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Inspiring NE Film


What a fabulous day we have had at Inspire2Learn today. Following a chance meeting (if there ever is such a thing) with Jacqui Miller-Charlton and Craig Conway a few weeks ago at a Tees Valley Business Club event, we hosted an inspirational day of film to link with the Newcastle International Film Festival. Jacqui and Craig had come down to Teesside to talk about the festival but also articulate the vision that media production NE is something that is sadly lacking at the moment and such a waste of talent. They wanted to include the whole of the NE under the festival banner and use it to drive some change. This is the sort of activity that Inspire2Learn is designed to support so I offered to run a film making day and perhaps Craig as a well known local actor would be able to Skype in and talk to the students at some point?

The answer was no.

Instead he offered to actually come down and work with a group of students on a masterclass. I did point out that this was probably the busiest day of his life with the festival opening that night but he was adamant. He was coming. That sort of passion and commitment stands out for me and I used the offer as the basis of a showcase event. Knowing that students from one of our local colleges has a film nominated at the festival (amongst many other awards it is up for!), I invited Kelly Fairhurst, their inspirational tutor at Stockton Riverside College, to bring a group of young actors to work with Craig.

The event was designed around showcasing the talent in the area and also inspiring the next generation of film makers so I also invited another inspirational teacher, Matt Turnbull, and his students from Hillsview Academy to come and be part of the day. That meant we had students who are already into professional qualifications level working with students who are coming up to their GCSE choices. We do a fair bit of film work here at the centre and that is something that will increase next year because this day was merely the start of our association with the Newcastle festival. What all of us agreed when we first met is that a showcase day is great but a systematic programme of events for all ages was key to creating the change that is needed.

But back to today. Craig came for an hour….well, it was the longest hour I’ve ever timed. Working on audition pieces with the college age actors, having a long discussion with the nominated film makers and then a Q&A session with the Y9s, he was a brilliant guest and truly inspirational. You can see from the montage below:

Mat led the opening warm up sessions with all of the students and then while SRC took part in a masterclass,  we worked with the Hillsview students to learn iMovie so that they would have the skills to create a short project later. After Craig eventually had to leave, the students were put into mixed groups and challenged with TalkingUpTeesside. It was a very tight schedule to script, film and edit something that looked any good in essentially 75mins but it was brilliant too see how the groups gelled really well with everyone having input of ideas and sharing roles:

I think the films below are incidental to the learning that went on today. Compromise, team working, developing skills as needed, problem solving….just a few examples of the sort of skills and attitudes that they needed to employ to get anywhere near finishing something.

This day was a showcase. A start. Look out for our more progessive programme next year starting at primary and working upwards. Now enjoy today’s work…

Enterprise Challenge March 2018

What a busy, busy day we had today with the fabulous pupils from Rift House in Hartlepool and Sacred Heart in Redcar. It was great mix having Y6 and 7 attempting the same task. By the time they had identified key techniques that marketeers use to convince us that we need something new, they were ready to produce their own work employing those techniques. I challenged them  little in that i asked them to focus their product on a different target audience to themselves. To succeed they needed to identify the value propositions that would appeal to their audience then refine them into a USP that would make their product stand out.

Once the product was designed they were able to shoot a short advert for it. Unfortunately due to the bus situation Rift House were only able to work here until 1.45 so it was a miracle that any of them got more than a handful of shots completed. But they did. Some are missing voiceovers, some whole scenes but I have uploaded their playlist below because what they did get done was using what they had learned. If only we had three days!

Sacred Heart were here for the full day and had a little more time to polish their work. It even allowed some of the groups the luxury of employing a chroma effect to make their product really stand out. But for me what really stands out is that all of the groups used some of the techniques that we had earlier identified: relatability, role models that match the audience, special offers etc. And that is what matters after a day like today, do they understand how to see someone else’s point of view and act accordingly?

That is a skill worth developing for all of us.



