A passion for for photography and digital communication with a background at the BBC and ITV.
Currently director at the School Media Club making cinema films for schools and working for Oblong Leeds a community development organisation. Also a member of All Saints Church in Ilkley and involved with communications in the parish.
This blog features posts about photography including some of my photos, while the media posts will include thoughts about filmmaking and online media - particularly to do with PR activities.
School Media Club
Category Archives: Creativity
Here are a few thoughts on teamwork and a recommendation for Yammer, a desktop and mobile tool which addresses communications for dispersed teams. If your organisation is made up of remote groups which need to work more closely together, share ideas and resources then Yammer may be of interest.
I’m hopeless at working on my own. There’s a confession! If I try to work on my own I’m prone to distractions or tend to trust myself too much, so I need people to keep me focused and to give me a reality check every so often. I have a home office, and do in fact work on my own for much of the time and so I value the supportive friends whom I see, usually at the local Cafe Nero.
The teams I have worked with in the past have often been based in a single space – round a big table – where the banter is part of the business. If an idea pops up in conversation it can be quickly evaluated and moved
Increasingly organisations are requiring teams to connect with each other remotely. This is for a number of reasons – perhaps because its members are part time or because they also belong to other organisations. It can also be because team members are fast tracking and juggling with several projects or tasks at the same time and so don’t have time to meet.
There is a value in engaging with people embedded in different situations and yet part of a small dispersed team. Small teams can become blinkered by their own context and not see beyond their immediate environment, they can bed down into thick walled bunkers. So, having a close knit team made up of people with quite different outlooks can can have enormous value. Perhaps they can share insights from different parts of the country of the world
At Oblong in Leeds I work part time with a group of volunteers who come and go. The organisation is run through a series of collectives which come up with ideas and make decisions through their weekly meetings. Every six weeks there are assemblies of the whole organisation. The meetings and assemblies have been inconsistently attended, agendas poorly formed and the meetings devoted to catching up. The problem was communication. Getting people motivated and briefed before the meetings was the challenge.
The solution we have found is YAMMER. Yammer is a tool for connecting work groups around an organisation and enabling them to share conversation and resources freely wherever they are. Yammer works like a simple and well structured Facebook account where you can see to structure of your organisation & who belongs to which team. You can follow and connect with relevant people and choose appropriate levels of privacy. Yammer also gives you the opportunity to create networks outside your organisation.
The benefit to Oblong has been a vast improvement in the internal communications and briefing of the team members. We can clearly see where people belong in the organisation. When we meet there is an improved level of attendance and commitment and we can devote the time to decision making rather than catching up.
Anyway. Advert for Yammer over.
Had a wonderful morning at Keighley Picture House there Nick and Eileen welcomed our cinema project. The school had 6 weeks to make a film – but not just any old film.
The project was initiated by the arrival of a strange alien capsule guarded by the D.A.F.T. agency. The capsule contained this encoded message from another planet with instructions for the mission.
The mission involved making a special effects film. A green-screen studio was built in the school and a project schedule worked out. There were to be set designers, costume, props, musicians, dancers, actors, writers and more. The film was made to cinema specifications with full on sound for an immersive experience.
It shouldn’t amaze me that children can rise to a challenge and produce something so professional. Well done Y5 at St Joseph’s Primary School in Keighley.
Looking forward to a another film project in the new year. Now watch the opening titles with the specially written and performed music.
Ilkley Photographers will be gathering again on Sunday the 14th of October at 10am Cafe Nero, Brook Street. Are you up for the On the Spot Challenge?
We made the observation that we are different from the Ilkley Camera Club because we have “photographers” not “camera” in our group title. So the meetups are possibly more about being social and seeing the world through the eyes of the photographer rather than necessarily the camera. The discussions are wide ranging.
In an attempt to promote at least some photography we are holding a monthly challenge which we’ll discuss retrospectively at each meetup. The current challenge is the On the Spot Challenge. Please download the map, stand at the locations described and take the most creative shot you can. This is known as a restraint which has the effect of enhancing your powers of creative thinking.
Any photos you take you can upload them to Flickr and tag them onthespotchallenge
Thought I’d update you in the media projects I’m involved with through Oblong in Leeds
Oblong is a community development charity based at the Woodhouse Community Centre in Leeds. The charity manages the newly refurbished centre, runs community development projects and supports the personal development of volunteers. As part of this we are steadily growing the Media Collective which provides learning and development opportunities for volunteers interested in various aspects of media.
In the coming weeks we are starting a number of courses which are aimed at giving small organisations and individuals the tools to communicate in the digital environment. The courses include an introduction to WordPress websites, photoshop and photography and video production.
An introduction to Photoshop
This is a new ten week introductory course in Adobe Photoshop
Mondays from 3.30pm to 5.30pm starting 1st October.
An introduction to WordPress
This is a new two week introductory course for WordPress blogs and websites.
Two Wednesdays from 4.00pm to 6.00pm from 10th October and the following week.
This is an eight week course starting early November and will be a script to screen cover the essential techniques involved in making short films.
If you live in the Woodhouse area of Leeds and know of anyone who would benefit please get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's a nice little video on ways to help you keep up the creative thinking. I like number 25 – stop trying to be someone else's perfect. It's got more than a million plays on vimeo which isn't bad.
A bit about the Media Team plans (one or two people have asked). Next week I'm kicking off a video focused team at Our Lady of Victories School in Keighley.
Many schools have radio stations and a few even do TV shows. OLV school already has a successful radio station which is brilliant.
Some projects, and those in higher education as well, seem to be modelled on very old production formats. Even the term TV has a lot of old fashioned baggage. So I hope the children will use the tools in a free and imaginative way – not just produce a show that looks like BBC regional news which has been around for half a century.
