I’m Professor of Educational and Social Futures at the University of Bristol where my work is broadly concerned with creating new relationships between universities, schools and wider society (or between formal education and informal/community learning). My background is in interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research, often bringing together education researchers, creative arts and design, new technologies, young people and teachers to create new approaches to education. In recent years I’ve been particularly concerned with understanding the implications of potential future economic, environmental and technological change for the relationship between schools and communities, which is the subject of my latest book Learning Futures.
These days I’m mainly concerned with exploring how we can best create new research cultures to ensure that all of our communities can build what Appadurai calls the strategic knowledge they need to thrive despite potential significant environmental, economic and technological disruptions.
This is a list of some of the projects I’ve been involved with as a researcher that are related to the Connected Communities Programme:
Researching the Engaged University (2012). In collaboration with Emma Agusita and the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, this project asks: what is the state of research into the Engaged University? and how might this ‘field’ develop in future? It draws on a literature review and on workshops and interviews with over 70 leading researchers working in this area. Project Report forthcoming.
Mapping Learning Lives (2011-2012). Co-developed with the BBC and with Dr Helen Manchester, this project asked how the growing world of rich data might support informal learning. It comprised workshops with over 100 individuals aged 8 to 80, and detailed case studies of 12 people recording how they reflect upon their learning in their day to day lives. Final report available on request.
ScreenPlay (1998-2001). With John Furlong, Ros Sutherland and Ruth Furlong, this ESRC funded project studied the early adoption of computers into children’s homes and what this meant for the children’s family relationships, play, learning. It comprised surveys of around 800 children, and detailed ethnographies of 16 families. This work is described in detail in the book ScreenPlay: children and computing in the home, and in my PhD.
Attainment and Aspiration in Birley Fields (2010) With John Schostak and Lorna Roberts, this project was part of MMU’s preparation for its new campus in Hulme, Manchester. In the project, we worked with young people and schools to document the informal resources that children used to learn outside school, children’s aspirations and the link between their existing resources and these aspirations.
InterActive Education (2000-2002). As part of the ESRC Funded Interactive Education Project, led by Ros Sutherland, Susan Robertson and Peter John, I worked on an extension of the ScreenPlay project, studying informal learning with new technologies outside school.
Educational Futures Projects
Educational Futures (2009-2011). An ESRC Seminar Series and Conference collaboration with Mike Sharples, Anna Craft, Carey Jewitt, Richard Sandford, Simon Mauger. This series of events brought together education researchers and specialists in futures research to critically examine how we think about the future in education. There are a number of practical publications designed for educators to reflect on the challenge of building agency in the face of uncertainty available on the series blog.
Beyond Current Horizons (2007-2009). Commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, this £3m strategic foresight project was designed to explore a range of potential scenarios for education in the context of social and technological change over a 25 year horizon. It brought together over 80 leading researchers, contributions from over 5000 students, teachers and others, and workshops with over 120 education organisations. All the materials generated in the project are available on the projectwebsite and the ideas in this project underpinned my 2011 book Learning Futures.
Education and Digital Cultures – Cross-sectoral collaborations
Futurelab (2002-2008). Futurelab was an independent research organisation established in 2001 to bring together expertise from education research, creative digital media, computing and educational practice to create new approaches to designing and using technologies in education. We were particularly interested in the questions that games cultures asked of formal education, in the potential of children-created mobile media, in the design of playful, exploratory learning environments. An archive of the over 60 R&D projects ranging from augmented reality african savannahs overlaid on school playing fields, to a playful resource for educational innovation, is available here. In 2012, Futurelab became part of the NFER and is now focused primarily on supporting schools to innovate.
Projects Rethinking the Relationship between Formal and Informal Learning
Evaluating the Manchester Curriculum (2009-) . In 2009 I was commissioned by the RSA to conduct a review of their Manchester Area Based Curriculum, a project in which schools were supported to draw on the resources of the city to design a new curriculum. A literature review and the report for this project are available on the RSA’s Area Based Curriculum Pages. Since then, I’ve been working and writing with Louise Thomas, the RSA Senior Researcher for Education, on the relationship between the local area and the school.
Enquiring Minds (2005-2008). I initiated this project as Research Director at Futurelab, on the basis of my work on the ScreenPlay Project. Funded by Microsoft, this project was intended to explore the question – how might you design a curriculum that would build on young people’s own passions, interests and experiences? John Morgan and Ben Williamson, later also Sarah Payton and Tash Lee, working with two local schools in Bristol, further developed the project in important directions, developing a range of materials that support educators to think about the relationship between knowledge, students and schools.
Assessing and Accrediting Personal Skills and Competencies (2004). With Jess Pykett and funded by the QCA, this project surveyed the landscape of assessment and accreditation approaches to ‘competency’ based education. It makes the case for new assessment techniques that take account of young people’s participation in multiple communities – from peer group cultures to expert online reference groups. Final Report available here.
- Connected Communities Media Collection
- Book Series
- Creating Living Knowledge Report
- Connected Communities: A-Z of Community Partners 2009 - 2019
- Co-creating Cities & Communities Summer Event
- Re-imagining contested communities
- Connected Communities Foundation Series
- Street Music in the UK - Annotated Bibliography
- Street Music in the UK - Large Print
- Street Music in the UK
- Street Music conference programme
- Connected Communities: A Decade of Collaborative Research LARGE PRINT
- Connected Communities: A Decade of Collaborative Research