Animation and Green Screen Challenge

We love a challenge here at Inspire2Learn and knowing that we had such great pupils from Acklam Whin, Newcomen and Ormesby meant that we set today’s animation and green screen target high! Developing skill with animation takes time and our aim on a day here is to open up the possibilities so that new ways of working can be explored and then built upon back in school. The staff certainly threw themselves into today’s task so I can imagine this WILL be followed up in other curriculum areas.

The children were signed up to a green screen day but we love to combine green screen with animation because they naturally complement each other. So, today’s focus was not to produce a great storyline, great acting performances or a polished product. Today the objective was to leave the building understanding that animation creates one effect, green screen another and that the two can be combined.

You can see from the pictures not only the steps they had to go through but also the creative problem solving to achieve what they wanted to alongside a strong team ethic, all working to the same goal. I’ve condensed the films into one long one. Each group had two or three scenes showing live action, then a special effect on top of a photo. They then in many cases added a special effect on top of a live action piece. If only I had a week with them….

Oh wait a minute….Animation challenge week starting 21st May! Would you like to take part? In the meantime here’s the video showing the skills they acquired today. Now how could I put that in a literacy lesson…..? Hmmm….

Scrapheap Challenge March 2018

Well even the attempt to snow again didn’t stop the brilliant young minds from Brambles, Caedmon and Dormanstown coming to take on this year’s Scrapheap Challenge. I must admit there were a few bemused looks as the video for the challenge ended and children and teachers alike were puzzled how to respond. We have children from Y1 here today so the idea of sustainable energy is a long way from their experience….or is it? I don’t think it is. In schools we talk about turning off lights, not leaving iPads on for the batteries to run down and so on. They also see solar panels and wind turbines day in and day out….focussing this challenge on things that they see most days but perhaps never question makes them do just that.: question. What does that do? How does it work? I had no worries because we have had school groups from the youngest in primary all the way to Y9 attempt this challenge so far and I have never yet met a group that has not come up with some workable ideas.

And so it has proved, with a few prompts the children have come up with some great ideas.

As always the focus though is not the science, it is the teamwork, the problem solving and the creativity. We are very fortunate to have some support today from Principal Scientist Dr Ruth Poultney from Tees Valley based MPI. I picked on her at the beginning to introduce herself to the children and it was great that she picked up on the teamwork and problem solving themes that I had already outlined. We know from experience and the research that meeting authentic people form the world of work, and a great female role model – a female scientist no less! – has a great impact on the children’s development of cultural capital. It brings them closer mentally to being part of that world.

Anyway, enough words! Have a look at how they are getting on and tune in live from about 2.10pm to see their presentations:

Creative with purpose

What a fantastic day we have had despite the snow trying to stop people getting here. Oakdene and St Clare’s have spent the day learning how marketeers try to convince us to buy products by playing on value propositions for the target audience. After reviewing some current adverts and deconstructing how they had been designed, we took what had been learned and created our own design and short advert for a new LEGO set aimed at men in the 20 – 40 year old range. The idea was that the children would work in groups to identify what would interest the target audience; a huge list of possibilities from which they would work out a design based on a handful of identified USPs. From the ensuing build the children then designed short adverts that mimicked what had been learned during the morning session.

As always we had a huge emphasis on how each team worked effectively together, combining ideas, making compromises and working within a time limit. Like many of our focus days the time was short but given the constraints most groups managed a simple five or six shot video complete with product placement and a voiceover. Those who didn’t certainly had it on their plan!

Building Enterprise

What a fabulous day I have had with the amazing children from Brambles, Caedmon and Dormanstown Primary schools. Having worked with the children before I knew it was going to be a good day but I think the fact they were on a repeat visit also helped them settle into the task even better this time. The challenge involved some knowledge development as well as applying teamwork skills to a challenge. These days are never long enough to polish a video output but the thought processes behind the work that they did with clear rationale for their choices was really excellent. The fact that I didn’t see one incident where a teacher had to intervene (although all the staff were brilliantly supportive during the work) to sort a behaviour problem speaks volumes. Well done to everyone. Perhaps I need to put on more of the skills based days, movie making as stand alone as well to help these children develop that skill too?

