Category Archives: Ideas

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.


TEDxKids@Sunderland – the start of the story

TEDx shapes appear at every authorised TEDx event

Pupils making the freestanding TEDx letters which appear at every licensed TEDx event

Anyone who follows my twitter feed – or that of Ewan McIntosh or Tom Barrett of NoTosh probably couldn’t miss that last Friday, 27th May 2011, was the day Year 3 and Year 4 students from one primary school in Sunderland, UK achieved a remarkable event – their own TEDx developed, organised, performed and documented by the pupils in those two classes. Through a wonderfully pupil led project those young people approached a task many adults would think twice (and maybe more) about.

TED is a global phenomena – inspirational talks presented at TED events but made available through the internet. In their words: “TED’s mission is spreading ideas. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building  a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.”  TEDx is: “designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.”

The first of the audience arriving for TEDxKids@Sunderland

So how did a group of pupils in Sunderland tap into and respond to this? In this first of a number of posts I’ll be making about the project I’ll describe a little of the early part of the journey. This journey that led pupils to be delivering talks about their passions and concerns, talks including: Why you should raise money for Cancer Research…Why my Mum is my best Friend… How big are families?…What are you doing about car pollution?… What would it be like to win Wimbledon?… Why slugs have slime… Do you know what it is like to be me?

In its final year of the Creative Partnerships programme, the TEDxKids@Sunderland school wanted to continue with a strand that had run across the two previous year. The enquiry question summarised this as: “Can more opportunities for ‘speaking out’ support pupils in extending their vocabulary and understanding situation appropriate language, and support the understanding of body and facial expression?” They particularly wanted pupils to be able to better understand the range of appropriate language forms that exist and to be able to modulate between them successfully – thus extending their speaking skills to benefit both their literacy skills and to support them through life.

One of the joys of working as an Agent on the Creative Partnerships Change School programme is it giving me a three year relationship, assisting schools to build enquiry based creative programmes (supported by creative practitioners) which aim to respond to key objectives within their school development plan. My knowledge of the pupils and staff grew and with that an understanding of approaches that would challenge everyone but also energise them and stand a good chance of being deliverable. But there are never any certainties in a process which encourages appropriate risk taking.

In Spring 2010 I had the opportunity to see Ewan McIntosh speak at a conference. I was inspired by his emphasis on learning for purpose and willingness to challenge school leaders about their fears of new technology. I immediately applied for a bursary to secure some mentoring support from him – around building knowledge of use of social media and wider technology (It was successful – hurrah!!). In spending time with him I came to learn that language was something Ewan was passionate about so it occurred to me that he might have an interest in the school’s  enquiry. The response he came up with was a brave one, and he enthused to me (on my mobile phone at a service station carpark!) “wouldn’t it be interesting to see what happens when you offer young children a format like TED, what would they make of it? How far would they take it? How might they respond to it?”

I hope you can see that right from the start it was a curiosity about the pupils response and actions – it wasn’t ‘lets organise a TEDx’ but ‘lets see what the pupils want to do with this.’ This pupil led approach was perfect for the ethos of Creative Partnerships, and taking it back to the school it was greeted with enthusiasm from the Head, who turned out to be a TED lover already, and with a deep breath, and some intrepidation,  we were off…

Facebook and mobile phones taking students in new directions

Developing facebook profiles to explore the historical characters selected for the performance

When Prior Pursglove College, Guisborough came into the Creative Partnerships programme in the hope of support for students developing a performance for the College’s 450th anniversary celebration they can be forgiven for not imaging that it would lead to facebook profiling and actors on stage receiving instructions via mobile phone to determine their next actions thanks to an audience empowered by interactive tablet computer technology.

A great blog post of the project, written by Adrian Riley of Electric Angel – the artist brought in to work with students, can be found here.

Audience members made selections which activated mobile phone messages to actors on stage giving them performance instructions

The idea for the project came from looking at how additional funding could bring significant challenge and new practice to the performing arts department who were keen to work with arts professionals from beyond the world of theatre. The notion of pervasive games I introduced was new to staff and pupils, and we felt it could make links beyond what others expected of a celebratory piece of outdoor theatre, offering pupils a highly contemporary starting point to look back through history. The brief we circulated among potential arts partners was more specific than is often the case, and students were delighted with the proposal offered by Adrian Riley, which suggested some starting points for exploration but kept the project very pupil led.

