Making is at the heart of what we do and who we are… #creativeHE

… we often forget this.

When Norman Jackson suggested a dedicated #creativeHE conversation with John Rae around making and the role it plays in creativity, I was excited and started thinking about stuff I could make. I did think about “making as a project” as defined by Tim Ingold as a concept that was introduced during the online conversations, but I could also see that through this making projects I would hopefully gain a little bit of growth too. There is of course no guarantee for this from the outset but the process of making and reflecting on this helps us identify where we are on this journey and if we are growing, even if it is a tiny bit at the time.

It was almost as if the conversation gave me the permission to make stuff. So I did. More than usual. Colleagues participating online will have seen very little of these activities as they were not all shared through the online community. Due to circumstances and preference, I seem to have adopted what I called in my thesis selective participation… (I had explored this in the context of collaborative open learning) for me, like for my study participants, it was an informed choice and should not be interpreted that I was less engaged or disengaged with the theme under exploration even if it may appear this way to some.

We often expect individuals to fully engage online but actually there is a whole world outside the digital that is exciting and stimulates all our senses and creates opportunities for creative expression, making and sharing. We can also look at my reality from an ecological perspective. The seeds for my making activities and reflections on these were triggered by the online discussions but they didn’t stay online. Norman at some point said.. “what we see online is only the tip of the iceberg” and he is right. If we would live our lives exclusively or predominantly online that would be very sad… Norman also mentioned that we inhibit spaces and we are aware where we are and what we do in these. My presence was much more invisible to others online as I felt that the ecological system of my making creations was primarily offline with some, however extensions and feelers reaching and connecting with the online world.
Pottery making
So what did I do during these last few weeks? I guess, I was pragmatic and spotted little every day opportunities. I seized many of the opportunities and made time for them.

Was this the application of what was discussed online “pragmatic imagination” during the online #creativeHE discussions?

The reality is that I spent some time with clay thinking about my last summers with my sister and somehow I realised that while I have constantly new ideas popping into my head (people who know me know this), I also enjoy small repetitive and easy creative tasks such as making little poppy heads out of clay. Many of them.

pottery_poppies

CC-BY Chrissi Nerantzi

Who says routine has no place in being creative? We are all creatures of habit. Can some of these be creative habits? Creative habits that give us the time and space to reflect and grow?

Playing with clay also reminded me of the process of creativity and the frustrations we feel when something just doesn’t work, and we become somehow impatient with ourselves. I can see now that the pottery making activities brought memories back and helped me connect with my dear sister who is for many years now too far away and we spent far too little time together. I was perhaps expressing how much I miss her and found the medium of pottery as a way to connect with her through making. Would David Gauntlett recognise his idea of making is connecting through these activities and thoughts I shared here?

As mentioned near the beginning, I couldn’t stop myself and used these last few weeks to progress some of my ideas that bring me joy and help me connect with others. Pottery but also other stuff. The more I think about it, the more I realise that making for me, is probably more about findings ways to connect with others through making and much less about the product or output. This is an interesting discovery I am making now while writing this and perhaps explains also why I love making pedagogical creations that I have shared with many others. It is the human connection that I seek through these.

Thank you John and Norman for creating these wonderful making explorations for all of us. Reading my reflections I can see the value making has for our emotional wellbeing and the  role it plays in connecting with others. I am looking forward to catching up with the conversations online and make more discoveries.

Chrissi

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getting ready for our next #creativeHE making conversation

making

CC BY by Chrissi Nerantzi

Our next #creativeHE conversation is approaching… We start on the 6th of March and I have been thinking how to engage in a meaningful way. The conversation will be about making. But it won’t be just a conversation!

Creativity in the Making March 6-20, 2018
Led by John Rae & Norman Jackson
A little bit more info here
To join us, jump into the #creativeHE community!

In the last few years I have enjoyed spending a little bit of time in the summer with my sister making objects out of clay. I miss my sister a lot for many reasons. She is really good at working with clay and does complex structures. BTW, also a fab cook!!! I seem to like simple and flat stuff, two dimensional mostly when I am working with clay.  But I enjoy it enormously and feel relaxed when I am immersed in the creative process and far far away from reality… in a different world where everything is possible.

