Writing from the wild side

I was through in Glasgow yesterday for the Scottish version of Channel 4′s “In the Wild” event - looking at the twin issues of low self-esteem and lack of confidence amongst school children in the UK and the potential for re-engaging kids through the creative application of new technology.  I heard about the event from Ewan McIntosh, one of the members of the Edinburgh Facebook group - and now I see “the UK’s leading education blogger”.  Ewan was also talking at the event, and rescued it (I thought) from a rather academic discussion about the nature of authentic happiness, the boundaries between individual creativity and narcissism and a whole lot of other big concepts that had most of us shuffling in our seats and waiting for the tea break.

The gist of Ewan’s talk was how much we can learn from the way kids make use of digital space.  That doesn’t mean entering it or taking it over, but learning from it and seeing what can be used and adapted in the classroom.  And that was as much a shift in the educator’s mind set as anything to do with the actual technology.  It was exploring the possibilities of learning, teaching, creating in a way that was more collaborative; that allowed the children to adapt, to play, to mash, to hack, to create and recreate; that pushed the boundaries of what teachers and educators are used to delivering; that was playful, messy, sprawling…

One highlight for me was the work of a primary school teacher in the UK who’s been using fantasy games to encourage creative writing.  The focus of this lesson is on getting the kids to think up similes and metaphors for what they’re experiencing in the game (with some subtle writing coaching going alongside it - watch out for the teacher’ pleasure at the appropriate use of the comma!)

It was a great example of how we can learn to write without inhibition when we’re engrossed, involved, engaged, of being creative by being playful, of using the technology not as the object but as the imaginative space in which the other possibilities could unfold.

I’m wondering how we can best transfer these lessons to the world of adult learning - to a community of people who may not be so easily connected into the digital world (depending on age! and experience) and who have a different set of barriers to writing with confidence - many things that need to be unlearned as well as learned.  Any thoughts or examples?

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