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Dan Varney

Creativity and Rigour

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This workshop will introduce a variety of practical lesson activities that engage students in collaborative learning and develop their thinking skills. These range from unstructured activity in exploring open-ended questions to the structured rigour of investigating the credibility of sources.

The session will be highly participative, using lLogoVisual resources to get hands on with exercises which can be applied directly or readily adapted for use in your classroom.

The session will be introduced by Dan Varney (Project Manager, Centre for Management Creativity) and Frank Bruce, (Tividale High School, Sandwell)

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Introduction to LVT

LogoVisual Thinking (LVT®) is a simple yet profound methodology for making sense. It gives everyone involved the means of developing meaning. It is a method of ‘Hands-on’ approach tothinking that were developed as a way of enablingenables people to represent their thoughts as objects and then manipulate them until they make sense. It gets people out of their heads, engaging physical, emotional and kinaesthetic intelligences to develop understanding.

The initials LVT stand for:

Logo - articulating discrete units of meaning in words and icons.

Visual - revealing and manipulating patterns and connections.

Thinking - attaining new levels of understanding or perception.

LVT is a particular kind of Visual Thinking, in which ideas are written on objects that can be displayed and arranged on a surface that can also be written upon, such that everything can be readily revised to facilitate the game-play of meaning making. It requires simple tools – perhaps as simple as Post-it notes on a paper background, though the preferred medium is dry wipe magnetic hexagons (called MagNotes) on whiteboards, as this means everything can be changed at any time. Hexagons tessellate well and help to prize our thinking out of its habitual lines and columns.

Clearly, the tools and method are not exclusive to teaching History. Across the whole spectrum of education, there is an imperative to nurture curiosity and enquiry. We need to adopt pedagogies that enable young people to think for themselves rather than rely on what another generation perceived as fact – this is essential if they are to make sense of the rapidly changing world of the 21st century. Making meaning is, therefore, the fundamental thinking skill for the rising generation. In the hands of enlightened teachers, LVT is enabling students to rapidly develop their cognitive abilities.

Hands on exercise 1

This exercise was introduced as a means of engaging students in a collaborative sense making activity. The theme and focus was What factors led to Germany’s defeat in WWII?

After a 10 minutes of gathering responses onto drywipe hexagons, and displaying them at random on whiteboards, table groups of 3-6 then organised their material into groups, looking for sameness and difference. Having formed groupings, each cluster was given a title. For both the ideas themselves and for the cluster titles, attention was paid to the use of complete phrases that were responses to the question. The whole exercise lasted around half an hour.

Here are some examples of the material developed:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

What does this show us?

  • Even teachers/historians struggle to articulate meaning, and LVT is useful for practicing and developing this skill!
  • The boards give an instant visual clue as to the students thinking and understanding of the topic in question.
  • The visual display becomes a collaborative thinking space, and a stimulus for discussion.
  • It enables students to arrive at their own meaning and sense
  • Presenting, comparing and contrasting the work of different groups and discussing the process provides an opportunity for metacognitive learning
  • Its not dissimilar to mind mapping, but works inversely. I.e. instead of starting with some key factors and then populating each with component ideas, you start with a random display and let the key factors emerge – if you know a subject, this can be useful in surfacing some new insight. If you don’t know a subject, it enables you to develop some understanding of it.

Hands on exercise 2

This exercise introduced a way of using the same visual resources for exploring credibility of sources. The theme was the Samarra battle, Iraq at the end of November 2003.

Table groups were given copies of reports from the Independent, The Mirror, Hi Pakistan and DC Military, and a prompt sheet asking them to represent each named source as a yellow hexagon, display it on the board depending on whether the source supported or contradicted the principle argument, and use green and orange hexagons alongside them to represent +/- credibility factors.

Here is an example of the material developed:

Example 1

What does this show us?

  • The example and sources used weren’t ideal – it was all very subjective, and some useful points were made about the pitfalls of serious consideration of events in such recent past. – At least it provoked the discussion! Of course, the intention wasn’t to get Iraq added to the syllabus, it just seemed like an interesting deviation. It has to be said, there are more appropriate sources around for actual use in the classroom.
  • The boards give a visual answer to questions like where is the balance/body/weight/ of evidence?

Edited by Dan Varney

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This is an interesting development. I see that a LVT Thinking Skills Guidebook (a page introduction to LVT methodology with practical applications for developing National Curriculum Thinking Skills, focusing on KS3 & 4) comes with the package. I assume this book comes with ideas from different subject areas. Have you produced a history specific book to go with these materials?

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Short answer = not at present.

The value in such methods is that they are not constrained to specific application in specific subjects – they provide infinite scope for creativity for teachers and learners. This said, of course many teachers like subject specific examples so they can be directly applied (which was illustrated by the short-comings of the Samarra example we used in our session).

A new book published by Chris Kington publishers (of ‘Thinking through History’ fame) is due out in the Autumn and, whilst again not being exclusively focused on History, does feature specific History exemplars amongst others. The book is called Making Meaning: learning through LogoVisual thinking, ISBN 1 899857 48 3.

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I like the idea of the tesselating hexagon, this seems a much better way of showing multiple and intricate connections that can't be done on a more basic scattergram / spider diagram. This could be really useful in looking at causation in history and allowing the students to develop the notion of a web of causation rather than a simplistic and unconnected approach. Where can you get your magnotes from? I have a notepad type facility on my whiteboard, but this won't allow the interconnectivity that is so important.

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I have a notepad type facility on my whiteboard, but this won't allow the interconnectivity that is so important.

Can you explain this a bit more?

The fact that the MagNotes have some physical substance means they do ‘clunk’ together nicely, and you have the flexibility to explore and experiment with the pattern of the material. In causation type processes (in History, problem solving or whatever) the gaps are just as revealing as the connections!

If you’re whiteboard is magnetic you can just get the MagNotes in packs of 15. They come in a variety of colours and sizes. Or, there are kits for students to use either individually or in table groups.

Here are the relevant links:

Components (subject to education discount)

Student and class kits (Pre-discounted)

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I have a notepad type facility on my whiteboard, but this won't allow the interconnectivity that is so important.

Can you explain this a bit more?

I use a promethean Whiteboard with Activstudio2 software. On the powertool icon there is a tool called notes and pointers which allows me to pin up the ICT equivalent of a post-it note on the screen. I haven't worked out how to make the same kind of connections that you hexagons allow although someone may be able to show me how!

Thanks for the Magnotes details, I don't know if my whiteboard is magnetic either!

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I use a promethean Whiteboard with Activstudio2 software. On the powertool icon there is a tool called notes and pointers which allows me to pin up the ICT equivalent of a post-it note on the screen. I haven't worked out how to make the same kind of connections that you hexagons allow although someone may be able to show me how!

Thanks for the clarification. I'm aware of, but not familar with promethean Whiteboard with Activstudio2 software, so look forward to someone else helping you out on this point for my own interest too. For replicating the hexagon functionality electronically, there is a dedicated piece of software you might want to try called Visual Concept. You can download a trial from here.

Thanks for the Magnotes details, I don't know if my whiteboard is magnetic either!

If you e-mail me your address I'll gladly send you some sample MagNotes - if they stick to your board it's magnetic. If they don't it isn't!. Wall-mounted boards don't cost very much anyway.

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