To play or not to play? or week 4 #creativeHE

Don’t bin your ideas! Share them and see them grow and evolve! image source https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7365/16582973125_a708f17c86_z.jpg

Friday evening and finally a little bit of time to look back at our last gathering this Thursday (it is actually Sunday morning when I am adding these notes to WordPress after I started writing them in notes on my iPad on Friday evening). Does it matter? Perhaps this delay is actually healthy for reflection? I noticed this time that it was more valuable to add bits over a few days and I know I will be coming back and editing further after I will have published this post. Thinking is messy, reflections are messy, trying to put them in a linear arrangement is not an easy task as the mind just keeps hopping around… and seeing new and exciting connections all the time… Where to stop? What to analyse? What to do? Can we afford to ignore internal voices? But what also about the external ones? All go into the sense making pot, I think.

What do we ask our students to do at university? image source https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7427/15963336273_cfae0bf4c3_z.jpg

On Thursday we played with small colourful plastic bricks, a mountain of them as you can see from the photos. The purpose was to experience a model-based learning approach that has the potential to foster pan-participation through playful making, sharing reflection, learning, ideas and dilemmas based on models we create and the metaphors they represent. Do we find it more natural to externalise our deepest internal thoughts through metaphors? Are we making emotional connections stronger that way without even realising? What are the implications?

Sharing our stories through models, image source https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7349/15963013413_f0f09e7a47_z.jpg

We used Lego bricks and the LEGO Serious Play (LSP) method or at least a variation of it. For me it is important, with anything I use, to make sure that it could work for the specific learning situation. Could it work as it is, or do I need to make adjustments? Often, perhaps too often, we don’t ask ourselves these important questions and are then surprised when things we try don’t work… well, not everything we try works anyway, but removing our own criticality can make it even worse? For me it is extremely important to be flexible, proactive and adjust approaches when needed so that what we do is of value and participants get the maximum out of it. But also provide choice! Asking ourselves how and why we do something are perhaps more important to what we do… if that makes sense and I can parallels here when we are given “stuff” to deliver and we often feel constrained… but within these constraints lie the real opportunities, we just need to spot them and do something about them! This often means taken risks… and trying something new. What are the implications of not trying something new? Perhaps this is a valuable question we should ask ourselves more often…

our Kerry facilitating the LSP warm-up activities, image source https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8623/15960948864_acffde588a_z.jpg

As soon as the bricks appeared on the table in little plastic bags, they didn’t really stay there for very long… Colleagues took them out of the bags and started putting little models together. This just happened. I have seen it before, it seems to happen all the time, and confirms to me that it is really hard   not to touch the bricks and play with them. It almost feels as if the bricks are magic and turn us again into a child where we enjoy play and are curious about the world and share this openly with others without guilt or shame.

we all reflect, we all build! image source https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7412/16582202292_051e139af4_z.jpg

Inviting a colleague who participated in the LEGO for Higher Education workshop series a few months ago and therefore had some experience of the LSP method already also through implementing it in their own practice, worked really well. Kerry made me smile throughout as I could see that the key messages and concepts of the approach were there and enacted successfully. It was also a lovely change I think from me introducing and leading learning activities. We talk about empowering learners and putting the learner in the driving seat… but too often we are still the ones orchestrating everything even if we achive an active participatory learning experience!!! Is this really student-centred learning? Perhaps it is a mild form of it. But we can and should do more? What will help us let go? I think scaffolding the process that leads to autonomy is really vital and I think creating the conditions for empowerment and autonomy are  important. Then we can switch. Explaining our intentions, expectations, the process and approach to the learners is, I think important so that they recognise why this is good for them, their learning and development.

We learn so much through teaching others and often forget that it is actually one of most effective ways of learning. But could students misinterpret our intentions? Could they just turn around and say “I am the student” and refuse our invite to take a more leading. mentoring, supporting role of their peers? For me it is also a way to recognise expertise and mastery in students and this is a good thing, right? I think some do and will be vocal about it too! How could we manage this? What would you do? Peer mentoring and peer assisted learning are perhaps still approaches widely under-used, is this right? What needs to happen so that we value such approaches more and integrate them more organically in our sessions and courses? Helping others, just because we want to and we can, can be motivational and boost our confidence and self-belief for example, they can also boost our understanding of the subject. I have seen financial rewards been used to promote such practices. Is there any related research out there that confirms that this works? Reading this HEA publication might help gain further insights.

 

Value Jar responses from this week. Could not read all responses, unfortunately.

