I've just recently started work on the evaluation of a year long programme hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University's Institute of Humanities and Social Science research. Entitled Creating Our Future Histories, the scheme sees 'early career researchers' (usually those who are completing a PhD, or are just about to start one / have recently finished one) working with Manchester community organisations. Each partnership is mentored by a more experienced academic. The partnerships are punctuated along the way by a series of weekend workshops combining into a professional development course on how community engagement between academics / researchers / communities might take shape. Each partnership is also expected to meet at least once between each workshop.
The partner-groups are developing co-constructed plans and activities which research previously uncharted areas of the organisation's heritage, and look towards incorporating their future in a way which will become part of their heritage in years to come - there's the 'Future Histories' part. Late next Spring each group will showcase their findings in creative and public ways - many yet to be decided; though ideas are already circulating about film, video, exhibtions, time capsules and more.
I'm about a month in and I'm once again struck by the many rich and hidden histories of Manchester - industry, architecture, battle and radical action, many many things which show the inventiveness and resilience of this sometimes bloody minded and often ingenius city.
You can find out more about the project here and I particularly recommend the research group pages and project blogs to find out more about the organisations involved and the progress and reflections taking place.
Massively vital reading for teachers (even more so secondaries). This insightful post by Alexis Wiggins, was original scripted anonymously. She later outed herself - rightly so, absolutely nothing here to hide!
She starts with, "I have made a terrible mistake. I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!"
She goes on to describe her experience and provide 3 key learning points, each with practical suggestions to her past and future self, and all other teachers out there.
Read it and then do it. And then if you can, get your managers / heads / team to read and do it too.
Some of you will already include some of these things in your practice but I guarantee some will be new inspiration.
I'd also extend the basic principle to all people who work with audiences, customers, learners, pupils, participants etc... when was the last time you walked in their shoes. Turn the tables on yourself and see what you can improve.
There's already some discussion of this going on on my Facebook page if you want to join in... *here*
The Wild ClassroomRead Now
Lovely post from EarlyartsUK on The Wild Classroom - whys and hows and what it looks like and why, most of all, not to be afraid of the wilderness! Let's get more kids out there...
Gothic Manchester FestivalRead Now
Just when you thought there was nothing left for Manchester to festivalise, I'd just like to draw your attention to Gothic Manchester Festival 23-26 October, run by The Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University.
I'm so excited about this on many levels. Not that excitement and goth really go together but...
Soapbox AlertRead Now
I'm really struck today by why artists / schools often feel a need to 'dumb down' what's possible - so many simple mosaics, hand prints, flowers, butterflies... there's nothing wrong with those, but it's as though there's an assumption that children aren't capable of getting wrapped up in ideas, thoughts, concepts, challenge, investigation, invention and processes. I know that they are, that they can handle more conceptual art than many adults, that ideas and possibility makes them buzz. So where is it that these limitations come from? Maybe it's the adults who are scared? Should we take a step back and learn from what the children can unlock for us? I'm just saying, let's not always fall back on the lowest common denominator.
You can read more comments and join in this conversation over on Facebook here...
Incredible film about what it means to be a craftsperson, a maker, and the 'consumer' of handmade objects. The way in which the quality and love is communicated so strongly and authentically is captivating. As well as the magic that underlies the ballet shoe. I was lucky enough to see what this meant to dancers first hand, way back when I worked with Northern Ballet. The memories of dancers sitting in corridors scratching and darning the shoes for better fit and grip is still vivid.
Look what my lovely friends at MOSI have done for all you wonderful teachers. Roll up roll up, bring all your finest young imagineers!
Be part of The Tower PoppiesRead Now
There is an exciting opportunity for potters to get involved in a historic landmark project to commemorate the outbreak of WW1. The Tower of London are currently engaged in a major art installation to place 880,000 Ceramic Poppies around the moat of the Tower for November 11th 2014.
At Potclays we are proud to be the supplier of materials and equipment to the project and the fact that part of the installation will be made in Stoke makes it that little bit more special.
There is the opportunity for about 20 people to take part in paid work to support a WW1 commemorative Art project.
This phase of the project commences on Monday 28th July and the duration of the work is up to 3 months and they need people who have some craft skills - for anyone who has done a BA or MA in ceramics or anyone with a craft background. They are looking for ceramic makers and technicians who can work a 9 hour day (with an hour lunch break) at a rate of £10 an hour for making poppies. This rate is negotiable for experienced makers willing to commit for the 3 month period. The working hours are 8am to 5pm.
The work will take place on the site of Johnsons Tiles in Stoke who have a great set up and there would be a lot to gain for graduates or practitioners from a 3 month opportunity working there in terms of learning and experience.
Fiamma is especially interested in any technicians or experienced craft practitioners in the team to help meet their target of 880,000 poppies.
If they can't do the whole 3 months, they’d still like to hear from them. Please contact Fiamma directly about this opportunity.
Please contact email@example.com if you are available, leaving a telephone number.
Public Arts in LancashireRead Now
Having relocated back to Lancashire, I'm now evangelical about it's hidden arts and cultural treasures. Here's a fantastic map of public arts across Pennine Lancashire - do come and visit the area and explore via the ArtsMap . The image is one of my absolute favourites: The Atom, on the Lancs / Yorkshire border...
I'm just wrapping up some research for a museum. They asked me to collate case studies of good and innovative practice in how comparable venues (which in this case include medium-large scale museums and galleries) use digital technology to support school visits, in workshops, self-directed studies and potentially back in school.
They also wanted to find out about the ways such activity can be evaluated. They absolutely do not want to have form after form handed to teachers and students, and wondered how else really good evaluation might take place.
The brief contains phrases like blended learning and e-learning. It's problematic because there are no clear definitions of what those are and where they start and end, And it's a real rabbit hole - an entire and massive area of specialisation and expertise.
It's a small piece of work, just skimming the surface to help the museum think in new and different ways about what they might do, and how to monitor its impact well.
I've collated 64 pages, over 32,000 words, of case studies of applications, programmes, projects, reviews and industry expertise opinions on contextual issues such as evaluation, future proofing and general good practice in digital learning and engagement. I've visited more websites, read more conference papers, searched more forums than I can count and interviewed some really insightful and inspiring colleagues in the field.
Eventually, if the museum in question has no objections, I'll upload the collated set of case studies and expertise here for anyone else who might like it. It will be in a very rough and ready format - just my research notes really, in no particular order. But it may be of some help to someone so watch this space...
In the meantime, it seemed much easier to put all 32k+ words into wordle and see what happened. There it is above, that's what the whole shebang amounts to. Interesting at this stage that 'online' is so prominent, given that I wasn't specifically looking at just online options. Interesting too that if 'conversation', 'collaboration' or 'participation' are in there, they certainly don't jump out.
I'm most interested in how the public, your public, whoever that may be, engages with culture and creativity.
And if it nurtures creativity and develops personal, social or professional skills I'm absolutely all ears.