Illustrating is definitely one of my passions (photography too) but am obviously not a professional illustrator and lack the confidence to tackle a whole picture book project on my own. But Norman encouraged me to go ahead. I think I need to listen this time. I am going to listen!

I decided to focus my making project for our next #creativeHE conversation around illustrating a story I have written. I will go through this process to explore how something like this could be used for learning and teaching. While I have been using story for some years now in academic development and frequently used Storybird for example, this time it will be making everything from scratch.

The story, I would like to use during our #creativeHE making conversation, is for children and adults alike. I would love it to be published properly as an open picture book when it is ready. And raise money for charity. At least raise awareness, is stage 1. This is the plan. For the education of children, refugee children. Perhaps the Children’s University can help. And it would be wonderful if the story could be translated into other languages too.

Colleagues from Bookdash kindly introduced me to the open access picture book creation platform StoryWeaver and I have added the storyline there already. The platform will enable me to make the story into an open book and I can look into translations of this work too. So I think I am in a good place to start. During our #creativeHE conversation, I would like to focus on the illustrations for this booklet.

As I mentioned already, I am not a professional illustrator and I am not a professional writer of children’s stories either. But I used to translate children’s stories in one of my previous lives and one of my own stories was published many years ago.

I was looking for an individual who would like to collaborate with me on this open picture book project. I am interested in minimal illustration and clean lines for this story so that the reader can use their own imagination to complete the picture. To engage with the story in a different way.

linedrawing.png

CC BY by Chrissi Nerantzi

Eureka!

And it didn’t take me long to find a fantastic collaborator.  Artist Gail Spencer. I am so so excited she said yes. We agreed that our collaborative illustrations/collage for the open picture book will be made available under a creative commons licence, via Storyweaver initially.

bookmaking

CC BY by Chrissi Nerantzi

For now, I have created an empty version of the picture book out of ordinary paper using my basic book making skills and tools and copied the storyline into it. This will help me start thinking of illustrations for the 12 scenes. Gail is making hers and we will be meeting soon to share our initial thoughts and ideas and bring them together. I have seen some very first drafts and I love them!

We are getting organised for this #creativeHE project…

… and I will be working on a second making project with Haleh Moravej but more about this later. April update: We are making good progress with this too and have used the above tree image style in that project. So I managed to recycle that idea. Later in April/May we will be able to release the output of the project with Haleh and MetMunch.

Updates

7 March 18: Gail and I have been working on conceptualising ideas for the pictures, materials and style. We met today and only needed 30 mins to agree on a style and construct over 50% of the scenes. We had given ourselves the target of 3 scenes for today but we have 8. A massive achievement. I think we now have a good understanding of each other’s tastes and we experimented with possibilities. This exploration was really useful to find a way forward that would work for both of us. We went for a cut-out style and lots of empty space that could be filled by the reader. And different coloured background. We decided with a “less is more” approach that helps the imagination imagine. As you can see, in the end go we didn’t go with the above idea (but I hope to use this style in  another project).

Gail and I both felt that we need to give ourselves time for our ideas to mature and stabilise and can see that at the moment the ideas might still be very liquid and dynamic and we are definitely prepared to make changes and bring this project to fruition. We said that we would probably have finished draft in four weeks. We said this before we started. After what we achieved already, it is very possible that we will have a first full draft much earlier. A sign of a smooth collaboration? I am very excited!

While we work on this project, I am also thinking how such an activity would be of value for students. How could it work with students from two disciplines? What could the purpose be? I suspect there would be individual and collective benefits and I would love to explore this further when we have finished working with Gail on this.

14 March 18: A relatively short meeting with Gail as we have now agreed on style. We discussed details for some of the pictures and have now a full set ready as ideas in our heads and described on paper. We know where we are going. The path is there in front of us and some pictures are growing and taking shape already. I can see it all in front of my eyes already and our approach is definitely, “less is more”. Instead of adding we take away and it is a liberating feeling.