It is amazing how we have new ideas from making things.
The activities in play, should be introduced as a fun activity to introduce the method. as the weeks develop more challenging activities in play should occur. Students should be given an explanation of the activities so they understand the reasons behind the activities. A new and exciting method to develop students.
Being able to visualise what I might not have been able to visualise at the start of the session.
Today’s session allowed me to explore the idea of using LEGO as a basis for the discussion of quite personal feelings and ideas. Explaining knowledge and understanding in a new and interesting way.
It was interesting to do the LEGO tasks again and to act as a facilitator. These sessions give me time to think and litter my thinking between sessions.
Playing with ideas leads to innovation. Making allows us to find new points (evads – couldn’t read handwriting, need to confirm) we can (… again, couldn’t read handwriting) ideas. Reflecting on our making helps us to understand our ideas, knowledge.
I think I could use LEGO as a way of students finding it easier to talk about their work: through a representation of their work, it takes the pressure off a bit.
I think it is wonderful that people are so excited to come and are sharing ideas withe ach other with no guardedness.
Excellent session to link theory to practice. Using LEGO makes me keep silent. Silent is good for my creativity.
LEGO – exploring ideas, creatively through play. Building/growing, very practical demonstration. Value using Lego in learning. Good for building team/group.

My favourite pic of he day ;) image source https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7444/16395780350_95025bea89_z.jpg

I think play won on Thursday, with and without LEGO, we showed that it can make us feel more relaxed, open up, connect with our inner self and others and make exciting new discoveries. Stuart Brown in his book Play. How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul wrote:

Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner. Play is like fertilizer for brain growth. It’s crazy not to use it. (p. 101)

While the following might help some more skeptics, especially when thinking about play in higher education…

Next week will be our sort of reading week. A peer-led session by Susan and Emma focusing in on our portfolios, assessment and the online space. I will be with you in spirit and am looking forward to finding out how it went.

See you all on the 5th of March in the Studio. Info will follow nearer to the time. I can’t wait to see you then. I might be more excited about this as anybody else at the moment as I am the only one who knows what is going to happen ;)

Chrissi


 

I am part of the Creative Academic team together with Dr Alison James and led by Prof. Norman Jackson. We publish the Creative Academic Magazine and will start working soon on the second issue. You will be happy to know that the theme for it will be play. Read our short introduction regarding the next issue below and get in touch if you would like to contribute a little something, ok?

Exploring the issue of play

Play in higher education? Seriously? Often we are reminded that universities are not playgrounds and that play is childish and inappropriate… Isn’t research a playful experimentation with ideas, concepts and situations, recognised as an essential activity that drives innovation, while play in a learning and teaching context is often still interpreted as undesirable especially within higher education?

In the next issue, we will explore the importance of play in higher education to create critical and creative thinkers and doers who have the curiosity, capacity and the vision to make the impossible possible.  There will be a potpourri of contributions and perspectives shared through practitioners and students eyes and minds that offer a valuable insight into the opportunities creative play presents for learning and teaching, students and their tutors.

Deadline to submit an article or digital artefact is the 1 May 15. 

Chrissi Nerantzi and Dr Alison James

draft post version 2

the power of stories or week 3 #creativeHE

This was our session around story, stories, our stories, their stories for learning and teaching. Stories we create, tell, share and live. Stories which help us learn about ourselves, others and the world around us. It became clear very quickly how powerful stories are to make emotional connections, how they help us keep memories alive but also created powerful triggers to be in somebody else’s shoes and empathise but also mirror behaviour (see also a fascinating article about the science of storytelling I came across this week). The group has started coming together and it is wonderful to see how colleagues have opened up and feel free to express themselves. We all opened our hearts and showed vulnerability. But it was ok. It was our decision and we knew we were safe within our little community.

Beyond our own personal stories we also explored the use of creating stories to analyse and synthesise in a visual way academic articles. Could this present a useful approach especially for students new to critiquing academic literature and do this within a small group and through a way that is perhaps more hands-on, collaborative and visual? Could this be a useful starter activity if we use for example the flipped classroom approach? Might be something I could discuss with Prof. Simon Lancaster for example to find out if he has used something like this or would consider using with this students? I am also thinking about my own colleagues and their own students. If you are reading this, please comment below. I would be very interested to find out what your thoughts are around this.

co-creating stories based on academic papers a kinaesthetic, visual and collaborative approach, photo a bit out-of focus, sorry… ;( image source: https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7354/16325474748_572ac6d9bd_z.jpg

While I am writing this, for some reason, my mind seems to wander already towards the next session (it is Saturday evening when I started capturing these thoughts… and the session was on Thursday). I am now trying desperately to remember what happened… Does this delay in capturing my reflection hinder me now to actually look back and remember anything specific that I would like to take forward? Or is it that sometimes things just fade away quicker than others? The bits that I decided to leave out pop into my head now… but why? Maybe because we tend to remember more the ‘negatives’, the things we didn’t achieve? I started an activity which remained incomplete (don’t know if any of my colleagues would actually know which one I mean). The reality is that there were some connectivity issues. The activity was to demonstrate something very specific… I now think that I will do the second part the activity next week, and see if it helps colleagues understand an important concept which I think is not just relevant for children’s development. Writing about it now, actually makes me change my original plan. Part two will be done next week, but the activity itself will be completed in session 5. Yes, this makes sense and fits nicely with my plans for that day. I can’t really say much more now. Well, I could but then it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore… but just happened here is, and idea developed and evolved into something else while I was in the process of reflecting on something that I had to leave incomplete during the session. I am pleased now that this did happen… and I will manage to turn this mistake if you like into an opportunity.

