To quote Marvin Gaye-

“Ain’t not mountain high enough,

Ain’t no valley low enough,

Ain’t no river wide enough,

To keep me from getting to you.”

Lots of us make a special effort to get to a ‘Teachmeet’ Why did we do that? Because we know we’re taking part in something special. We know it’s a big opportunity to meet people and learn something.

So why isn’t all CPD like Teachmeet?

Let’s be honest if the Local Authority was putting on a course in your bathroom-we’d all go a day without having a wash.

Anna Freud once said-

“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.”

But I think our creative minds survive despite bad training.

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg, said “It doesn’t have to be like this!” and I’m sure we all agree-I’m going to talk about a term Ray coined in his book ‘The Great, Good Place’. I’m going to tell you about a ‘Third Place’, a place where teachers are engaged, stimulated and where the training has had a direct impact on the learning of the pupils in class.

Third places are the many public places where people can gather put aside the concerns of home and work (The 1st and 2nd places) and loiter simply for the pleasure of good company and lively conversation-doesn’t that sound familiar?

I was heavily influenced by this concept and decided I could do an educational mash-up.

Education is often understood as the sole responsibility of parents and teachers. Early years experts in Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy have identified a third teacher between child, teacher and parent-The Environment. In its attention to how space can be thoughtfully arranged, the Reggio approach has reconceptualised space as a key source of educational provocation and insight.

Out of these 2 concepts came Inathirdspace.

A project that took teachers to a third place, where they were influenced by their environment.

Teachers were told to meet in the staff room, they were given an envelope which gave them instructions on how to get to their location. Once there they met an expert, who would inspire them to use their surroundings and their experience to devise a lesson for the whole school to do.Teachers went on a canal barge with a watercolour artist, they did archery with a drama expert, they went to a sawmill with a sculptor and a theatre with a poet.

Here is one of their stories-

How many of us can really say that we have truly been in the role as learner?

Sharon was an experienced teacher who was a member of the SMT. She was part of the group that did the archery. The instructor had specifically told the group to never go over a certain line in any circumstance because it was dangerous. Unknown to the group the Instructor was in role as teacher and the drama expert was provoking by asking the Instructor to react to them in different ways, some supportive, some negative.

Inadvertently Sharon crossed the line to pick up a dropped arrow-the Instructor reacted furiously, shouting at Sharon and berating her for not following instructions. Afterwards Sharon saw this as a valuable learning experience-she thought about the times she had shouted at her pupils for not following instructions, when they were in danger. She thought about how she had felt when the Instructor had shouted at her.

She said that the experience really changed the perception of the pupils in her class.

“It’s never enough to just tell people about some new insight. Rather, you have to get them to experience it in a way that evokes its power and possibility. Instead of pouring knowledge into people’s heads, you need to help them grind a new set of glasses so they can see the world in a new way.”

John Seely-Brown

We all agree that it’s the experiences that matter. Inathirdspace combined the experience of surroundings with the challenge to a teachers’ pedagogy.

Everyone in school took part in the project-Teachers, Cleaners, Dinnertime Supervisors, Teaching Assistants, Administrators and Management. Everyone devised devised a lesson from these sessions. The whole school planted and grew sunflowers. The whole school mixed classes and had a careers in role afternoon and produced giant art work.

The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) were the last team to do the project and wanted to show the rest of the staff that they could devise a ‘really-risky’ lesson.

The whole school, including Nursery went on mass to the local park. The pupils were given materials and were asked to do what they wanted-there was an emergency envelope for those that didn’t have ideas. There was a time limit, each class went around and looked at what was produced. No lesson plans, No Assessment, No right or wrong answers-just pure child-centred creativity.

A BECTA report said-

“It is the interaction between the distinctive features of technology and the characteristics of creativity that open up new perspectives on the development of creativity in Education.”

Inathirdspace hoped to use new technology-to take risks and make mistakes in a non-threatening atmosphere and have flexibility for the different stages of creativity.