I suspect that in a few weeks, we will have it all together. In my head I can see it all. I am now thinking about the colourful backgrounds and if these could be added digitally. I will need to seek some advice on how to do this. Adding the backgrounds digitally will give us even more flexibility but also harmonise everything so that it all goes together nicely. For now I am adding here some sample pages, not ready but you will get the idea… there is plenty of room for the imagination to wonder and that is the plan. We would like our readers to engage with the story also through visualising it themselves in the pages of the book. Will it work? We will see.

picturebook14March18

by artist Gail Spencer

22 March: We met again today with Gail and the path we are now going is clear. We refined a few last details and agreed how to tackle some of the more challenging pictures. While teddy was going to be bigger and browner, we actually like him now hanging from the page as he is. I feel that Gail had such a good idea of assemplying Teddy on the page. This approach we realised will also help us with some of the other pictures. So can’t wait to see them all together next week. We decided to scan the pictures in on a white background and then add colour to them digitally. This way we will be able to select what we feel works best and harmonise them throughout the story. I can’t wait.

bookpictures2

by artist Gail Spencer

28 March and 11 April: We met and finalised all pictures. It was a very smooth process and we now have all 12 pictures. It feels good. We decided to scan these in on a white background and also take some photographs so that we can then see what we can do digitally. We decided to do this so that we can find backgrounds that really go well with the pictures but also that link nicely to each other so that it feels like a collection of pictures that go together and tell a story. It is truly amazing what we have achieved so far and I am now looking forward to working with Gail digitally on the pictures and putting the book together. Can’t wait to see it as a book!

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.

Creativity in Higher Education project, open invitation!

What a fascinating year this will be.

3813913Based on our past year’s success with #creativeHE and the various iteration we offered with many colleagues from different institutions in the UK and further afield in collaboration also with the Creative Academic Network, we have decided to put together a whole series of activities under the umbrella project Creativity in Higher Education led by Prof. Norman Jackson.

Many colleagues have joined us and we are grateful for their commitment to the wider community, for sharing their expertise and learning with us so that we can together advance our understanding around creative learning and teaching approaches. Check out the current list of planned community-led activities by clicking here.

It is wonderful that we will be able to continue offering facilitated open and cross-institutional versions of #creativeHE as part of our PgCert and MA in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at Manchester Metropolitan University in collaboration with London Metropolitan University and further collaborators. If you want to join us, all you have to do is check out our community. We also use the hashtag #creativeHE on Twitter. You might want to say hello there too 😉

greenhouse230The #Greenhouse our community for creative practitioners is also part of this year-long initiative and is at the moment contributing the #101creativeideas project. More are in the pipeline so to speak… I invited my colleague Ellie Hannan to lead #101creativeideas and I am pleased she said yes as she is already bringing a lot of creative energy to this project! This is an OER project that is developed collaboratively and shared back with the community so that we can all benefit. It is a fantastic opportunity to share creative ideas we have used in our practice with others and learn from each other to make our teaching more stimulating and exciting. To find out more about this particular project and to submit your idea(s), visit the project site by clicking here. I have decided to submit one idea per week until the deadline which is in January sometime. My ideas will also be added to my blog and we encourage you to do the same.

logo_101-creative-ideas

If you would like to participate in our Creativity in HE project, please get in touch.

If you have an idea for a mini project, please get in touch.

If you would like to lead a mini creativity project, but need a little bit/lot of help to develop an idea, please get in touch. We are here to help!

Speak again soon!

Chrissi

 

 

Do you have a wide open mind? Join us! #creativeHE

While I am in the process of marking portfolios of our very first Creativity for Learning cohort, at the same time, I am getting ready for our second group from MMU starting at the end of September! Both activities fill me with excitement. Seeing colleagues growing as creative practitioners and sharing part of their journey is extremely rewarding, but also seeing what we have achieved together is fascinating.  I am confident that colleagues will continue on this creative path and make new and exciting discoveries along the way. Already a few colleagues from this cohort submitted a research proposal linked to learning and teaching. This secured funding very recently. I can’t stop smiling and am extremely proud of them. Our album from cohort 1 bring my memories alive.

