Our Creative Forest trial, delivered in partnership with Creative Forest Ltd, has been running since the start of term and has already raised some significant highlights.

Online learning (or just ‘learning’) does not have to be the linear, structured environment we often see on the internet. Learning is a messy business and although teachers and parents often want to tidy it up as much as possible, that isn’t always what we should be doing. Creative Forest reflects the messy side of learning. It is a dynamic, rich environment where there are so many different things going on it can be a little overwhelming. It asks the student to take the time to immerse themselves in the platform. They need to learn its ins and outs, engage in chat, keep an eye on developments, and post ideas. There are multiple chat channels that support different interests. From coding to movie making, from fashion to sport. You name it and it is there. It is lively, exciting and far from linear or tidy. 

While many students are now developing projects based on interests, we are not seeing a great deal of connectedness across schools just yet. This will take time and encouragement but is an essential part of the platform. We need the students to learn to connect beyond the local area. 

Renea has done a fabulous job in developing an environment using two main tools, Notion and Flock. While this has worked well, there are a few major limitations. Our original vision for Creative Forest involved developing a new platform. The trial has reinforced how important this is. At the moment no existing platform does what we need. 

The possibilities with this trial are endless, but one thing that stood out for me in a recent chat with Renea is how the internet can help sustain local community. We often hear about how the internet can create connectedness on a global stage, but there are benefits that are far more close to home. The world of work is changing. The internet means you can work, run a business, or develop innovative solutions from wherever you are. It means that small rural communities don’t have to lose many of their kids when they finish school. If you want to stay where you are, you can. Creative Forest develops this realisation and outlook in students while they are at school. It builds in them the capacity to create or innovate using rich online platforms that enable them to not only connect nationally and globally. In my opinion, we have obligation as educators to do this if we want to prepare children for the world they live in, but there is perhaps a reason of equal importance if we want a sustainable future for small rural communities.

By Darren Sudlow