Pupils had never developed a piece of theatre like this, and it was far from a comfortable experience as they learnt about the unpredictability of audience led interactive work. They gained confidence but did decide to scale down some of the possibilities to help limit their nervousness. About half of the students cited the research period as a highlight – a surprise to them, with one realising that she could bring her joint passions for history and theatre together in a fantastically engaging way. Another pupil talked of how she “had done more work for this project than the rest of the course put together, because it depended on us – if we didn’t make it it wouldn’t happen. No-one was going to do it for us, and there was no script to just perform. It was really down to us – Adrian gave us great inspiration, showed us some amazing things but he expected us to use that and do something with it. He isn’t from theatre, he was clear about that, he didn’t know about making performances – that was our job.”

Students presented the work twice during the College celebrations, in their words “it was more like something you’d get in London – things like that don’t happen in Guisborough.”

Staff are keen to replicate some of the approaches Adrian introduced and have already developed a range of possibilities for how facebook can be used across their curriculum. Lead teacher on the project Laura Hawley feels “students will carry this experience forward with them probably more than all the other work they have done. It was more experimental and something that they will deepen their understanding of over their next few years at University. When they look back they will be even more impressed with what they achieved.”

We’d all like to hear about any other examples of work like this – do let us know if you have dabbled with technology in similar ways.

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

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.

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.

And another ‘thing’

The Generator

Remember that ‘thing’ that Kirkbymoorside Primary School are looking to create? Well I received an e-mail from Rhiannon Ellis at the Theatre Royal in Wakefield last week that began:

“I recently saw that you were interested in a ‘thing’ to explore science and wanted to let you know that we potentially have a ‘thing’ to give away!”

You see – the ‘thing’ word is catching on just as I wanted!!

Rhiannon explains:  “Over the last six months we have been touring round festivals and so on and  so forth with a specially architecturally designed ‘Cultural Generator!’ (which is kind of like a magical shed!). We have done this in conjunction with various cultural organizations in Wakefield but as we have reached the end of the project  the Generator is about to be installed in an exhibition at the Beam Gallery and we are discussing its life beyond the exhibition. It struck me that perhaps it could play a part in your future project?”

What a fantastic offer.

Why not pop along to see it, and let us know what you think. Or if you can’t make it to the exhibition there is a fun film of it being constructed here. (yep still not quite worked out the inserting video into a post bit – next lesson I think!!!)

B&Q here we come – yes, with Year 3

I met with two amazing teachers at Alderman Leach Primary School in Darlington last week. They were really challenging! After some discussion their creative partnerships project plan is looking like giving Year 3 pupils an opportunity to build and construct – on a large scale. A pupil led project, with materials and tools around, and an exploratory approach offered – in the hope that pupils experience and enjoy taking risks and develop some responsibility for their own learning along the way.

I found it was me panicking, asking ‘but what curriculum do we need to cover?’ as they insisted that they could look at anything that hadn’t been covered naturally at the end of the project and mop up missed topics over the rest of the year. For them it was the attitude to learning that they wanted to explore and support pupils to build curiosity.

All three of us have been inspired by  Grounds for Learning and their approach to risk assessment to support not hinder such activities, and love the idea of taking young pupils to B&Q shopping, loading the trolly up with saws and drills (and that is early years pupils – our Year 3’s should be a dream then!!).  And are enthused by the excitement and achievement of pupils working with The Tinkering School in the US – especially the 7 year olds making their own rollercoaster –  now we are talking….

Gever Tulley founder of The Tinkering School’s blogs this inspiring and challenging post

“One of the great pleasures of running the Tinkering School blog is that I get amazing email from people around the world. One message that really got me thinking was one from John Wood who took some time to list his accomplishments before graduating from high school:

  • Build a 180mph race car
  • Build a cannon that fired a 13 ounce cannon ball 1000 yds into a 12 in. target.
  • Build a house
  • Invent a learning system, to teach my sister the functions of complex machines of any complexity (I later found out that I had rediscovered systems theory)
  • Invent a diagnostic system to understand many of the disfunctional interrelationships in my nuclear family (With a little help from Fritz Pearls)
  • Develop a plan to extort $20,000,000 from the city of Houston, Tx. (Why I mention this ridiculous idea is amusing. I wrote the idea up for a tenth grade composition class and got lots of unwanted attention! It was also the impetous for a successful life long career in security!)
  • Learned to repair and refit loose dentures for my grandpa and read an anatomy book.
  • Graft 5 types of apples on one tree
  • Repair plumbing
  • Repair electrical apliances (vacuum sweepers were my favorite)
  • Operate most common heavy equipment (front loader, dump bed trucks, backhoe, Ditch Witch etc.
  • Use high explosives
  • Work a gold mine
  • Survive in the woods, desert or in a city for a week at a time without planning or provisions. (This one got me grounded for months!)
  • Defend myself against against a knife or gun attack (both have saved my life)
  • Repair an elevator
  • Write a poem to a girl that made her cry with joy

John graduated high school in 1971.