This time round, Dr Nikos Fachantidis, Assistant Professor, from the University of Macedonia will be joining us remotely with a group of postgraduate students studying towards an MA in Lifelong Learning. Prof. Norman Jackson, from Lifewide Education and Creative Academic, as well as Sandra Sinfield from London Metropolitan University with a group of academics from her institution will also be with us on this journey. So there will be students learning with academics and I am really looking forward to this. We have opened-up an existing module and are now better organised than last time. Online participation of this blended course will hopefully be seen as meaningful and valuable for colleagues from MMU and further afield.

We extended the invite to the SEDA, ALT and NTF communities and hopefully I will be able to find at least one group of academics from another institution who would also like to join us and learn with us about how we can become more adventurous in our learning and teaching in higher education. This group could be working towards a qualification or course locally or use CreativeHE as an informal CPD activity that would be developmental and could be used when preparing for Professional Recognition.

FISh (Nerantzi & Uhlin, 2012) image created by Ellie Livermore, Image source here 

The plan for CreativeHE is to create extended and enriched opportunities for academics and students to interact and learn together collaboratively using the course site at p2pu but more importantly through discussions and collaborations within Google community we have set-up using the 5C Framework (Nerantzi & Beckingham, 2014, 2015) and FISh (Nerantzi & Uhlin, 2012). We would like participants to bring their own stories and experiences and share ideas so that we can all support each other and develop as a collective.

This second iteration of creativeHE will become my second case study as part of my PhD research and I am really looking forward to the next few months. Collecting data and gaining an insight into the experience from the learner’s perspective. Hopefully, there will be colleagues interested in my study and willing to participate. As this is a registration-free course for open learners, I have created a mini survey to identify #creativeHE participants who are teaching or supporting students in higher education who would like to find out more about my project and possibly participate. There is of course, no obligation to do so.

Please share this invite with colleagues who might be interested in joining. All are welcome to participate and work towards open badges. Please note, if you want to study towards credits and are not from Manchester Metropolitan University, there will be a cost attached to this. If you have any questions, please let me know, ok?

We start on the 28 September. The online facilitated part of the course will be offered over 8 weeks. Our very last day is the 20 November.

Access https://plus.google.com/communities/110898703741307769041 to join our community and find out more.

Don’t bin your ideas! Share them and see them grow!!! image source https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7365/16582973125_a708f17c86_z.jpg

Chrissi

References

Nerantzi, C. and Beckingham, S. (2015) BYOD4L: Learning to use own smart devices for learning and teaching through the 5C framework, in Middleton, A. (ed.) (2015): Smart learning: teaching and learning with smartphones and tablets in post-compulsory education, pp. 108-126, Sheffield: MELSIG publication, available here

Nerantzi, C. and 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, available athttp://www.learninglives.co.uk/e-book.html. – invited chapter

Nerantzi, C. & Uhlin, L. (2012) FISh, original illustration, available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrissinerantzi/9963707266/in/set-72157632690605470 / FISh description available at http://fdol.wordpress.com/fdol131/design/

Messy and sticky learning or workshop 5 #creativehe

All workshops linked to the Creativity for Learning unit are now over… well officially they are. But we did manage to add two more. I didn’t, my students did, which was wonderful. These extra sessions will be peer led. There will be a workshop around academic posters and one around action research. Plus monthly tutorials with me and online support. How will our action research groups work? They have been naturally formed through self-selection and it will be very interesting to see how this will work for us all. Is the new online community space going to work? Not everybody has signed up yet… this has been a major issue for me… put perhaps less fir my students? I heard one of them saying that they enjoy the face-to-face sessions so much that they don’t think the online can add anything? I need some further information regarding this as I will be offering the unit again in September. I have been thinking of specific changes already but discussing these with my current cohort will be really valuable.

