Category Archives: Evaluation

TEDxKids@Sunderland pt 2 – thrilling to be so very wrong

All involved have been overjoyed and even a little overwhelmed by the fantastic response to TEDxKids@Sunderland (see here for the first post about this project).

Twitter has done the event proud, with pupils receiving good luck messages, from across the globe, then responses during and after the event to the real time tweets (@TEDxKidsSland) made about the talks. The pupils are on half-term holiday this week, so on Monday they’ll find out about much of this – and think about how they want to collate, map and display that feedback, in among their busy time setting up the website and editing the videos they took of the talks to ensure others can share the experience of the day.

Some tweets were read out during the event, with the audience being as amazed and delighted as the pupils, and we ‘project adults’ rather enjoyed our peek at #TEDxKidsSland once everyone had gone home:

So how did it reach this point?

We left the story at the project idea being well received by the school – prompting Ewan McIntosh to respond “thanks for agreeing to this – I’m thrilled to help plan and deliver something that I hope will have a sizeable impact on all concerned (including me!).” Creative Partnerships places great value on the practitioners they engage with being willing to take risks, to be able to explore and be challenged themselves, not just replicate comfortable off the shelf solutions. Ewan was clearly going to make my job very easy!

The two class teachers were, of course, central to the journey – Ewan left the first planning meeting saying “there’s a natural apprehension about trying something new” this was a stretch, it wasn’t something that everyone knew would go just fine. When reflecting post-event the Y3 teacher was brave enough to admit this initial response as being quite a strong one, although now feeling unlikely:

It is hard to imagine that just a few months ago I was feeling that this was impossible. Too much for Year 3. How could all the complex abilities of all my class be served equally?

For once it is thrilling to be so very wrong. We as teachers always feel that it is us in the driving seat. That we are imparting all our hard earned knowledge. That we set the bar and the childrens job is to work hard enough to reach it. But yesterday, in fact this whole experience has proved the point. We need to let go of the reins. Because it has been the children that have challenged me to be a better teacher. They have raised the bar every day of this project and it has been my job to keep up.

I feel humbled by what my kids achieved and can’t wait till after the holidays when I can get back in the class and let them know how very proud I am of them. How proud I am to have been part of their growth as individuals. Proud to have shared this short, yet immense journey.”

Neither teacher was aware of the TED format before the project, and Ewan’s first task for them (and others in the team) was to choose some talks, from TED or elsewhere, that they felt could be used in class to help pupils to think about the makings of a great talk, and (as importantly!) to comment on some of each others videos and ideas. The format for sharing this was through the on-line Posterous ‘learning log’ set up to capture and easily share/respond to each others thoughts and planning. I have found this log such a valuable resource, as would be expected some were quicker to use it than others but it became a valuable way to keep the adults in the project connected – as not everyone was in school all of the time, and for those who were conversations are still not always possible.

Using Posterous as a project learning log

One of the aspects of the Ewan’s approach that I really liked was their proposal phrase “NoTosh doesn’t work on a ‘day rate’ basis, but rather on a ‘fair use’ policy over the period identified.” What we have found is that working with them hasn’t just about the days there is face to face to contact, it has been a partnership approach throughout. It is the on-line sharing that has really given us a way to tap into that expertise (regardless of what country he happens to be in at the time!), but also to gain from everyone’s else skills too.

The next step was for Ewan to outline the project time around the ‘design-thinking’ process, explained in one of his blog post here. Creative Partnerships is about linking together creatives and educationalists in the belief that that combination working together has the potential to create something valuable in the classroom. Ewan describes design thinking as core to the practice of successful creative companies, and sees it as a great tool for schools.

So the next bit takes us into the classroom to meet the pupils (the exciting bit I know) and into the next blog post…

Do let me know if you are hearing what you need to about this journey, or if there is anything you want to make sure is covered.

Y5/6 using geocaches, google maps and QR codes to tell their story

http://www.thorntopedia.co.uk - one of a number of individually designed geo-cache treasure boxes hidden around the trail, created by pupils.

“Y5/6 have been transformed in how they work together and they have managed to change their attitude towards their own learning and the different styles they can use in order to achieve this.”

Deputy Head, Thornton Dale Primary School.

