What drives innovators? #hefcecatalyst event 4th of April 2017 cc @drhelenking #pin

A brief summary linked to the pedagogic innovators workshop as part of the HEFCE Catalyst projects day on the 4th of April 2017 in Birmingham

On the 4th of April, I had the opportunity to join the HEFCE Catalyst projects workshop day in the Cube in Birmingham and be among many innovators from different institutions in England. It was truly fascinating to be among so many passionate individuals and teams committed to pushing the boundaries and making a real difference to the student experience using creative approaches to innovate.

It was refreshing to hear Dr Helen King from HEFCE emphasise on the importance of experimental innovation. Let innovators experiment, let them play! Support them in this process and see them grow and their teams and institutions too! I noted down “experimental innovation” as I feel that it is really important to foster experimentation, risk taking, making mistakes. Innovation means going against the grain, so it is not easy. Often innovations are born out of obstacles.

Helen at some point acknowledged that “We don’t really understand what innovation is”.

The pedagogic innovators project or short #pin, initiated with my colleague Barbara Thomas and supported by Prof. Norman Jackson, aims to contribute new insights into this important area. Furthermore, working with Helen and her team at HEFCE will help us synthesise what we know about pedagogic innovation and innovators. We are investigating…

  • The beliefs, attitudes and values of higher education teachers as pedagogic innovators.
  • Conceptions of pedagogic innovation in the context of their practice, their curricular design and students’ development.
  • Enabling and prohibiting factors of becoming pedagogic innovators for academics and other professionals who teach or support learning in HE.

Helen kindly invited me to join this exciting day where project teams had the opportunity to mingle, network and find out about each other’s projects too. Furthermore, Dr Pauline Hanesworth from the HEA talked about the multifaceted role inclusivity plays as access, engagement and contribution, and Sarah Knight from JISC, discussed the vital role students can play in the process of innovation. As part of the day, I had the opportunity to facilitate a #pin workshop to help individuals and project teams reflect on what pedagogic innovation is. Participants were invited to join the #pin study and I collected valuable visual data which we will start analysing.

During the #pin workshop, colleagues participated in a series of activities that helped us explore their conceptions of innovation, possible enablers and barriers for pedagogic innovators, as well as their needs and strategies that will help them for their projects. All this in 30mins and we used activities that involved drawing, sticky notes and speed-dating. It was an ambitious plan  but I think the fast pace kept individuals alert and active. The bell might have helped a little bit too. There was a buzz in the room and it was hard to stop when discussions where in full flow and ideas were shared and debated. I am sharing below some extracts of contributions that were collected.

Conceptions of innovation

A range of visualisations were collected that capture participants’ conceptions of “innovation”. Some examples have been included to help us all further reflect on innovation and perhaps revisit at a later stage.

Barriers and enablers for pedagogic innovators

After the sticky notes were typed up

  • the pink (barriers),
  • the green (enablers) and
  • the blue (enablers that could also be barriers),

we can see some first patterns emerging… Below are visual representations of the responses with some preliminary observations.

Barriers

Responses from this workshop suggest that the key barriers for innovators as expressed by participants appear to be

  • organisational cultures,
  • metrics,
  • lack of time,
  • working in isolation and
  • being risk-averse probably as a result of the previous items in this list.

Lack of funding only seems to be a limited barrier for innovators.

 Enablers

Responses linked to enablers for innovators highlight the

  • Importance of passion for innovation with a purpose,
  • belonging to wider support networks,
  • collaborating with others but also
  • the need for time and space
  • and funding.

While institutional support does feature among the enablers, the responses around support more generally suggest that support networks that stretch beyond discipline and include students and others beyond institutional boundaries play a significant role in breaking free from potential isolation within their own institution as noted in the barriers.

On the blue sticky notes that referred to enablers that could also be barriers, the following were captured: colleagues, students, resources and funding.

Helen highlighted the fact that generally not all innovations succeed but there is a lot to learn from every idea. Being honest and open about it is really important and will help us move forward. These observations gave me an idea for another workshop that could be offered when the projects are near completion.

Something to think about…

At the beginning of the enablers and barriers activity, I invited colleagues to suggest which colour sticky notes we should use. I asked one person who said pink for enablers but then I sought confirmation from others in the room. Many had another view and their view changed the decision I took. In the end we used pink for barriers and green for enablers. Thinking about this situation and linking it to diverse voices that are less common and often not heard, what could be the potential  implications for innovation?

The #pin project team will put the data collected in our data pot and we will start analysing these in the summer. Our survey will remain open until the end of June. If you would like to complete this, please go to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdHLaXOs4xW55hFktGCu225x3LvcR_e-KcHQWaKGTWYIxBwYQ/viewform

140 responses so far! Help us to get more. Thank you.

Thank you Helen for this kind invitation to collaborate and all for this insightful day!

We wish all project teams an exciting journey and can’t wait to find out what you will discover along the way.

Chrissi on behalf of the #pin team

ps. Ethical approval for the #pin study has been granted by MMU (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1m5yQYyEEQ4rHlEs3urN-B_MgXNtZCjUB01Bc-ljM8rc/edit

pps. The wordles have been created using http://tagcrowd.com

ppps. Photographs are taken by Chrissi and are available under CC-BY.

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My first babysteps into openness #101openstories

During #openeducationwk 2017 Penny (Australia), Vivianne (Brazil), Judith (Kenya), Jenni (Canada), Sujata (India) and I launched together the #101openstories project. We hope by the end of this year to collect and curate 101 such stories which show how individuals have become open learners, open practitioners or open researchers. The Open Education Working Group and especially Javiera, kindly offered to help us create an open book from #101openstories.