Thankfully I detect there is a loosening of old style media skills teaching. I don't know where it will go but I hope the media team next week will come up with some real innovations about how to organise, film, edit, present. Looking at all the potential platforms and audiences.
The plan is to achieve the following:
- Employ and develop a full range of creative skills within a complete team, not just the obvious technical bits like cameras.
- Allow the team to innovate and change for the better how media is made – doing it their way.
- Produce a high quality product.
- Have a real purpose for the product – e.g. enhancing communication between parents and school.
I am sure we are getting to a point where children already have a place in the media environment – without needing to be employed by it. So this would be no simulation.
We are aiming to do a termly show at OLV school and will be setting this up next week. I'll let you know how it goes.
Had a meeting with Creative Partnerships today to discuss some schools ideas. One comment was that across the different schools we've visited, there were measurable levels of curiosity.
Some schools children didn't seem at all curious (often in successful schools), while others were very curious indeed. Set me thinking whether you can encourage a culture of curiosity which is infectious.
At Raynville school in Leeds a whole project was built around a locked chest which has remained in the classroom for a few weeks. That definitely had curiosity value and led to all sorts of imagined stories.
Chris Leach in a blog post has been creating posters which deliberately include very little information and are designed to raise questions and, I guess stimulate curiosity. Sounds like good art to me. See his post here
So the upshot of what I'm thinking is that leaving stuff out or withholding information is a good way of engaging people and ultimately informing them. Too much information - or complete stories without an element of mystery – doesn't intrigue the audience sufficiently.
I've been reflecting on this year's Creative Partnerships projects in local primary schools. There has been a real mixed bag – some brilliant and others less so.
The work has involved making video usually alongside a drama practitioner. The projects are set up by the school to a very specific brief. The brief will usually say that the school wants to focus on speaking and listening, confidence building and so on.
Here are some bullet points from my reflections:
- The best managed projects are not always the most valuable.
- Most learning comes through a constructive response to failure.
- An open brief is much better than a prescriptive one.
- Not enough effort goes into designing and initiating projects.
- The ideas are rarely big enough.
- Ambitious and risky projects are usually more rewarding.
- The active visible support of the head teacher is vital.
- The most interesting work is done while the creative practitioner is not present.
- Teachers can be fully supportive or not supportive at all – the worst is when they are reluctantly supportive.
- Allocation of roles and in particular the role of a project co-ordinator is vital.
- Build in time for conversation and reflection.
- Capturing evidence of success immediately is invaluable.
- Trust the children.
The most successful and sustainable project I've worked on is in a school which has been somewhat ambivalent towards new multimedia technology. A media team made up of 6 children has championed the use of video and in particular green screen with great success. The children are now teaching the teachers and hopefully contributing to a change of culture.
The next step is to look at the leadership of creative projects – in particular raising the ambitions and quality of the initial ideas. Perhaps creating a model for project design and initiation - but then the practitioner backing off and handing ownership to class teachers or the children themselves.
Here's a little sample of a video we made at a school in bradford. I have not done shadow puppets before but I was impressed with how this went. Of course in this context the process and what the children learn is more important than the product. Scripting, building a wooden frame and cloth, fixing up lights, performance etc.
There is a lot of teamwork and problem solving in this exercise. The children have to work together to figure out how the performance is going to look. For shy children there is some degree of safety behind the screen specially when they are in role play. This could be a great way of getting them to talk.
I'm enthusiastic to feature the voices of the children and to work on their timing, intonation and general delivery. For quieter children this is a great way to really listen to their voices and to enjoy the quality of voices that may ordinarily be drowned out by louder children.
I'm going to an ICT conference in Manchester on Friday. Apparently ICT stands for Intermittent Cervical Traction (I looked it up); You can understand why I'm apprehensive.
Actually, I have a lot of reasons to be apprehensive. For a start there will be a lot of teachers there and secondly it's all about technology (not traction). So why am I apprehensive about technology?
I'm very interested in technology and what it can do but I feel uncomfortable when it becomes the topic of conversation. It's like someone talking about cars when what they really want is the freedom of travel. A car will take you along pre-determined roads and you can only stop where there is a parking place. I prefer to hitch a lift on whatever mode of transport happens to be pointing the right way and get off wherever.
It's for this reason that my current project is to set up creative communication teams in schools; I did start by calling them media teams but the term media carries far too much baggage.
The teams consist of six children who each have distinctive talents and interests. I've tried to design the teams so that they are independent of specific tools or platforms, so for example we don't talk about writers, web designers or video editors, we say that these are people who like to generate and sequence ideas, or like working with tools to build things. The outputs can be a web page, magazine or an installation or anything else you can imagine.
The creative challenges set for the team are never to make a podcast, produce a documentary or film an animation – that would be like giving them a road map and a car and telling them where they need to get off. Instead they have to meet a brief which is to investigate specific aspects of a specific subject and report their finding to a specific audience. The solution is open to creative thinking.
In reality, the children may well create rich multimedia web pages using exciting digital tools, but the point is that the tools are not the starting point.
It seems to me that we spend a lot of time getting up to speed on technologies which are here today, gone tomorrow but less time considering the missions and purposes behind their use. The skills involved in effective teamwork, directing and organising, generating ideas, questioning, story telling are higher level media, and the skills required are timeless and transferable.
And so I would like to focus on those fundamental human technologies. As for the lower level tools I'm inclined to include those under the heading of independent problem solving challenges – i.e. work out for yourself which is the best tool for the job and fathom it.
Let's meet up if you're in Manchester on Friday