I was sort of checking myself the other day on what I have been modelling so far and could see that it was hands-on creativity that could work anywhere and didn’t rely on tech. Actually looking back now and specifically to the last task from last week, there was the option for colleagues to turn the stories they created within their groups into digital stories, it didn’t happen. Both groups preferred to work on low-tech activities. Then this morning, Sunday, I read David Hopkins blog post which seems very much related to my some of my thoughts regarding technology and it was a bit spooky, I have to admit, but nice also that other people are thinking about these things too.

However in both groups digital tools were used to support the activities without being prompted. In one case, the iPad became the timer and camera to capture some photos, while in the other group, one colleague used their tablet to capture notes and the mindmap. Is this what we would call normalised use of tech? I think it is.

The fresh entries from the Value Jar follow: Thank you everybody. I will continue collecting responses and we could synthesise all your responses after week 5 and see what these actually all mean for you, me and us.

Excellent session about the power of storytelling. Nice to see the group getting closer and learning from each other. Great ideas to use straight away. Thank you ;)
Realised how my own learning preference/beliefs influence and perhaps constrain my practice as a teacher.
Sharing experiences, opening up and seeing the world in a different way – tools to do this.
The realisation of the power of storytelling allowing individuals to connect with each other through verbal communication.
Explored how stories can be used to inspire and develop communities.
We explored storytelling as way of connecting students at emotional level. Instigating emotions in students to help them connect with concepts they are learning to connect to a wider world.
We reflected on using storytelling in the classroom, we created our own stories and looked at ways to introduce activities with storytelling. ;)… and it was fun!
I enjoyed the experimentation with storycubes and creating ideas together.

Can’t wait to see you all next week for more fun and play! Yes, our next session will be about play and making stuff for learning ;)

Draft No 1

Game over? No, it isn’t… or week 2 thoughts #creativeHE

On Thursday was our second #creativeHE session… well not really a session. This word takes me to a very restrictive definition of learning… if learning happens exclusively in sessions which we design for learning…. or teaching perhaps, I should say, does learning often happen outside of these sessions? An interesting study found that walking increases creativity. Walking is probably not the only activity that fosters creative juices to flow… The reality is that learning is an uninterrupted and liquid process and happens in multiple physical and virtual spaces, with and without others, with external and/or internal stimulations and often while doing other things. From multitasking to multilearning? What does this mean when we we design activities for learning to happen?

I love to surprise learners and help them make their own discoveries! I hope that colleagues saw the potential of breaking out of walls, out of stuffy rooms, out of dark and boring spaces and seek light, oxygen and inspiration in the outside world. Learning happens everywhere and all the time. Unzipping our minds from time, geographical constraints and lack of resources will help us spot opportunities for learning and teaching, in a very different and refreshing way. I think participating colleagues realised the potential and were able to experience the fruits of joined-up thinking and collaboration. We are not alone! Sharing opens up so many new and exciting opportunities. Active listening is vital. Too often we talk to hear our own voice, our own ideas but actually when we listen, when our own voice moves into the background we connect with others, discover and grow and are more able to discover common interests with others. We don’t know it all, actually we know very little, and often thinking that we know best blinds us and doesn’t enable us to spot the gems in front of our eyes.

I have been playing the Sell you bargains game for a number of years now and the first iteration when I was still living in the North-East and was a teacher trainer for adult and community learning. We transformed Newcastle City centre into a playground… for the last five years it has been Manchester… The game has changed and evolved over time. It was far too complicated to start with. Now I am thinking of changing it again. What triggered this is the measuring or scaling creativity. The game is deliberately collaborative and to neutralise competition but then there is the bit where the group collectively, and I stay out of this, votes for their favourite team based on criteria they defined. Should we get rid of this part? One of my colleagues questioned the usefulness of this. The process of establishing a way to do the voting for the best ideas, did distract a bit from the activity itself and the sharing of ideas. So could or should the voting be scrapped? Would it be better to celebrate more all ideas equally? Would this create a more inclusive atmosphere? And I am thinking now, doing this with some cake would I am sure be much much better! While I am writing this I am making the decision to try this next time but what I do need to find is a suitable place off-campus. Bringing in students would also be useful and actually I could buddy up students and lecturers… New ideas are emerging, new and old are coming together while I am typing all this with one finger on my iPad in notes. I am excited and can’t wait to see where these changes will take us next.

My thoughts appear to be random but I can see the connections and some of the opportunities for the future. I need to reflect more on Thursday, what happened, what didn’t, why and what I would like participants to achieve through this game. I know that I am critical of myself, but in this case it is for a purpose, I am really keen to make it even better. Colleagues told me that they found it refreshing to be out and about, share practices, problem-solve collaboratively and come up with creative ideas that could and hopefully will be implemented (also see their Value Jar responses below).

