Sunday, 8 July 2012

Problem solving on the hoof

I know, I know... I said I was going to write an advocacy series about creative media.
But the process of writing 300 end-of-year reports left me little time or energy and the prospect of being Serious and Significant and voluntarily write another end of school report on this blog left me with a dull sense of duty every time I sat down to do it. I've written the first of the series - it's all about school subjects. It even appeared on this blog for a day and may appear again, though it will need to be be deal different from the rather turgid piece that currently sits in my drafts.

I've written before about our Media, Art and Design archive project which I've been co-ordinating. With hindsight I realise that it has been all about trying to capture the zeitgeist of a school in the process of closing. One of the ways I've tried to do this  is by suggesting ideas to the teaching team rather than handing them ready-made plans.  Personally I'm hopeless at following other people's teaching plans but really quite good at playing with ideas. The more you share your plans the more perspectives you get, and leaving creative space for input increases everyone's sense of ownership. It does mean that improvisation is often essential.
Two creative solutions popped up yesterday.
One of the options offered to students this term was to make a digital  hand collage. We have a display of them in our hall, silently bidding farewell. Tidying up yesterday I came upon a large number I'd set aside to display in the ICT suite. A moment's guilt was replaced by the idea of displaying them in my new room at Newmarket College to say hello.
We had an unexpected school-full of students yesterday due to a burst water main on a transition day. We needed a Design lesson - fast. Tim Young was keen on an idea we'd kicked around but had left unused - Make a Glimpse into your Future, as a Peepshow. Trouble was that we'd left it in the long grass because of the difficulty acquiring shoeboxes in time we have left. To the rescue came the "magic box" technique we used earlier this term - giant-sized and made with the stiff paper we found in plentiful supplies.
We need our students to be able to make connections like this, as well to improvise in the face of changing circumstances. But how can we support this through the teaching of media? It has to be something more than just leaving them to get on with it but much less than spoon- feeding. They must be supported in constructing their own learning.  One of the best pieces of advocacy for this approach I've come across is Mitchel Resnick's presentation about Scratch at the Learning Without Frontiers conference below. Scratch offers materials and tools to shape them with as well as a participatory exhibition space providing an audience.  Nobody, however, dictates what should be done with them. A learning environment like this would be one where it would be possible to scaffold the creation of media without dictating exactly how to do this. We have the tools; but learning to use them fluently whilst striving to make a meaningful film is a difficult task - ask Spielberg. Some years ago, the concept of producing a film as a series of rushes that learners could edit themselves, led to me creating  The Movie Kit - a project funded by, the now defunct, Screen East. It's Creative Commons licensed and free to download.  I'm delighted that the excellent Media Education Wales have produced an extensive resource called Edit Sense which I'll be shopping for when I take up my new post. All I need now is an unffffiltered Youtube channel...