Staff used mobile phones to send text messages to the project website, took photos and uploaded them to the photo-sharing website Flickr. Using mobile phones gave staff the freedom to text or take photos anywhere and the confidence to use a familiar technology in a very different way. We also used Twitter to post photographs thoughts and feedback. Pupils and staff used it to gage the lesson in the plenary. The speed and spontaneity of this method meant we gathered a range of opinions and constructive criticism within minutes; participants in the Third Space could connect with each other and extend the learning to beyond the face to face sessions. We were able to look at what was going well in order to maintain and develop the project. All this remained anonymous-it both supported and challenged our practice and made a big impact on the evolution of the project. Using new technology as an integral part of the project, meant taking on new challenges, for most of the participants. This enhanced the creative process because staff had a ‘fresh’ approach and had no pre-conceived ideas that could influence their contributions.

So why can’t all staff CPD be like this all the time?

Finally I like to leave you with a quote from Steve Jobs-

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences than other people.”

Inathirdspace was a Creative Partnerships project that ran from January 2009 to June 2009.

The Inathirdspace Twitter feed is here.

Written by Julian S Wood -"rel="author"
  • Dughall McCormick

    I love the Inathirdspace CPD project you describe and can appreciate how powerful it must have been.

    I hope you won’t mind me taking issue with something you said at the beginning:

    “Let’s be honest if the Local Authority was putting on a course in your bathroom-we’d all go a day without having a wash.”

    Is this true for all Local Authorities? All courses? Maybe you have had some less than useful experiences but that is something of a sweeping statement. I have colleagues who run ‘courses’ such as ‘Mystery Bus Tour’ (very much an ‘Inathirdspace’ experience), ‘Den-building’, ‘Enchant the School’ and similar. I myself run courses for the LA such as ‘Create, Communicate and Share’ in which delegates are introduced to a range of fantastic free tools such as Voicethread, Linoit/Wallwisher, Storybird, Coveritlive, etc etc (all of which they would encounter at a teachmeet). The difference between my course and a Teachmeet is that I provide space and time for delegates to explore the tools, become familiar and comfortable with them, discuss with other delegates and make some plans as to how to use them in their classrooms.

    This is an increasingly market-driven world. You are becoming a customer of the LA. Customers should be able to demand good service and be provided with what they desire and what they need. Have you asked your LA to provide the CPD you think you, your school, your staff need? Have you made helpful suggestions to the LA about a direction that you believe they might take?

    In the mean time, I’m off to make the finishing touches to my planning for a forthcoming conference: ‘LiB11 Learning in the Bathroom – Cleanliness and Creativity’.

    • Julian S Wood

      Thank you Dughall-I appreciate you taking the time to comment on my post.

      Yes it was a rather sweeping statement and doesn’t take into account the obviously brilliant training you and others do (including Bill Lord).

      I can only comment on the frankly uninspiring training myself and people I know have had and I am sure that you too have experienced. In my career the great sessions are few and far between.

      I understand that often LA trainers have a script to deliver but I feel passionate that this requirement should never hinder creative delivery.

      I have given ‘honest’ feedback on several occasions-which has fallen on deaf ears and not made the slightest difference.

      Yes-times are a changing and I sure the new ‘customer driven’ model will work in favour for those that have consistently delivered inspiring and creative training, like yourself.

      I probably wouldn’t have made that comment if I had taught in the same LA as yourself. But maybe I wouldn’t have conceived the Inathirdspace Project if I had. I hope you understand that it wasn’t my intention to offend, just to provoke -as all the best creative types do ;^).

      I look forward to attending LIB11-could you put me down for the workshops ‘How to wash a De Bono Hat’ and ‘Make a computer just using the stuff in your bathroom cabinet’.

About me
UK Primary School Future Learning Technologist.I am into Experience and Fun Based Learning.I use web tools to stimulate writing. I've been Playing and Learning since 1970. Have some fabulous ideas now & again.. Check out my profile!
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