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


ps. This is the third draft

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

One thought on “a new year, a new start, a new unit: Creativity for Learning #creativeHE

  1. So many thoughts in there! I think it is definitely difficult to guide flexible learning, which is why I guess most of us tend to do one thing, one approach, one direction for all students 😦 I do not think it is better, just seems less complicated and many of us might not have reflected enough on our own practice, or maybe do not even know what to do about it, as to do something engaging and flexible without being very very scared indeed!

    I would like to see more people on the learning website, I am a bit lost there sometimes and I do not know exactly where I should go or what I should be doing, despite having instructions. For example, there are instructions to engage with the mood board… but I do not know what a mood board is, or where to find the pictures, or what is the purpose and what I should be doing. That means I end up leaving it for later, and maybe other people do the same and that is when the big online silences are created.

    I haven’t found out yet how to see other students’ portfolios, there are only three of us on the map, but I cannot see their portfolios when I click the location icon, only their emails. I wonder whether this is happening also to other people and they don’t engage as much because they do not know where to go, what to do, what path to follow. We are so used to study with a lesson plan, direction and strict guidelines, that when we are allowed to walk around and choose direction at our own pace, I am not sure we even know how or even how to go back to it when we delay a bit!

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