When the pupils of Y5/6 interviewed four candidates to work with them it was Invisible Flock, and interactive trio of artists based in Leeds that they wanted to work with. Artists had responded to a very open call for practitioners who could assist the pupils in learning out more about their area through an enquiry based approach. With over 40 applications the pupils had a lot of choice, from animators to storytellers, from dancers to writers, from musicians to actors – but at the end of the project were still absolutely sure they selected well.

Invisible Flock appealed to pupils partly because of their immediacy of engagement; they spent the whole of their interview time with pupils in the school grounds – encouraging pupils in making a secret trail which their friends could try and work out at playtime. But also the quality of the idea they offered – that they could assist the pupils in them developing a mystery trail across the whole village that could draw on factual knowledge but be enhanced by fictional content, that could involve people finding out about it on the computer and bring them to North Yorkshire to try to follow it. They were very clear that the pupils would lead this, that they would need to come up with ideas and ways to make it work. For the school this was a great fit to the enquiry based learning model that they sought to embed in school.

Together the artists and pupils created an interactive story trail around Thornton le Dale which follows clues hidden in hand made treasure boxes and backed up with online access through the projects own web-site and geocashing sites. On completion of the trail the final code discovered allows access, through the website, to a print out of the full story written by pupils. The trail stop off at key areas, where the treasure boxes are hidden and must be sought out in order for the participants to continue on the adventure. These boxes each hold small tasks and puzzles that need solving, send them to other places on the map, and ask them to annotate and alter their maps as they interact with the geography of their surroundings in a brand new way.

Pupils developed over a number of weeks an extended story, full of characters and plots that took you on a circuit of the area, introducing intrigue and mystery along the way. Key spots had been determined on a class tour of the village, and some characters built from church and graveyard inscriptions backed up with classroom research and plenty of  fictional spice.

Pupils took turns capturing the story being developed aurally as text

Some pupils recount: “Making the story up was really hard. Our group decided we had to involve all the class, so there were quite of lot of agreements and disagreements.” “We made up all of the story, we mostly did it as a big table, we haven’t done it like that before. It is easier to make it up together – because there are different ideas, not just yours” “We took some votes to help make decisions, like the title – the people who lost just got on with it really, they didn’t make a huge fuss or anything. That was good.”

They felt what made it easier was… “imagination” “Everyone’s ideas helped, someone would say something and then all of a sudden you would get an idea like theirs but a bit different. Although sometimes you’d say ‘how is that going to work?.’” Others added “I was surprised that most people’s ideas could get in. When you think about it there are 29 of us in the class, and there are 8 characters in it – but that is everybody’s ideas” “We wound up at the end of one day with 2 whole big boards just full of ideas. We were working quite hard really. It didn’t really feel like work – it felt enjoyable.”

Building up a google map on the website

A pupil spoke of his “Disbelief sometimes, about what we were doing. The first week or two weeks we’d had fun but we weren’t very far on, we had loads of stuff to do, we were ‘we’re not going to finish this’, we had a lot to do.” “We only started to create the boxes on the second to last week.” “Everyone worked hard at the end – all you could see was everyone was getting their head down and doing, people were walking about getting stuff straight away, back down on with it. Before that it was a bit more casual. We had to finish it.”

Pupils were aware that their two class teachers had taken on a different role, describing that “they wandered around watching what people were doing and stuff, and giving ideas” realising that the teachers were supporting rather than leading. One boy added “Because it was quite busy they were kind of like kit managers – making sure we had what we needed.”

Staff were of course taking notice of pupils response.”They took responsibility for their own learning because it was their product. It wasn’t a stuffy map – it was state of the art, cutting edge practice they were doing. It was relevant to them. It captured their interest from the start.  But the pupils had to be creative with the story they created – they had to have the basics behind it, they had to have the skills to make the boxes – it was a great blend of technology, traditional arts and crafts and creative writing – it had to be all of those to make it work. It wasn’t about just being behind the computers.”

