Mobile devices and digital awareness at Bedales

By Louise Wilson, Senior Deputy

Mobile phones can be a useful adjunct to, or even an essential part of, students’ daily life. They can also be a curse.

In assembly last week, a panel of teachers and students shared their views. A teacher celebrated their pleasure in using a journal and questioned whether mobile phones limit our ability to reflect. One colleague was unnerved by the multiplicity and falsity of our online identities, especially given that the top three apps used by students in the previous seven days were social media. A student countered that their real life persona also involved presenting different images. One student marvelled at the virtual nature of phone life which also enables them to connect and brings opportunities such as work experience. It was noted that some students (and adults?) overuse their phones and one said that they wanted to be more conscious of their own usage, whilst also finding it helpful to keep notes and reminders and to contact home easily.

Students don’t necessarily view devices as anti-social; what is the problem with a group of friends using devices in a variety of ways, whilst sharing each other’s company? There is a general feeling that navigating Block 3 and early adolescence through the issues presented by devices can be difficult; those who find social situations challenging, find a mobile a useful crutch and for those prone to distraction, a phone is an ideal tool for avoiding work.

To ban or not to ban? The overwhelming view of staff and students is not to ban, but we do have controls in place and could increase those. Mobiles have to be handed in at night in the first term of Block 3, phones may not be used in lessons without staff permission (but is the phone’s presence in a pocket a distraction?) and social media is not available on the school network during the school day – apart from Instagram, which the School Council have suggested should not be available to Block 3s in future. Of course, with 4G they could still get it across much of the school site. Should we remove it on principle or rely on students learning from each other and staff and parents about appropriate use?

Watch the video above, or on Youtube here, which is a collaboration between HMC and Digital Awareness UK and shows how technology can take over family, school and personal life – including sleep – or alternatively controlled, to give technology a positive role.

Education is key. Block 3 parents will receive a useful guide to internet safety in the post next week. The NSPCC have launched a new website and app to help parents understand the sites and apps their children are using and help keep them safe whilst using the internet. It is updated monthly and enables you to enter the name of an app or site to find out more. For example, here is the information about Instagram. Schools have been warned about the current trend called ‘Blue Whale’ which encourages participants to take challenges, the last one of which is to take one’s life.  If your child is watching the web series 13 Reasons Why on Netflix you may wish to read the reviews on the series, some of which suggest it encourages young people to consider suicide. ‘Yellow’ is a teenage version of Tinder and the NSPCC have expressed concern about its use by paedophiles.

Friends of Bedales (FOBs) gathered on Saturday to talk about mobiles with Jenni Brittain, Head of Boarding and 6.2 Housemistress. Parents want students to be fully involved with school-based decisions about mobiles, for this reason, a ban is not on the cards – and they wondered if students might explore mobile phone use creatively, by means of drama.

If your family would like to see how much time you have each spent on the different apps on your iphone in the last seven days, go to  ‘settings’ and ‘battery’ – many of us did this at school with fascinating findings and a resulting desire from some to modify our usage. The discussion continues in fine Bedalian tradition and any changes will be communicated this term.

Thank you to all those parents who have shared your views.

The Berlin Painter and His World: Princeton University exhibition

By Alastair Harden, Acting Head of Classics

1On a visit to the British Museum with 6.2 Classical Civilization students in February, after looking at the Parthenon sculptures and the frieze from the Temple of Apollo at Bassae, I brought the class around the Greek Vase galleries. I know these galleries very well, so I confidently strode up to a glass case, ready to wax lyrical on one of the most beautiful pieces on the A-level syllabus: a magnificent volute krater depicting the final duel between Achilles and Hektor. I mentally gathered my notes and got ready to dispense wisdom when – much to my disappointment – the case turned out to be empty. Well, not quite empty: a card read “This vase has been loaned to the Princeton University Art Museum for the exhibition ‘The Berlin Painter and His World’.” This kicked off a very welcome chain of events that led to me trading the Block 3 Parents’ meeting for an aeroplane bound for New Jersey and attending the most important conference and exhibition on Greek Art to be held in a generation.

2I’d heard that Princeton was hosting the first exhibition devoted to a single vase-painter in almost forty years, so I emailed J. Michael Padgett, Princeton’s curator of Classical antiquities, chastising him for ruining my speech about Achilles and Hektor and fondly recalling the afternoon in 2011 when he took me to the store-room under the galleries in the museum at Princeton to examine some fragments for my doctoral dissertation. To my surprise and delight he replied straight away, inviting me to two events: the fizzy ‘gala opening’ of the Berlin Painter exhibition on March 4th, and a star-studded one-day symposium on April 1st. (Well, ‘star-studded’ to Greek Art enthusiasts. Or really to vase-painting enthusiasts. Well, really, to enthusiasts of early Athenian red-figure vase-painting, which thankfully I am.) I expressed my regret that I could go to neither, but after some string-pulling and many apologetic emails to my Block 3 parents I found myself gratefully bound for the symposium.

