Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing


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Small and Connected

A few days ago I received a beautiful photograph.

Our daughter Beth sent us a picture of our granddaughter’s first pair of shoes.

The smallness of her feet is put into context by her father’s shoes.

Our granddaughter’s shoes were fitted by a very careful shoe shop assistant.

This picture encapsulates symbolically much of my thinking at present. I am becoming more and more interested in personalisation and learning. To develop my own practice I have been reflecting on ideas shared by Satish Kumar and the Hartland Small School:

The Small School is within walking distance of children’s homes, so that there is no need to take children away from their family and village life.

Almost all of the teachers in the Small School live within the community of Hartland itself. They teach French, rural sciences, biology, chemistry, creative writing, history, pottery, drama, folk songs, cookery, gardening, and more. Few have undergone teacher training, but all are experienced in the school of life and are very happy to share their skills and experiences with the children of the community. And in doing so, they show the children how many different ways it is possible to earn one’s livelihood.

The Small School is not compulsory and there are no fees for attendance. We did not want it to become like an elite school, which only the rich can afford, nor did we want to suffer from government intrusion. Therefore, the Small School operates with contributions and donations from the parents and with grants from foundations, which ensures that it remains at a human scale.

Hartland Small School aims “to achieve a balance between the academic, the practical, the artistic, and the spiritual. We are small enough for all children to know each other, for all teachers to know all the students, and for parents to know all the teachers. We aim to work across age groups rather than having a secondary experience which only allows for work within one age group. We want to be firmly based in the community of Hartland, and be able to respond to this special place, but we also offer opportunities for students to travel beyond the village for cultural experiences.”

I am very confident that small scale organisation of learning is made even more possible by the connections we can make between learning communities. In making this case I am reminded of Ernst Friedrich Shumacher‘s suggestion that “Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.”

It is a wonderful synergy that our grandaughter’s first pair of shoes appeared 100 years after Shumacher’s birth. That they appeared in a town committed to sustainability and transition is very special.

Photo Credit

Hartland, North Devon

Literary Institute


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Brain Games

This post has been in draft form for a while. This month a number of research reports have been sharpening discussion about the role the brain plays in learning compared to the mind.

Two items caught my attention and encouraged my own reflection on the brain and mind possibilities.

The Australian Stage reviewed Seven Boards of Skill performed at the Perth International Arts Festival. The performance is based upon the Chinese Tangram and in this stage version seven giant geometric shapes, five triangles, a square and a parallelogram are used as the set for fourteen performers. Paul Rand has suggested “that the main principle to be learned (about the Tangram) is that of economy of means – making the most of the least.”  Given the virtuosity of the performers in Seven Boards of Skill I wondered how coaches and teachers might transform learning environments and explore ‘the economy of means’. This is a French video report about the creator of the Seven Boards performance, Aurelien Bory.

In the same week that the Seven Boards was being performed in Perth, Deborah Ruf was in town too discussing pathways for gifted children. Her interview on Radio National’s Life Matters led me to her writings about giftedness. Her article on individualising opportunities for gifted children, for example, is a great stimulus to thinking about learning environments.

Photo Credits

Seven Boards

Practice


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Visual Literacy and Fair Play

Two recent events have stimulated animated discussion about the role video can and should play in officiating.

Thierry Henry’s handball in a World Cup Football qualifying game led to a FIFA disciplinary commission hearing.

The International Cricket Council will investigate the umpire decision review system after protests about decisions made in the fourth test match in South Africa.

These events have underscored for me that the essence of sport is in a state of flux and is so because of the mediated and constructed views offered by television broadcasts. The ICC proposes to meet with television broadcasters in March to discuss the standardisation of technology. Ian Chappell identified some of the issues about standardisation in his post. (See also this post and audio file from Harsha Bhogle.)

My view is that these incidents raise fundamental questions about sport and visual literacy. I note John Debes’ definition of  visual literacy as “a group of vision-competencies a human being can develop by seeing and at the same time having and integrating other sensory experiences.” Ari Santas and Lisa Eaker (2009) observe that:

… to be visually literate requires us to readjust our thinking habits and have another look—to review what we have viewed. Unfortunately, there is no ready made teaching strategy that guarantees progression from unsophisticated viewing to sophisticated viewing. … our propensity is to act habitually, and it is through habit that we navigate our social world. Consequently, habituation is not something educators can opt out of, but must make use of; but this is not to say that they should thereby succumb to the mind-numbing practices of manipulators. They must, instead, habituate their students into reflective and creative modes of thinking. Visually, this means learning how to look and getting into the habit of looking, at images with a critical eye. To educate for visual literacy, then, must include training but it is training that facilitates ready movement from habitual ways of seeing and thinking to creative ways of seeing and thinking, from distinguishing between what is in need of extensive reflection and what is best left to snap-judgment or intuition.

