Regular readers of the blog will know that I like to mix business and pleasure and this week I was at it again. As you may know I work at the University of Roehampton as the e-learning advisor to the department of Education. Earlier this year, one of the lecturers in my department, Sue came to me and asked for a hand designing a reflective activity for her course.
The course was delivered to 2 sets of students – one set were leaving teaching, and the other set were entering teaching. The aim of the activity was to get students to think about their experience of school, and to reflect on how their school experience had influenced their lives.
Initially, being higher education, the assignment was a single 1000 word essay on an incident that happened to them that stood out from their school years, but Sue and I both realised that there was something not quite right about this activity.
So we sat down, thought through it and totally redesigned the activity. Instead of a wordy essay on a single incident, we opted to make postcard sized images representing 5 incidents from their school years, either as teachers or as pupils. The postcards were not assessed themselves, as that would have been unfair on the non-artists, but the students had to follow up the postcards with a 200 word writeup on each one.
Given the sensitive nature of the memories, we had to ensure that the students would feel safe to share their experiences and the use of images instead of words was one way that we achieved this. Using images the students were able to use icons and abstraction to build up their narrative, effectively telling their stories often without the need for words. Images were an excellent vehicle for expression of the emotive nature of these events.
In order to maintain this safety, we had another idea up our sleeves. When the students came in to the lesson, we had a postbox by the door and students dropped the cards into a postbox and went for coffee while Sue and I put the cards on the wall.
When they returned, they were told that if they wanted to share the story of their experience with the class they could come up, point to their card and tell the story. This way the students were able to abstain if they wished.
We heard some great stories, some really inspiring ones, some horrible stories and some totally unexpected ones too, like the one about the teacher who called his student Bob for a year.
Students fed back that this unusual activity was one of the most memorable and thought provoking activities that they had ever done.
The exhibition collected together all 230 postcards from all 46 students in both clases. I hand stamped all the labels and scanned each one personally and made them into a book too for the students to see.
The opening event in the library building was wonderful fun and was attended by teachers, teacher trainers and parents with their children as well as other members of the public and Sue provided the postcard-themed snacks and cakes.
Me and Sue are available for consultation on the use of postcards in teaching and learning, so if you are interested in using post in your classroom do get in touch and also check out my REAL wall’s educational offshoot Schoolswaps
This project was the most fun and thought-provoking educational project I’ve run this year, and we wanted to continue to investigate the 5 postcards experiences with YOU – the rest of the world. We couldn’t contain our excitement about it so we went out and bought www.5postcards.com and launch our first joint mailart call to the rest of the world.
The challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to illustrate 5 incidents that you can remember from school, using any media that you wish that will fit in the post 5 postcards. Once you’ve done this, just send them to us, either straight to the blog or in the post by going to this address http://5postcards.com/submit-your-5-postcards-here/ and we’ll share your 5 postcards with the world.