Monday, 30 November 2009

Learning through film making.....

Seems to be a video theme recently, but I recently took part in a team video project to get a number of key messages across in a 30 second silent movie.

Seven people, 30 seconds, only 20 minutes filming time (plus editing and words), and a series of messages, takes some planning, organising and prioritising. We did speculate whether, as adults, we were being too precious about it and trying to be too clever to be effective. As can probably be predicted we took a sensible, planned and fairly literal interpretation to the task - although we did use lots of humour (well we laughed).

This was a big challenge - we did take it seriously and were quite pleased with the result (considering!). We did tackle the main points we wanted. Importantly though, it was a different form of working and not only did we try - we also had massive fun doing it. Everyone contributed, got involved and was really engaged.

Learning is about engagement, and wanting to be part of it...... we were lucky to have a film crew, but equally the same could have been done with mobile technology.....

But what would students have done? Undoubtedly they would have been more creative, spontaneous and probably used a variety of media, music, graphics to illustrate the messages. Actually, from experience, they would almost certainly have been better.

More and more video is a key part of coursework - but still too many teachers don't use it or accept it - why not?

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

"We Are The People We've Been Waiting For'

I often get people approaching me to link to things from my blog to something else, usually cheap on-line degrees and other such forms of advertising. I usually ignore them.
However, from time to time, things that look really interesting come along and I am more than happy to support them. A trailer for the new film "We are the People We've Been Waiting For" certainly looks good and raises some interesting questions - not necessarily new- but ones that still need to be answered.
The film, titled ‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’, was inspired and guided by Lord Puttnam and Sir Michael Barber and explores the education system in the UK. It asks whether the current system provides young people with the opportunity to develop their talents. High-profile figures sharing their personal experiences and views include Sir Richard Branson, Germaine Greer, Henry Winkler, Bill Bryson, Sir Ken Robinson and a wide range of education experts from around the world.

This thought-provoking film offers unique insight across generations and nations, and reveals a very inconvenient truth about education. The world is changing rapidly – but our education system is not keeping pace.

‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’ follows the lives of five Swindon-based teenagers and the challenges they face during their education. It reveals the dislocation between our education system and the rapidly changing, globalised world which is increasingly dominated by digital technology, and focuses on the need for fundamental change in teaching and learning.

Lord Puttnam is quoted: “I’ve no doubt that ‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’ has the potential to be a powerful catalyst for overdue educational reform. We need to provide all of our young people with an education that motivates them to learn, and enables them to discover what they are good at. ‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’ is intended to act as nothing less than a wake-up call.”

By exploring some of the more innovative approaches to education around the world, the film offers a glimpse of the future. It shows how much more flexible, exciting and engaging learning could be for young people - and how our education system could support them in identifying and making the most of their individual talents.

Following the premiere of ‘We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For’ on Tuesday 17th November the film will be released online on request at from next week and will also be syndicated free with the Guardian on Saturday 28th November.

This is worth looking out for - to see the YouTube trailer click either on the picture or here. We just cannot keep on doing the same old thing and expecting something different - lots of people do see that but are they the right people to make a difference?

A good team

I'm currently doing some small pieces of work with Southwark Local Authority on a new Academy project. They are a really motivated group and it's always great to see people you know being recognised for doing stuff well!

Therefore I was really pleased to see them get a hat-trick of awards at the recent Partnership for Schools: 'Excellence in BSF Awards 2009'. The broad combination of "Best Design Advisor (Catherine Brownell), 'Best Change Programme' and 'Local Authority of the Year' reflects well cross the whole team.
Just congratulations to all of them!! (and keep going!!)

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Third Teacher Blog..

I have written a number of posts about the new book 'The Third Teacher'. What is so good here is that oWp/p are not just architects who do a job and run.... they are genuinely working to research and inform all interested what they have found out, what current thought leaders are thinking and sharing what is happening around the world.
I was flattered to see a post come online concerning a recent presentation I did in Chicago posted on The Third Teacher blog recently. The project described is fascinating and I really do hope that the staff at Stephenson really do consider all the options prior to the new developments in their Science Department....
Read the full post below or by clicking here:
The Third Teacher
October 30, 2009 – Stevenson High School Science Summit

Yesterday, OWP/P Cannon Design had the pleasure of leading a Science Summit at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL. The summit gathered together science teachers, board members, school administrators and designers to rethink the way science is taught and science classrooms are designed at Stevenson.

