Το παιχνίδι μάς τρέφει/ We grow, through play

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The venue

Did you ever wonder how it would be to have the 2200 participants of CCK08 in one room in the same physical location? I guess, I could say that I experienced something like this in June when 2000 people were brought together in the largest venue in the town of Thessaloniki. While the learners may have been very different from the usual people we find at academic conferences, at least some of them, they all had the desire to connect with others, I suspect, and a common passion for learning through making, or just making through which learning happens.

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it does look huge… and it was huge

robot_logoDr Fachantidis who leads the Robotics Academy at the University of Macedonia invited me to be their guest speaker at the Awards Ceremony that recognised all little makers who had completed the robotics programme during this school year. The event took place in Thessaloniki in the biggest room available in town and it often hosts the PM… apparently…

But let’s start from the beginning. I met Nikos at the LINQ 2015 Conference in Brussels  and as it was a relatively small conference it didn’t take us long to find each other. We have this saying, wherever you go on earth, you will find a Greek. This is probably true.

While we used the conference to find out about each other’s work, afterwards we stayed in touch and started working together informally having identified opportunities to connect our students through the open community #creativeHE and enable them to learn together. From my side the students were academic colleagues from Manchester Metropolitan University and other universities from the UK and elsewhere who teach or support learning, while Nikos connected with us his postgraduate students from the MA in Lifelong Learning and the MA in ICT in Education who were educators outside higher education and primarily in primary, secondary and adult education.

Nikos has been leading innovative work and research in the area of robotics in education for some time now. Just two years ago, in 2016, he set-up the robotics academy to inspire little makers from Thessaloniki and across Greece to experience the potential of robotics for their own development but also the education sector. His work has been recognised nationally and internationally and he makes a difference to many many people.

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all 2000 on a Sunday when they could be on a beach…

It was truly amazing that so many people, parents, grandparents, educators from across the sectors, lecturers, students and little children, who were the stars of the day, were with us on that Sunday to celebrate together. A very diverse audience with the common love and passion for making robots and learn something new through this process while also connecting and collaborating with others as well as developing social and life skills. Nikos is also involved in multiple studies where robots assist specific groups, for language learning, create opportunities for co-learning, personal development and create opportunities for the elderly and individuals with specific learning difficulties.

At this point, I have to note that I had no idea I would be speaking to 2000 people as I had assumed that there would be maybe up to 50, ok maybe 100. Never assume. When I heard that there would be 1,800, this is what Nikos said at some point, I had already agreed to do this and was on the plane to Thessaloniki. I was in shock and became increasingly nervous. While it was an honour that Nikos had selected me for this job, it was also daunting at the same time. Double daunting in fact, as I would be speaking in Greek about my work in creativity and play. And while Greek is my mother tongue, my professional language is English. Therefore, it is easy to see that speaking in Greek about my work was almost Greek to me, if I can borrow this phrase and a big risk.

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Little makers before the award ceremony started

What I did want to achieve through this talk is to trigger wider interest of the importance of creativity through playful learning throughout education and life more generally and illuminate some of the opportunities playful learning through making brings. I also felt that in order to achieve this fully, or even partially, I needed to find a way to connect with this diverse audience and I used play and storytelling. Below I have tried to explain my rationale and how it all worked. It is at this moment in time the only perspective I have but I am inviting individuals who were there to comment on this post, if they wish.

The strategies I used for audience participation… and why…

Say it with a picture
I love taking pictures and using them to communicate messages visually, connect ideas and experiences. I did this in this speech as well. To the pictures I added shorter messages as prompts but also two extracts from recent publications. A little bit of recent research is always useful to strengthen an argument and it doesn’t all sound too one sided. The pictures were used to create mental hooks but also to communicate across borders and tell a visual story through these in combination with written and oral language.

