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:

Dispatches from Camp Cardboard

This is a very busy week in the life of the project – we’re busily collecting data for the school and PGCE case studies, meeting with the teachers, presenting at the Higher Education Research and Scholarship Group conference at Sheffield Hallam University… We even managed to squeeze in a stint at Sheffield Children’s Festival and had some close encounters with cardboard boxes at Bradfield Dungworth Primary on Monday, where year 4 and year 5 children acted as digital reporters for the day. They were reporting on the involvement of the school with Camp Cardboard – a day of activities arranged by Timm and Sam Cleasby from Responsible Fishing, where throughout the day, the school children used cardboard boxes to create elaborate structures (tunnels, bridges, marble houses…) and learn about communication, teamwork and sustainability. The digital reporters were there with their trustworthy iPads to take photographs and notes, which were later converted into blog posts and can be admired in their entirety on; the YouTube video created from a combination of time-lapse photography and the photographs taken by the digital reporters also offers a brilliant summary of the day:

That said, I couldn’t help but wonder about the kinds of images the children have chosen to share with the world – the Instagram Gallery shows picture after picture of stacks of boxes and the different shapes they took on throughout the day and occasionally the viewer gets either a view of a group of children sitting down, photographed in a way that only shows their backs or sometimes an individual child with their face blurred out of focus, using special effects on Instagram. I missed seeing photographs that would capture the enthusiasm and the joy of the builders of the camp, who were excitedly jumping up and down and lugging around boxes with a big grin on their faces. This was part of the story we were not able to see because of e-safety – it was easier to adopt a uniform “no face” policy rather than try and cross-check the photographs taken by the children with permissions letters offered by the parents. There were a couple of other interesting teaching moments which brought home to us how complex and oftentimes messy the issue of e-safety can be. On behalf of the project, we invited other teachers to comment on the blog as it evolved throughout the day and suddenly Chris, the teacher at Bradfield, found himself answering some tough questions about why we were encouraging the kids to respond to strangers’ comments on the internet, which was in clear violation of the “no talking to strangers rule”. We continued that conversation at the meeting of DeFT teachers which conveniently took place on the following day; turns out that the kids are very good at communicating the “party line” to the teachers but will still be kids and get Facebook accounts well before they turn thirteen…

Budding Artists

Last week we had our first workshop held in the Owen building at Hallam University that was delivered by one of our partners,  Richard Johnson from the Sheffield Children’s Festival.

Twelve people attended the workshop including Bjoern Hassler from the Cambridge based ORBIT project, Chris Bayley from Bradfield Dungworth Primary, Jack Todhunter from Newman , Kate Cosgrove from Mundella, and Tom, an eight year old expert that just popped by.

Richard had set up the room so that the tables and chairs were grouped together around vases of brilliant yellow tulips that seem to lean anxiously out towards us. Each person had access to an ipad perched on an easel.  As there were a couple of people who had no previous experience with ipads,  Richard introduced the session with a short explanation about the features of the ipad, and how to use the brushes app.  After this, we were given instructions in stages as to how to ‘paint’  tulips.

Richard said ,”I will show some simple steps, but you need to bring your own creativity and style as well.” He explained that the ipad is a lovely media for children because it is intuitive-  “there is nothing in between them and the canvas- apart from a bit of technology!”

Just as he had at Mundella school, Richard shared three artist’s tips: to find out about them, and how they went down with the children, you will have to visit the comets blog

The silence in the room was tangible. Everyone was concentrating very hard, performing to the best of their abilities!  When we had finished we learned how to “play back” our pictures in order to see how we had created them. You can see how Jack Todhunter’s mind worked as you play back the story of his creation here.

The feedback was excellent.  Everyone agreed that the session was useful for their professional development, and that it was helpful to their work on the DeFT project.  A few participants commented on how they appreciated the practical ‘how to’ ipad lessons, while others stated they enjoyed learning art techniques which can be applied to ipad apps.

The only criticism was that the lifts were not working in the Owen Building, and everyone had to walk up 8 flights of stairs to get to the seminar room.

Jack Todhunter took a video of Richard Johnson demonstrating some of the features of the ipad-.

In full bloom: Digital literacy and creative learners

In our exploration of issues related to digital literacy and Open Educational Resources in the context of teacher education, we have purposefully made space for creativity. Right from the start, when thinking about our involvement with the schools, we talked about creative learners and ways in which creativity informs children’s digital literacy practice, both within and outside of schools. To show how serious (or playful) we were about all things creative, we asked Richard Johnson from the Sheffield Children’s Festival to collaborate with DeFT as an official project partner and many conversations later, some very creative ideas are ready to see the light.

Tulip by Richard Johnson

On top of his many artistic skills (see the tulip, created with the Brushes app at our recent project meeting for proof!), Richard has extensive experience of organising and working with schools as manager of the Sheffield Children’ Festival, organised by Sheffield City Council every summer. In 2011, over 34,000 young people had an opportunity to take part in the festival, the largest of its kind in the UK, and work with professional artists, develop their creativity, exhibit work, perform in city centre venues, participate in workshops and special events. Two DeFT schools will be participating in the festival this year – kids from Mundella Primary School will be taking part in the “Bigger Bloom” project inspired by David Hockney’s work where they will use iPads to create digital flowers which will then become part of a spring flowers mural displayed at the festival. Kids from Bradfield Dungworth Primary will spend the day capturing the involvement of the school with Camp Cardboard project (does what it says on the tin – the kids build a camp, using cardboard) via digital photography and video, they will also blog and possibly Tweet about the event.

We are working with Richard to explore creative ways of disseminating OERs created in the context of the project and started brainstorming about details of an installation which would reflect the understandings of digital literacy being developed by DeFT partners. The working title for the installation at the moment is “Digital Bloom”, and the key metaphor we think of using is that of a field of flowers, where each of the flowers represents individual understandings of digital literacy, with the field signifying its collective meanings. So, who wants to come out and play with us?