OWP/P Cannon Design invited Gareth Long, an Education Consultant based in the U.K. and Lizanne DeStafano, the Director of the Illinois Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Initiative (I-STEM) at the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign to present on science education with OWP/P Cannon Design principal, Trung Le.

Before the Science Summit began the OWP/P Cannon Design team and Gareth Long had the chance to tour the school. It was exciting to see Stevenson’s bright students eager to display their work and ideas as the tour group visited different classrooms. One student-teacher exchange later informed our Summit. A student asked the tour group to watch his video assignment, though his teacher replied, “Thanks for volunteering, but I don’t have your assignment.” The student's response: “Yes you do. Youtube it.” Seconds later, a Youtube search for the student’s name yielded the (highly entertaining) video for us to watch.

During his presentation, Gareth Long used this exchange to emphasize that science education must be relevant to students and technologically connected. Instead of teachers policing students who forget their worksheets at home, why not accept homework via e-mail, Bluetooth, Youtube or twitter, like the teacher at Stevenson? Gareth is currently working with Balfour Beatty Capital, a multi-national construction company that is actively involved in England’s Building Schools of the Future (BSF) program, an initiative to rebuild or completely renovate all of England’s schools by 2015.

Gareth shared projects from the BSF initiative that break down walls, literally, and promote connections between disciplines. For science spaces, he advocated spaces that are agile (can be changed in a minute with moveable furniture), flexible (can be changed in an afternoon with options for electricity, data, gas and water hook ups) and adaptable (can be changed over time to accommodate changes in teaching).

Lizanne DeStefano spoke about her work at the University of Illinois to expand the role of science at research institutions to include a Pre-K-16 education component. I-STEM has multiple programs including partnerships with K-16 schools to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outreach and support for teacher training and development in STEM. During the summit she described specific projects including collaboration with the Science Olympiad program, work with the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities to develop STEM schools and programs promoting professional development for teachers and science research experiences for students.

After the presentations the Summit broke into smaller groups to discuss the future of Stevenson’s Science program. Stevenson’s science teachers gravitated to ideas like flexible technology and presentation, putting science on display, engaging with students concerning the future of science education and promoting interdisciplinary learning between science and all other disciplines,

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Awards - and so many people working to do the right thing!!

I rarely attend awards dinners, but last week I was invited to attend the 'Excellence in BSF' Awards, organised by Partnership for Schools. I was hosted as a guest of one of the many companies present. (Thank you very much to those other companies who also invited me). It really was a totally fab evening at the Grosvenor House Hotel and I am glad I went, but I was blown away by how many people attended - over one thousand attendees in fact.

I sat contemplating for some time just how many people were working trying to really do the right thing for our young people and make things so much better. Not just those present but all those behind the scenes who never get to events like this.
The sheer scale really did make me think...... everyone is really trying to do the right thing as we move to 21st century education!
(Special mention goes to the speaker and Awards MC; Dara O'Briain. Not only was he hilarious - he also got through the awards in record time - very slick, very efficient, very funny!)

Designing - anywhere anytime

During BCSE's recent World Learning Environments Conference, one display in the 'market place' featured bags of Lego encouraging anyone to design (and build) a response about any aspect of the conference and write a slogan about it. There were many aspects of the conference that could produce a response - the amazing Halewood Centre for Learning in Knowsley was an obvious one!

It was just fun to see a group of designers immediately rise to the challenge - as many others did! I do wonder what students would have made of it though. I'm sure that their ideas would have been really exciting!
one response did not even take the bits out of the bag!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

