Shakeserendipity was a short professional learning course created in line with the Principles of Imaginaria. It aimed to give participants exciting ways to consider three plays and teaching and learning generally. It comprised three two-hour workshops and involved 19 teachers from 8 schools across Sydney (Australia). The pilot took place in May-June 2015 and then morphed into this online version.
Each of the three workshops was organised slightly differently to trial various modes of interaction with the provided resources. This varied structure was designed to increase the ‘serendipity’ of the experience from one workshop to the next. In each workshop the amount of resources (and thus the complexity and potential for serendipity) increased. These workshop structures can be adopted by online users of Shakeserendipity (see How to play).
In the first workshop, participants were put into five groups and each group was given (in advance) two resources relating to Richard III. Every resource was discussed by two groups, but no group had an identical pair of resources to any other group. This arrangement meant that each group discussed and collided a unique pair of resources and potentially produced unique ideas as a result. Yet, it also meant that in a period of sharing across the entire workshop any group discussing a single resource knew that the same resource had been considered by another group (in another context) who could therefore add their thoughts to the mix. This enabled both freshness and wide engagement. This arrangement required five resources on Richard III.
In the second workshop, participants were put into new groups and given two resources relating to Julius Caesar. This time there was no overlap between any groups’ resources. This required ten resources on Julius Caesar and a higher level of mental agility for participants to keep engaged.
In the final workshop, participants were given a list of fifteen resources related in some way to The Tempest. Participants were asked to choose individually at least two resources before coming to the workshop. This reduced the intellectual risk for participants because they could pick the resources they wanted to explore, but it heightened the serendipity because the workshop then worked with a random assortment of unique and overlapping resources selected from the list of fifteen. This was the hardest workshop to manage for the facilitator because it was the most unpredictable and required participants to be very active and creative in their engagement.
For all workshops, a wide range of types of resources was provided. Some were more traditional (for example, a critical essay on the play), while others were more unusual (for example, a seemingly unrelated text).
The Shakeserendipity pilot aimed to create unexpected opportunities for innovative learning about Shakespeare and Shakespeare pedagogy by enabling the interaction of widely differing resources.
The three workshops increased in difficulty as points of commonality decreased and points of novelty and difference were amplified. Genuinely creative and adventurous thinking is not easy! By encouraging participants to make connections between diverse resources and engage with radical resources, fresh ideas were generated in groups and in whole-workshop discussion. Several participants immediately adapted the Shakeserendipity pilot resources and structures for use in their school classrooms.
The Shakeserendipity pilot received the following feedback:
‘Loved the structure of groups and reading - I used it just today for a demonstration lesson with my Yr 11 Advanced class for visiting teachers from another school. Kids lapped it up and learned lots and got to speak to others in their class (as opposed to their usual learning partners) and visiting teachers loved it too and said they'd do the same lesson tomorrow.’‘Love the left of field resources and how they can spark discussion and how we are privileged to hear people make connections between resources/readings and texts - as well as the connections and interesting thoughts we make ourselves.’‘Thought-provoking discussion about education in general.... Discussing resources is valuable - varied exciting choices.’‘Wonderful opportunity to discuss fantastic resources and contemplate in new ways how they can connect with the stodgy parameters of the curriculum.’‘The freedom to discuss, think etc in any way possible and how rich the discussion became because of this.’‘I really enjoyed hearing ideas, and being in conversation with other English teachers. Most exciting aspects for me were the discussions centred on education in English literature as the systems are geared now.’‘I did like the serendipitous structure that made unforeseen links between different focuses in each Shakespearean text. The structure and method did provide some great approaches to teaching going forward - throwing out ideas to students to research and bounce off each other.’‘It does open up ways of thinking - creates a sense to trust student responses more and follow unusual directions. It also gives a chance to dream how education could be better if there was more room, more time and more freedom.’‘The professional discussion which evolved from resources - thinking outside the box. Contemplating new possibilities of educating. Using these traditional Shakespearean texts to open up so many new possibilities which will/can be practically applied.’