Wednesday, 31 December 2008
It was almost lonely working in a sparsely populated office and train! Aaaah! Having said that, the few occasions when I do work from home I tend to work far longer hours and get far more done. It's about having a variety of working styles and environments I guess.
But seriously, there are still so many classrooms where students are expected to work in silence all the time, even when it's not appropriate to and this potentially actively hinders collaborative learning - it's just not how people behave in real life.
That's why it is so important that, as we build new learning environments, we really do provide a variety of learning spaces with the agility to change to be the most appropriate for that particular learning activity. Even more importantly, staff must be confident in using them - another major challenge!
Never mind - relax - chill - I now have two days with the family and the weekend before I start my work travels again. Next week: Manchester, Derby, London and who knows where else! I personally think that 2009 is going to be a really exciting year for me with, I hope, lots of opportunities - keep reading the blog and website if you want to know more. But for now:
Happy New Year Everyone and have a fab 2009!
Tuesday, 30 December 2008
My independent thinking 19 year old daughter is a dab hand at all sorts of things, including building 'kit furniture'. She has, however, decided that the really cool tool in her limited collection is her new small electric screwdriver - because it is pink! Even better it has a 'headlight' so you can see where the screw is. Bizarre really - I have not seen this feature before -but she loves it! (Makes you wonder how anyone has survived for so many years without a headlight really!!)
I really am not suggesting that we colour code all such resources in schools from now on, but all her female friends do think it is very cool! And... if you 'google' pink screwdriver it turns out that there are pages of pink tools aimed at the female market - so why haven't we cottoned on to this?
Lots of people have spent ages thinking about ways of attracting more and more girls into technology and previously messy workshop environments - maybe we should have been considering the resources in use all along. As many of the technology subjects in our 21st century technology curriculum become cleaner maybe we can introduce more colour, maybe including pink drills etc.. Or am I just being very deliberately provocative? :-) (But we do already have very bright orange, green and blue tools - why not pink?)
Very bizarrely, writing about pink objects seems to attract a huge internet following in its own right. A previous blog post of mine 'The Pink Train' about my youngest daughter's new toy has attracted literally hundreds of hits in it's own right. Perhaps this Pink Screwdriver blog post will as well.
Have a great New Year!
Monday, 29 December 2008
I was talking the other day to a number of educationalists about furniture for schools. One said, quite determinedly that all chairs etc for secondary schools should be black, brown or dark gray - that's all. For heavens sake -why?
Maybe bright pink is not the answer for everywhere, but lets bring some colour and excitement into our learning lives!
The importance of colour and environments plays a huge role in how people work and perform in that space. If we give boring and dull, then it sets the mood. Carefully co-ordinated environments designed for a variety of purposes, with a variety of furniture and colours, can really help shape exciting vibrant learning spaces, that will, in turn, help creative and innovative learning.
Lets really all try and make sure that 2009 is a year for helping create exciting and innovative learning spaces - for every one's sake!
Oh and HAPPY NEW YEAR to every one!
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
We do need to value and look after our staff, they are always our greatest resource. Another school organised massages and well being events for its staff during developmental days - great! But these things can be just a little superficial (although popular).
Sunday, 21 December 2008
My real thanks to all those people who have taken the time to visit the blog, no matter how briefly, and those hundreds of people who keep coming back.
I will try and continue to make constant updates and keep it interesting, and not too serious, as I work and move all over the place.
Again thanks to everyone.
Thanks to everyone
Saturday, 20 December 2008
No longer is what happens in classrooms a secret activity shared by just the occupants in the room at that particular time. Nor should it be.
With increasing numbers of adults with different roles and skills working in schools, with older students mentoring younger ones, with stage not age learning, there has never been a better time for students and staff to be both excited and honest about the learning experiences taking place.
I haven't posted a depressing picture for ages. In fact I haven't seen such a closed unwelcoming door for years. The photograph above was in a school I visited some time ago, but it really does demonstrate one end of the spectrum regarding the preparedness of staff to embrace the emerging ethos of sharing and transparency. IIn fairness, this was the only door of the school like it!)
Giving staff the confidence to work in new ways is a long and important journey. The planning and professional development opportunities to develop skills take lots of time. Not getting that bit right with the most nervous or determinedly 'anti' staff can undermine the whole process in schools!
Get it right, and the learning opportunities and experiences can be just amazing!
Thursday, 18 December 2008
The answer for Islington Arts and Media School was to make it a fitness trail - what else? This photograph really does not do it justice as it cover three sides of the hard play space with two lanes,with lots of activities, one for each direction, thereby effectively creating a loop. With the mature trees in place it almost looks like a woodland trail.
Students love it, it is very different, and they get more engaged in physical activities as a result. It is challenging whilst fun.
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
People will always talk about content and style, but it is still there after almost a decade - it really brightens the street up, and even better,there is little evidence of any damage.
I frequently talk about including art into both learning and community environments, it just adds so much. When the stakeholders are engaged in the design and hopefully creation, the ownership and sense of belonging really kicks in!
The same applies to schools. Celebrating art work by students throughout the schools (not just the foyer and art rooms) is a must. The attention it gets is remarkable and a real motivating factor for students, staff, paren and the local community. As we design new schools, the need for purpose built sculpture spaces is just a really vital aspect to be considered.
In Islington this community would be a much duller place without the mural! Much like learning environments that do not celebrate the arts really!
The detail about the Millenium Mural:
Part of the post includes a video by my friend and 'guru' Professor Stephen Heppell who talks about the future of learning and technology, but including some history as well. As always it is a well reasoned 'chat' that makes so much sense. And, of course, he has been proved to be right so often!
An interesting view (Blog post dated 14 December 08) click here!
As for Creative Tallis - wouldn't it be just great if every school were so proactive about the learning that they want in their schools. Talking regularly about approaches to learning must have a positive impact in the school and is a great form of ongoing development. This must be especially true as they involve students, who are often so much wiser about their own preferred learning styles than the teachers!
I will watch this blog with interest.
Friday, 12 December 2008
This school has a really great environment and enormous attention has been paid to the detail that makes it so appropriate for these students with a wide range of needs. I will post some more photos later.
As always I suspect that some of this has been due to the total dedication, enthusiasm and energy of the Headteacher and her team who have been involved with every stage of the design process.
There are, of course, a few lessons to learn - there always are with any new school, but there are many lessons that those designing new special schools should take from this just fab school.
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Some do get it right - Williamstown High School in Australia, (see photo above), has really managed to achieve light airy corridor areas that combines with learning, social and display spaces. It looks great!
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Friday, 5 December 2008
People are coming up with a wide range of solutions to allow agility in learning environments - with so many ideas coming on the market, there must be things for most people.
The biggest battle is to ensure people select and buy what will be most appropriate, attractive and comfortable for students - they're the ones who have to use it!
In some cases students have selected from a limited range provided by a specialist supplier, and then their ideas were rejected. So why ask them?
(More on furniture over the next few weeks)
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Derby City has high expectations of the BSF programme and are, this year, the most improved local education authority in the UK. They are ambitious and eager for every student to be able to achieve excellence in outstanding learning environments.
Students from St. Benedicts School also performed extracts from a musical they had written themselves to the packed room of mainly dark suited men. They celebrating a wide range of talents and skills. Why shouldn't this type of performance be accredited as a form of project work? They had certainly worked extremely hard. with professional actors and developed a range of skills - you can't take a written test of this!
However, whilst waiting in the foyer, I couldn't help but notice a slightly tatty disposable coffee cup in the display cabinet against the crystal and silver ware. Surely no one left it there by accident? Then I noticed it was signed. I wrote a post two days ago (see below) about the poor celebration of sporting heroes just below, with their statues being placed outside car parks - this is the opposite!
Bemused I asked about the coffee cup -it turns out that in 2005, Derby player Paul Peschisolido kicked a ball towards goal during the match against local rivals Nottingham Forest. The ball was missing the goal until it hit this coffee cup which had been thrown onto the pitch and was deflected into the goal! It was allowed as no player had touched it. Although it looks rather out of place, no one can argue that they have not celebrated this strange story in style and continue to do so!
You cannot always predict what success looks like or what causes it.
How do we celebrate the many successes of our students if what they have done does not conform to the expectations we have or, as one Headteacher said to me, "within the celebration framework of the school" -what ever that is!
A lesson here in all sorts of ways! celebration, display, expectations, and so much more!
Monday, 1 December 2008
Having the centralised technical staff phoning you informing you have a fault in your system before you have noticed it your self must be encouraging for Headteachers, and the many other users of the system! I just wonder why they did not notice themselves? L0ts of green icons on the screens is good - red is bad. If only everything in education could be monitored so easily.
The photograph shows the desk of one of the system monitoring personnel... I get confused with two screens - if I had four to monitor ... eek!!
Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson, both sporting icons, former England football team managers, and former managers of ITFC, have had statues placed in their honour just outside the stadium in different roads. However, in placing them, little thought seems to have been given as the environment they were placed in and the final look to give them the respect they deserve, both as pieces of art and as to who they portray. They both back onto car parks and these ultimately therefore dominate any view.
Even in the short time I was there, people were taking photographs - but the entire backgrounds of both are various cars, which is really a bit naff! It could be a planning issue, but that makes no sense, maybe it just needs a bit more thought and design!
It would have been much better if there was a backdrop behind each of the statues to really make them the features they deserve to be, without the rather nasty distractions behind.
We are spending a lot of time talking about celebrating students work in learning environments. We really must model this in the community as well. It's a pity but these could be displayed so much better.