Stories have always fascinated me. As a passionate reader of novels, translator of novels and children’s stories, writer of children’s stories, but also teacher of modern foreign languages, teacher educator and academic developer. facilitator2-259x300The Open Facilitator project with Carol Yeager (@couki1), whom I met in 2011 when I engaged passionately in the Creativity and Multicultural Communication (CMC11) MOOC she developed, and in collaboration with the Open Education Working Group and the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University, is a collection of stories and brought insights into the facilitation experience that were of value for all of us. We hope others will use the collection to carry out further research in this area. Maybe I should also consider this myself after I have completed my PhD studies.

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Another story-related project, the storyboxHE with Ellie (@ehannan14) aims to collect practitioner stories around learning and teaching that can be used in academic development situations and help academics to engage with these and reflect on their own practice through dialogue and collaborative problem-finding and problem solving. I am also using stories in academic development courses and FDOL and FOS that followed based on this, are such an example. 

Stories are a powerful way to share experiences, ideas and create links between the story and our own life experiences and learn from each other. We hope that many individuals from around the world will contribute their story to the #101openstories collection.

Today, I would like to share my open story.

The key questions I asked myself are the following:

  1. How did it all start?
  2. Were did it lead me?

Mmm… it is difficult to pinpoint the exact start. I suspect that my personal life journey in three different countries helped me recognise from early on the importance of sharing and collaborating as well as valuing diversity to survive and thrive.

Sheila, in her open story talks about the usefulness of a timeline… her post reminded me of one I created a while ago as an Excel spreadsheet when I was making another set of timelines for my PhD research. I thought it would be useful and linked to my prologue in the thesis in which I make reference to my path towards openness but as it is part of my PhD I am not sure I can just copy and past it here… so I didn’t read it but started from scratch here…. Creating the timeline helped me visualise some of the connections and see my path into the world of open, all on one sheet, at least the digital dimension. I suspect another layer that captures the non-digital dimension would be equally useful as this was my actual starting point into openness and perhaps I need to add this dimension too after I finish writing this post.

Professionally, I think I could locate my first baby steps towards openness when I started creating learning resources while I was teaching German in Athens. That was before 1990 and I used WordPerfect and a PC that took up a lot of room and hard hardly any brain and used these things called floppy discs which were really floppy. Life as an undergraduate student was challenging… only phone calls, word processing and email or fax for remote communication. No VLE or social media. And I was working full-time in Athens while studying full-time on Corfu… I know, hard to believe. Later, after I had left the Navy (yes, I was in the Navy for 5 years) in 1996 I had the opportunity to stay for a whole academic year in Germersheim at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz in Germany to carry out research into translating children’s literature where I also had the opportunity to teach in the department. I remember sitting in front of a computer screen there and was told that this was the internet… while I had been using emails for some years, also worked in a computer centre for five years, and was involved in localising cd-roms as a translator, the internet was alien to me… at that point in time… My expectations were that it would be something much more dynamic than the university site I was looking at. Believe it or not, I asked somebody for help to understand what this was all about… while still in Germersheim, I managed to find my mum’s best friend via the internet who she had lost many years ago… the rest is history. 

6e455650-0324-4907-abc7-e34ba46545d4As a translator I often struggled to find specific terms and I remember in one case calling a casino on Syros island when I was translating Hermann Hesse’s book Der Kurgast for Kastaniotis publications. Would you consider this as open practice? There was no network and especially when the author was no longer alive, books, reference guides and encyclopaedias did not always have the answer, as answers often are within people and the conversations with them, this is what I have found. 

main_menuWhen I become familiar with navigating the web, and social media arrived, I found the freely available SEBRAN software and volunteered to translate this into Greek in 2005.  I was living in the UK by then and was teaching again languages. Also I had an interest in coding  I attended a 10-week html could thanks to which I was able to create my own website and activities for my students who were learning Greek. My prior work as a computer programmer in the Greek Navy did help a tiny bit. I was hooked and soon had created 300 Greek language learning activities and made them freely and openly available. I had used many different freely available software tools that I had found online. This activity all started in 2004. Often people contacted me, not just my own students but also others who found the site and used the activities.this site no longer exists as it was build on a free freeserve ftp space.  I still have all the activities offline and would love to find a place for them online to share again and use in combination with an open course perhaps. 

Many other open activities followed. From wikis for audio feedback in 2008 to collaborative learning and development spaces in the same year using Ning. It was free at the time and I created a whole a teacher development course into it and anybody could access and join us. Earlier when I was still teaching languages, I used the ning platform for language learning combined with cookery lessons. A wide range of projects followed also thanks to the MSc in Blended and Online Education I did at Edinburgh Napier University. I started using the creative commons licenses and integrated open educational resources in courses and materials I used and created. Furthermore, open licenses were also added to the courses I (co-)developed as I feel that this would encourage re-use and adaptation. PhD research in open academic development (I developed a cross-boundary collaborative open learning framework) followed and will hopefully be completed this year. Very quickly, the open projects became collaborative ones as I felt that while I can plant seeds, ideas only grow when they are shared and there is mutual and sustained commitment and trust among collaborators and the focus is above all on the collective interest…

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curiosity didn’t kill the cat (image source here)

My curiosity has led me to explore possibilities to maximise learning and development through making, practice and research based on open sharing. Through these activities and the communities these have developed around them, I have had the privilege to get to know and work with diverse individuals from different parts of the world. These relationships continue to expand my horizons with perspectives and ideas I could never have imagined before. 

Thank you all.

The open journey continues…

Chrissi

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Share your open story with us all. How did it start for you?
Visit #101openstories!