Serif in Education

The value of sharing creative ideas and best practice

TED talks are one of my favourite things. In fact, it’s pretty hard to find someone out there today who hasn’t been affected by a TED talk. TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.

This morning, I watched one of my favourites; ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ by Sir Ken Robinson (watch it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity)

In it, Sir Ken makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

He talks about how, as adults, we have no idea how the future may play out yet there is extraordinary evidence of human creativity. He believes that it is education that is meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. “We all agree on the extraordinary capacity children have for creativity,” he says, “and all children have tremendous talents yet we squander them. Creativity, how I define it, is the process of having original ideas that have value. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education now as is literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

Using the example of a four year old boy in his son’s school play, who instead of bringing Frankincense to Joseph said simply “Frank sent this” (cue huge bouts of laughter from the TED audience), Sir Ken explains how children take a chance. “If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of being wrong. If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

Filmed in 2006, it is one of the most popular TED talks of all time and has had an astonishing 35 million views. That is the same as the entire population of Canada! And although it is almost 10 years old, this film is still extremely relevant today.

This sharing of ideas is a concept that is hugely popular in – and perhaps even essential to – our lives today. Sharing ideas and best practice amongst schools is encouraged by local authorities and other bodies as a way of finding new ways of teaching and learning. It’s all very well telling people how to use our software, but when it comes to schools, we know you like to hear of real examples. It is fascinating, really, to think that for every learning challenge faced by staff and students, every single person will have a slightly different response.

Over the years we have spoken to a number of schools about ways they are using Serif software inside (and outside) the classroom. Most recently we spoke to Seamus O’Neill, a former primary teacher and author of ‘SCRATCH from Scratch’, who told us about how he uses DrawPlus with Scratch to bring creativity to coding projects. He says: “The DrawPlus picture gallery full of pre-made pictures can be transported into Scratch and provides some really creative options for pupils. It is just so easy for children (even young children) to use. The Quick Shapes in particular are a fascinating element to the software – pupils can practice coding with flowers, bees and more. Creativity isn’t often associated with programming, but by using DrawPlus with Scratch, children can now be imaginative and inventive.”

The Whitby High School in Cheshire use DrawPlus to create professional and eye-catching designs in ICT, including a logo for a local Healthy Living Centre. On this particular project, every student was able to create a visual and individual logo, using the ’create pdf’ function within the DrawPlus software to produce their document.

Mullion School in Cornwall has been doing great things with the Design Suite in the classroom. This includes creating ‘believable’ websites, such as a website made by a student encouraging people to stay safe from a multi-coloured elephant spotted on the moors!

Pat Pierce, technician and teaching assistant, explains: “We gave our Year 8 classes a brief to think of a fictitious subject or object, for example a tree that grows octopus, and create a website surrounding the topic. The websites had to be believable, so that when users logged onto the site they would think that the subject was true, or the object was real. Each web page also had to include text that looked professional, and buttons that linked to contact details and other areas of the website. Over a short period of three or four 50 minute lessons, the students had created fantastic professional looking websites, which were then saved in their e-portfolio for teachers and other pupils to look at.” Alongside websites, Mullion School has been using Serif software to produce magazine covers, weird and wacky pictures and newsletters, all saved within student’s e-portfolio.

The strength of Serif products according to Chris Bradley, AST at Frederick Gent School in Derbyshire, is that: “The whole suite of titles has the same look and feel. This familiarity makes it easy for students – for example, they can use Serif PhotoPlus for digital imaging and then easily transfer to Serif DrawPlus for computer graphics and animation, despite many of them being new to vector drawing”.

As Sir Ken says, our job as educators is to ‘educate children’s whole being, to help them make something of the future’. You can read more of our school examples here: http://www.serif.com/Education/CaseStudies/.