Tuesday 12 November 2013

Where's Howie gone?

Howie is a jolly round gnome, 25cm tall, dressed in green and yellow and big black boots, last seen in a tree near New Billesley Pub.  He's been moving around for a little while, ready for people to find, have a chat with, take a photo.  At the end of last week he went missing, location unknown, and we want to make contact with him again.

Do you know anything that could lead to finding him?  Maybe you saw a little person somewhere in the area.  Keep your eyes peeled - I've added photos and video clip below.

And while you're at it take a look at this space, or a space near you from a different perspective - a gnome's eye view might not be one you've considered before.  But how's about a cyclist's, a pedestrian, or a small child.  What do you do in spaces near you?  What do you think you could do?  Space Explorers are interested in your ideas.

Thursday 31 October 2013

Playing outdoors

Playground equipment doesn't have to cost the earth.  Thanks to one smart Cornishman for creating this fantastic playground for the cost of a packet of nails (and there’s none too many of them holding all together either).

We had great fun here, and kids went back for more the next day. Playground also proved to be hurricane resistant. Any ideas we can use in Kings Heath?

Monday 14 October 2013

RCCS Jacket hangs

Passing through Digbeth's trendy custard factory shops, I saw my old school blazer in a shop window.  Well, it wasn't mine - I've still got it, but was chuffed the old blazer could be seen as a fashion accessory.

I was even more pleased to see the old school uniform being put to good use in Malawi by some old RCCSians:

Thanks Tasha Elizabeth
I was never that proud of wearing the old uniform - could be something to do with the 'Queer boys' taunts the jacket attracted, but this summer I passed by Ripon with the family, and couldn't help popping in school to show my kids.

The school had closed the year before.  It was kind of eerie walking around, as it felt like it had been open one day, the next day abandoned, with everything just left where it had been.

The new gym I'd watched being built out of my dorm, the boot locker of my nightmares (I used to wake up in a cold sweat being drawn to a monster in the basement only to find it was the person in next bed snoring), all just left.

I did a bit or web search to see what had happened.  Since I left Ripon, the choir had taken on girls, and the Cathedral Choir School had become one of the first Choir Schools to have a female headteacher in 2000(?!), which caused a parent revolt forcing Mrs. Cave to resign after only one term.  Eventually debts caused the school to close, after a failed merger with Cundall Manor (one of Stephen Fry's old schools he wasn't expelled from).

A sad end to a school which I'd been happy in even if, looking back, it was a bit like a Joanna Trollope novel.  Anyone knows what did happen to the 'Phoenix School', what the choir is like now, or have any other sitings of that dashing school blazer, please post.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Where is our Childcare?

Funding decision set to force parents out of work and onto benefits.  See below, blog written by Amanda Bradley:

There are well over 200 after school clubs in Birmingham catering for working families,  if they do not have disabled children.  We are asking Birmingham City Council to ensure that European funding made available to support access to employment and inclusion, fills the gap in specialist childcare. If the city council invest in specialist childcare provision to remove barriers to OUR employment they will save TEN times their investment in reduced benefits.

Please sign our  petition and join us in Kings Heath on Saturday 5th October 12.30 pm to 2 pm outside the new Baptist Church opposite ASDA 80 High St Kings Heath Birmingham, B14 7JZ  - Please see event on facebook
Children's area and free refreshments available
Parks for Play is a charity that has set up the 1st & ONLY specialist childcare provision in this city. The provision called Playwell, because it delivers play very well, runs from Uffculme school in Moseley. It offers high quality childcare to families with disabled children that need to work, study or commit time to siblings .  Families pay standard childcare fees which do not cover running costs because we need higher numbers of staff to cater for our children. Parks for Play works to raise the shortfall, keeping fees affordable & equitable by continuously applying for grants.

