The Blogosphere/Kateosphere Timeframe Continuum

Over the past five weeks I have moved house, written 15 evaluation reports and travelled back in time to a Pontin’s Holiday Camp in the 1940’s; it has been a time of surreal, delightful and inspiring moments juxtaposed with others that were challenging, exhausting and exasperating in equal measures! My house move was not the best timed and although I am very happy in my compact and bijoux cottage there have been a few minor complications. Considering that I had only reached day 17 of 100hr new technology challenge, I congratulated myself for having the foresight to ask if you could get broadband at my prospective property on my first viewing. Although the answer was ‘yes’ the clue was in the rural location, absence of mains gas and cess pit at the bottom of the garden! It has been problematic to say the least and after many failed attempts, endless hours on the phone to call centres and several temper tantrums I now have mobile broadband! I have discovered wi-fi hotspots which I can connect to through my replacement stay-away-from -the-hoover-netbook and will step my challenge up a notch by up and downloading in establishments that serve cake! I have definitely connected with my inner technogeek and was thrilled when Matthew in the O2 shop gave me a link to a data usage calculator and am equally devastated that the link is now broken!  The other house complication was that I have a tiny staircase and oversized bed, not the best combination and one that required the removal of a window.  During this time frame I have also attended my brother’s wedding, two family christenings, sports day and parents evening, looked round new schools for September, oh and I have been submerged in a particularly intense period of work. I’m not a ‘yes but…’ girl but this chaotic few weeks has taught me that sometimes life just takes over and throws you off course and at times I can’t balance the blogosphere/kateosphere timeframe continuum.

Keep Calm and Carry on

The day after I moved, I had the pleasure of accompanying eight Fulbridge Mini-Agents to meet with CTN ( http://ctn.co.uk), a corporate communications company in London (please see my previous post for background info) to discuss how an online resource could be created to share their school’s amazing creative journey as a National School of Creativity. We used twitter to capture and share images, thoughts and observations throughout the day.  What ensued was a delightful visual diary. An unexpected outcome of the day was the interest that this activity created and I am grateful to fellow Creative Agents @subhadassi and @cath_ford for the encouraging messages they sent to the Mini-Agents and to @CCEinsights and CTN for following us. The children were thrilled to have such attention from creative professionals and this interaction added another dimension to the day. After a picnic lunch in Trafalgar Square and using the decadent facilities at the National Portrait Gallery we were ready for our Charlie Bucket moment and entered the CTN building with the same enthusiasm as if it had been Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. We met with Ian Smalley, the Creative Director who introduced us to the Creative Team. Throughout our post lunch meeting we were treated as clients and I was very proud of the articulate way in which the Mini-Agents put forward their suggestions. We were also treated to a tour of the building, recording time in the television studio and a visit to the fridge of temptation and its everlasting supply of free pop! Ten year old Ibrahim summed up the impact that our visit had when he said ‘when I have a wife I will tell her about this day.’ I have created a set of photographs in Flikr and if you care to take a look you can follow the link on the right hand side of this page (set: Fulbridge’s CTN Trip) or follow this link http://www.flickr.com/photos/k8iesmith/sets/72157624390387397/.

Work, work, work.

This month my work life has been like a heavy pendulum swinging from the exciting, inspiring, transformational heights encountered during  visits to Creative Partnerships Schools at the end of this year’s journey to the lows of typing up endless evaluation reports.  There were two particular highpoints that stood out for me and that will influence my professional practice next year. The first was being part of a reflection session with Teachers, Pupils and Creative Practitioners at Monks Abbey Primary School in Lincoln. The enquiry focus of the project was to explore the potential of integrating a philosophical approach within the schools creative curriculum rather than teaching philosophy as a standalone subject. During each session the class teacher Emily Hird and creative practitioner Sarah Wakeford (http://www.wakefordstudios.com)  photographs of the children as they worked. During the last fifteen minutes of the session, they gathered the children on the carpet and projected the images inviting their comments about their thoughts and observations. Each child recorded their contribution on a post it note which was stuck into a ‘reflection book’ with the corresponding photograph. I was struck by the simplicity of this system and was impressed by the sophisticated comments that the children were able to make because they were still immersed in the creative environment where their learning had taken place. During my brother’s evening reception at his wedding, the photographer projected a slide show of images that he had taken during the day seemingly with little effort or equipment. I instantly made the connection with the Monks Abbey session as it illustrated to me the immediacy afforded by new technologies.  My dabblings with twitter, flikr and blogs combined with such examples of best practice in schools are providing me with a powerful argument to use new technology as a tool to support reflective practice; who would have thought that I could have said such a thing 68 days ago!!! This is definitely an unexpected outcome of my 100hr challenge evidenced through my increased enjoyment, motivation and confidence in professional life and proof that I am now incapable of getting through the day without using phrases from Creative Partnerships evaluations forms!

The second high point of past weeks was a comment made by Year Three Teacher Jane Morgans at Fulbridge. As a School of Creativity using a thematic approach to creative teaching and learning, the challenge for me as their Creative Agent was to support them to look for areas where they could make improvements to their (already exemplary) current practice. The resulting project was ambitious and involved a combination of creative practitioners and organisations working across diverse artforms, ranging from traditional painters to light installation and performance artists; some worked locally, some nationally and some internationally. It focused on Year Three’s summer topic of ‘Beside the Seaside’ and examined how we could capture, explore and develop the senses, emotions and vocabulary experienced by the children during school trips.  The Creative Practitioners accompanied the children to Hunstanton working with them on the beach and through a short residency back at school.

The initial inspiration for the project was the Caravan Gallery (http://www.thecaravangallery.co.uk) and as a result of a tireless media campaign by the Mini-Agents we were able to acquire a caravan for the school. This became a workshop, role play area, installation space, museum and gallery and the way in which we shared the project with the wider school community. On a glorious summer’s day we opened Fulbridge- on –Sea which included a man made beach, sandcastles, ice cream and deck chairs (the Mini-Agents let us down with the donkeys). The seaside atmosphere spilled out into classrooms which acted as an extension of the caravan. The staff, parents and children were also treated to a showing of Rosie Ward’s (http://www.rosieward.co.uk/) film made in collaboration with Year Three children in the depths of the Fulbridge cellar. Jane’s comment was that for her the experience of the day had presented a more meaningful way to celebrate children’s achievements. It showcased the work which they had generated through creative processes steered by their responses to the Hunstanton trip and she felt that this had been of significantly higher value than producing a ‘show’ of work produced only for that purpose. When I went to collect the caravan with Lead Teacher Charlotte Krzanicki during one lunch time in the early part of the project (towing it through residential Peterborough – I love my job), I had named it the ‘Caravan of Possibilities’. For me it represents a project that has had the power to develop, sustain and embed creative learning within the school and to act as an ambassador for schools embarking upon or struggling with their creative journey.  The impact of the project on my professional practice has been to enlist the help of Jane and Charlotte who have seen the possibilities and for them to help me to help other schools understand the benefits of the creative approach to teaching and learning. Next year we may invest in the Tipi of intrigue and curiosity! For photographs of this project please follow the link to flikr on the right of this page (set: Fulbridge’s Celebration Day) or follow this link http://www.flickr.com/photos/k8iesmith/sets/72157624398179465/.

Help!

I would like to find a blog/social media  fanatic preferably with a background in arts education to facilitate a training day for creative practitioners and teachers on 19th October 2010. The aim of the day will be to enthuse and excite the participants about the use of new technologies as a tool for reflection/documentation . Please get in touch if that’s you or if you can recommend someone fantastic!