I believe the transformation of sport through television broadcast has habituated the viewer to a particular form of experience. This is transferred to the sports arena too where spectators and players now expect large screen images of performance. The emergence of sport as spectacle in the age of entertainment has transformed the structure of sport. The rich and high definition images created by television coverage have removed the intensity of observation needed to engage in real-time (synchronous) sport. In the home theatre environment sport has become an asynchronous relationship in which real-time events can be paused and caught up with. I am wondering if the cumulative effect of this mediated visual and aural experience is transforming our ability to learn and remember.

The dilemma for sport is that in order to appeal to audiences there is constant discussion about what constitutes a sport. The more sport negotiates away its ownership of time as an essential characteristic of participation the more mediated the experience of televised sport becomes. In cricket, for example, there is growing debate about the fate of 50 over game in the light of the success of 20 over competitions. The shortened forms of any game should offer wonderful opportunities to observe and process action in real time and facilitate the neural activity so important to participation.

Francisco Maruenda (2009) discussed a fundamental issue for the game of football:

… the human being and the technological media are both physically and technically incapable of detecting an offside position in real time, in zero milliseconds. The results of this study show that when the ball is passed, the human eye and brain and the technological media need some time to locate the at least four players who intervene in an offside position. When those players are located, time has passed and they are never in the original position, when the ball was passed. Football players are trained for speed and acceleration to change their geographical position in the field when the ball is passed. Therefore, we cannot refer to a human error when an offside position is misjudged. The human being and the technological media will never be capable of detecting an offside position in real time, in zero milliseconds. The key of the offside position is a physical problem: time.

Formal games include some means of arbitration. The future of sport could be to value the person as arbitrator rather than media as judge. Sport is essentially fallible and we should celebrate this fallibility. In the process we might enhance young people’s visual acuity in real time contexts and deliver some very important long term neural stimulation.

Perhaps we need to know more about striatal volume too as we use video as a learning medium for education spectators, players, coaches and referees.

Photo Credits

Mailliw Umpires

Gazzat Refereeeee

Kevin Katinas Superman

Breaking a Snow Jumping Record


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Attention and Learning

This post about attention and learning started with some ideas stimulated by Noah Charney‘s novel The Art Thief (2007).

I liked his suggestion that “logic and observation are universal tools … that no one realises they have.” In the novel he points out that students in the Yale University Medical School are required to visit the Yale Centre for British Art. This post from earlier this year provides the non-fiction account of this relationship.(This is a post from 2006. See too this article (2001) on the use of fine art to enhance visual diagnostic skills and this link to data from the study.)

All first-year students at the School of Medicine are required to take the innovative class, which was developed by Yale medical school faculty member Dr. Irwin Braverman and Linda Friedlaender, curator of education at the Yale Center for British Art, which houses the world’s largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom.

Braverman and other experts believe that, in an age when physicians rely heavily on high-tech imaging and tests, the art of detailed, careful observation is getting short shrift. But detecting small details can make all the difference in coming up with accurate diagnoses, believes the Yale faculty member.

Braverman began trying to find a way to increase observational skills of medical school students at around the same time that Friedlaender became frustrated with the continued misdiagnosis of a close friend. They happened to meet at a gathering and began laying the groundwork for the class, which makes the most of the museum’s collection by asking medical students to “diagnose” individuals portrayed in its artworks.

Their work brought to mind Max Lucado‘s observation that “to lead the orchestra, you have to turn your back on the crowd”. The combination of Noah Charney’s fiction and the real world work going on at Yale prompted me to think about attention and learning.

I am working through some of my ideas about feedforward and bandwidth.  This week a variety of sources amplified my interest. It started with a misplaced Google enquiry that led me to this discussion of the use of video in a hospital setting (and these citations).

I found John Bordeaux‘s post about personalised learning. John points out that:

  • You are designed to work with incomplete information.
  • You resolve ambiguous input data based on how you believe the world works.

He concludes that “we can provide a system that adapts to the individual minds in our care at every stage.  The science leaves us no option here – ‘personalized learning,’ by whatever name, is a central design principle for a transformed education system.” Some of these issues were raised by Graham Attwell in his post about virtual learning environments and in this post about digital identities.