This year our expected  funding has been frozen for 6 months. This will result in 20 families not being able to stay in their jobs & a 2nd specialist provision in Handsworth not opening. We are waiting for FLEXIBLE SUPPORT FUND which Job Centre Plus district managers can use flexibly to best meet the needs of the local population. One in four families in this city has a child with an additional need. 2013 CAF Holiday Childcare Survey says 79% of families with disabled children not in work cited  insufficiently specialist childcare as the barrier. 

We ARE the local population and we would like to work, to study and have childcare when we need it.

Blog by Amanda Bradley Parks for Play chair

Please sign our petition on

Parks for Play
2 Vicarage Road
Kings Heath B14 7RA

Monday 23 September 2013

Don't give up on Hope

The procession down Kings Heath High Street for Hope Fennell was bigger this year, with around 400 cyclists and pedestrians taking to the street.

We were there with all our children, who all understood why.  For Jago it reminded him of when he was hit by a bus (minor injuries only), and said he felt people were doing it for all children.  Arthur couldn't understand why nothing had changed.  Freya is just coming to terms with what 'dead' means.

Nazan Fennell, mother of Hope, led the procession.  When we stopped for a few minutes at the crossing Hope died at, she managed to negotiate with the Police officer attempting to clear the road, even after he described it as a 'publicity stunt'.  Hope's friends from school gathered by the ghost bike, while we all waited a short while.  My children were getting a bit impatient, but no one was prepared to move until Nazan said so.  I'm not sure how long we were there for, obstructing the traffic.  As we stood there, I think the police expected the crowds to slowly melt away, but there was a sense of solidarity holding us together, mixed with frustration.

Find out more about Hope Fennell and the Livein Hope campaign or contact khresforum@gmail.com - also see http://hallgreenarts.blogspot.co.uk/p/car-culture.html

Other useful links:

Monday 16 September 2013

Keeping Playwell

Playwell is under threat.  Laura Watts writes:

An afterschool playcare scheme for children with disabilities is under threat of closure, putting more than 50 families under strain and potentially back on benefits.  Playwell specialist play care enables parents of disabled children to go out to work. It is the only club of its kind in more than 250 afterschool providers in Birmingham.

Funding cuts mean the scheme faces the axe, a prospect that will leave many families struggling to cope, and additional Saturday provision under threat.  The cost to the government in terms of families returning to benefits is estimated to be £480,000, not including emergency respite care.

Playwell was set up by Parks for Play, a Kings Heath charity that promotes inclusive community activities for children, in response to demand from local parents with disabled children.  In addition to caring for children, the project has led to the creation of 20 jobs – an achievement that should not be overlooked according to chair of Parks For Play Amanda Bradley:

Many of these parents wanted to work but were failing to find suitable childcare provision.  We believe that it is a right, not a luxury, for families to have equitable access to work, particularly in this economic climate. 
Playwell has enabled twenty parents to gain or maintain employment this year where potential benefit traps loomed.  The eventual hard-won investment in Playwell has saved the council at least ten times their outlay in benefit support and the impact on children and families meets a host of desirable outcomes for parents and child health, wealth and well-being. Now the service is under threat

Parks For Play raises funding to subsidise the true cost of Playwell so that families with disabled children can pay standard childcare fees in line with equalities legislation.

Grants from Birmingham City Council through Early Years and Childcare, Shorts Breaks for Disabled Children and significantly the Employment Access Team, Development & Culture and the Flexible Support Fund from Job Centre Plus ensured that this service emerged and survived.

Playwell runs from Uffculme ASD specialist school in Moseley which has lent critical support to the initiative serving children from a number of local schools. It is hoped that the model will be duplicated at Hamilton specialist school in Handsworth. Tributes to Playwell have poured in on the news that it may have to close:

Parents say:

Without this service I would not have been able stay in work. Playwell has really progressed my sons social interaction and development. 
I can’t thank Playwell enough. They have saved our lives this year. 
Playwell allows me to keep my job going in very difficult circumstances. It has really broadened my son's experiences.