Normalised use? How will you use this pic David? image source https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8603/15829018954_50b9d2e390_z.jpg

At the end of our game and while we were leaving, the online dimension of the unit was brought up by some, together with the fact that some of my messages are far too long and tasks are text-heavy!!! The situation is not ideal. Not all are at p2pU yet, not all have a portfolio yet. How many feel lost and disorientated online? Did I expect too much? Familiarisation with the spaces and practices we would use during the course should have happened before we started. The opportunities were there but not used by all. How can I highlight their importance more for future cohorts? The portfolio session for example only attracted a tiny number of participants…. it was promoted as pre-course… I think this might have been the problem. I will have to rethink!!!

 

  • Loads of pics from the day and the unit can be found here.
  • Mini films in which colleagues share their ideas are here.

The Contributions to the Value Jar from this week, below. Couldn’t read all handwriting… And need to check the post-its again. But here comes what I could read and hopefully this makes sense.

Talking was really useful – sharing ideas. Enjoyed being out and about! Being creative and having time to talk to others and enjoy being creative.
Don’t concentrate on the leaves, concentrate on the roots.
How amazing to get out of room with walls and walk!
I found problem solving two ideas at once great because when you ran out of ideas for one problem, you could switch to the other one, unblocking the mental block.
Emphasis on process understanding how to structure tasks (practice) which emphasise process. Walking… I am inspired by this as a methodological approach.
It was useful to walk and talk. It’s always a good way to get ideas flowing! Great to be in a new environment with my peers too. Not keen on voting though!
Collaboration works! Especially in a different environment, with people with similar passion and different view points.
Not at all … what to expect. Very creative session. Got lots of ideas for teaching and some positive reassurance for tackling some of my present challenges. It became very clear in the discussions, that challenges we face are infoliated and need collaboration s a solution. Creativity is everywhere. You go looking was another form I
I enjoyed it engaging in conversation in dynamic environment/settings. Sharing our problems with others and finding resolution. Surroundings definitely enhanced our ideas and brought interesting topics to our conversations.

Before I forget, I would also like to add that a complete stranger approached us and wanted to know what we are doing. When we asked him what would you advise lecturers, he said the following:

Stop thinking that you know everything!

On Sunday morning I had a Eureka moment for a new activity, which I think would be of value. It was triggered by something that happened when we shared ideas at the final stage of the game and it confirmed to me that we need to listen more to what other say as this will help us make re-adjustments to our own thinking and practice. I am working on this activity now and it does involve flower pots. I think I will need the help of a designer to come upMore soon. I will make it available under a creative commons licence so others can use and adapt ;)

I or we? We or I? I and we? Glues for my flower pot activity… image source: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/pictures/30000/nahled/old-flower-pots.jpg

… I would like to share here also that we had our very first badge awarded via pspu which went to our Ellie, Very well done!

Speak again soon,

Chrissi

p.s Draft version 2.

a new year, a new start, a new unit: Creativity for Learning #creativeHE

mixing things up a bit, is it worth it? image source: http://blog.colourandpaint.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Paint-pots.jpg

Exciting times!!! Finally after initial development, unit approval and a few months of on- and offline development, time has  come to put the concept of the unit to the test with our first cohort at MMU. Old and tested ideas have been brought together with new ones in a pedagogical cocktail which is hoped to unzip minds and empower colleagues to become more experimental and playful in their teaching to create rich and stimulating learning experiences…. How will it work in practice? I am really looking forward to finding out! I am talking about the Creativity for Learning Unit. This has become part of our PgCert and the MA in Academic Practice and enables flexible engagement with a number of formal and informal engagement pathways.

Our very first group started officially yesterday, the 29th of January and I am still buzzing. Some of us met the week before for a portfolio building workshop but yesterday was the first time we really started getting to know each other.

On my list there are currently 16 colleagues from MMU (7 of whom are participating in our Creative Academic research project with Prof. Norman Jackson) in very different roles, disciplines or professional areas who create a very rich mix of experiences and expertise from which we will all benefit. I will broadly categorise the different modes of participation of these individuals:

  • Official registration on the Creativity for Learning unit and assessment to be completed over two terms in order to gain 30 credits at postgraduate level
  • Official registration on the FLEX unit, with multiple starting points throughout the year and assessment linked to this which can be completed over one calendar year from registration to gain 15 or 30 credits at postgraduate level. In this case the Creativity for Learning unit or the open course Creativity for Learning in HE as a whole or in parts are selected for FLEX activities. Already more than one options included here and I might need to break this down further.
  • Some colleagues who officially registered for the FLEX 30 credits unit, will be working towards the Creativity pathway. This means that their transcript will say FLEX [Creativity for Learning in HE] in contrast to just FLEX if a variety of CPD activities which have different pedagogical themes have been selected.
  • Participation in the Creativity for Learning unit face-to-face and/or online without formal registration and without studying towards credits

There are further individuals from outside MMU who participate in the open course Creativity for Learning in HE and all participants from MMU and outside can work towards the open course badges, all of them, or individual ones.

