Monthly Archives: October 2010

Twitter at the heart – a surprise for many

When I was talking about my own, very limited, experience of all this social media stuff recently I asked the people there what platforms (is that the right terminology?) they used. A few people had websites, less had blogs, quite a lot used Facebook but only a few used Twitter. Those who did have Twitter accounts had mostly let them lie dormant.

I wasn’t surprised, I’d always thought Twitter would be a waste of time myself, perhaps my biggest social media learning to date has been the role it can play in professional life. From hearing important news early and finding out what those you respect are reading and thinking about to extending networks and even, this week, advertising a job. I told them so, and have seen a few out of there tweeting already.

I had found some examples of classroom use of Twitter – like Class 10 where pupils use Twitter within their topic research  which seemed pretty radical practice compared to the fear many of the schools I work with have. It was good this week to be alerted by Zoe Elder (on twitter of course) to this post by Australian lecturer Miriam Tanti who discusses the value of Twitter more eloquently than I have managed, and from someone with experience of Facebook – which I didn’t have when setting out on this journey:

I’d like to thank Zoe (@fullonlearning) and my colleague Joyce for getting me onto Twitter. I have to say that I was quite skeptical with the whole concept of twittering: Did I really care to be informed of the latest movements of a group of people, many of whom I have never met? I mistakenly made the direct connection between the Tweet and the Facebook status … regular updates of what people are having for dinner, the documentation of their attendance to their child’s athletics carnival, their wishes to leave work and go to the beach … I’m sure you get the idea. All bits of information that really have no impact on my life, and honestly could do without. But I was pleasantly surprised!

Several weeks ago I created a Twitter profile @miriamtanti and whilst I have not yet made any significant tweets I have managed to locate key stakeholders and ICT educators and read about their latest endeavors. In such a short time the global network I have joined on Twitter has allowed me to access a wide variety of the latest resources, literature and research that each of my global counterparts are pursuing. The hours that they have saved me from trying to locate such information on my own via search engines and online databases, and the new insights and perspectives they have exposed me to – my teaching and research is all the richer for it.

In terms of global collaboration, networking and professional development there is no ICT tool that has made a greater impact than Twitter, every educator should get an account!

Well we’ll see how I get on with Twitter, after all it has only been a few weeks, but at the moment it is working for me too. Although I was a bit terrified by the tweeting stats of Louise Jones Channel 4 Young blogger of the year, proof if I needed it that I’m not a young thing! Congratulations Louise.



If you want the job – get the ‘doing’ going quickly

I’ve supported schools to run  a number of ‘interviews’ for artists recently – well really it was more like observed workshops. In each case we split the school class between the number of interviewees and they worked together for an hour before pupils fed back to each to other about what they had been doing.

A pupil at Kirkbymoorside constructing, with the support of with Fraser Johnston

Pupils then had something to go on in order to select between artists. I always prefer that to them being able to ask questions but not always having a clue to as to what the answers really mean. As adults it gives us chance to see the rapport that is developed during the session, and keeps us out of the way! It is maybe slightly mean on the artists, who often prepare and deliver without any payment, and can sometimes feel a bit like a magician expected to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Although a number did say they preferred it to formal interviews.

I’m struck that the candidates who rose to the top were those who ensured the pupils were ‘doing’ as quickly as possible, and  those who had a purpose to the activity did even better.

Kirkbymoorside Primary selected to work with Frazer Johnston, interestingly the weaker of the three candidates on paper (another reason for workshops not panels?). Pupils made handheld structures (probably had a name – sorry, I was busy going between groups!) which rotated as they walked – their delight at reaching the point that the construction was able to generate its own movement was wonderful to observe. I had a bit of heart-sink when I saw withies and tissue paper (my own prejudice I know) but to use them to make an item that ‘did something’ was a revelation – it was that the objects worked, that they moved when you interacted with them that generated excitement.

Thornton Dale Primary chose  Invisible Flock, a collective based in Leeds who by the end of their hour had enabled pupils to set up a mystery based seeking game across the school grounds. Pupils were eager to get their peers to play it next break-time. It wasn’t the warmest day but the group went outside immediately and stayed for the whole time – with pupils running about a bit if they were getting cold, and mostly (and very quickly) they were dashing about finding secret places to hide clues and leave trails – congregating back to plan the next stage and then off again. Staff were amazed by the way pupils ideas led the session, and noticed a far higher engagement from a number of pupils they they had expected: “you should have heard X” “Y was building and building on his ideas, I was amazed”

A bit of problem solving came next...

When it comes to giving information most teachers have lots of successful strategies, what they want is to increase their toolbox of ways to enable pupils to discover their own learning, enjoy the process and want to do more. Sitting in the classroom being talked at may not achieve this – something to consider when coming for interviews.

I showed staff in another school pictures of the interviews to help them in their own recruitment planning – they were amazed what could be done in an hour, saying a teacher would often take half a term over it. Just seeing the photos made them excited about what their own artist/practitioner might bring to the school skillset- how fantastic to be able to generate that anticipation.

I’m interested to learn more about how artists prefer to be interviewed, what they think is the fairest approach – drop me a comment or e-mail if you have views on this.

I’ll let you know how these two projects develop in the months ahead – they look very promising.

Can you help make a young person led website a reality? £6k commission

For their Creative Partnerships project the 2 secondary schools in Spennymoor, County Durham, working together, would like to see pupils create a website/digital portal to celebrate/inform/discuss activity in the area and schools. Can you help us realise in this through supporting the young people to up-skill (if necessary) and ‘do it their way’?

