Monday, 27 October 2008

Be Very Very Afraid

Wonderful day at BAFTA for Be Very Afraid 5. An ecelectic mix of students from 7 years through to university age and a guest list of THE key influencers in ICT and learning added up to a remarkable day - BVA is a unique networking event too - all the key influencers at the same time in the same place!.

Highlights this year from my perspective included:
• a host of media interviews with the students - the interest in the event grows annually, not the least because it has a track record of showing very clearly what two-years-on tech will look like in learning.

• and the quiet, assured, articulateness of the learners as they explained their complex technology + learning mash-ups. For the students - even with a guest list capped at 150 - it was an enjoyable, if exhausting, day. The rest of the world gets the website videos, the podcasts and the DVD.

See previous years'work from

Big thanks to this year's sponsors who help to make it a very special event for students and guests alike:
Apple, BECTA, BAFTA, Edexcel,, Promethean, RM and Roxio. Thanks all.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Jazz it up

Fabulous way for the Blackburn and Darwen Education Improvement Partnership (EIP) to kick off tonight - I did a keynote input but then we had a really engaging debate and questions about the nature of 21st century learning, all preceded by some really good food (curry, pappadums! yum) and a host of children of all secondary ages making up an exceptional schools' Big Band. They were really together, so i asked how come? They'd been away touring in Paris in the last year and "that helped" as one of them said, smiling...

With every region and nation embracing some form of "new" learning, the thing that separates them is ambition. The old world of incrementalism is dead or dying (and about time too) so the question is only "how good might our children be?". Up here tonight, there is no shortage of ambition about that future.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Autumn flutter

I'm not sure just what this is (comments please?) - but it has left it a bit late to be out in the Autumn sun on pal Colin's boat-launching tractor (hence the rust). After a sailing season of gales and much rain, it has been a remission to get a few late weeks of sunshine as this butterfly (moth?) is demonstrating.

Stop Press:
Thanks to comment-poster BillG for this identification. It is a Comma

Thursday, 16 October 2008

In limbo

I'm a big fan of the Wellcome Trust and this week I visited their building in Euston Road, London to chat about some very interesting games research we will be sharing with them at CEMP in Bournemouth Uni. But while there we had a chance to visit the newly refurbished exhibition of science and art which is (as you see) a combination of installation and inspiration.

It was reaffirming to see it filled with both art and science enthusiasts - I spared you some of the more memorable exhibits - a torture chair, or the raunchy ones (you must go and look for yourself...), but the whole way the display space was able to 'stage' its exhibits reminded me of why agility in design matters so much - for schools too.

Wellcome do so much doe the public understanding of science.. Euston Road now has a new treasure to help that along.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Transport of delight

When I was small in Buckinghamshire, if I didn't cycle to school I went by train and because we were out in the country our trains were still powered by steam. So my childhood memories are of occasional rides up front "on the footplate" with bacon cooked on shovels in the flames of the firebox - my brother more so than me, he loved steam trains.

So, waking this morning in Dymchurch to see their famous scale steam railway was a treat - and seeing the schoolchildren all being whisked along to school by it looked like fun too and presumably substantially cut the SUV count on the roads around the local Kent schools. Since these short-run SUV journeys are killing the planet AND the children it was yet another reminder of how we need to rethink schools and their scale, location, timing...

...but a nice reminder too of a blissful childhood. I just had to pop over to the station to see this scale size engine getting ready for it's tourist run out to Dungenness for crab sandwiches on the beach. But I was too busy to be able to take the ride. Next time...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

High Tech High

Final image from a fascinating visit to High Tech High in San Diego, California. This is the pre-High SChool alongside the origibnal High Tech High with it's wonderful curriculum - see other two posts. A big issue for all new schools is furniture design - it is SO hard to find good stuff. But as you see here engagement remains the key; these children were so engaged that their cleverly designed shoe and bag lockers (note the extension of the bottom tier) made a wonderful perch for learning. As i said at the beginning of these three posts the visit raised a few concerns, but was also wonderfully re-affirming: children love to learn and here they do it with relatively little money too.

Hi tech! 2

And here is another problem. High Tech High was just that back in 2000 but as you see here what was generous resourcing then is old-tech now. Make no mistake the children here are thriving - creative collaborative work all over every floor! But this picture in indicative - a row of old unloved computers facing the wall (facing the wall! that was a punishment once and still is, so you see a lot less of this in schools today) while the kids get on with great work with pens and paper on the floor.

Although there is a lot of tech in their projects - robots, design & technology etc etc the school was less high tech than anything I've seen for ages and you wonder how much better yet it would be if some of the e-gregarious, presentation pro, phone-toting, web savvy, wired global learners that the front running schools seem to have engendered were let loose on that wonderful curriculum that High Tech High has. I asked our guide which 21st century schools worldwide he had seen or been impressed with; he hadn't looked at any at all. As we rush towards global learning we have all got to look really thoughtfully at each others' ideas worldwide. It all really shows that with the pace of change in learning noone can afford to rest on their laurels, can we?

Hi tech?

Really interesting visit to High Tech High School in San Diego (, which was at the same time re-affirming and depressing - I'll post three images.

First the good news - it works. Located in a converted building on the ex-naval base - very low budget and with no hall, dining room, gym it embraced that well tested world model of agile space - with open areas, curtaining, glass and the ability to rapidly re-configure. The curriculum is the thing and again in line with many 21st century schools: project based, often mixed age, reflective, collaborative, often "elsewhere", emphatically comprehensive, problem solving focussed, with three weekly exhibition of projects and much exhibition to the community - it is no surprise to see children working everywhere - on every ledge, floor, stair and bench. Children we engaged and articulate - not always that common in US schools, sadly.

But the wonderfully agile space that many admired originally back in 2000 is now bursting with boxes as little rooms and units pop-up everywhere. The result is a mass of contrictions and restrictions - clearly what one guide described as a kind of "nostalgia-drift" - has seized the place to the extent that the elementary school built there (there are now some 6 High techs on the old naval base space) is the conventional corridors and classrooms model that the rest of the world is rushing (wisely) away from. How interesting! The children still learn enthusiastically all over the place, but to will be interesting to see if (and how) the wonderful curriculum can survive these encroaching walls...

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Fish N Ships

San Diego is still an active - and substantial - port. I am here for a large and hugely enjoyable CEFPI conference of school facilities planners and architects.

Cue very considerable debate about the scale, shape and nature of 21st century schools against a backdrop of Palin vs Obama.

With a host of overseas countries here there were many examples showing that the most ambitious schools, regardless of circumstances are galloping way ahead of policy and showing remarkable learning gains - engagement is the key of course.

Luckily my good friends and colleagues from our work together in the Cayman Isles are here - and we took a moment out for these fish and chips by the ships - we have lots to chat about, the progress out there is really something..

I did the opening CEFPI keynote and the closing address - given the imagination and engagement of the 1,000 or so folk here, education in the US, post election, will be VERY interesting to watch - a real sense of arriving at a crossroads. By the way, $750bn divided by their 130,000 or so schools = a big number. I wonder if bailing out banks or using those dollars to transform schools would be the better investment?