Ok, so how could we bring all these learners together? Only colleagues who had officially registered would be able to join the related institutional Moodle space… and we have colleagues working towards multiple MMU units, which would mean they would be attached to separate online spaces… and they will be… not good, when we try to bring a diverse community of learners together. Social media and freely available platforms in the spirit of open education was the option we are exploring. I have had a p2pu account for some time now. When we were designing FDOL, we were considering using the platform but then in the end we didn’t. As I did struggle to see how we would be able to do all the things we wanted to. Recently I participated in the course Open Research led by colleagues at the OU and felt that I should give p2pu another go. Creativity for Learning provided a good opportunity, would take me away from WordPress and external discussions.I guess we could do something similar on a WordPress site… but I haven’t done this before. Something to think about for the future… I still struggle to do some of the very basics within the p2pu editor and make the pages look pretty… if further personalisation would be possible that would be fab. I guess I am used to a different platform and this makes it harder as I constantly compare the two and think that I can easily do what I did elsewhere. I have some problems with the avatars as well… different ones seem to be used. A bit confused at the moment… and no idea how to change this and other bits. I would benefit from some help.

My main channel of communication with all MMU participants is still email, this is the one an only medium to ‘catch’ them all at once. All have been invited to join our p2pu space but not everybody is there yet… hopefully this will happen over the weekend. I hope it will! Some discussions have started happening in p2pu. Some participants have also started reflecting on their experience so far and some have engaged with the activities. But not all. Do I expect too much? I guess what I would really like is participation to be driven by the individuals who have joined us and do as much or as little as they want to. Am I thinking correctly? I have now also started using the announcement feature within p2pu and of course Twitter but again, only a few of the participants are on Twitter. While I am writing this, I am actually thinking that we would benefit from a regular workshop on using social media for learning (something Ellie and I could do?) and we could also organise a TLC webinar around this which will produce an additional resource and there are the related CELT resources as well. Participants who join a unit could be encouraged to study the resources but also participate in a workshop before the unit starts. This is something we need to think about and take forward as I feel it would be useful, at least for some.

Our Ellie, kindly offered additional portfolio sessions and I suspect that we might need a session also to get us all on p2pu. The situation shows that we are all at different stages and need different levels of support. Not everybody can or will just follow guidelines and click themselves onto a course. The more personalised approach makes more sense to many of us.

Just writing the above was a challenge and it is not easy to set up flexible learning pathways for learners as this often means unthinking of traditional practices and requires flexible thinking and action by educators which is not always easy to achieve. I see this as a great opportunity that shifts responsibility of CPD to the individual and created CPD pathways that can be tailored to own needs and aspirations and fit around their own life and practice. Have we achieved this here?

I am very fortunate as Prof. Norman Jackson, founder of Lifewide Education and the Creative Academic, has joined the open facilitators team together with Dr Sam Illingworth, lecturer in science communication at MMU. Teaching can be lonely but it doesn’t have to be. Bouncing  ideas of each other, reflecting collectively will enrich our own practice but also enable us to spot new opportunities and challenges quickly and do something about it. We learn a lot about ourselves and others and this in itself is valuable! The three of us will be facilitating the online discussions through the course site, Twitter and hangouts that will bring individuals from a diverse and distributed community closer together.

The session at MMU went well. What I wanted to achieve was to bring individuals closer together, to start forming a community and this was achieved. It is time worth spending for so many reasons. If you were part of this session, why not reflect on this and share with us how this worked for you. I had, of course, again over planned… brought many different approaches together… when will I learn to do less? Would it help to go into a session completely unprepared and improvise? Maybe this is actually something that we could try… I like playing with ideas. The playfulness enables ideas to grow and become something exciting and meaningful for ourselves and others but also to test out things and discover what works, what doesn’t and why, why not. But ideas on their own are just the seeds. We need to feed them and weed them too! In other words they need to be nurtured… just like human beings. Now think about the session again after reading these last words. Ideas that don’t have a heart, where there is no passion and no commitment, won’t have a (long) life…. After all, ideas are just ideas. We can dream up anything. To imagine how it would be like. Action is required to make ideas happen, to see them develop and grow!!! And this is why we talk about creativity as applied imagination. Anyway, I think I am getting carried away here.

The Value jar sits on my desk. Not seen the responses yet but will study them carefully on Monday and share with all. Thank you everybody for joining the unit and your openness and creative input so far.