Just after reading John’s blog post I came across the BrainBoard visualisation from Second Life shared by Jeff Lowe on Flickr.

This led me to think about immersive learning and the possibilities created by virtual spaces. Erica and Sam Driver explore some of these ideas in their post about what makes a virtual environment immersive. They have a detailed table in that post that summarises the immersiveness continuum in which they characterise low and high immersiveness in a variety of factors including graphics, avatars, 3D environment, ability to control viewpoint, physics, size of display, haptics, voice, collaboration and interactivity.

This post about 3D video added to my interest in the attention and learning possibilities available in 3D environments.

It was a short journey from immersive spaces to a link I received about an interactive video platform.

I think this approach has enormous potential and reminded me of the Us Mob web site designed by Katalyst and their more recent Burn site. I think there are some wonderful opportunities available for attention and learning in these approaches and in the function of such innovations as Mag+ (Vimeo link).

And then I found IdeaPaint!

Whilst moving across web posts, I found a post about presentation that discussed the role of storytelling. This video in the post encouraged me to think about how young you can be to understand and share a story. This is the message from the original film:

“One game.  If we played ‘em ten times, they might win nine.  But not this game…not tonight.  Tonight, we skate with them.  Tonight, we stay with them, and we shut them down because we can!  Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world.  You were born to be hockey players – every one of you.  You were meant to be here tonight.  This is your time.  Their time is done.  It’s over.  This is your time.  Now go out there and take it.”

This is a four year old’s take on the message:

This is the link to Kurt Russell’s version.

The YouTube session set me up for an exploration of story telling and the use of narrative. By coincidence one of the Bush Telegraph programs on Radio National discussed Graham Seal‘s new book Great Australian Stories-legends, yarns and tall tales. This set me of thinking about the role storying plays in attention and learning and how many learning environments are a rich source for stories.

From stories I moved on to a post about pictures by John Medina. John points out the impact pictures have on memory (pictorial superiority effect) and he has some great points to make about text:

The inefficiency of text has received particular attention. One of the reasons that text is less capable than pictures is that the brain sees words as lots of tiny pictures. Data clearly show that a word is unreadable unless the brain can separately identify simple features in the letters. Instead of words, we see complex little art-museum masterpieces, with hundreds of features embedded in hundreds of letters. Like an art junkie, we linger at each feature, rigorously and independently verifying it before moving to the next. The finding has broad implications for reading efficiency. Reading creates a bottleneck. My text chokes you, not because my text is not enough like pictures but because my text is too much like pictures. To our cortex, unnervingly, there is no such thing as words.

John’s discussion of pictures is one of his twelve brain rules. His post led me to a discussion of mind over matter in the classroom and the role that visualisation plays in learning. This led me to Stephen Kosslyn‘s work and his Group Brain project with Richard Hackman.  (I liked this paper about using visual images to improve comprehension too.)

Reading about the Group Brain project took me back to Carl Wieman‘s work as an educator. I listened to a Radio National program about his thoughts on teaching methodology and peer instruction. This discussion led me to Eric Mazur‘s work:

It’s the middle of a class period and two hundred students aren’t listening to the instructor. Instead, they’re engaged in over fifty simultaneous conversations with their neighbors. This probably sounds like a disaster to many teachers. But it’s actually a rousing success: the students are discussing a question which challenges them to think about the material and justify their reasoning to their classmates.

What this wayfinding approach led me to this week was an incredibly rich set of resources around attention and learning. As the week came to a close mention of journalism as effective surprise in an ABC Radio interview with Mark Scott encouraged me to think even more about the learning opportunities skilled teachers and coaches construct. J S Bruner points out that humans tend to respond with “effective surprise” to concepts and artifacts that take familiar things and rearrange them in new ways.  Some observers discuss a chaordic model of change (where chaos and order overlap) and suggest that the most fertile territory for innovation is in the boundary zone, where unlike things co-mingle.

I liked Ursula Lucas‘s (2006) discussion of being pulled up short in this context. She notes in a discussion of teaching that “moments of surprise have two aspects. Firstly, they represent moments when the lecturer is “pulled up short” and recognises the unexpected impact of a learning activity and is propelled into reflection. Secondly, they represent moments when students are “pulled up short” and are propelled into questioning taken-for-granted assumptions about themselves and the subject.”

By the end of the week of exploring attention and learning I realised I still had to look at:

A J Cropley’s ideas about creativity and cognition.

David Hargreaves’ thoughts about conversive trauma.