BCSE World Learning Environments Conference

The first Annual World Learning Environments Conference put on by BCSE took place in Knowsley. Cleverly, it took place in the amazing and innovative Halewood Centre for Learning and was attended by delegates from all over both the UK and abroad. (BCSE really DO put some smart conferences!)
Whilst the conference was very good, with some really interesting speakers, the idea of holding it in a school, and not the usual hotel approach, won great praise for BCSE.
This new building, built by main conference sponsors Balfour Beatty, attracted massive interest with its really innovative design. The small learning communities, use of space, lack of corridors, localised unisex bathrooms, and central atrium, complete with a wide variety of new types of furniture ensured literally hundreds of photographs were taken, with many people talking of returning with staff and other colleagues.
Even better was the fact that not only did the conference start with students singing and dancing (literally), Year 10 and 11 students (14-16 year olds) were also present for a portion of the day doing their normal work. This was not a totally empty showcase devoid of any sign of students. Obviously some students were on 'off site' activities to facilitate the large number of delegates to meet together, attend numerous seminars and tour the facilities.
The students I spoke to loved this new school, the Headteacher loves the school, and apparently most of the staff love the school. Sounds like a good recipe for potential success really!
For Professor Stephen Heppells blog on this conference - click here
For Mike Baker's blog on the conference - click here

a few of the talented students from Halewood Centre for Learning launching the start of the Conference

'The Third Teacher' launched in the UK

(pictured l - r: Axel Haberen of VS Furniture (Germany), BCSE Chief Executive; Ty Goddard, and the brains behind the book Trung Le and Rick Dewar of American architects oWp/p)
At a champagne reception at the start of the BCSE World Learning Environments Conference last week, the excellent book 'The Third Teacher' was launched. I've written on more than one occasion about this book, but the third teacher refers to the learning environment. It features contributions from all over the world.
I was fortunate to be very slightly involved in the process leading up to this book. (If you look really carefully you can see my photo - but you do have to look very hard indeed!) it really is incredibly easy to read and a valuable resource with 79 ideas for everyone involved in education and engaging learning environments.
There was massive interest in this book and certainly the word is that the sales of this are increasing all the time. I have seen friends Rick and Le talk about it all over the place. What's good about it is that it is not designed as a coffee table book but one to be used, referred to, written in and be a 'live' resource.
It is just great that architects oWp/p have spent considerable resources and time developing 'The Third Teacher'. it is a great contribution to the further debate about learning.
For more detail on 'The Third Teacher' click here.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Food, training, transparency.. GREAT!

In Rotherham attending a meeting, I passed Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food shop. I believe that the project was so successful that it has been continued by the local authority.

But what really caught my eye was the total transparency of the space to the main shopping street outside. I am always writing about transparency in learning spaces and celebrating what is happening inside. It's not very often you see it in adult learning places. It's just great! It's only a small preparation and cooking space but really great things happen inside - and can be enjoyed by those passing and help motivate other people. It's a great start for finding ways to promote and celebrate learning of all sorts. How will they follow this model I wonder. It clearly works!

Funky seating....

Nothing profound - just really funky seating I spotted in a shopping arcade in Birmingham last week as I walked through. Regular readers will know I have, from time to time post photos of furniture that catches my eye.

I am always looking out for 'cool' designs and ideas - the chairs above are just great fun - and very comfortable. Seating does not have to be boring - we need fun and individuality in our schools - not just institutionalised furniture. Why can't we have cool and unusual ideas in social spaces, eating areas and scattered around? I know that young people really do like them.
It's just fun!

Water - just adds so much to environments....

Visiting Sheffield last week I was really impressed by the long 'wall of water' right outside Sheffield station, with other supporting fountains. It is really impressive. Water always adds so much to environments (internal and external) - I don't really know why we don't use it more in schools. (I don't mean anything as big as the photo above).

Talking to colleagues about it - they all feel the same. Talking to students - they nearly all ask for water in new school environments - often these ideas are removed by staff or features are 'value engineered' out. It really is a pity when this happens.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

21st Century learning and working kit

Sorting out my work case the other day, I was just amazed how much 'kit' I regularly walk around with! Laptop, camera, (usually a smaller one than the one shown), remote control for when I am presenting, mouse, digital pen, memory sticks, headsets, two blackberry's (don't ask why two), iTouch and a whole mass of cables, power cords and so on.....

It may seem a lot, but then I remember when I used to go to work in school, or attend meetings with piles of paper, files and other 'stuff' all of which was 'essential', despite my best efforts at minimalism supported by a very efficient PA.
The power contained in the kit above really does mean that I can work anywhere, write the blog, take photos and so on. The phone has a camera, so I don't really need to take a separate one, but the panoramic feature on my small camera is very useful at times.
Would I swap it for a good old pen and paper? No way, life really has moved on.