3‘The Berlin Painter’ is the name given by the Oxford scholar John Davidson Beazley to an otherwise-anonymous painter of the most beautiful painted pottery of the early fifth century B.C.: Beazley grouped together several vases which he judged to have been painted by the same person in a 1911 article entitled ‘The Master of the Berlin Amphora’, and in doing so he effectively initiated the study of Greek vase painting as a major art form. Beazley remained central to the study of Greek vase painting until his death in 1970, and I was working as a researcher at Beazley’s archive in Oxford (www.beazley.ox.ac.uk) when I left academia to come to Bedales.

The Berlin Painter was one of thousands of painters whom Beazley was to identify on stylistic grounds, but to all scholars of Greek art the Berlin Painter has a special place as the first painter to recognize the aesthetic potential of using the shape of the vase and the framing painted floral and geometric patterns to bring the painted scene to life. Before this, painters usually treated the shape of the vase as a blank field to be filled in, and simply divided the vessel into zones or panels, but the Berlin Painter seems to have had a gifted sense of how the complex shapes of the vases can complement the drawing. He (or she, though we presume the painter was male: that’s another discussion…) also observed anatomy in minute detail, and I hope all of my students share my enthusiasm at how the Berlin Painter renders the complex relationship of the serratus anterior muscles to the ribcage in a level of anatomical detail unprecedented in its accuracy, at a time when sculptors were also looking to complex anatomical accuracy to make bronze and stone resemble real living bodies.

4The exhibition in Princeton brings together a representative selection of pieces from museums all over the world, including the ‘name vase’, the ‘Berlin Amphora’ which Beazley discussed in his 1911 article; sadly the exhibition does not include the beautiful fragment which Beazley saw in Winchester College, pictured, but it was awe-inspiring to be in a gallery with so many pieces of such high quality. The symposium featured a brilliantly stimulating group of lectures, including a wonderful talk by Richard Neer about how Beazley’s sexuality and early Brideshead-like days as an Oxford undergraduate in the 1900s influenced his later scholarship, and a typically poetic paper by the renowned French scholar François Lissarrague on the painter’s astonishingly sensitive use of deep black backgrounds for the figural scenes. Mario Iozzo, director of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence (home of the famous François Vase), revealed that he found what all archaeologists long for: a secret message, barely detectable beneath the black glaze of one vase. His paper will quite literally have every curator of Athenian vases looking again for these tantalizing hidden words, which will occupy scholars for decades: they can only be seen with the naked eye under certain lighting conditions, preferably when the vase is being held in the hand, a nice reminder of the tactility of these objects in an era which is increasingly devoted to digital images and accessing artefacts primarily through the internet.

At the reception following the conference I re-connected with Prof. Lissarrague, who wrote the single most beautiful book on Greek vases (Greek Vases: The Athenians and Their Images) and, much less illustriously, examined my PhD thesis in 2013 (‘Animal-skin garments in archaic Greek art: style and iconography’). I also caught up with several other academics whom I knew through my five years working at the Beazley Archive: I was reminded of the joys of research, and I’ve already since been consulted by a curator at the Metropolitan Museum in New York about an animal skin on an ancient statuette. It has been very rewarding to spend even a brief time among academics and curators, and I plan to re-enter this world by writing a paper this summer on the Berlin Painter’s use of animal-skin garments: this will be one of hundreds of pieces of research inspired and stimulated by the epoch-making conference and exhibition, with its beautiful catalogue, and it was truly a privilege to have attended this monumental event.

On the day of the exhibition’s opening, Michael Padgett gave an excellent introductory lecture on the Berlin Painter which you can see here.

Future RAM Scholar, Luca, on Pre-U recitals

Gemma Klein Photography

By Luca Caruso, 6.2 

On Tuesday 21st March, I travelled up to London to complete what would be the first of three recitals for the performance section of Music Pre-U.

Throughout my two years in The Royal Academy of Music’s Junior Jazz program, I had the pleasure of meeting many musicians whom I now play with regularly, and as a result of these encounters I am fortunate enough to feel confident in calling for their services in musical situations like these. Two of the four musicians who joined me are already undergraduates at the RAM, whilst the other two are still attending the Junior Academy course.

Although this was a performance which was recorded on camera, there was also the opportunity for a live audience to attend. Most of these recitals take place in the Lupton Hall at School, and therefore it is a given that we, as a music class of 8, always go and support one another. Since my performance was held at The Royal Academy of Music, I deemed it appropriate to bring the rest of the class with me!

Their presence, along with my family’s, made the whole mood and atmosphere lighter and less formal. To tell the truth, this performance didn’t feel like an exam. It felt to be a thirty-minute set in which I could play the music I love with a quintet of fantastic musicians, with some of my close friends in attendance.

