6 Questions about the Classroom Displays Blog.

And 5 Answers 🙂

A couple of people recently have asked me questions about the Classroom Displays Blog. Both of them were writing about new technologies and their impact on teacher and student learning. Rather than keep repeating myself I thought I’d try to work through my thoughts here in my learning journal blog. After all that’s what it’s for 🙂
1. Why did you start classroom displays?
The creation and refining of the blog formed cycles in my final year Action Research project for my work based undergraduate degree. My research question was

“How can I as a small scale provider of educational resources use aspects of the ‘read-write web’ to enhance my practice?”.

In my pilot I looked at using either a blog or a wiki. The blog looked like the best option with the highest chance of encouraging others to join in. The idea was to widen the conversation beyond the confines of the Classroom Displays Flickr group . I’d set up the group the year before when I’d done some work on displays and using a Flickr group to develop a folksonomy.

2. What’s your underlying purpose?
This is harder to answer, it concerns the main idea behind my choice of the research topic. I’d found some evidence in my literature search that suggested that teachers who had had exposure to positive social software and internet experiences were more likely to use these tools with the children. I’d seen the power of blogs and wikis for my own learning during the course of my degree and I was convinced they were going to be really important for children’s learning. It seemed to me that if I could show primary school staff the value of these tools for their own practice it would be easier for them to see the potential power of the tools for the children’s learning. The Classroom Displays blog and wikispace are the first phase of my on-going enquiry.

3.What are you learning from
the community that has sprung up around the flickr group
and blog?

I’m learning that what I thought could only ever be a community of interest is actually becoming a community of practice. People are using the group to exchange ideas across geographic boundries. They share tips, suggestions for improvement and sometimes argue with the ideas behind displays. For example there’s a lively argument about the value of learning styles attatched to this photo:
learning styles

One of the participants is an action researcher of considerable standing, with a very interesting take on the subject. Still he hasn’t the direct classroom experience of other members of the group. I’ve blogged this photo with the intention of widening the debate further.
4. What does the range of pictures say about what’s
going on in schools?

Ideas for displays are always hard to come by. Books are limited by their size and the costs of printing high quality colour images. There are 517 images of displays in the group pool now and it’s rising all the time. It’s fairly easy to search because most images are tagged. What we are starting to see is a sort of visual conversation. People are borrowing ideas, refining them and then posting their own version – sometimes with a verbal nod back to the original. The majority of the images show children’s work and involvement in the production of the displays. To me this is where the real value of displays exists and I think this holds true not only for many of the members of the Flickr group but also for many of the wider readership of the blog. In a recent poll on the blog about the purpose of displays the most popular answer was :

to give children a sense of pride in their work

5. Do you think old practices still hold their
grip, or are new more student-centered activities emerging?

I think the images in the group suggest that there’s less emphasis on the “Wow!” display obviously created by an adult now than when I first started in school. They still have a place of course and I believe there is value in using the creation of a large or impressive display to engage otherwise hard to reach children in discussion of a topic.
There seem to be fewer bought resources, posters, etc. I’m sure this is a good thing as the children don’t even see them after a while. And people have finally realised there are better things for teaching assistants to spend their time on than producing shadowed hand-cut lettering ! Of course that might be partly because many TAs have taken over planning and executing the displays for themselves in England ! 🙂
I think that as the ‘creative curriculum takes hold in England (they never lost it in Scotland!) a move to more child-centered practices is inevitable. Or at least I hope so! In passing I really must mention the execellent work going on around extreme learning which really could be described as ground-breaking in this context.
I’m not sure how much of this sort of thing is actually going on in teacher training though and this worries me. How can we expect a generation of teachers to adopt these sorts of practices if they’ve never experienced them themselves? I know some Teacher training courses are encouraging students to use blogs to enhance their reflective practice, use social software to connect with their peers and yet the students I met in school only a couple of weeks ago were woefully ignorant of, and actually quite scared of, blogging. They’d no idea what a wiki was, never heard of RSS and didn’t even use Myspace or Facebook. One of them said she’d been so focussed on her academic work since she was 16 she’d only ever used her computer for research and Instant Messaging her mates. So much for digital natives!

Is there anything you want to say about learning and the importance
of making things visible and discussable?

Yes, lots but I’m going to leave that for another blog post 🙂


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