I learn as much from the day as they do, probably more.

As you can see their focus, compromise and team ethic, those valuable transferable skills were very much in evidence in the photos above. And below? These are the first attempts at their videos promoting their new LEGO sets for men! See if you can spot the value propositions they have used:

Scrapheap Challenge February 2018

February already and we are very pleased to welcome Y2 from Newcomen and Y3 from Oakdene for the latest Scrapheap Challenge. As always the focus is on the skills that will stand the children in such great stead later in life: teamwork, creativity, problem-solving. Everywhere I look there are amazing conversations going on, children nodding, compromising and forming new plans.  We have had several visitors drop in this morning and what struck me about all of them was how they immediately grinned, then described how the buzz in the room was fantastic. Yes it is.

What they have produced so far is fantastic. Have a look below:

Live stream from 2.10pm as usual!

Scrapheap Challenge January 2018

Yes the first of the year here at Inspire2Learn and we are pretty much fully booked on all of the remaining ones from now until July. There will be next year’s event diary coming out soon though so watch this space!

Today we have Oakdene, St Clare’s and Caedmon Primaries attempting the scrapheap challenge. As usual our focus is not on the task but the way that the children work. We have highlighted the importance of team working, listening, compromising and then forming a joint plan where everyone knows their role. Think of it as an assessment centre for a big company! As usual the idea are varied ranging from some vague ideas about how nuclear reactors can work in a school (controversial!) to simple activities that make the environment fun but capture pupil energy. Have a look at some of the children planning and then starting their builds below. As usual the groups will nominate their presenters who will talk about their designs live to the web after about 2.10pm below.

Playing with ideas

IMG_7529Unfortunately one of our schools today couldn’t make it but Oakdene Y2 more than made up for it! Their enthusiasm from the minute they arrived was fantastic and mixing that with an attitude to learn something new was a winning combination.

These children had never done any green screen or animation work before and my intention was to combine both in creating animated Christmas cards. As usual, the focus was not on the skill in hand really (they always get that anyway, they just need practise to develop it further), it was more to work collaboratively, creatively and within a given task.  Some used the resources I had prepared, many then created new ones that hadn’t been provided, they solved the problems in front of them brilliantly. That is what animation is all about and with more practice they will get the rhythm of the FPS (they will know what that means) better and avoid as many hands, blurs, shots of the floor and shakes in their future work. For day 1 it was an impressive start.

They did marvellously well and we were keen to combine their Nativity performance repertoire in the final film. You may never get the song out of your head if you watch the whole video! Well done to all of you and hopefully we will see you again as you progress through school so we can take advantage of that enthusiasm to develop your skills even further!

Animation first time around

IMG_8451What a busy week we are having here at the centre. We often have two or three events a week but 90 pupils Y3/5/6 from Brambles, Dormanstown and Thornaby Academies today all animating for the first time was definitely a challenge. As usual though, the aim is to give children wider experiences, not just the task in hand but also the experience of working effectively in a team, often up against a time limit. Never having animated before meant that we needed to get to grips with the app ‘Stop Motion’. It is pretty straightforward and we have used it as young as Reception very successfully but knowing the app is about 5% of animating. Getting a feel for the appropriate sized movements of objects, spacing of movement within a time frame, understanding of FPS and how to make characters interact realistically are all elements of the craft that you develop over many projects…not just a few hours! However, today’s introduction means that every child has left the building with a pretty good grasp of how to put animations together and even use iMovie to assemble multiple scenes. You can see from the pictures how important it was for the pupils to work effectively in teams, creating a shared vision and defining clear roles to accomplish it. I’ve also included the final pieces of work that they produced. As ever in life, some children got the hang of it quite quickly and you will see that some of the videos include a title and voice over. Others might not see to have got nearly as far but I can assure you that was often due to restarting several times to correct misunderstandings they had as their experience grew.