hancock, who is responsible for the Killin and Crianlarich Nurseries. It is also an unexpected treat to see Wendy Garner again, who had been on our training last year. 

©Killin Nursery 2012

After a quick tour, Elizabeth leaves us in the capable hands of her Early Years Educators and the children. Everywhere you look in Killin Nursery there is evidence of learners leading learning and purposeful ‘documentation’ – from the visible wall-planning to the fascinating and captivating ‘photo-books’.

 

Everyone is talking about ‘the wolf’ and it’s whereabouts. A model wolf, which had once stood outside the recently closed Tourist Office, had been removed. This has caused consternation amongst the children, for whom it was an identifiable landmark. Recognising that this was an issue of genuine interest to the children, the educators have made ‘What has happened to the wolf?’ a central focus from which the learning grows. 

There have been letters from the wolf, footprints, and sightings. The children have been investigating by asking local community members (including a bemused policeman) to assist with locating the wolf. 

We overhear a fascinating discussion between some children about how high a wolf can jump. There is higher-order reasoning going on here. One boy knows how high his dog can jump and estimates that the wolf is a similar size, so, should be able to clear a fence. 

On seeing us standing nearby and listening, one boy grabs my hand and leads me over to the wall. He excitedly points out his map amongst many.

‘This is where the wolf is. This is where we went looking!”

He then proceeds to tell me about all the other maps and who they belong to…ending the conversation with,

“But don’t be scared. No need to worry. The wolf only comes alive at night. He sends us letters then.”

There is a real feeling of community with a sense of enthusiasm and excitement about learning…from learners of all ages! Thank you Elizabeth for our invitation. We look forward to a return visit in the not-too-distant-future. 

©Single Steps Learning 2012

By the way, Andrew used to be a werewolf but he’s alright noooooooooow!

 

 

 

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Filed under Community Learning, Creativity, Designing for Learning, Early Years, Education, Embedded CPD, Passion, Practitioners, Problem-Based Learning, Single Steps Learning

Never too late to learn…

www.jewelleryforyoubyest.co.uk

Finding something you are passionate about (and talented at) can happen at any moment as long as you keep an open mind and try new things. Esther Whitehead (Lynne’s mum) had a ‘special’ birthday and was given jewellery-making lessons as a gift from a friend. There is no stopping her now! Check out the designs on her website.

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Worth fighting for…

Samwise Gamgee: Darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo Baggins: What are we holding on to, Sam?

Samwise Gamgee: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.’

 

An emotionally charged exchange between Frodo and Sam in ‘Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers’. Don’t try to find it in the book. The scene was specifically written for the movie. However, it struck a particular chord with me as I watched it (again) during the holidays. (Purists, please keep reading!)

 

I feel ground down.’ is a phrase that we heard too often, from friends and colleagues before the holidays began. Not just because of the normal hurly-burly of the season but because of the imposition of policies and practices which are not congruent with the values of so many educators.

 

Many, whose passion is to inspire and empower learners on their journey, feel that the opportunities they provide are being systematically eroded or at worst demonised. Under pressure/threat to produce results, some schools are slipping back into a ‘factory’ mentality; desperately looking for foolproof, quick-fix ‘machines’ (schemes, initiatives) that will churn out shiny ‘products’.

 

And sadly, our ‘products’ are still going to be judged on how shiny they are…not whether they work or have the ability to adapt and grow.

 

I like systems. I like systems that do the job for which they were designed. I can genuinely admire the systems used by ‘fast food’ chains to improve efficiency and output. However, I strongly question the nutritional value of their products, their contribution to obesity and the subsequent strain on the health service.

 

So, herein lies the incongruence for many educators. Educators who value fairness (in all its interpretations), emotional intelligence, compassion, interdependence etc. being coerced (often by coerced leaders) to implement systems which do not promote these values and then being monitored on how effectively and efficiently they are doing it. I detect the hand of Sauron…

 

However, ‘The darkness must pass. A new day will come.’ I don’t know when but I do know that it is worth fighting for. That’s why Lynne and myself will continue to do what we do, for as long as we can. And, if you are in a place that is ‘grinding you down’ through coercion, then the fight is to hold onto what you believe in,

even if you can’t express it…yet.