Learning without limits

Errorless learning

The ABC of XYZ: understanding the global generations

Nettels

The aim of this blog post is to share these ideas about attention and learning and to support explorations in personalised teaching, coaching and learning. Fortunately I did not lose a lot of sleep over this post. Researching attention and learning is a wonderful way to ensure high quality of sleep. But just when it is safe to go to bed you might want to think about the attention and learning possibilities of sleep, dreams and nightmares. Richard Stickgold‘s work and Antti Revonsuo‘s research open up fascinating opportunities to explore the learning possibilities of dreams and nightmares.

Photo Credits

Primer in the Classroom

Irwin Braverman and Linda Friedlaender

Aerial move

Open Air Schooling

Horns of a dilemma


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Feedforward

Introduction

Over twenty years ago when I was researching my book Using Video in Sport (1988) I came across Peter Dowrick‘s work on self-modelling. I have been fascinated by his work ever since.

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Photo source: this photograph was taken by D Sharon Pruitt. It can be found at Flickr here and is included in this post under Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

Background

Back in 1980 Peter Dowrick wrote a paper with C Dove entitled ‘The use of self-modeling to improve the swimming performance of spina bifida children’. You can download a copy of this paper from the Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis here. This is the abstract from that paper:

The use of edited videotape replay (which showed only “positive” behaviors) to improve the water skills of three spina bifida children, aged 5 to 10 years was examined. A multiple baseline across subjects design was used, and behavioral changes were observed to occur in close association with intervention. One child was given successive reapplications of videotaped self-modeling with continuing improvements. It appears that a useful practical technique has been developed.

In my book I noted that Peter Dowrick suggests that “the visible nature of most physical skills makes them a natural target for video intervention”.  The key message for me then and now is that:

Self-modelling functions more like feed-forward than feedback; subjects see themselves not so much as they were but as they might be. (My emphasis)

Peter Dowrick was an early adopter of video technology and for the past thirty years has been exploring his insights into learning.

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Photo source: The Edsel Show

In 1995 he and John Raeburn reported their work with  children with physical disabilities. In that paper they observe that:

One behavior was treated with video self-modeling and the other was videotaped without further intervention, resulting in a significant treatment effect. Self-model recordings were produced by planning and selectively editing two minutes adaptive-only behavior, which subjects reviewed on six occasions over two weeks for a total of 12 min intervention. Progress was confirmed one year later. The study supports the efficacy of self-modeling for selected behaviors of these children with physical disabilities, and suggests further investigation of structured video replay as an active agent of change.

(David Templin and Ralph Vernaccia explored the use of highlight tapes with music for training in basketball in 1995. Videotapes of each player’s best and most effective plays were supplemented by music and were viewed by the athletes throughout the competitive season. The note that “although a causal relationship between highlight videotapes and offensive field goal percentage was not established, the results did demonstrate a mean increase of 4.7% in overall field goal percentage for 3 of the 5 participants).

In 1999 he presented an analysis of 150 studies that examined the use of self modeling (mostly in the video medium) in a variety of training and therapeutic applications. This analysis is used “to argue for the recognition of learning from the observation of one’s own successful or adaptive behavior (or images of it) as a mechanism in its own right”. This 2007 review looks at 20 years’ of research in video modelling interventions in autism.

In 2006 Peter Dowrick et al wrote about feedforward in reading:

Video feedforward can create images of positive futures, as has been shown by researchers using self-modeling methods to teach new skills with carefully planned and edited videos that show the future capability of the individual. As a supplement to tutoring provided by community members, we extended these practices to young children struggling to read. Ten students with special needs participated in a multiple baseline intervention. Each received tutoring only, followed by tutoring plus video feedforward, another phase of tutoring only, and follow-up. Overall, reading fluency improved significantly for all students; in 9 out of 10 cases, rate of improvement was significantly greatest during feedforward. Other measures (e.g., word identification) confirmed student progress from most at-risk to mid-stream status. We conclude that video images of success with challenging materials may enhance the acquisition of reading skills.

Peter Dowrick’s doctoral research was published twenty years after the first commercially available reel to reel system video appeared in 1956. His doctoral thesis at the University of Auckland was Self-modeling: A videotape technique for disturbed and disabled children (1977). His work has continued through analogue video and on to digital video. This is a link to an early paper about creating a self model film (1979). His 1991 textbook A Practical Guide to Using Video in the Behavioral Sciences (New York: Wiley Interscience) has pride of place on my bookshelf. (This is a 1996 review of the book.)

