Case Study by Frances Clements

I always had a hankering to have a Mac, I suppose it was because they were the machines used by artists and graphic designers apparently offering more exciting possibilities than other computers. They also, in my eyes, were very aesthetically pleasing. When I finally got my iMac and installed it in our attic bedroom I kept visiting it simply to enjoy looking at it as much as using it. However l never mastered movie making and similar programmes as life stole away my time.
Our local borough offered a number of creative Mac courses which excited me and naturally I enrolled BUT every single one was cancelled due to lack of numbers – perhaps busy teachers did not need, in those days, the excitement of creativity in IT.

Fortunately the iPad has now arrived on the scene offering all sorts of creative possibilities. The number of apps available is overwhelming and extremely exciting but once mastered, to me, not very individualistic or unique as the job is done for you and the true creativity of the app really belongs to its designer. Their use can be quite processed and too formulaic if we do not push the boundaries either within ourselves or within the app itself. If we are simply happy to use the app it can become tantamount to painting with numbers and the end product almost processed. I suppose that comment suggests a certain amount of dissatisfaction in my personality as I always want more than the routine!

Searching for more has brought great rewards to me and the work of the children at St. Thomas’. Indeed we have been quite inventive and as a result in one instance gained the Canon Chancellor’s Award at Chester Cathedral for being creative in RE: –
We looked at triptychs, analysed who was in them and why, considered who would be more pertinent today and inserted them into the triptychs – naturally we did our best to blend them in and make them look like they had a right to be there. This work was really cross curricular as we studied ancient paintings, the formulaic style of religious art, who commissioned pieces and why certain individuals were included. We also discussed and considered what the nativity was about and its pertinence today and then decided who would be better placed in the triptychs in current times. After searching the Internet and using Pic Collage, we adjusted the paintings to suit our opinions.

Using Movie trailer we produced pieces about the ‘real meaning of Christmas’. I wanted the children to produce work that would make people consider what Christmas should be about – an edgy piece of work. They produced hard hitting journalistic pieces which certainly were more than edgy – quite radical in many instances. This work combined skills already honed in the apps but when combined with the topic, discussion about the meaning of Christmas and well chosen images it reaped the benefits of provoking short snappy moving and challenging phrases which in themselves revealed a depth of feeling and opinion that the children had hitherto not expressed so emotionally. The compilation of images chosen by the children inspired and supported their language skills.

Another group visited Bethlehem via Green Screen and being journalists interviewed characters who witnessed or knew about the birth of Jesus. The initial Green Screen introduction was inserted into iMovie combined with Morfo Booth characters speaking about their experiences and edited into a TV journalistic piece complete with background music. This work became a piece of geography, script writing and drama as the children created and recorded their characters in the correct venues. It was essential for the children to be creative and imaginative to support their ideas. All the children, regardless of ability were focused, enthusiastic and on task the whole time.

Our contribution to the Awards ceremony was frankly professional and outstanding simply because we used technology. The other exhibits were equally good in their own but low tech way.
The most exciting pieces of work have been the animations we created in response to the BBCs Ten Pieces initiative:-
Holst’s ‘Mars Bringer of War’. We decided our children had to create a non pictorial piece of work to respond to the musical score. They combined tweaked, edited and created a final piece using four apps. Initially they painted a very long abstract image to represent the music. They photographed or videoed anything around school that could be used in an abstract form (car head lights, bubble wrap, close up string, reflections, moving plants etc). These images were then combined by initially walking the painting to make a video of it to act as the background or photographed and edited into planets or moving shapes. Cropped and edited photographs were collected, cut out and using Puppet Pals as a green screen filmed moving to the music. These were then overlaid in the Green Screen app but in order to build depth and richness this process was repeated until the desired quality and richness was achieved – this required the green screen clips to be continuously saved to iMovie and then reused as a background again and again in Green Screen. The children also played around with the transparency of various images and while editing in iMovie split,duplicated, moved and turned the images around.

All this required lateral thinking and was challenging not in the combination of apps but in the non pictorial requirement which was quite abstract for them. The work covered a good number of sessions and was exciting, extending and building confidence with every year six pupil involved. After this they were expected to totally independently from teachers but working in pairs produce a pictorial piece interpreting Mussorgsky’s ‘A Night on a Bare Mountain’. This piece necessitated the children creating their own images using all the skills previously mentioned as well as morphing images using Facefilm and creating their own artwork. The children AirDropped their work to each other to combine all the component parts, add voice overs and generally edit etc. Again this work reaped unique pieces, it challenged the children to create props, investigate different methods of making effects from dripping water down a green screen, filming scrunched up paper, drawing actual witches, mountains, and sunsets or creating sound effects to use in the movies.

Combining, layering and generally playing around with a few apps has proven to be very stimulating and at times challenging, with the children mainly solving problems of technique independently. When the children have inspired imaginations the results are tremendous and truly creative. Some children move from the background into the foreground blossoming in their new found creativity and success – there is nothing more rewarding than the pride on the face of an adult or child that has just produced, directed and shared their own blockbuster.

My mantra is to exploit the app, push its boundaries and if it is not forthcoming move back and forth between apps to achieve the desired result and discover something new, exciting and unexpected which then triggers another possibility. Mixing and matching produces a piece of work that is unique and can fully be attributed to its creator.
Using iPads across the curriculum enriches both learning and teaching. When your science book is full of petals, roots, leaves and bugs talking about their jobs then the author obviously understands what each character is relaying to the audience. When a poem is questioned and the creatures in it talk to the audience then it has come alive. When you tattoo an image of Jesus with slogans about those he died for then your own understanding has been advanced.
iPads are a great aid to learning and more than just a research tool, if used creatively they expose the learner to a vast array of learning experiences,styles and successes.