Tell a story
This creates familiarity and develops empathy too. Storytelling helps us draw people in, to connect. If some of the stories are our own this process is speeded up further.
I took of course a risk. I could just read a script but I decided not to. The natural flow of words was more attractive to me as a way to connect with the audience and include them whenever possible. I shared snippets from my life story hoping that these would act as attention hooks and also engage the audience emotionally, beyond the cognitive dimension and the kinaesthetic one, which I also did attempt to include as we did some physical activity. All 2000 people in the room. Hint… chairs… and more details about this follows.

Surprise
We have no idea what others expect, but I know from teaching and facilitating workshops and sessions at university and conferences, that interaction can break the ice and help us feel more relaxed and natural and enable the time to fly. I had set myself a challenge to find a way to engage 2000! And while ideas seem to pop into my head all the time, it took me a little bit longer this time to find a suitable solution and make it happen. In the end I used the sticker and chair approach, which I had used before in other cases but had no idea if the audience would actually participate… never before did I have 2000 in front of me. They did and turned that massive room into a vibrant market place. I was worried that the sticker wouldn’t be found and what I would do then, but the sticker was found. I had placed it before anybody entered the room earlier in the morning. I had prepared a little prize for the individual who would locate the stickers and offered to share my remaining stickers with other children when I had finished. They all disappeared. I just wish I had taken more of them with me. I hope the little boy who found the sticker under his chair will enjoy his day out with his family and think back at this day and our encounter.

Move around
While I started on stage and behind that podium, in this massive room, I soon started moving around among the audience as I felt this was a better way to connect with them. I also did this for practical reasons as I struggled to see the slides due to the way the big screens were positioned and there was no laptop or screen on the actual podium. There definitely was an opportunity to have an additional big screen at the other side of the room to help the presenter and also have a screen on the podium. A hands free microphone would also help and provide even more mobility to the speaker. I am definitely not tall, rather short, and am not sure if people saw me wondering around the room with the microphone and inviting the audience to participate. I don’t regret my decision to do this as it did help me get a little bit closer to the audience and at least further engage with some of them but also get some further participation from all of them. I think the cameras were following me around… if I remember well, but at the time, I didn’t really notice.

Provoke
Talks like these present an excellent opportunity to share fresh ideas. Ideas that are half-baked, rejected the mainstream, novel or new to a specific audience. Ideas that challenge the status quo in a specific context and make us think. Ideas that unsettle us and make us feel a bit uncomfortable. Our curiosity and imagination drive us to make surprising connections. Communicating and sharing these in a way that helps others think and consider are important. It is not about finding new or additional supporters, this in not a football club, but to help people think.

Fifteen minutes is a tiny bit out of our lives. However, fifteen minutes shared with so many has the potential to last longer. I hope some of what I shared with the audience and what we experienced together will accompany them for a little bit longer.

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Thank you for the warm reception, the hospitality,  the privilege and the opportunity to share these special moments with you Nikos and all. My warmest congratulations to all little makers, their families and teachers as well as everybody from the Robotics Academy for inspiring them.

During my stay in Thessaloniki I also had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with some of Nikos students and colleagues at the University of Macedonia. Teaching two  sessions on the MA in ICT in Education was a pure pleasure and I would like to thank all students and my colleague Haleh Moravej who joined us at very very short notice remotely and shared her experience around creative approaches to learning and teaching with us all.

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Friday: After the MA viva and presentation. From left Nikos, Christina, Yannis, Sofia and Marianna. It was interesting to be part of this and gain an insight how the process is conducted at the University of Macedonia. Christina’s study was about co-learning or learning in partnership of parents with their children using robotics.

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1st session on Saturday with the MA, starting with low-tech to get to know each other and then moved to digital technologies…

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2nd session on Saturday: With Haleh, second session with the MA in ICT in Education, students are primarily teachers in primary and secondary education

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I loved the time we spent together Sofia (PhD student in robotics in education), Marianna (working at the University of Macedonia with Nikos, open education/research), Christina (just finishing her MA, dissertation in robotics in education). We had so much fun!

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity Nikos to work with your students and get to know them a little bit. I love and admire their commitment to learning and professional development and doing the course late in the evening and on the weekend. I wish them all the very best for the future.