Sport Literature

Some sport literature discussion of self-modelling includes:

  • Barbi Law and Diane Ste-Marie (2005)
  • Shannon Clark et al (2005)
  • Jamie Baker and Marc Jones (2006)
  • Shannon Clark and Diane Ste-Marie (2007)
  • This is an article about social play (2007)
  • Deborah Feltz et al (2008)
  • Eleni Zetou et al (nd)

Discussion

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Photo source: this photograph was taken by Garry Knight. It can be found at Flickr here and is included in this post under Creative Commons 2.0 licence.

When I first read Peter’s thoughts in the mid-1980s I was immediately attracted to the idea of feedforward. It is hard to explain to a media rich world in 2009 just how exciting video was as a medium in the 1980s. My book on Using Video in Sport (1988) contains a bibliography that was drawn from the origins of using video in sport. The earliest reference I have there is a paper by Anne Rothstein and R Arnold (1976) on videotape feedback and bowling in the first edition of Motor Skills; Theory into Practice.

There was a great deal of discussion about feedback in those days. There was an enormous sense of adventure. Early in the 1990s I read some of Richard A Schmidt’s thoughts about feedback (1991, 1997). Later this led me to explore Gabriele Wulf’s work amongst others ( 2001, 2002). This work resonated with me too and it has encouraged me to explore the possibilities for guided discovery in coaching and teaching environments. It made it possible too for me to explore performances of understanding in play, games and sport.

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Photo source: this photograph was taken by William Kitzinger. It can be found at Flickr here and is included in this post under Creative Commons 2.0 licence.


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Erica McWilliam: The 21st Century Teacher: From Sage to Guide to Meddler

Erica McWilliam visited the University of Canberra this week (13 May) as part of the ACE on the Road program. The topic for her talk was The 21st Century Teacher: From Sage to Guide to Meddler. This post was written live at the talk.

67 Photo source

This is Erica’s Eduspaces profile and this is her blog page.

Introduction

Stephen Parker welcomed Erica Mcwilliam to the University of Canberra.

Erica opened her presentation with the observation that “the great calling is to be a teacher who introduces young people to the pleasure of the rigour of the work”. She identified teaching as a moral and intellectual project. Erica made a passionate argument for low threat-high challenge and high expectation-high support classrooms.

She asked her audience what we will do in the 21sy century for our pupils? Many of the easy advances in education have been made.

Erica developed her theme with a discussion of assessment and the emergence of international standardised tests. She noted an initiative by Cisco, Intel and Microsoft to develop these tests (Barry McGaw will lead this project and it will be based at the University of Melbourne). An example of a test for fourteen year olds required complex, multifaceted, transdisciplinary skills. She noted that such tasks require precise skills, address specific (as well as general) cultural issues and appropriateness. Erica mused on the kind of school conditions are required for this task to be availalable to all children so that they are able to feel part of this kind of enquiry. This is activity beyond download and print out! It is a substantial move towards synthesis.

Teachers’ Roles

In the next part of her talk Erica discussed teachers’ roles and changes in professional behaviour.

In the classroom there are important moments for instruction. Erica argued strongly that some knowledge requires instruction and the presence of the sage (a teacher with a claim to expertise and energy). She talked in detail of the pleasure of the rigour of this approach and exemplified her discussion with approaches to the teaching of maths and spelling. She argued strongly for ‘in the bones’ development of basic skills through the energy of teachers and the creation of teachable moments that transform children’s understanding. Erica noted the persistence of rules used by sages and gave the example of ‘when two vowels go walking’. For Erica the best kind of sage teaching had a profound technical component and embodied a respect for scholarship through hard work.

The  teacher as a guide on the side was discussed next. Erica noted the move in teacher education and practice to a model of the teacher as a whisperer and counsellor. This change in role led to a move from teaching as theatre to teaching as therapeutics. Erica suggests that this change led to a loss of structure and technique. The teacher becomes a counsellor rather than teacher and there was an overemphasis on psychological second guessing. Erica argued strongly for teachers avoiding being a psychotherapist and urged the building of a learning culture in classrooms that is more than weedling the soul out of children. She discussed at length the passivity of classrooms that has emerged in many of the well-meaning guide on the side classrooms.