Monday addition: responses from the Value Jar after session 1:

Meeting like minded people and do fun creativity!
I enjoyed the variety of activities and hearing about other people’s ideas.
Very exciting. I’ve got creative ideas already able to use. Motivated to do reading.
The excitement of developing exciting new ideas to engage our stduents.
Lots of seeds have been planted… lots of ideas to think about.
I have realised that there are many people interested in creativity just like me.
It made me feel braver. It helped me start thinking about the opportunities that could come from this experience.
It got me thinking about the kind of sessions I could design and implement, that would be really useful for the students!
It helped me to connect with with who I am, what led me to working within HE which is my passion for creativity. It was also valuable to meet other colleagues who potentially I will collaborate in developing creative approaches to teaching.
Allowing me to meet a lot of people and have a stronger understanding of the university

Chrissi

ps. This is the third draft

… and do something about it…. I would add… image source https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BvztjzJIUAAc5P_.jpg:large

#BYOD4L No. 3 looking back and ahead

It has been a fascinating week and such a rich experience working and learning with so many lovely individuals from different corners of the world but also our own garden.

The BYOD4L family, facilitators and mentors, was bigger than ever before. Nine institutions and two further collaborators from the US (Texas Educator Chat) and Germany (ICT-REV) joined us this time. These included all institutions from the previous iteration, July 14, and four further institutions from the UK (see the full team). The online inquiry-based, authentic activities scaffold using the 5C framework (connecting, communicating, curating, collaborating and creating), Nerantzi & Beckingham (2014), stretched over a number of social media platforms and there were opportunities to engage asynchronously throughout the day on Twitter, Google plus community, the Facebook community, but also synchronously via daily tweetchats (wow, what a buzz these generated!!!) and two hangouts (organised by Dr Sam Illingworth) and further creative activities such as the recipe project an idea brought to BYOD4L by Whitney Kilgore. In addition to the plethora of online planned and unplanned activities, participating institutions organised local events, extending engagement even further and linking global to local - is this what we call glocal?

Facilitators and mentors were busy bees during the week. For some it was their first time, others had been involved in similar activities before. We all saw ourselves as co-learners, supported learners but also each other and I observed the same camaraderie we found in previous iterations (Nerantzi et al., 2014).

A community of participants, facilitators and mentors emerged pretty quickly, if you think that byod4l only lasted five days. the team managed to make engagement personal and social at the same time and this is what, I think made a real difference. Interest in each other’s ideas, thoughts and reflections was demonstrated and communication had a warmth and caring tone. I am including a few links to blogs here: Ian Wilson (participant), Sheila MacNeill (facilitator), Deb Baff (participant).

It was wonderful that some participants from previous iterations came back for more and that there were many new faces as will. Engagement in the tweetchats was probably the climax of daily activities and brought probably the largest number of individuals together synchronously. We will be exploring why this is the case, what we can learn from these and what opportunities these might bring for other areas of professional development.

I personally, am particularly interested in inquiring into institutional participation, benefits and challenges to engage colleagues locally, in our own institutions. Sue and I developed the scaleable framework for cross-institutional collaboration and it is now time to find out how it has worked in practice and were it could take us. We are in the process to establish a working group and identify ways that will help us gain a deeper insight into what happened in our institutions and what we can learn from this.

Further research activities will involve the tweetchats, participants’ experience and impact of BYOD4L on them and their practice, open badges to recognise informal learning and others. As we are an extended team, there are now opportunities for many exciting collaborative research projects to be set-up to find out what works, fir whom and why and to uncover opportunities for the future that have the potential to take us to new adventures, stimulate our curiosity and appetite for learning and development.

Special thank you to my dear friend Sue Beckingham and all staff and student facilitators, mentors, badges reviewers, external collaborators -Marc Smith for the NodeXL SNA visualisation of BYOD4L interactions on the various social media platforms and Peter Reed for the tweetchat visualisations using Martin Hawskey’s code, both helped us visualise BYOD4L as it was unfolding – but also our artist and all colleagues and students who joined us during the BYOD4L week.

My favourite tweet of the BYOD4L week is:

@chrissinerantzi I enjoy using Doodlelicious-bet Coaches Eye would be fun. But in the bath and dictating tweets can’t join in #BYOD4Lchat (Kerry Pace @diverselearners, 8.31pm, 16 Jan 2015)

I think, this tweet sums up the atmosphere throughout the week perfectly!

We will start evaluating different aspects of BYOD4L and consider when and how to offer BYOD4L again later in the year. We will be exploring a number of options looking more holistically to connect and combine with other initiatives. Our thinking now develops more into a whole year plan that will enable us to scaffold activities and initiatives.

Bye for now and speak again soon,

Chrissi

References

Nerantzi, C., Middleton, A. & Beckingham, S. (2014) Facilitators as co-learners in a collaborative open course for teachers and students in Higher Education, in: Learning in cyberphysical worlds, eLearning paper, issue No. 39, pp. 1-10, available at http://www.openeducationeuropa.eu/en/article/Learning-in-cyber-physical-worlds_From-field_39_2

Nerantzi, C. & Beckingham, S. (2014) BYOD4L – Our Magical Open Box to Enhance Individuals’ Learning Ecologies, in:  Jackson, N. & Willis, J. (eds.) Lifewide Learning and Education in Universities and Colleges E-Book, avaialable athttp://www.learninglives.co.uk/e-book.html. – invited chapter

Wow, almost #BYOD4L time again!!! @byod4l

Happy Birthday BYOD4L! image source: here

While I am waiting (im)patiently for BYOD4L to start again this Sunday evening (the Twitter superchat between #BYOD4Lchat and #txeduchat which will be a question shower to kick off BYOD4L) for the third time, I feel the need to briefly share some thoughts.