Amanda Bradley added

Disabled children and their families face the poverty of forced unemployment, social exclusion and immense pressures.Playwell also offers families emergency respite for parents dealing with crisis or other ongoing family commitments.
It gives children with additional needs the opportunity to socialise with peers in their community developing in creative ways that can only be facilitated through play.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Playday 2013

It's the eve of my birthday, and National Playday!  I've been with the kids today making a film and tomorrow we'll be visiting all three of the streets closed to cars in Kings Heath, open to Play.  Here 's the short film we made:


Useful links:

Monday 22 July 2013

What do you want in your garden?

Space Probe 2 was at Kings Heath Community Centre Garden last Thursday.  We had a picnic and asked people what they would like in their garden.  We used a range of activities, from reviewing maps to find disused spaces in Kings Heath, making scarecrows, drawing what we want, interviews and eating butternut tereme with rice and flapjacks.

This is the second event in a growing number of events looking at space in Kings Heath, coordinated by Kings Heath Centre for Space Exploration.  On 7th August we're looking forward to a series of streets closing to cars and opening to play across Kings Heath for National Playday.  There'll be more space probes later this year, and Sustrans will be starting a very exciting pilot in Kings Heath looking closer at streets and how we could use them better, so loads to look forward to!

Here's five minutes from the interviews and a few photos:

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Desire Lines

The start of the Spen Valley Greenway & the Calder & Hebble Navigation Canal
The start of the Spen Valley Greenway & the Calder & Hebble Navigation Canal for SE2320
 © Copyright Nigel Homer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
We have been conducting a 'communications audit' in Education Technology Team at University of Birmingham, Med School.  I've also been a part of space exploration in Kings Heath, and last week I went to the first meeting of an exciting Sustrans project to transform Kings Heath -  This is a national programme that will focus on engaging local communities in the redesign of areas around schools & elsewhere with a view to making them safer and more attractive for walking & cycling.  Sustrans presented some fabulous means of engaging local residents in re-designing roads around them in a range of different settings, from rural to city centre.

At first it may not seem so obvious what similarities a 'communications audit' might have with a street re-design, but the first, and most important one is desire lines.  Put simply, design using 'desire line principles' is about following routes that people take, and incorporating it into a plan or design. For a 'communication audit', it's about finding out how people, individuals within an organisation and outside it, communicate, and designing a 'communications strategy' around those desires.

The temptation with street/path designs and communication strategies is to look for the most efficient, quickest routes.  Where this falls apart is failure to consider the people using them.  It may be that 'people' have found a more efficient route, or that a route has other advantages to people using them.

At Spen Valley Greenway, Richard Harris talks about 'desire lines' to shortening routes, and 'lines of desire', lengthening routes to develop a 'relationship' between the people using the route and the route itself:

"Lines of desire, curve and gently tilted paths rise above...concerned with the way people move through a space.  I hope the relationship is parked and then develops as people continue on their journey - at whatever speed - and that this relationship continues to develop in subsequent journeys and pauses along the way."
His commments echo Gaston Bachelard in 'The Poetics of Space'.

In communications, I think this means looking at the most efficient communications media, the communications that most people use, as well as communications that might inspire people, take ownership of that communal 'space' to reflect and continue to develop in subsequent 'communications'.

For instance, blogging or twitter may be effective communication channels, but as a team we may decide to rely more on storify partly for qualities of efficient communication of the information we want to communicate, but also to recognise the patterns of communications we already use, and to reflect and inspire learning and develop confidence in communicating our ideas in our own space.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Paganel Stories

After a truly eventful week, Paganel Archives is officially open.  On Friday 28th June we had a jam packed archive room - a room full of archives, stories, and some of the incredible creative responses children have made over the last week, and throughout the history of the school.

