Creative Space

The PGCE students at Sheffield University have just completed their final assignments.  But this was no run-of-the-mill assignment- it was a mission that no PGCE students had previously undertaken at Sheffield University.

It all started earlier this year, when these students were asked to wander around graveyards of northern Sheffield to make poetry come to life using digital video recorders.  They were then introduced to the delights of Winterhill and Rawmarsh City Learning Centres where they became familiar with the recording and editing processes of making a film.  Working in groups, they supported each other’s ideas and technical understandings, learning that good communication was very important. They soon realised that they needed to be ‘over explicit’ to help learners new to technology. As one student said,” you learn best from hands on experiences.”  Whilst some relished the prospect of using digital technologies, others were apprehensive, convinced of their own incompetence yet aware of their obligations as a teacher to keep up with the latest technologies. “Children must be equipped to face the ever changing technological era.”Image

Pretty soon, they were ready for the real task at hand: the final task that  Mick Connell and Andrey Rowsowsky were to set for them.  It was not to create a resource for teaching, nor was it to be assessed, observed or linked to any part of any school curriculum.  The students were set free from these shackles – given free range.  Yes, they had to make a film, but they were given full licence to develop their recently acquired to skills pursue their own interests and

… be creative.

The only stipulation they were given was that their films had to be about the city that had hosted them for their year of study: Sheffield.  Any aspect could be explored- people, landscapes, cultures, history. Students were invited to build on their own interests and create something that was unique to them.

Taking advantage of this brief: they did just that!Image

Anna and I were invited to see the screening of these films. With the group, we witnessed five completely different and unique takes on Sheffield.  Students watched and discussed their films, quizzing each other on the techniques they used.  It was interesting to find that although many had planned storyboards for their productions, they had put these to one side as serendipitous events such as thunderstorms, public reactions and availability of unforeseen props changed the direction of the stories.Image

After the event I thought: this is real teacher education – not teacher training.  This was an activity that would impact on so many aspects of  these students’ personal development. Encouraging well rounded, creative and digitally literate individuals can only be good news for the children who are lucky enough to have them as teachers.


Teaching, learning and sharing at Wales High School

Yesterday Wales High School turned into Open Educational Resources central, with a full day dissemination event showcasing the hard work of Michael Payton-Greene, one of project teachers, on his case study which explores issues involved in the use of blogging as a tool for sharing practice. For the past couple of months, a group of volunteers (PE, maths and languages teachers) were involved in trialing out the Teaching and Learning in Wales High School blog by putting on resources related to feedback and assessment, the use of mobile devices in the classroom and commenting on relevant posts to share with others how these resources were implemented in their own teaching.  These early users shared their experiences at the dissemination event yesterday where the blog was introduced to all staff members on a drop-in basis.

Introducing the blog to staff at the school

Anybody visiting the drama studio could have a go at scanning QR codes, using a flipcam or exploring the education potential of iPads which were loaned to the school by the project team. They could also observe the lessons with the pupils who had a go at using the Brushes app and creating an interactive essay plan with the aid of Flipcams and iPods.

Senior management are supportive of the project and keen to align it with school priorities and from September onwards the project will hopefully be rolled out across the school. Some of the teachers I talked to yesterday had visions of connecting with their colleagues nationally and even internationally – while that might have to wait a while, the DeFT project team have contributed to projects which lived happily ever after long past the end of project (see the thriving Creativity for Edupunks wiki-based resource created as part of UKOER phase 2 Cascading Social Science Open Educational Resources project) so here’s to bright OER futures at Wales!

And the winners are…pupils at Dinnington Comprehensive!

On Monday, the DeFT project team took part in a very special event – the mini-Oscars at Dinnington comprehensive where the Chris Welch and his pupils revealed the results of their hard work for the case study. They explored the use of instructional videos for enhancing digital literacy and issues related to student-produced Open Educational Resources. The pupils turned out to be very creative in their interpretation of the brief, which was to create an instructional video on a topic of their choice and shared with the world their knowledge on  tea-making, plum-tree planting, hamster-feeding, e-safety and cartwheels.

Mini-Oscars at Dinnington

There was red carpet, bow-ties and (non-alcoholic) champagne  and of course awards to recognise the efforts of the directors and the supporting crew. This is where the media technicians deserve a special mention – the case study would not have been possible without Jodi and Rob supporting the group every step of the way.  They are still putting the final touches on the videos which should soon be released onto YouTube and so others will be able to see for themselves how easy it is to cartwheel or make a decent cuppa!

Aliens in Heathfields?

Last week when the DeFT digital meadow was up and running in the Winter Gardens we attracted a lot of public interest.  One member of the public expressed her disapproval of the uses of digital technologies in schools.  “Children should be outdoors, running about, getting muddy… not stuck inside in front of one of those screens all day!”

She would have been thrilled to see Rob Hobson’s project in action!

There was not much mud involved, but there was a lot of the “outdoors” and “running about”! Rob’s aim for the project is to “give children a wider understanding of how ICT use can be taken out of its usual constraints.”  He certainly did that!

