Monday, 29 June 2009

To post or not to post...

The comments I have got over the years are really interesting... one moment just last week they are incredibly complementary about my style..... the next day I get a fairly rude negative one telling me to basically not bother to write anything unless I am going to sound off about something of real depth and substance. (It was not published as the writer predicted). The same person even doubted I used to be a Headteacher.

Maybe my slightly non conventional non 'heavy' style is one of the reasons that the schools I led seemed to do so well, including one being very high in the most improved list two years in a row. Many comments, especially the positives do not get published.

I have always stated that this blog is not intended to be a heavyweight or deeply philosophical exposition about educational theory. It is
absolutely no more than my very quick observations or thoughts on things that happen during my working week, or things that make me smile or shudder. It is a form of diary really, when I have time to keep it.

I am extremely fortunate to work all over the place on all sorts of projects,
BSF, Academies as well as a range of international strategic projects.

My blog style will change no doubt as time goes on but right now it is what it is, with thousands of returning readers a year. No apologies.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


Different day, different city. Spotted today in a Liverpool taxi - is this what they mean by handsfree?

Nothing educational, no philosophy - just a sight that just amused me. And as for the ring tones... the dedicated one for his wife resembled an emergency klaxon with a shouted message "Alert alert alert, it's the wife".

Three times she phoned during our journey... he never did answer it!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Making plans real

Making plans real is hard for many people especially for those not used to interpreting them. Considering teaching / learning spaces to day with a variety of educators and authority personnel involved mocking up spaces to full scale in a warehouse.

This enabled us to demonstrate a really wide range of learning, FF&E and multi ICT solutions. We could then really demonstrate the impact on the planning and learning in these spaces. and how they could enhance learning experiences for both students and school staff.

More than one person noted that they had spent so long looking at plans that the spaces were 'shrinking' in their minds every time they looked at them. Seeing their own plans modelled to scale and having the opportunity to walk through them brought home just how large the spaces really are and what amazing opportunities they provided for staff and learners to work in wide range of learning styles.

A complex operation to organise in a short space of time by colleagues, but it really again brings home the message about people receiving and understanding information in different ways.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Learning environments don't have to just be on a field..

Working with my friend Professor Heppell in the south of England last week, we ended up looking at potential sites for new 21st century learning environments. It is amazing how many people think it has to be a field or similar site. Where is everyone's imagination?

When shown a potenial site that was anything but a field, more of a set from Doctor Who,, and then supported it with some really exciting concept graphics, people got really REALLY enthused. I am not surprised really - they were great! (Although the photo below does not show it, the site did also allow for all the facilities that would be needed, including outdoor spaces for sport, socialising etc)

Learning should be exciting, interesting and challenging..... the environment really does make a difference - and the location of that environment can play a major part in creating a truely memorable learning experience, not just for young learners but also the whole community.

Isn't that what we are trying to achieve?

Friday, 12 June 2009

Learning Spaces (more of)

I spent time this week visiting the newly created 'Real Centre' at RM's headquarters in Abingdon. The 'Real Centre' is really a large area dedicated to displaying examples of what a variety of future learning spaces may look like. These include a 'Da-Vinci' studio, open learning areas, a sensory area, a creative area, complete with green screen technology and more.

The learning areas, obviously fully IT resourced, are a great awareness raising and teaching facility for students, teachers, local authorities and developers of new learning environments.

One feature that I remain impressed by (not the dog seats pictured below, although they are fun), is the enclosed collaborative space in the photo above. Fully powered (including data) there are so many potential uses for these spaces in school, in learning resource areas, open learning areas, social spaces....

I spoke to students, the real clients, who were using such a space earlier this year. In that case they were using this facility in a large learning area with other students and adults around. They were using the quiet environment to record interviews with other students. These then were to be uploaded to create instant pod casts which could be loaded onto the school Virtual Learning Environment. The real transparency allows masses of passive supervision by staff, and there is also a small whiteboard area inside to explore ideas in a more traditional way.

All those students, without fail, wished that they had more of these in their schools. They noted that it allowed them to work in just one of the ways that they were comfortable with, amongst a wide range of approaches. Students really are so much more aware of their preferred learning strategies then many give them credit for!

The 'Real Centre' is already being visited by masses of visitors - I'm not surprised really.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A Monster Reception

Walking into a office block with a colleague this week in the north of England, we were amazed to see this larger than life figure in the Reception area. (sorry about the slightly blurry photo!)

So many people keep talking about the reception areas being really welcoming places - which I agree is just so important. However this figure additionally created a major focal and discussion point and made it a really interesting place to be, as well as being welcoming.

When students do create large sculptures or pieces of course work which are then displayed they frequently cause much discussion and many positive comments. Unfortunately we still don't often for go for large scale projects anywhere near enough. Even if we do, how often do we share them with the wider community?

One of the best large scale school reception displays I have ever seen was one students textiles exhibition at a school in Hampshire. Large exaggerated and incredibly dramatic costume dresses became a massive talking point all around the local district. This student work became really celebrated with community members visiting the school just to see them. Unfortunately it was also in the days before I carried a camera everywhere.

Now - if the figure above had been designed and made by a student - what a fab piece of sculpture that would be in a school reception!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Student conversations about school design

Earlier this week I spent time with secondary students in Blackburn talking about school design. They had spent some weeks identifying and photographing areas they liked and disliked in their current schools. They had also been having some real conversations exploring and confirming what they really considered to be important features of a new school build.

No surprise to me, but certainly to some of their staff, was the sophistication of their thinking, including the importance of internal transparency, of natural daylight and external views, appropriate and varied furniture, different learning spaces, colour, trees and plants, (inside and out), water features (inside and out), interesting and varied external spaces and so on.

They also had the variety this week to work with a variety of architects, (including landscape architects) to start to design their results of their student conversations. Some amazing and realistic ideas came forward. Although the photograph below looks fairly indecipherable, the thinking and design to those present and who were part of the conversation regarding the different elements was excellent.

Traditionally we have talked about student voice - this implies that adults listen and go away and maybe do something with what they have heard..... or maybe not.

I think we should really be rethinking this and referring to student conversations. If we do this, then that really does put the pressure on for these types of engagements to be an ongoing professional dialogue that results in genuine impact on schemes, on learning or what ever is being discussed. It surely is the only way forward!

Sorry for the absence......

Sorry to regular readers of this blog.... various events including a death in the family have caused me to concentrate on other things recently.

However, more posts are now imminent.