I am adding here a link to my reflections from the first iteration in January 2014 which I re-read recently and might also be useful for others who are joining us for the first time as facilitators or mentors.

BYOD4L is now one year old and has been offered twice in 2014.  My dear friend and colleague Sue Beckingham and I developed this open learning event collaboratively without any funding and only using freely available resources and with the valuable expertise and collaboration of individuals from our professional networks for which we will be forever grateful.  Our idea was not to worry too much about the technology but focus on learning and the learner and be creative and resourceful in our approach. Technologies come and go anyway. Modelling an approach that could be adapted easily by others was very important to us! Sue and I quickly realised how well we work together and how our skills, working practices and personalities complement and enrich each other. We also have shared personal and professional values, trust each other and have a shared vision. So while BYOD4L started as an experiment, it has led to many more collaborative initiatives including further open initiatives, related research and publications which are still evolving. This was natural as we enjoy working together. Our next open adventure will be FOSL but more about this soon.

At the heart of our explorations and aspirations was to create a versatile open offer, for staff and students in higher education that would bring them together in one open and evolving learning community (in a way the learning and teaching focus could be any but it just happened to be around smart devices for learning and teaching which helped MELSIG to gain a new momentum and led to a few  further successful smart learning events across the country and the Smart Learning book publication!), to share experiences, ideas, dilemmas, experiment and collaborate – to grow, individually and collectively. But also to support and be supported and create a model of open practice that could/would be sustainable and scalable. I would like somebody to show me an example where a successful business was founded and was massive from day one or called themselves massive before even opening for business. There is room for all shapes and sizes. One size does not fit all. Is bigger always better? And because we can, we will – is this good enough or always appropriate? There are different strategies that work in different situation and not everything works. Big is actually problematic for learning (we don’t need to go far. Have a look at Gibbs’ work Dimensions of Quality and Implications of ‘Dimentions of Quality’).  But we do recognise the opportunities and attractiveness for global and massive creations especially as the connected technologies make this happen extremely easily today. Too easily perhaps? Learning at the heart, however, is personal, I think. even in social settings, networks and digital jungles. I have written elsewhere about parties (parties? not political parties, the other ones!) and how when we go to a party, we don’t really dance with everybody or do we? Unless it is tiny and we really know each other very well and get on with each other. Usually we pick our dance partner(s). Some will never dance with somebody, they prefer to sit in a corner quietly -is this (not) fine?- or really need to be encouraged to get on their feet! This scenario reminds me of what happens in a course, any course, open or closed, offline or online, massive or small. There is probably or should I say definitely, room to refine the approaches used currently in open educational settings, massive, big, small or tiny, if we want to make learning happen for those you can’t engage at the moment or who have great difficulty with the technology and/or the pedagogical design used.

Perhaps smaller or smallish systems and offers are more elastic and bendable and we can implement changes quicker? Something to think about. There is also a question of educational imperialism for me… but let’s not  get political! We started small and BYOD4L was a collaboration based on individuals first, then it progressed to institutional involvement and informal institutional collaborations. As you can see, our approach is collaboration-rich from design to delivery, evaluation, enhancement and research. We encourage learners and collaborators to take initiative and feel part of a flexible community. We recognise that a collaborative ethos and culture is empowering and creates shared ownership and can take us so much further! This is so motivational for many of us! Our approach really reminds me in so many ways of the Happy Manifesto!

We share resources and expertise to help others develop and give something back to the community as BYOD4L and related activities and outputs are openly licensed.

Join us this Sunday evening 8-9pm UK time on Twitter to find out more how you can become part of the BYOD4L family. Follow @byod4l or follow the hashtags #byod4lchat and #txeduchat. See you there.

A massive thank you to all our collaborators, their commitment to this project, their creative energies and ongoing support and engagement!!!

#LTHEchat… the journey so far…

It has been a fascinating journey so far. I am referring to the new #LTHEchat project. It all started with an email in which I took ‘collaborative licence’, Sue will remember this, that developed rapidly into a concept and the implementation of the chat with a team of four. This is what can be achieved if there is trust, good will, commitment, a collaborative spirit but also a vision, a shared vision! Really important, I think.

I wanted to write a little something about the #LTHEchats for a while now but never got around to it… and I do feel a bit guilty about it as reflection is vital for learning and development. Perhaps in a way we had the opportunity to do this collaboratively already when the #LTHEchat team was invited to write an article about this initiative very early on so in a way we have come together and reflected on it collaboratively which was really useful for all of us at the early stages of this project. The article will be published in January 2015 by ALISS and we will also share it through the LTHE site as we have made this available under a Creative Commons licence. But we also share our reflections as a team in communication with each other, even if not shared publicly.