“It was research for a reason, they were ‘we have got a map and we are putting things on the map’, so they had to transfer over the results of the research so it was there on the map and people could click on it. It wasn’t theoretical and this meant pupils wanted to be thorough in the way they approached it. They were coming up with ideas and generating solutions – all the time. The amount of discussion they had with the artists was impressive, who listened to their ideas constantly. Even the daftest of ideas were in there – Invisible Flock were very good at including everything the children said, if they wanted a troll under the bridge they had a troll under the bridge. They saw how this could all be made to work – they were challenged to find ways to make it all work”

Checking the QR code in a treasure box lid

Staff saw a considerable level of cross transference of skills, from geography and history work previously completed (such as use of mapping and historical study of the local area) to home based computer knowledge feeding into to the classroom (such as annotating google maps). The project introduced pupils to new materials and approaches – from QR codes and scanning and manipulating of images  to varnishing wood, engraving metal, wood and plastic. Developing a story as a group created a very explicit experience of how it could be built – as everyone pitched in and negotiated and accepted or challenged each others ideas. They had to find congruence between suggestions to maintain the integrity of the story – and always think of the external reader, how to engage and surprise them.

Pupils value that others will experience the results of the project, that their work was an appropriate standard to place in the public realm “it is exciting that people outside will find out about the story – they can find out what happens as usual but they might have a race if they do it with friends, see who does it best” “I will do it with my mum and dad but won’t tell them the answers, see if they can work it out.” “We have put a geo-cache in Wardle’s [newsagents] shop window, they let us because we have done this really good treasure trail thing.”

Pupils’ biggest surprise was that they actually did the project “At the start of it I didn’t think we were going to do, it was just an idea that was out of this world. Sometimes you plan things and they don’t happen – but sometimes they do like in this case. It is better than I ever thought it was going to be.”

As a Creative Partnerships Creative Agent my role in this work was to work with the school to develop creative ideas in response to key learning targets within the school development plan. This included linking them with appropriate artists to support them. I assisted everyone through the delivery as well as gathering documentation and evaluation along the way. The school really appreciated the child led approach  I encouraged in this role, right from the early ideas generation and selection of artists to the final reflection processes.

Do let us know if you follow the trail…..

A hint - don't tell anyone

8 Characteristics Supporting Success

Not strictly about artists working in education, but Helix Arts work extensively with young people. Over the last four years I have observed and reflected upon their implementation of a major organisational development programme. As part of the final report I pulled eight organisational characteristics which seemed to be key to their ability to thrive as an organisation.

I think it is really valuable for organisations to understand not just how but why they succeed, and encourage all of you – whether self employed or part of a large organisation – to spend time thinking about the conditions which help you to do your best work. The better you understand them the easier is to ensure you create or recognise working situations where they exist.

Robert Laycock, Helix Arts Chief Executive until he left to set up an consultancy business in April this year has written an article for Arts Professional drawing extracts from the my report, below is an extract from the article to help example some of the things you might consider for yourself or organisation:

Adapt and thrive  (Arts Professional issue 237, 23 May 2011, page 11)

Learning how to embrace change and achieve it on its own terms has been hugely beneficial for Helix Arts. Robert Laycock explains:

In December 2006, Helix Arts was one of 21 projects awarded funding for organisational development as part of Arts Council England’s Thrive! Programme ….. Thrive! aimed to provide “A systematic approach to developing organisational performance in order to build capacity to respond to and influence a rapidly changing environment”. Helix Arts’ ambition was to move from being a reputable regional organisation to one with national and international influence. We defined the business outcomes as: leadership – becoming a national leader in the field; growth – becoming a larger organisation; and sustainability – becoming a successful charitable business. To achieve this we invested in five key areas: market development, organisation development, product and practice development, research and building capacity.

Between April 2007 and March 2011 we grew from six to nine permanent staff. 2009/10 was our fifth consecutive record year in terms of turnover, project volume and earned income, and our reserves are now heading towards 25% of annual core cost. We have a new vision and mission that is attracting new stakeholders; we have an integrated business plan and robust finance, legal and ICT systems in place. Perhaps most importantly, we have developed a greater, more nuanced understanding of quality in relation to our practice and the practices of the artists we work with, and we are beginning to embed research into our programme.

We commissioned our own evaluation of this process in order that we could reflect on the journey and better understand the success factors. The report summarised the following eight characteristics that appear to have contributed most significantly to our success:

1. Size – Helix Arts has grown, but everyone can still fit around the meeting room table: “Things didn’t get lost in translation,” Rowena On, Head of Operations.

2. Work in balance – all of the staff work part-time: “At least 75% wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t the case,” says Toby Lowe, then Head of Programme. Andrew McIntyre, Fundraiser and Business Support Manager said: “It is just so healthy, people come in on time and leave on time, they never seemed really stressed.”