At the beginning of the week we had interviews with 24 local community representatives, including two former Head teachers from Paganel Primary school and many previous Paganel pupils from the very start of the school to the 1980s.  Every child in the school took part in those interviews which were all transcribed and prepared for our team of creative practitioners to work with every class (much thanks to Birmingham Archives and Heritage Outreach Team for support in that).  Meanwhile our Yr5 crack Archivist team have been preparing the catalogue, guidance on archives, and a tour for everyone in the school.

On Friday we combined with 'Parents in Paganel' to put on a top notch exhibition of our archives, archives inspired work and the Paganel Archives project, with cream cakes.  We were joined by our MP Gisela Stuart, Chris Upton, Local Historian and Senior Reader at Newmann University said a few words, and four of the children from our archives after-school club cut the ribbon to symbolically open our archives.  The archives themselves were so packed with parents, children and former pupils, it was hard to move.

Here are a few photos, clips and links to some of the stuff from last week:

Also see Paganel Primary School youtube channel for clips of Bobbie Gardner making songs with yr6, yr5 archive tour, yr4 making poetry with Roz Goddard, yr3 drawing a story with Prof Tom Jones,  yr2 photography with Brian Homer, yr1 Drama with Pyn Stockman, Songs and outdoor play with Clare Chapman for Nursery and Reception, all inspired by Paganel Stories from the interviews on Monday & Tuesday!

It is a repository archive so most of the collections are stored in the archive room at Paganel Primary School, which is open to public by appointment on Friday afternoons. However, our catalogue is available online here .
We are also working on a school website and http://weoleypedia.wikispaces.com/. There’s a bit of a backlog of material to put up, but we’re working on it and soon all the interviews, photos, film clips and other written material will be available online. Also try the school youtube for latest updates and some great short clips from ‘Paganel Stories’ week –http://www.youtube.com/user/PaganelSchool.
Paganel now has the first ARCHON registered repository archive in a state primary, and also the first weekly archive after-school club I’ve heard of – seehttp://archiveafterschoolclub.wordpress.com
It’s really impressive to visit, and we are working on making easier to search and navigate through online too.

Sunday 16 June 2013

Getting the archive buzz

Meeting the dinosaur after the performance
There are archives, and then there's what you do with them.  For 'Life's Rich Pageant' Birmingham History Theatre Company devised a play about the making of Birmingham Pageant of 1938.

When we first got involved, I thought my children would be doing some singing, and I'd be helping them a bit.  In the end, we all did some acting, we made props (including this rather handsome, smoke belching dinosaur) and the quality of the songs we all sang devised by Pete Churchill were outstanding.  I may not have known much about the Pageant before, but now, me and my family will never forget.

What's more important is the archives, the play, the way community drama works, has really been about bringing people together.  In the audience was someone who really had been to the Pageant in 1938, and remember the dinosaurs to be bigger, but every bit as dodgily put together, spouting green smoke.  I met a whole range of people, both actors and audience, all discussing various aspects of Balsall Heath, Birmingham City Council, how things have changed, what's stayed the same, have things got better for women, is there still a sense of community? The archive material has created a 'buzz' from which so much could develop.

For the past 18 months I've been working to develop Paganel Archives - the first ARCHON registered UK repository archive in a state run primary school.  Today I've been replying to emails sent from previous pupils from when the school was first opened, to arrange interviews led by children.

Paganel School are spending a whole week off curriculum to interview more local residents and pupils, and then to represent them creatively.  We want all children in the school to have experienced interviewing, and then creating their own Paganel stories inspired by the interviews to showcase on the Friday, alongside more archive materials.  Birmingham Archives and Heritage outreach team has been training Yr 5 to support younger children to conduct interviews.  We have some really fantastic creative practitioners to work with each class during the week to help students represent the stories the way they want to - Bobbie Gardner (with sound/music), Roz Goddard (Poetry), Brian Homer (photography), Tom Jones (drawing), Pyn Stockman (drama), Clare Chapman (creative outdoors), Richard Albutt (digitally).

But again, even though the archive room will be awesome and the archive will inspire creative learning across the whole school, what I'm most looking forward to is the archive inspired conversations, meeting and talking, putting heritage at the heart of our community.

Useful links:


Thursday 6 June 2013

Keeping the d in distance learning

Boulton, Watt and Murdoch under a Brummie moon
The Ed Tech Team at University of Birmingham wanted to make a presentation at the 10th annual conference, teaching and learning at University of Birmingham touching on current issues in teaching practice.  It's hard to avoid the rise and rise of MOOCs and the shift in education many believe they will bring.  We haven't yet made any big investment into MOOCs, but not a day goes by without the suggestion that maybe we should be.  I'm not intending to write solely about MOOCs - there's no shortage of material out there should you want to find out more, but look at the broader school of 'distance learning' of which MOOC is a family member, and something we've been doing rather well in Birmingham for some time.

I am refering to the wonderful Lunar men of the late 18th century, who met at every full moon, usually at Soho House, but mainly shared their thoughts via mail.  When I worked in Birmingham Archives and Heritage, I had the privilege of working with the Boulton and Watt Collection.  One day I was flicking through Watt's letters when I came across the very letter he sent to Priestley suggesting Joe might be onto something with his "dephlogisticated air" (Oxygen).  It even appears they were conducting 'distance experimentation' :

The Lunar Society believed in argument and cooperation. They had long discussions about why thunder rumbles and decided the best way to test their various theories was by experiment. Boulton made a 5-foot-diameter balloon from varnished paper, and they filled it with a terrifying mixture of air and hydrogen (“inflammable air from iron”). They lit a fuse underneath, released the balloon into the night sky on a calm, clear evening and waited for the bang. Unfortunately, the fuse was rather long, and they all assumed it must have gone out; so they began to talk among themselves, when there was a colossal explosion, and they all said, “There it goes!” and forgot to listen for the rumble! Watt was at home 3 miles away and wrote that the bang was “instantaneous, and lasted about one second.” This seems self-contradictory, but in any case, the experiment failed to produce a simple answer to the original question.

Adam Hart-Davis

Starting with historical perspective, it was interesting to note the Oxford English Dictionary has not yet cited any published use of the term d-Learning, dLearning, dlearning or the other variants.  There is plenty in OED and others on e-Learning, but somehow d-learning has been missed.

Defining e-Learning, the e stands for 'electronic', of course, but there has been lively discussion about what it should stand for, or even if, in the proliferation of e-Learning across learning, mainstream, whether it is useful as a term anymore at all.  Some of the suggestions:

electronic, enterprise, exciting, energetic, enthusiastic, emotional, extended, excellent, and educational,

everything, everyone, engaging, easy - Erik Parks

You could also question if there is still a need to define separately d-Learning, but if we are, I would argue the d in d-Learning needs to be discussion.  There are challenges to learning from a distance.  We need to play to the strengths of modern digital learning networks, and actively promote and value the contributions and learning of our students and our staff.

I found the lack of literature defining d-learning rather curious, even though it seems in common currency in Education establishments, and so looked to how the big MOOC and other distance learners are defining themselves.  I looked at Open University, Harvard university, Massey, Coursera and some of the other big MOOC and distance learning providers.  The variation in how they defined their distance learning was striking - all included 'discussion' as an important element - for some it was central, for others it seemed mentioned more as an additional extra.

Changes in MOOC definition on wikipedia have also been noted and discussed as the MOOC providers appear to move away from the professional network 'connectivism' model of MOOC in a bid to find and promote the most eminent Professors to provide resources, represent their courses and displace peer-to-peer discussion and open access.  Such has been the shift that a separate 'connectivist MOOC' sub-group is now defined in Wiki, based largely on what is seen as a more 'purist' interpretation of the principles all MOOCS were founded.

Distance Learning and MOOCs are increasingly being debated within Ed Tech groups like the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), within our own University, across Education Establishments  across the world, and creeping nearer our newspaper front pages.  If discussion in d-Learning is kept central to MOOCS and all distance learning, I believe new technolgies could still provide a shift in learning and learning establishments to engage and meet the needs of more students worldwide.

Useful links:

Monday 3 June 2013

Playing Out

After a hairy road crossing at the bottom of Lyme Regis (reminds me of our school journey), you're onto the beach.  You can relax and let the kids run about (or pin them down with rocks, depending on how you're feeling).

It's a completely different feeling to the anxiety, watching out for your kids walking along a road in Kings Heath - enough nearly to turn you into a swivel-eyed loon, dashing over to stop your child picking a daisy from the kerb... Just in case they fall into the road.  But deep down you know you wouldn't have got there in time.  Especially if you live on a road with lots of speeding traffic, narrow pavements and a general intolerance of other road/pavement users.   Is it better to block a pavement with your car or block the traffic on the road?  Why is it OK for car drivers to shout at cyclists?  And what is it that everyone hates about dog owners?

So why do we just accept the risks, the anxiety, the misery we are putting ourselves through?   Can anyone argue our roads and pavements are as safe as they should be?

 Sustrans and other organisations are doing what they can.  Locally too there are things we can do to open conversation and bring about change.  Car Culture is a project continuing to explore our road use - there is also the Live in Hope campaign and a new initiative to start playing out in Kings Heath.

Yesterday saw Goldsmith Road and Westfield Road in Kings Heath closed to traffic for street parties to do with the big lunch.  They are two of up to six which may be closing on 7th August 2013 for National Playday.  So far there has been a great response to the possibility of closing roads to traffic in Kings Heath - possibly because everyone is too aware of the problems we have.  Traffic and it's problems will be high on the agenda again for KH residents forum AGM this weekend.

Seeing some of the photos from the playing out projects makes me feel a little nostalgic for the streets I used to play on, socialising with your neighbour, all things I feel like my children miss, because it doesn't feel safe to let them out in Kings Heath - keep a lookout on Kings Heath Centre for Space Exploration for more about this.  

Saturday 27 April 2013

Making do without Tofu

£24.84 is the precise amount of money we have calculated to spend on food for the next five days - 16p clear of the £25 limit set by livebelowtheline.com.

Live Below the Line is a campaign that's challenging us to live on the equivalent of the extreme poverty line for 5 days (£1 a day, 5 days, 5 people = £25).  That's not strictly true, as clearly we have a roof over our head, money in the bank and I suspect a rather more comfortable standard of living generally, but I was chuffed when we suggested to our three children to do this, they weren't exactly excited, but were at least prepared to give it a go.  1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty (equivolent to less than £1 a day) - that's one in five of the world population.


Since then both me and Nikki have spent a bit of time going through the figures.  There was a brief moment when we realised our budget would not be stretching to tofu, although noodles are cheap and we will be doing  a stir fry.  I was more disappointed with the complete lack of drinks - even teabags were looking like a luxury.I don't think the kids have quite realised how lacking the menu-for-the-week is looking in terms of food they like - I can see it'll be a real tester for all of us by day three.  Fruit are also looking rather costly - we'll have to limit apple juice, and considered if we should still buy fairtrade bananas (non-fairtrade bananas are by far the cheapest fruit our kids will eat and we could find).Please find out more by visiting the site.  It's not too late to join us, promote or sponsor:

Friday 19 April 2013

Network, Kraftwerk and craftmanship

Today I went to The Quality Challenge: An Inconvenient Truth About e-Learning, a presentation at Aston University by visiting New Zealander Mark Brown from Massey University.  It was a great opportunity to explore the challenges of delivering 'quality' elearning.  It was also a stark reminder that we are delivering 'elearning' in institutions where 'quality assurance' does not necessarily lead to 'quality enhancement'.  

He outlined Massey University's successful approach which (my summary) is something like Massively Online Boutique Learning - with over 18,000 distance learners.  That is, keeping focus on 'quality culture' rather than assurance, where emphasis is placed on professional trust, making teachers more responsible for their own quality assessment, with effective peer reflection, leading to a supportive environment for critical and reflective analysis.

He made reference to cheese quite a bit, which always helps, but I couldn't get Kraftwerk out of my head.  Last night I deleted a few old emails I really should have acted on a while ago.  I found a starred reminder that Kraftwerk were playing live in London in February - a truly rare thing, and probably something that even if I had got my act together, probably wouldn't have been able to get a ticket for:

Kraftwerk are one of those bands everyone refers to be 'influenced by' - they are a band which most commentators agree, 'changed the landscape of music' (see Kraftwerk, the secret history)  The music press labelled them secretive because they shunned their approaches, spending much of their time in 'Kling Klang Studio', obsessively experimenting.  They are clearly great 'craftsmen', and their fascination with machines, in particular the ones they use to make music, dominates their music.  They take very much a 'boutique' approach to music, taking great time to deliver a product which may not be to everyone's taste, but inspires dedicated followers prepared to go literally around the world to see them.

What I think is striking in the approach of Kraftwerk, and Massey University to distance learning, is a strict adherence to a 'quality culture' which has little to do with 'quality assurance', but everything to do with experimentation and reflection in a trusting environment.

Mark Brown highlighted that 'elearning' can be used to entrench 1950s style teaching on 21stnetworks, and that 'quality assurance' could be the means to control knowledge and academics, which is beginning to sound rather like Foucault's power and knowledge - see 2 min presentation I made Ed Tech Learning Forum at UoB).

Alan Moore in 'No Straight lines' talks about 'a new reality of living, working and organising' - the beginning of a new post-industrial dawn, placing emphasis on 'craftsmanship' - an informed approach able to respond flexibly and with greater market understanding through effective networks.  How different is this to the 'art and craft' movement of William Morris et al at the turn of the last century, where craftmanship was much valued?  Or how different is it to Birmingham's Lunar Society of the 18th Century, where a network of scientists conducted experiments and discussion together, or 'renaissance man', with wide ranging knowledge and a sophisticated network  of associates from centuries before?

I believe elearning can also be used to develop more effective learning and research, through the development of a 'quality culture' which supports effective use of peer networks and reflection.  Foucault examines the history of 'knowledge' and takes a cynical view that where power and knowledge exists, so does a desire to discipline and control it. I hope dlearning, elearning, and other uses of our new technologies, will help make a small step towards a more open and informed world.

For more info see:




Monday 18 March 2013

Family visit to the bank

This was our first visit to the bank this year, or possibly for a lot longer than that.  It could partly explains demise of bank, but probably not.  Anyway, still lots of fun to be had as artists have taken over for Thrift Radiates Happiness , the first, I'm sure of many, exhibition to be held at the former 'Birmingham Municipal Bank'.  The incredible size, former opulence, and its history adds weight to the instalations, and then there's the whole current affairs crash thing going on too.

For one of the installations you have the opportunity to collect 'a deposit' from the vaults - also loved  Nicole Wilson's letters to Barrack Obama in her own personal mission to clear the US national debt.  here's some photos:

Tuesday 26 February 2013

A day with Smaugs at Weoley Castle Library

As part of Arts March and Paganel Archives project, Paganel Primary Year 4 have been at Weoley Castle Library. For more info please see Laura's excellent Northfield Arts Forum blog entry, 2 min audio clip or photo gallery below.  Loads going on for Northfield Arts March and well worth taking some time to check it out.  Weoley Castle activities mainly taking place over this weekend (2nd 3rd March)
Image of Smaug is superfluous, but takes me back to the front cover of 'The Hobbit' I read as a child!

Useful links:

Sunday 24 February 2013

Sale, one listed walled garden

The Horticultural, conservation & Training unit at Leasowes Park has been closed since summer 2012, and not too surprised to see the 'For sale' sign going up.