Ok, back to my personal reflections: I am finally doing this as there is a natural break in between chats due to Christmas and New Year and I thought I definitely need to reflect on how I think it has been so far. I started writing this over the last few days using notes on my phone on my train journey to work.

When the four of us got together, Sue, David, Peter and myself we were not sure were this project would take us, if there would be colleagues and students in our own institutions and elsewhere who would join us for the chats…. the big question was: would it be just the four of us every Wednesday 8-9pm? We decided to offer the chats up to Christmas… as we could not really predicts what would happen…

Well, it is now almost Christmas and the response from the community has been really positive and encouraging. We have organised eight chats so far with five guest facilitators. We are already fully booked until after Easter… and the programme includes a wide range of guests, educators and students – a variety of learning and teaching topics will be explored and this is all really exciting!!! The topics emerge through our guests and the open community which is forming.

It is truly wonderful when people come forward and openly state how useful they have found the #LTHEchats for their professional development and how they feel part of a community. Collegiality is highlighted often, which is wonderful. For us the LTHEchats are a great opportunity for speedy bite-size professional development in the area of learning and teaching for colleagues in our own institutions but also more widely… when there are perhaps less or different distractions than during the normal working day. Would the chats also have worked during the day? I don’t know. Would be interesting to find out what the community thinks.

The #LTHEchats are a great opportunity to connect with like-minded people wherever they are, feel part of a community, discuss and debate learning and teaching to further our own individual and collective understanding, share ideas, engage in further explorations and consider changing parts of our practices based on an informed rationale. #LTHEchats have shown that we are on fire and that the academic community is keen in discussing learning and teaching more openly than ever before, perhaps?

Each week the #LTHEchat is focused around a specific learning and teaching theme. There are invited guest facilitators and others who contact us directly and put themselves forward to lead a chat. More recently we introduced student led chats where students can ask questions they always wanted to ask their tutors. We are very excited about this and really look forward to our first student-led chat in the New Year. The community also has the opportunity to vote for their favourite topic and share an idea for a future tweetchat at any moment in time via Twitter and the #LTHEchat site.

From the outset we planned to explore the possibility to hand over management of tweetchats for a whole month to an institution. We are still keen to do this. So if you are reading this and you would like to take over #LTHEchat for a month, get in touch with the team to discuss this and make it happen.

We are using freely available social media, such as Twitter were the chats happen, a supporting website for announcements and archiving using WordPress as well as Google drive for administrative tasks and programme coordination and Dropbox for further resources development, presentations and artwork linked to the project. There is actually a lot of work attached to a one hour chat which does confirm that prep for anything we do is really important. One person wouldn’t be able to run the whole project. But maybe I am wrong. Maybe it would be possible… The difference however when doing something like this collaboratively is that the load is shared, strengths from collaborators are maximised, there is ongoing exchange of ideas that enrich the project, but also the members of the team and there is open and ongoing peer review too which helps us all develop and grow but also the project. But there needs to be trust, commitment and a shared vision… as mentioned already.

I have been working for a while now with Sue on a number of projects and we have found it a really successful and smooth collaboration. We understand each other really well. We are open and honest with each other and know that we will be there for each other too. I think our personal strengths complement each other well and our personalities are compatible too.

I have also been working with David and Peter on other projects, such as the BYOD4L and an Open OER week 14 project so we knew each other and we appreciate how we work.  There was a lot of excitement in the air about our collaboration from the beginning. It is still there.

image source: here

Looking back I have to say I was looking forward to all chats, the ones I co-facilitated but also all others I participated. There was definitely a buzz and a waterfall of tweets in a very short time and the exchanges were definitely worthwhile. I learnt a lot so far, so thank you everybody! According to Peter’s numbers we had between 250 and 700 tweets within an hour. Wow! That is a lot. As this is a wide open initiative it is really difficult to pin down how many participants are involved and how many specifically from our own institutions.

Maybe we could come up with a way to encourage colleagues from our own institutions to come out of the woods so that we can connect further with them and their students locally. We just need to find a way to do this. If you are reading this and have some ideas, please get in touch with us.

For me personally it was important to note what colleagues were saying, show interest, trigger further reflection and help them feel part of a community so that engagement increases. The #LTHEchats are for all who teach or support learning in HE and for the student community. It is an open community or a collective if you like. All voices are heard and welcome. We engage in academic dialogue and debate, share experiences and ideas, resources and links… It is not just the facilitators asking questions. Participants are asking them too. This is something that is currently  developing and I have seen it growing over the last few weeks.

I would like to take this opportunity and thank my dear colleagues Sue, Peter and David for making this project possible, all our guest facilitators, our chat participants and our very own artist Ellie Livermore. A very special thank you goes to Prof. Simon Lancaster for his ongoing support and many many others.

Wishing you a lovely festive break and a healthy, happy and creative New Year!

The #LTHEchat will be back in January for the first joint chat with #BYOD4Lchat on the 21st of January, 8pm UK time. See you all then!

Chrissi