In summary he says:

My life has been enriched by my childhood experiences more than I can express. I have done things others can only imagine or dread. However, without the freedom that my father gave me to risk life and limb without tragic injury, none of my successes or my facinating life would have transpired.I would have stayed the frightened, withdrawn person, I was as a small child.

I’m not advocating or recommending this list of accomplishments, but I marvel at how impossible it would be for most kids these days to do any of them.

But here’s what I do advocate: we should all strive to write a poem that moves someone to tears, we should all have lives that are more interesting that what we watch on television.”

Are we risk averse as adults? How do you fare against the TV challenge? What challenge do you give yourself?

A ‘thing’ is, well, a ‘thing’

I have just written a brief for artists to work in Kirkbymoorside Primary school. Pupils there love hands on activity and have decided to commission someone to work with them to design and make a ‘thing’ in the school grounds. The ‘thing’ will be some sort of structure/sculpture/happening/’thing’ that helps pupils to explore science, so it might have bits that come from it, it might do something, or in itself it may offer an experience. It sounds great this ‘thing’ even though no-one has any idea yet about how it might look, what it might be made of or how it might be used – because they need to decide that through exploration and experimentation.

Over 15 years ago I remember a Crafts Council conference following which ‘the vessel’ came to be common lingo – gone was the quandary over whether to call something a vase, a sculpture, a jug and so-on. Well today it felt like like ‘a thing’ should become common parlance – what else could it have been called? What better description is there? So that is what I put in the brief – a ‘thing’. Anything else would just have limited it.

I’m curious to see what the response will be.

Student voice – more than choosing lunch menus?

How seriously do we take student voice?

I’m meeting with a Headteacher next week who is interested in developing stronger pupil voice in school, and how artists might support that journey. I’ll be sharing with her this  great piece by Ewan McIntosh the full article can be found here

“….Rather than seeing young people as cogs to be prepared for an industrial age future, learner voice focused school leaders and teachers on letting young people have a say in how their school was run and, much more importantly, what and how they learn. However, it is quickly becoming edu-jargon, with its actual meaning for day-to-day learning becoming less clear to those teaching young people and, vitally, to young people themselves. Learner voice has all too often been reduced to making choices on what the lunch menu will be.

…. What’s clear is that where practice might be considered “the best,” learner voice has not been reduced simply to asking students what they want at school (“What can we at the school cede to learners?”) but has become the principal vehicle for teaching and learning (“What do you want to learn, how do you want to learn it, and what can we at the school do to help make it happen?”).

In Albany Senior High School on the north shores of Auckland, it is the whole system that has been geared up towards letting students direct their own learning…. Every Wednesday, for the whole day, students have the time and the efforts of the whole staff turned towards their passions: whatever community Impact Product they want to create, the school will do what it can to make it happen. One student built a VW “Herbie” car, designed to attract attention and raise funds for Auckland’s children’s hospital, only to be invited to have it shipped to the States for an event. Another student has built a working EPG-fuelled rocket. Others repaired nearby waterways. Still others have designed a content delivery platform for the school’s LCD screen system, inadvertently undercutting the commercial outfit pitching to the local university by some $NZ 280,000. The vision for this is based around Professor R. Shrank’s philosophy:
“There is really only one way to learn how to do something, and that is to do it.”

At the beginning of this process, not all students know what their passion is, and so over the initial weeks of these 15-week projects, mentors in the teaching staff help them to identify what it is they are passionate about, what makes them tick. In the words of one member of staff: “When they eventually work out what it is that makes them tick, their eyes come alive. At that point, there’s no stopping them in achieving what they set their hearts on.”

This  has rubbed off on other elements of pedagogy, thinking, and school management. “Students feel that they are being treated as adults, asked to make important decisions on large projects, and to construct real products of their learning,” said the school principal, Barbara Cavanagh. Barriers to thinking about technology implementations also are taken away: The school does what few have managed, and uses only open-source operating systems and software on its machines, saving around $NZ 200,000 a year (as noted in this Education Gazette article).”

Impressive hey…..