 


 

A Happy and Hopeful New Year to You All.

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Embedded CPD in Evenlode Primary

Headteacher, Steve Rees, couldn’t wait to model the glasses made by the Year 1 children in Evenlode Primary. The children were quick to remind everyone that the glasses were made for the Giant in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, so, unfortunately for Steve, he was not allowed to keep them!

 

During the past year, we have supported CPD in the school in a variety of ways: designing and delivering training, co-planning, co-teaching and co-learning alongside the staff and children. We have always received a warm welcome, along with an enthusiasm to discuss learning and explore methods of implementation. (On this visit, a Year 1 child asked why I had a visitor’s badge, commenting ‘You are not really a visitor anymore, are you?’).

 

Last week, it was ‘embedded CPD’ in the Year 1 classes. Picture the scene…friday, rain, Christmas concerts looming…yet all the children and staff were ‘up’ for planning and leading a collaborative, problem-based learning session! Emma and Andrea, the Year 1 teachers, had already enlisted the support of family members and produced a DVD that would arrive in school for the children. It contained an ‘Oscar’-winning performance of the Giant’s wife (from Jack and the Beanstalk) insisting that Jack and his friends (the children in the class) design and make a new pair of glasses for the Giant. The reason for this – Jack had stolen the GOLDEN HEN and now the giants were too poor to go and get his glasses repaired! And we all know what a grumpy giant is like!

 

The children rose to the challenge and worked in groups of 3, each taking on team roles and responsibility for completing the product within the allocated time frame. A ‘quality checklist’ supplied by the giant helped to ensure the product met the requirements. Although one reflective thought from a child was, ‘Next time, maybe we will look at what we have to do and choose which will take the longest and do that first…rather than leave it ‘til last and run out of time…especially if it is an important bit!’. I think many adults can also learn from this reflection too!

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Whilst the children tackled the task independently and interdependently, the staff had an opportunity to engage in authentic AfL – what did the learning actually look like and sound like? Digital cameras and Flipcams were used. Notes were taken, ready to feedback to the children in order to move the learning process forward through shared reflection and negotiation.

 

And the final ‘wow’…the staff also agreed to ‘walk the talk’ and operate an ‘indivisibility of principles’ approach. Observational notes were taken on the whole learning process – with no judgements made. Just what was seen and heard within that learning environment (both from the adults and children). It formed a basis to open up a reflective dialogue about learning and teaching. Embedded CPD supported by peer coaching and mentoring.

 

(And, if we are thinking about curriculum and standards, mapping this back into the curriculum caused some problems as it ‘hit’ so many of the requirements in so many areas! A well-designed task can not only be a vehicle for curriculum requirements, it can also be fun, engaging, motivating and offer those moments of true inspiration and entrepreneurial thinking!)

 

A big thank you to all the staff and children at Evenlode Primary.

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Embedded CPD in Aberbargoed Primary

Coping with Change (Part 1)    

As you drive down School Street in Aberbargoed, the sign on the fencing next to the gate reads ‘For Sale’. No. Headteacher, Mr David Lewis, is not selling off bits of the school to make ends meet! However, David and his staff are doing a fantastic job of providing a sense of normality for their learners, while new classrooms are being built across the road from the old Victorian building.

The old school was the venue for two days training, Step 3 in the Designing for Learning journey. We explored the concept and use of rubrics as formative assessment tools and once again made reflections and connections on ways to empower learners.

But it didn’t end there! We had the privilege of spending the next three days, teaching and observing in every class throughout the school.

In Foundation Phase, Sarah Driscoll’s Nursery children made and tested waterproof footwear for gingerbread men; Teresa Hamling’s Reception class designed and constructed vehicles to transport a giant turnip; and Ly-Anne Pyle’s Year 1 and 2 produced crowns for the royal wedding of Prince Charming and Rapunzel.

In his cross-phase (Year 2/3) class Teifion Lewis. guided his learners through the process of designing more appealing dental hygiene packaging.

At Key Stage 2, the Year 3/4 learners in Jayne Harris’s class explored sieves and designed and tested their own. In order to demonstrate their understanding of the human body, Marilyn Phillips’s learners made 3-D body maps. And last, but not least, Jacqueline John led her Year 6 through discussion and debate about the rich and poor in Tudor times.