There has to be a web-based entity at the end of this, that can continue to be added to, but other than that the structure and how you get to it is up for grabs (from pervasive games to flip video, from digital drives to customised google maps, from who knows what to I’ve never heard of that….)

There is a budget of £6,000 to make this happen, including all fees, web design etc – how would you go about turning this into a reality?

The project needs to have outline plans confirmed by end of November with the work happening between January – April 2011.

If you are interested please e-mail me

  • A brief (max 2 pages of A4) summary of how you would approach it, your relevant skills and previous experience
  • Outline budget breakdown
  • CV/company profile
  • Contact details

You can ask me any questions on the same e-mail address. Be great to get responses before the end of next week.

Why blogging works for me – part 1

When I set out on this process of having a blog, only a couple of months ago, I have to say I was a skeptic. I knew that I ought to have better awareness of these technical things – not then even knowing the phrase social media. My move to action was mainly because I was shamed by Ewan McIntosh at a conference pointing out that being technology illiterate limited the role you could take in designing effective education processes and enabling young people to be well placed in the contemporary world. I’m not one to naively jump on board when it comes to technology, after all I don’t even have a TV!, but this was tempting…..

That keynote was four days before a deadline to apply for a regional Creative Partnerships learning bursary and before I knew it I had put the two together and was off – with funding to enable Ewan to hold my hand along the way. What had seduced me into thinking it might all be a good thing was Ewan talking about using this ‘stuff’ effectively, to support what you wanted to do and save time. Now that was a radically different take for me – from the outside it looked like a time sink not a time release.

Ewan's how to...

So anyway out I set on this journey, with a list of activities set by Ewan and the promise of continuing support. As far as I thought we were in the set up phase – building a blog. No-one was going to be reading the blog as they wouldn’t know it was there and I dreamed of the benefits coming by the time we were a year in and this ‘learning network’ was up and running. How wrong!

What I have been amazed by is how quickly the process has been useful. In trying to understand blogs better I read  some other people’s in the spheres I’m interested in – and immediately some of those posts were useable in school project meetings, for instance:

  • In a project planning meeting a teacher spoke excitedly of “that place where pupils build things, they built a rollercoaster” I knew she was talking about  Gever Tulley’s work at Tinkering School – because I’d be reading about it only the night before. A small thing – but the joint understanding we had meant we could travel far quicker in planning discussions and the trust she had in me sharing her vision was invaluable.
  • Sharing school and pupil websites informed discussions with both a primary and secondary school about ways of capturing learning from a project – and in a format that encouraged parents engagement. With the potential of posts and videos being sent directly to parents e-mails and facebook accounts. Seeing other schools doing some of it made it feel much more possible for these schools. Showing them (found thanks to a post in Derek’s blog re-posting Richard Byrne’s slideshow)  helped them think about ways blogs could still be evidenced in pupil’s portfolios.
  • Having followed a link to Professor Sugata Mitra’s TED talk I discussed with a Headteacher about to equip his school with IT the value of group activity around computers rather than one computer per child – he shared the talk with his staff and they are considering buying better equipment but less of it to support group dynamics within child-led learning.

That is only the tip of a small but definitely present iceberg…And then there is the excitement of knowing what people you respect are reading – and reading it yourself. I didn’t expect to feel that sense of connection, or that people would inspire me so easily – simply being open with what they are curious about. Twitter has way more going for it than I would have thought – once I’d given myself permission to be okay with not having to read everything!

It is still very early days, I have my next list of ‘McIntosh tasks’ to take me forward. But I’m starting to let people know the blog is here and to get into conversations on other blogs, twitter and the like – moving out of the comfort zone of observer to participator. I’ve set up google reader to help monitor RSS feeds and the share the juiciest bits. I’m looking to build a team of people to blog with me, and  – well heaps more.

I’m even starting to talk about my learning and advocate the value of what I’m doing. The first session is tomorrow to colleagues at a Creative Partnerships meeting in the Tees Valley, and then next month I’m doing the same for Hull CP colleagues – who would have thought it.

Still no TV though – not in a hurry to change that one!

Art, Science and Language

On Thursday I went to a talk by author Ian McEwan at Newcastle University. It was part of Parallel Worlds a weekend of events looking at the relationships between art and science. His new novel Solar has a, very humanly flawed, nobel prize winning scientist involved in research on climate change as its main character. I am a McEwan fan, from the extracts read it seems a wonderfully amusing book, in addition to the usual detailed observation of  human behaviour and endeavour. It was a fascinating event, in which McEwan shocked me by saying he felt too much contemporary literature was studied in schools and called for students to have extensive knowledge of the older literary cannon.

Prior to the event I had my own linking of art and science courtesy of the very large concave mirror sited in the Herschel building, the location of the event. The mirror was gifted to the Physics department by “Sir Howard Grubb Parsons Co Ltd”, a once famous local engineering company, in 1967 (co-incidently the year of my birth).

I loved the distortions that it created and soon gathered a crowd around me as I began to investigate its qualities – people who had passed it by only moments earlier hardly noticing came back to ‘play’ themselves.

What had captured my interest was a potential link to a school project I’d only been discussing a few hours – which is based on the theme of The Madhatter’s Tea Party. I felt quiet Alice like being distorted by this enormous mirror.

Leaving the event another item in the building caught my and my friend’s eye – now how often is it that you see the word ‘egress’? Maybe we had stepped into a parallel universe after all. We started to talk about all the alternative words that could be placed around a school building, in response to the frequent pleas of teachers for pupils to extend their vocabulary.

What words would you put up? I’d love to compile a list of appropriate ones – do help me out.