Ok, let’s go back to workshop 5…
I was extremely excited about this one, but then I am always excited when I put my sessions together as I just love the suspense and surprise factor. I do think that when we enjoy what we do as teachers, the potential that our students will also enjoy it. Now, of course enjoyment doesn’t necessarily mean learning. It us important to remember this but also the fact that negative emotions and discomfort can also lead to learning. I am focusing on the suspense-factor that triggers enjoyment and discomfort as it is about experiencing the unexpected. This keeps us alert, excited. It also stimulates our thinking and action and increases our playfulness, I think.
This workshop took place in a studio were we could be messy and make learning stick, literally and metaphorically. The idea was to use unwanted resources – a sustainable solution? – to create visual masterpieces of our learning linked to specif theories and approaches that could be considered in the context of our innovation projects.

our stuff: recycling, upcycling in action, image source https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8650/16726861801_0802c263d3_z.jpg

For me, personally, this was very unorthodox, if you like, as I prefer building theory though practice, but it is not about how I like to do things, or at least what I dislike should not stop me from exploring these approaches with my students and help me reflect in these practices and approaches and use them as opportunities to develop my practice further. I could see a value in doing it that way but still felt that it was very abstract and detouched from personal and professional realities. I tried to bring in context but am not sure if I achieved this. I think the conversations that the action research groups had, somehow evidenced that there was some of this happening, which was good. Thinking now back at my instructions, I think a specific scenario could have helped further? I need to think about it a bit more…
It was wonderful to observe the sets. I just loved the way they worked together and how the masterpieces emerged through rotated collaboration. I was really impressed with the level of engagement and the commitment to the task. Using elements of the Word Cafe approach worked and while we didn’t have a lot of time, progressively the groups did speed up and were more focused, which meant that activities took less time. Were the groups also in flow?

collaborative installations, theory in 3D image source https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8666/16107973283_bcf712a6b6_z.jpg

The Value Jar is now full. Below are the responses from this workshop. A quick Wordle has been included in the slideshare further down. What follows are the responses from the 5th workshop.
The theories we were studying and representing within the session were demonstrated in practice by the way the tasks were constructed: it allowed for planning, action, discussion and reflection. Everyone’s different skills and strengths were brought together to create a strong visual. You (Chrissi) stepped in with specific assistance when we needed to focus on certain things more.
It allowed to discover a number of different theories in active way which involved research, discussion and creation. Visualisating ideas helped me to understand the concept. Visualisations helped to facilitate discussion in a group.
The session linked academic theory to the practical. Each group’s understanding of the theory drove ideas in different directions. Diversity is great!!
The best one! Making is learning and learning is knowing you are able to make sense of things in pictures, ideas, balloons, people smile 😉
“Vizualise” thoughts and ideas make them easier to understand.
An innovative way to explore theory, sharing the inportance of using visual and creative elements as well as text. Also an enriching opportunity to ? How to do critical reflection/analogies with students. Much food for thought in practice.
I am going to try something like this next week – a modified vresion! I am aware of my own “issues” with visual representations!
Working together to discuss theories and using the discussion to make an image really helped me to explore ideas and check my understanding. It was fun too!
Being able to bounce off other peoples energy when mine was low. Diagrams made theory much more digestable for me.
Working as a group/collaboratively to farm a shared understanding of complex theories. Loved how visual it was and how the installations grew.
I am also adding a slideshare I have put together to capture our first term together. This is the first draft at the moment (7 March 15) which needs to be updated with a few more things and I will do this over the next few weeks.
A bit sad that our workshops came to an end. However, I know that this is just the beginning and am really looking forward to what is still to come, our collaborative working, your innovations and a ther projects which are emerging already. On our list are so far
  • contributions from the whole group for the next Creative Academic Magazine around play
  • a collaborative paper using the above as open research data
  • evaluating the workshops based on the content of the Value Jar, I would like to do this with the group as well.
More ideas will emerge, I am sure, they always do when we enjoy what we do, enjoy working with each other and see value in the professional relationships that develop out of these.

Patiently waiting with closed eyes! Thank you all. I hope you will be using your brand new shiny badges, image source https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8651/16105612164_78486a6908_z.jpg

Thank you David and Haleh in preparation for this workshop, especially with the boards and painting these!!!, Ellie for designing our badges and all for participating so actively in this workshop and the previous ones. Your help and openness made a huge difference to how we experienced these weeks together.
See you again soon.
Chrissi
ps. Draft No. 2
pps. Gentle reminder at https://tellagami.com/gami/8U8Y2E/

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

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