His project was launched with a “happening” in Heathlands Park.  It was rumoured that a spaceship has crash in a bit of wasteland  not far from the school.  The children in Rob’s class reported on this event, giving news releases, photographing the crash landing, and interviewing the public who had witnessed strange occurrences in the neighbourhood.  All this information required imagination, creativity and technical know-how to produce! It was so exciting that some members of the class forgot they were reluctant readers and writers. Everything they created was put onto designated webspaces by the Y6ers and QR codes were fabricated to link to these websites.

When all this careful preparation had been completed, a chosen few placed the QR clues in carefully selected places in Heathlands Park.  You can see the QR trail here .  Finally the hunt for clues could start.

Later that Friday afternoon, two classes of children were accompanied to the park where they were set lose with ipods equipped with  QR readers.  Their brief was to locate the clues, access the websites, find out what had happened, and piece together the story.  Because there was no internet connection in the park, Rob had provided mifis which provided wifi access to groups of 5 children with ipods.  The group of five could not stray far from the mifi carriers, who were dressed in bright yellow jackets, so cooperation was essential!

Children shared information, discussed clues, and fed back their thoughts to a blog that had especially been set up for the occasion.  People’s versions of what really  happened can be read here .  If you happen to be passing Heathlands Park, you can find the clues yourself,  send in your ideas to the blog, and add to the stories.

It was an exciting afternoon, and everybody enjoyed it tremendously.  In the midst of all this action the treasurer for the Heathland Community Park wandered onto the scene.  He had never heard of QR codes, and thought it would be a wonderful way of disseminating information about the park.  He watched the children working with their ipods, and realised that the general public could also interact with QR codes in this way with their own mobile devices.

Digital bloom – we’ll be back!

Kids from Mundella Primary visit the installation

It’s been a whirlwind of a week – over 400 visitors (still doing the sums!), nearly 400 paintings created with the Brushes iPad app and countless conversations on digital literacy and Open Educational Resources with members of the general public who happened to be in Winter Garden in the centre of Sheffield and wandered into the pod with the Digital Bloom installation. Obviously, we need time to process everything that went on throughout the week, but overall, we’ve managed to reach out to a very diverse public between the ages of 2-82 (ish) and helped make Sheffield a digitally more open place. A big shout out to everyone who made it happen, especially the developers from RealSmart who gave up a considerable chunk of their weekend to make sure that the children from Mundella will be able to see their flowers.  Richard Johnson from Sheffield Children’s Festival once again added creative fire to the project with  Tori, Kayleigh and Jess from Sheffield Hallam University doing a great job as pod assistants. Last but not least, this installation was made possible thanks to the tireless efforts of the DeFT team – now on to the online version of the Digital Bloom and hopefully a second iteration of the public event, this time with the meadow focusing on student and teacher voices.

Have a look at the latest artwork on

Digital Bloom – day3

It has been another busy day in the Winter Gardens in Sheffield.  Word has got out about the action in the ‘pod’.  School children from Dinnington have come to see the digital meadow, and have found out about how the children in Mundella Primary school use the Brushes app in school.                                                                           “Does that mean we will all have ipads in school?” asked one excited pupil…

Although Richard Johnson was not able to be there today, our brilliant pod assistants Tori and Kayleigh were able to make a couple of ipads available for anyone who fancied a go on them!  They said that it was a popular activity, and that people took their time to make their pictures, and explore the stories on the display.  The art work reflects the wonderful diversity of our visitors!  IMG_0586

As promised we have uploaded the pictures onto a flickr account again… this time you can see them here:

There are still a few more to be uploaded, so if you cannot see yours yet, you will probably see them tomorrow!

If you missed yesterdays display, they are all here:

We will be there until 12 noon on Friday, so come and visit us if you haven’t done so  already!

Digital Bloom – day 2

So what do the following people have in common: a trio of Malaysian students on a summer journalism course; year 2 group from Mundella Primary School; a man in his sixties who’s never used an iPad, two American kids on a “spring break” (in July…) and a two year old who turned out to be a world champion in dummy distance-throwing? All of them happened to be part of the digital art drop-in event which took place in the Winter Gardens as part of the “Digital Bloom” installation.

Picture by Gary Lee (portraying his daughter aka sister of dummy-thrower)

The resident artist, Richard Johnson from Sheffield Children’s Festival set up a workshop outside the pod and anyone who passed by was invited to have a go at creating a digital painting using the Brushes app on an iPad and this way learn more about the creative potential of mobile devices. We also used the event as a chance to talk to people about their understandings of digital literacy and openness, the two key themes explored throughout the “Digital Futures in Teacher Education” project. The leitmotif of the day seemed to be that of technology as a threat and an opportunity – the teachers we spoke to were excited by the potential of technology to enhance learning, a number of workshop participants lamented the loss of innocence of the children who seem to be living their lives immersed in digital technologies in a way that is perhaps less authentic, whatever that might mean. Overall, we collected a veritable treasure trove of stories on digital literacy, all of which will be making its way to the project website as Open Educational Resources in the not so distant future.

To view the art that has been created on our ipads, visit flickr: