On Thursday 4th October we attended an evening Conference at City of London School for Boys on the subject of creativity and innovation in education. The event was organized by How To Academy. The audience was made up of teachers, parents and those with an interest in education.
There were five outstanding speakers on the panel.
First up was Alex Beard. www.alexbeard.org
Alex has worked in education for a decade. After starting out as an English teacher in an inner-city comprehensive, he completed his MA at the Institute of Education before joining Teach For All. He is the author of Natural Born Learners. In his book, Alex takes us on a tour of the future of learning to show how we can – and why we must – do better. Alex has travelled the world to examine how children learn very differently in different countries, including Shanghai, Finland and Silicon Valley.
Alex asked the big question “are schools giving children what they need?” He believes passionately that learning must be transformed in 21stcentury in order to access better future selves for our children.
The second speaker was Bethany Koby, founder of Tech Will Save Us. www.techwillsaveus.com
Her organisation is on a mission to spark the creative imagination of young people using hands-on technology. They make award winning make-it-yourself kits and digital tools that help children to make, play, code and invent using technology. Bethany sees tech as a medium for creativity, as a way of creating original ideas. She referenced the work done by Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori on child development and urged the audience to have a productive relationship with tech.
Next was Peter Hyam, Head Teacher and Co-Founder of School 21,a state-funded, non-selective school for pupils aged 4-18 in Stratford, East London www.school21.org.uk
Peter’s belief is that education must be done differently if we are to prepare young people properly for the world they are going into. His approach is that we need schools to re-balance head (academic success), heart (character and well-being) and hand (generating ideas, problem solving, making a difference).
School 21 has developed a series of pedagogies and approaches that give students the chance to find their voice, develop deep knowledge and understanding, and create beautiful work that has real value beyond the classroom.
The fourth speaker was Laura McInery. www.lauramcinerney.com
Laura is well known as Editor of Schools Week. She is a former teacher and has spent many years on the frontline of education policy. Last year she co-founded Teacher Tapp, a daily survey tool for teachers which now has over 5,000 users. Each day it reveals insights into teachers’ lives: their needs, wants and desires.
She stunned the audience by telling us that no Education Secretary in recent history has studied a creative subject. The nearest we got was Michael Gove who studied English at university. We need creative politicians if we are to have a creative education system.
It would be unkind to talk about saving the best until last because the four speakers I have mentioned already were exceptional in their own way and their messages distinct and relevant. Yet when Sugata Mitra took to the stage we knew we were in for something very special.
Professor Mitra is Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastle University.www.ted.com/speakers/sugata_mitra
His “Hole in the Wall” experiments, begun in 1999, revealed that groups of children can learn almost anything by themselves given internet access and the ability to work collaboratively. He developed this original idea into the SOLE [the Self Organised Learning Environment] approach, reaching out to children with minimal or no educational opportunities in remote corners of the globe.
He has driven research into making this approach part of mainstream education. He founded The School in the Cloud which has achieved great success in self-organised learning and Sugata’s methodologies at its heart.
He was an excellent speaker, highly amusing and entertaining and I think I speak for all those present when I say I was truly sorry when he finished his turn.
Each of the speakers approached the subject of creativity and innovation in education in a thought provoking and inspirational way. We were captivated from start to finish. It really was an evening well spent.