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In February it was announced that  many of our senior musicians had been awarded places at some of the country’s leading conservatoires.

Luca was awarded the drums scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, Caleb Curtis cello (Royal Academy of Music), George Butler  voice(Royal Northern College of Music), Antonia Richards voice (Trinity College), and Hope Cramsie guitar (Royal College of Music).

Below: George, Caleb, Antonia, Hope and Luca
George, Caleb, Antonia, Hope and Luca

Google Expeditions: from classroom to…

Google expeditions
By Paul Turner, Head of Geography

Virtual reality is purported to be the next “big thing” in education. Recently, Bedales was extremely lucky to be one of a handful of schools to have the Google Expedition Pioneer Programme visit for a whole day of Google Cardboard VR fun.

Across 18 sessions, 351 students from both Bedales and Dunhurst explored the world, the body and space. The day was an opportunity for staff and students to reflect on their normal classroom practice and question their potential use of VR.

The younger Dunhurst students were especially wowed by the experience. See a short video of the experience here:

…and a timelapse of how it might be integrated into future lessons here:

In praise of… praising

Final feast of the year

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy and Head of Academic Enrichment and Oxbridge

One of the main perks of being Head of Academic Enrichment is getting to come along to feasts held by Keith and Moony (see good manners, above) for those students who are working really hard, making excellent progress and showing determination in their work.

They’re really positive events, made even the more special by the fact Moony makes the brownies herself (when the dog doesn’t eat them…). Many schools are good at rewarding academic achievement, but Bedales is really good at praising determination, dedication and academic interest.

It seems to me much more valuable to praise the qualities we want, rather than simply good products. Qualities such as determination and resilience are essential for future learning and careers. In fact, many suggest that ‘grit’ – perseverance – is a better predictor for achievement than IQ  – if we can praise good dispositions, and reinforce those, that seems to be an excellent thing. Moreover, praising the effort over the product avoids students getting fixated on replicating work of exactly the same kind – if my work has been praised, I’ll keep doing that. If my qualities have been praised, I’ll keep working in that way.

This feeds into a growth mindset way of talking to students about academic ability – all learners (including oldies like me!) have progress to make and things to improve. We want to praise students who take this challenge whole-heartedly.

Thoughts from an outgoing 6.2

Becky Grubbjpg

Over the past few weeks, 6.2 flat has grown increasingly quiet as more of us depart having finished the last of our exams. It has not been unusual to see those leaving become emotional when it hits them: when their bags are packed and they leave their friends still swamped in folders and practice papers. Having finished the last of my exams on Tuesday, l don’t believe it has quite hit me yet.

As an initial reflection on the past year and my time here as a whole, I can’t imagine another place I would have rather conducted and concluded my school education. It strikes me as a rarity to find a place that can offer the freedom this school does. The freedom and space to think, to exercise and to spend time with the people you have grown to love and care for- especially during the exam season – is often taken for granted.

I believe it is this freedom which truly motivates and sustains us. At this time, conversation does tend to turn to the future and the dreaded question: “and what will you be doing next year?”, but there is also a fond reflection on the past and “what more would you have done?” Discussing the latter with fellow 6.2s, we settled on one main thing we would have done if we relived our Bedales education. We decided we would have written a diary starting at Block 3, if not sooner, not just for comic-value but as a reminder and record of all our experiences. I think of this, what it would look like and how full it would be; I think Bedales encourages people to leave with a weighty volume, a full and well-used diary.

While the many empty pages ahead will always be daunting, I am immensely grateful for the freedom I have had so far to fill the pages with numerous and various experiences and to have shared them with such a supportive and special bunch of people.

Prize Work

Bedales Memorial Library Interior

How do you reward outstanding achievement if you don’t want to encourage competition between students? Bedales did away with comparative class lists very early on, because we believe that encouraging students to do their best is better than encouraging them simply to do better than others. This is a typical Bedalian dilemma, but one for which Badley had an elegant solution.

‘Prize Work’ was “…not for competition but as reward for anything that was shown up of special merit…for many years the annual show of ‘prize-work’ was one of the most characteristic features of the School” (J.H. Badley, Memories and Reflections, p.124). In order to recognise some of the outstanding independent academic work our students undertake, we are reviving the tradition of Prize Work this year. All students are invited to enter a piece of independent work they have done over the summer. It can be in any academic subject, and could be any kind of thing, for example…

  • a sketchbook of technical diagrams of birds or leaves
  • a program or an App
  • a project to research an area of interest, and write an essay
  • a translation of a short story or poem

It must be their own, and it must not be school work, as this has been assessed already. It can, however, build on school work with additional research and editing. It is a great thing to do if a university application is imminent, and a great way for students to stretch themselves whatever Block they are in. I would like to encourage you to take part!

Submission details here.

By Clare Jarmy, Head of Academic Enrichment and Religious Studies and Philosophy