Erica argued strongly against classrooms that are worksheet rich and challenge poor. She argued strongly too against the role of teacher as a person who kept children happy as the main outcome of teaching. She made a telling point about the classroom becoming a place where attention deficit was a logistical outcome of lesson planning. Many classrooms did not support ‘stickability‘ nor can the children there tolerate discomfort. Erica made it clear that in her view creativity is hard work if children are to stay and work in the ‘grey of undecidability‘.  (Erica noted here Carol Dweck‘s work on motivation). Teacher librarians are seeing the dilemmas of children guided by worksheets with no pedagogical input.

In her discussion of the teacher as meddler in the middle, Erica identified three sets of 21st Century Skills:

  • academic functional
  • aesthetic digital
  • dynamic interactive

She suggested that intellectual clout was needed in this work to become  ‘usefully ignorant’ as the meddler in the middle. We must be pedadgogical experts but not knowledge experts. The 21st century classroom will need to be:

  • Seriously playful
  • Epistemologically agile
  • Low threat high challenge

Erica explored the skill set of the meddler and her fascination with design, disassembly and rediscovery. She illustrated her point with the story of her as a young child cutting up a tennis ball to find the bounce in(side) the ball.

The meddler’s classrom is:

  • Respect rich
  • Structure rich
  • Conversation rich
  • Information rich
  • Challenge rich

This envoronment is more than going digital.  Erica concluded her talk with an example of work in Singapore with 16 year old pupils using mind mapping tools to explore ideas. She invited the audience to consider the kinds of assessment procedures required to support wide and deep learning. The kind of work produced as a folio of such work will be:

  • Deep, wide and  transdisciplinary
  • Move from known to unknown
  • Unfolding as a series of responses to wondering
  • A tightly edited document of a learning journey that exhibits distilled sufficiency
  • Demonstrating growing complexity of thought and skills of editorship
  • Amenable to evaluation

The child is able to discuss this portfolio and the teach as meddler is a co-learner. This approach has clear pedagogical intention and significant affordances. The classroom is in design mode: what is the idea good for; what does it do and fail to do; does it have a future; how could it be improved; what is the value add? The design classroom is characterised by:

  • Knowledge more than facts
  • Deeply understand what is being built upon
  • Immersion
  • Social processes
  • Going past the labels to the activities

In the design mode disassassembly creates space for thinking. It welcomes error, strategy, instructive complication, and interesting ideas. Meddlers accept and create space for co-designing and are clear about looking for ideas and when error is welcomed. The classroom celebrates wonder, imagination, and step outside held views.

Erica’s concluding point was that creative workforces have literacies and numeracies as their bedroock. They facilitate discovery, autonomy and co-working.

Conclusion

This post is an attemplt to note points during Erica’s discussion. A large audience listened to Erica for ninety minutes. I hope they, like me, were fascinated by the critical wisdom she brought to 21st century educators concerned about equity and keen to develop a craft knowledge that will support creative learning through energy, passion and hard work.

This is a link to her PowerPoint presentation.


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The Merry Makers

Hot on the heals of the ABC Sunday Arts’ program (8 June) was a wonderful story about the Merry Makers (9 June). For anyone interested in teaching, learning and the flourishing of the human spirit this was a must see program.

ABC Photograph

In the program you meet Lucinda Bryant the Artistic Director and Choreographer of The Merry Makers. She is a remarkable teacher. She observes that:

“I suppose one of the biggest things is knowing about each individual in the class and how they actually work, and that’s not really knowing a lot about their disability, but more about their personality. I kind of just go by the feel of the day, and quite often when you’ve got 70 people in one room, each day is very, very different. So I sort of just take each day as it comes with the Merry Makers and yeah, just sort of go with my instinct.”

One of the stories within the program was about Sam. Lucinda’s work with him seemed to me to be the essence of all good teaching:

“When he first started, didn’t want to be in with the rest of the group, wanted to be outside. If he was in with the rest of the group, he’d be lying on the ground. But then as soon as everyone stopped dancing, then Sam would get up and want to be a bit of a star. So you knew he had it in him to want to dance. And I just let him do that. I kind of just ignored him, just to … one for him to get settled and to feel comfortable and confident, but also just so he didn’t have the attention on him.”

The Merry Makers performed at the Sydney Entertainment Centre for a one night show. This is one of the mums’ view of the evening:

“At the end of the night, the people and the love and the joy that’s in that audience, everybody just wants to hug one another and the the Merrys come off stage and the audience treat them like they’re absolute stars. Everybody’s equal because of this wonderful performance which is, words can’t describe it. It’s inexplicable. I just can’t tell you the effect they have on people. It just generates love and joy and happiness, and there’s so much laughter, and no one wants to go home.”

You can find two video clips of the program here.