If I had a spare few thousand, definitely something I'd be interested in - a maintained historic walled garden, in need of some renovation.

Plans to sell it faltered in 2007 when the college changed it's mind, and it's future has very much been under a cloud since.  It has been hoped the council might 'buy back' the garden from the college, but does the appearance of a 'for sale' sign signal the end of this possibility?

I'm particularly saddened given the historical significance of the park and the efforts of the active and able Friends of the Leasowes (contact @Leasowes_Park on Twitter)

The community around Leasowes and the suitability of the site itself is crying out for some kind of community venture.  Is there someone out there willing to take it on?

Below is video from a project I was involved in in 2009 with the Friends showing the garden, presented by a Stourbridge College group using the garden at the time:

Useful links:






Tuesday 5 February 2013

Make do and Mend

Paganel Archives room, nearly ready!
Today we held a coffee morning for parents and contributors to 'Make do and mend' - the latest project  at Paganel Primary School - part of Paganel Archives (HLF funded). Since September the 'Paganel Archive Team' has grown to include an archives after-school club, their interviewing, cataloguing, and general archive skills getting more and more impressive as the year goes by.  Added to which we have developed both a fantastic archive room and the archives themselves being constantly added to, catalogued efficiently and, most importantly, used by the children to reflect and learn.

We started September with Birmingham Archives and Heritage training our team to keep archives and to interview in depth.  This was followed by a team from the Rep theatre workshop supporting designing the archive room - they are now putting finishing touches to our archive room.

A window into one of the archive room models made by yr5 

The after-school club followed from the Archive training and has led to a whole series of interviews and cataloguing beyond what we had hoped possible, including parents, teaching staff and other visitors and people connected to the school.  The after school club meets weekly to support the project with cataloguing, oral history recording and other activities.

'Make do and mend' has been a terrific example of how a school archive can be used to value the contribution of parents, the community and children, developing ownership of the school and more engaging relevant learning, encouraging reflection on previous work.

The first workshop we looked at archive material about 'Make do and mend' (a WW2 initiative to make the most of limited resources, involving Recycling, Reusing and Reducing and reviewed some of the 'making do and mending' residents of Sellywood House might be familiar with.  We then visited Sellywood House, a nursing and residential home for older people, where residents talked to children about their experiences of 'Making do and mending'

By the next workshop we had transcripts from interviews prepared and the children worked to relate comments by residents to issues relating to their topic - recycle, reuse, reduce.  The yr5 group categorised the quotes themselves, which led them to settle on a single topic within recycling to create their own collages in small groups (from recycled materials, of course).  They worked in small groups to develop both their ideas and artwork.  Today parents came in to see their presentations of their artwork, and of course, to be interviewed about their experiences of recycling.

The project uses archive material, and will add to the growing Paganel archive - a (now) substantial resource of material including some great (partially transcribed, fully catalogued) interviews of parents, children and local residents, relating to a range of topics within the curriculum, documenting and valuing the lives and stories of our school community.
Categorising comments
Exhibition space at Paganel
Interviewing Olive at Sellywood House
Reviewing recycled materials for artwork
Archive recipe for shampoo and cough medicine
Interviewing Beryl
Explaining rag rugs, hot rocks and corking to teachers
Interviewing parents about recycling today

Children, staff and parents commented:

'It's great to come in and see what the children are doing, and this work has been relevant and got them thinking...When I was growing up I used to make go-karts, like Mr Shufflebottom...now I'm a car mechanic!'

'I've really enjoyed seeing all the work they've done.  The after-school club has been so popular - It's the one thing she doesn't want to miss.'

'We really want to encourage parents to come into our school - this project and the Paganel Archives has been great at encouraging parents in to see what we do here.'

'It was scary doing the presenting [artwork], but I'm glad I did it.  I'm really proud of what I've done.'