A wide variety of curriculum knowledge and skills! However, all learners explored their specific curriculum area(s) in collaborative groups. It’s been a year since many of the learners and practitioners were introduced to the tools and processes of collaborative learning. This has now become embedded in the classroom culture with learners showing a high level of engagement and the development of skills and attitudes to support independent and interdependent learning.

In addition to those above, we would like to mention the other staff who work in Aberbargoed Primary and attended the training  – John, Karen, Sian, Gill, Wendy, Michelle, Katrina, Cheryl, Kelly, Nicole, Leanne and Kelly. Thank you all for making us so welcome.

A final thanks to David for inviting us back to assist in the continuing professional development of staff in Aberbargoed.

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Trick or Treat?

Trick or Treat?

Uh-oh. It’s All Hallows’ Eve and the last blog entry was on the 10th October. Shame on us! We have a bit of catching up to do!

 

First, it’s down to Dorset. Two days with 20 leaders of learning. Thanks to Prince of Wales First School  and headteacher Peter Farrington for hosting the event. We look forward to seeing you all again in February…but we’ll be keeping in touch via the Wikispace. And Gary…keep on tweeting!

 

Next, it was back to Wales and our first twilight session in Henllys CiW Primary. Exploring the power of photo-feedback and designing linked learning experiences. Thanks to Michelle Bellew and her staff for remaining awake and upright after a day of hundreds of individual learning interactions!

 

And it’s back across the bridge and down the M5 to Dorset again. Thanks to Veronique Singer for inviting us and hosting the event at Radipole Primary School, Weymouth. We had a great day with leaders of learning from Radipole, Southill, Portesham and St Nicholas & St Laurence schools. A creative, collaborative learning community in action!

 

Finally, we head north to Stirling, donning thermal underwear and woolly hats (thanks Claire!). Three days of exploring and experiencing learning. It was heartening to see the impact that DfL is having in the local settings. A privilege to work with such dedicated educators.

 

So, three countries and four treats for us…

 

….and a trick….no thanks to the driver who created the additional lane between the tollbooths on the Severn Crossing and created a half-mile tailback during the rush-hour on the Friday before half-term. May your doorbell be rung constantly tonight!!!

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TEDx London: The Education Revolution 2011

Tomorrow, we will be leaving early to attend the TEDx London event. It has been organised in response to Sir Ken Robinson’s talk – ‘Bring on the Learning Revolution’ (see clip below from 2010). The whole day will be full of inspirational speakers and attendees talking about turning ideas into action.

We will be posting regular live updates on Twitter…

…and we have created a special TEDx page on our website to host our thoughts and live twitter feed.

http://www.tedxlondon.com/first

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Where do great ideas come from?

We love the RSA animate video clips. The art work helps to clarify the content and it certainly holds our attention. 

A thought whilst watching the video – how do we maximise the opportunities for ‘connectivity’ in our learning environments? What stops us from doing this? What helps us to do this?

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The serious business of play…

‘Play’ can often attract negative responses  – frequently seen as the opposite of ‘work’, messing around or even as something ‘childish’. 

We disagree with this strongly. And we often talk about ‘plearning’ – a term coined by a talented 3 year old (Cian). It is a perfect word for ‘learning through play’ – whatever age you are! 

It was great today to come across ‘PlayDUcation’ whilst checking out the new edition of ‘Out of Our Minds’ (Ken Robinson). They have a presence on facebook and a website which is worth checking out. Bring on that learning revolution!

http://www.playducation.org/

 

Also worth a look is the Ken Robinson book …and we particularly liked this excerpt from the ‘write up’.

 

‘I remember when I was running the national commission on creativity, education and the economy in the U.K., the Secretary of State there said, “We’re very committed to creativity in education but we’ve got to get literacy and numeracy right first.” And I said, this is just a basic misunderstanding. It’s like saying we’re going to bake a cake and if it works out, then we’ll put the eggs in. That’s not how it works. If you want people to be literate, you have to get them passionate about reading and that’s a creative job. To think of it as an afterthought or in conflict of the core purposes, is a misconception of what creativity is. Creative leaders get that. And if they don’t they will.’

 

http://www.fastcompany.com/1764044/ken-robinson-on-the-principles-of-creative-leadership

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