Into infinity… and beyond!

Let’s face it, dear reader; if there is an ultimately endearing character from the various space and star wars epics, it’s not Chewbacca, or Hans Solo or even R2D2, is it? Thanks for agreeing with me, because Buzz Lightyear wins hands-down. You don’t know who I am talking about? Right, read, and donate the voluntary £5 as your gift for Christmas. If Jimmy Wales hadn’t have created wikipedia, our lives would be so much the poorer.


Image courtesy of The Walt Disney company

In case you need to revise your knowledge of the greatest space superhero ever (hem, hem), here’s Buzz at his absolute best on another digital cornucopia of delights – YouTube.

The last few posts from the Academic Principal have, it must be said been somewhat serious, perhaps even sombre, understandably. But as I set to put the finishing touches on 2015, I thought I’d share with you some thoughts on which to ponder over Christmas and the New Year.  With Toy Story 4 not due out until 2018, I’ll have to leave Buzz, Woody, Mr Potato Head and gang alone now, and turn your attention to some real live space stars currently in the news.


Image courtesy of the BBC

UK Astronaut, Tim Peake has just landed on the International Space Station, which will be his home for the next 6 months in space. He’s not the first British Astronaut, indeed we have 6 Brits that precede him, but Tim is our first official UK astronaut – Tada! But all live space Telly is fantastic, isn’t it? And through the exploits of living, breathing extra-planetary travellers, we get to believe a little bit more certainly that man is capable of anything. Indeed, as Helen Sharman so obviously demonstrated in 1991, women are even more capable and get things done without as much fuss.


img_2411_400x400Fast becoming a national treasure, Professor Brian Cox is also all over the telly and radio, partly because of the ISS rocket launch and partly because the media can’t leave him alone. You can catch this hyperactive, extra-special scientist best on Twitter – @ProfBrianCox. What with his live stage show at the Apollo, BBC star gazing live, his broadcasts on the Infinite Monkey Cage, appearances wherever his BBC contract forces him to turn up and then some, it’s a wonder he has time to be a scientist. But he has, and perhaps more than any other scientist of the current generation, he’s made a science career cool, sexy and a happening place to be. susanne-meixsell

Many of our secondary staff and pupils will remember the amazing Head of School Partnerships at Discovery Education, Susanne H Thompson who presented our prizes at Speech Day back in September. Discovery were kind enough to create a partner story about our work around creating digital leaders, video here, and since then our work together has moved on considerably.

DEN founder ANBHead of Boys ICT, Andre Boulton returned from the DENSI camp in Washington, full of new ideas and experiences to share, and represented us at the DENapalooza on HMS Belfast last month, where he was presented with his founding member plaque for the UK Discovery Education Community.

With so many members of staff  now deeply competent in the use of digital technologies, it’s time perhaps for Claires Court to be recognised as fully within the education space as it is by the technology companies that partner our work. I do keep applying on the school’s behalf, but our story seems to be so compelling, it’s easier to ignore it than celebrate it. Here’s HP’s take on our work, yours truly showing off again (ahem).  What with Samsung and Google also showcasing our work, it is a tad frustrating that a school with a remarkable pedigree for cloud-based learning continues to be ignored. Hey, ho – we could of course have chosen to implement iPads rather than Chromebooks – and that’s probably why we are left (as other schools who have also made that choice) on the margins. It’s soooooo much easier to buy Apple, but actually the outcomes are worryingly less secure – here’s last week’s news on tablet things from the Daily Telegraph.

Once all us sceptics on Ofsted judgements got our hands on this news story, we were quickly able to render it as ‘junk’. Sure, BYOD can be disruptive, and in some classrooms, children feel it their child-given-right to ‘snap-chat’ when they wish. But children would be just as disruptive if Bacteriawe allowed them to eat their lunch in lessons, or make other completely inappropriate choices. But good schools don’t, and moreover when it comes to using technology, can illustrate time and again how it can aid learning in ways previously we could not consider. Here’s Attack of the Bacteria from Mrs Walton’s Biologists, one of many short films that emanate from our science department.

Adding all this ‘frontier stuff up leads me to mention I presented to an Discovery Education audience today via google hangout at their annual company conference in Naples, Florida on our use of digital services in the cloud and more generally on the benefits partnerships bring within the education space. The conference call had been planned for some time, and a good hour was spent listening and communicating with fellow educators on what were the key things that helped companies do that Jim Collins thing of going from ‘Good to Great’.  My take on this is that there is no one ingredient that makes this happen, but perhaps more as Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his seminal book, The Tipping Point, it’s an accumulation of lots of little actions that assist in ensuring successful launch and on-going progress happens.

Soyuz rocket

Image courtesy of the BBC

Which neatly takes me back to my starting point. I am sure those fortunate enough to watch the launch of the Soyuz Rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan would have held their breath just a bit as the engines ignited and gently (but explosively) lifted the rocket up towards the ISS. I imagine not just the audience, but the astronauts/cosmonauts too were a little anxious, not just on take-off, but on docking too, when the automatic system failed, and they had to ‘drive’ it in manually. It’s not just planning for the expected that’s normal, even if that’s to the nth degree but planning for what lies in the infinite beyond that’s also got to be par for the course. And that’s why Toy Story and its sequels are just such fun, because honestly the Toys (and us) have no idea of the monstrous things and outrageous events that are going to turn up to wreck their lives. Happily for all, they have Buzz Lightyear on hand to save the day!


P.S. I have deliberately not referred to the latest Star Wars film out tomorrow. Given the somewhat fickle nature of my affection for the Star Wars genre (good, bad and badder), if the film is as good as the trails make it out to be, my attentions may switch to a certain Daisy Ridley (Rey), graduate of another ISA school, Tring Park,  who makes the main running in Episode 7.  But for the moment, call me Buzz.




About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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