3. Empowerment – everyone in the organisation has a voice. It is a hierarchical model, but staff sees that as a management strength, and not something that gets in the way of dispersed leadership. “It is unusual for a small arts organisation to have such strong hierarchy… but it is a strength. It makes our roles very, very clear. We each have a very specific role to play in the organisation… It helps us to know that what we say counts,” says Kate Roebuck, Senior Project Manager.

4. Desire for improvement – “The key people when I arrived were all passionate about improving the organisation, and the way they do their bit of the organisation,” says Toby Lowe.

5. Interest in business practice – “I like working in this organisation because it runs as a business… It feels organised, it feels like a proper company in the sense that it is structured, has a clear focus on where it is going, plans in place and the right staffing structure in place to deliver that” (Kate Roebuck).

6. Using systems – “When I arrived and saw the rolling archive shelves I knew this place was going to be organised… there is a lot of clarity. But crucially it is that everyone is happy to work to those systems, no-one sees them as a hindrance,” says Andrew McIntyre.

7. Open to challenges – The team copes well with challenges, it is the people who do this – that is why we thrive – they are up for considering new ways, and are willing to explore them.

8. Trust and Support – “We do look after each other and look out for each other, that keeps the stress levels low and the trust high,” says Yvonne Dobson, Finance and Administration Officer.

……

1‘A Story of Change, Helix Arts’ implementation of Arts Council England’s Thrive! Funding, An Organisation Development Programme’, Gayle Sutherland, A Creative Touch, December 2010.

It works….

I received an e-mail from the deputy head at Dormanstown Primary on Friday, her school is just going into its third year of the Creative Partnerships programme. It read..

Just finished our Creative Partners planning staff meeting and can’t believe how far the staff have come in terms of ‘creativity’ and ‘creative thinking’.  So pleased.

That is it – this is just a great news, congratulations to everyone kind of post. Every Friday should have one!

Expectations are high after award winning DVD

Tomorrow sees the start of my planning meetings with schools for this academic year.  I’m looking forward to the discussions with Dormanstown Primary School, near Redcar. In June they were winners of a Northern Grid Learning for Learning Award for best use of ICT in Modern Foreign Language and runners up in the Subject category.

The entry was from a Creative Partnerships project  we worked on which saw digital artist Rosie Davey support Year 2 pupils in making an interactive DVD/game – in french! At a time when policy makers are commenting on the lack of take up in language study these 6 year olds showed great enthusiasm for it.

You walk down the street and visit each building along it - interacting in french as you navigate the various activities offered in each.

The DVD provides a computer based environment that enables the ‘player’ to explore a scene and make decisions about where to go – built into the environment are many activities developed by the pupils from games to language tasks. The environment itself was also created by the pupils. This format allowed a wide range of approaches and materials to be used from collage to computer animation, and included speaking and listening activities.

The class teacher Sue Skillcorn was a key part of the delivery team, she feels the project supported not only pupil development but expanded the teacher skill base – she explains:

Increase in pupil confidence and self esteem has been a major outcome, pupils normally reserved in class have become speakers and used techniques like talking through masks to build that, the confidence to speak has transferred into writing approaches and improvements have been seen across literacy areas.

The project gave pupils different ways of presenting their knowledge, in a fun and highly engaging way. Pupils  worked together very effectively, they negotiated, debated and reached conclusions that are based on compromise to a higher level than we usually see in classroom. There was a willingness to share skills, for example a pupil usually quite self focussed offered to support and advise other pupils on using the ICT.

We teachers have become significantly more confident in using ICT across the curriculum and are increasingly planning it into teaching delivery, from using computer through to video cameras. Staff have a better understanding of what pupils are capable of technologically – which is far in excess of what we assumed.

Teachers have also learnt new ways of building individual pieces up into collaborative end points and have begun to use those techniques in different curriculum areas, such as story-writing. The school has a far wider understanding of what ‘arts’ might mean in the school. It has inspired and given permission to staff to think in cross curricular topic based planning.

Redcar and Cleveland Education Authority are so impressed by the children’s DVD that they now want to roll it out to the other Primary schools in the area.

I’ll let you know what the school gets up to this year…..