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Thessaloniki’s landmark, especially for Gerasimos who is from there

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The effective supervisor/personal tutor, an #oer flashcard set

We did it!

A second #creativeHE project that started its life during the making conversations earlier this year with John Rae and Norman Jackson just came to fruition. I have written about the first project here. My colleague Haleh Moravej, Dean Brookes and students from the social enterprise MetMunch and I have been working on an open educational resource we hope will be useful for others. We will, of course, also use it in our own practice and have already identified some related opportunities in the coming academic year.

It is a flashcard set called the effective supervisor. It is an output of an assignment for a module on research degree supervision I completed and really helped me engage with some of the current literature and research about supervision. The flashcard set has been developed in the context of doctoral supervision. However, it also seems to work in different contexts including with undergraduate students and helps to engage them in conversations around project and dissertation supervision as well as personal tutoring.

The visualisation concept started from an approach I initially had destined for another project and particularly an open picture book. The tree sample… which I made on my iPad some time ago…

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the tree by Chrissi, iPad creation

In the end we decided to use another visual approach for the book project and the tree became available to be used for the flashcard project. We worked closely with Dean to bring the idea alive and use the tree as a starting point for a series of illustrations for the flashcard set and are grateful for his creative energy, input and patience.

Two flashcard sets are available in this series. One with and one without written language accompanying the visual prompts. The has been finalised for wider use with further colleagues in the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University and specifically Dr Stephen Powell and Dr Alicia Prowse and we will release the full sets soon through the CELT website for anybody to use.

The Effective Supervisor no text and words

The flashcard set is available in English at the moment. Could we translate it into different languages? The set without any written language could also be used to translate on the go and/or come up with other prompts and work with these with students/staff.

Could we make a board game out of the flashcards? The possibilities are endless. Let’s see first what needs are out there and how others can use the existing sets and get some related insights.

With the support of the HEFCE Interventions of Success project we are able to print a few flashcard sets and share these with colleagues.

Thank you Haleh and Dean for embracing this project and working on it collaboratively. I am really looking forward in using it in a range of settings.

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.

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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

getting ready for our next #creativeHE making conversation

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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all pics… almost all here…

2nd of May: We met again and Gail had already digitised all the pictures. In a short meeting we managed to agree backgrounds, size and locations of the images on each page. It was amazing. While we initially seemed to look at pale backgrounds, we felt that the vibrant backgrounds actually added more emotions and drama, so we decided to use bright colours.

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working with the wonderful Gail Spencer

3rd of May: This is the day when Gail uploaded all the pictures to Storyweaver. It took us a little while to fix some of the images, as we didn’t check the dimensions in advance (but it was a useful lesson for future projects). An amazing feeling filled me when I pushed publish and it was suddenly there. Really really enjoyed the process of working with Gail on this and am looking forward to seeing where this little project will take us.

What will today bring storyweaver

the published open picture book is now available here.

Our first reviews arrived quickly… here are some of them…

“What will today bring?” by Dr Chrissi Nerantzi is a picture book aimed at refugee children in host countries. The theme is current and relevant. Dr Nerantzi travels us to the moving reality of a little girl who following a journey through the seas, finds herself alone in a refugee camp searching for her parents and Hope. Does the girl find her parents? Does she find Hope? Dr Nerantzi’s simple use of language is full of imagery, creating a captivating narrative that triggers profound emotions. The powerful messages are supported by the wonderful illustration by Gail Spencer. I would strongly recommend the book to all professionals working with refugee children.” Dr Gerasimos Chatzidamianos, FHEA, CPsychol, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Manchester Met

“Hi Chrissi, This is absolutely beautiful! The illustrations work so elegantly with the story – well done to Gail! This is such an important story – and handled so poetically. You’ve both created something flexible and resonant for so many young readers – it’s a delight.” Dr Meriel Lland, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, Manchester Met

Prof. Norman Jackson invited us to write an article for the Creative Academic Magazine. This is currently in preparation and will be shared when ready and published. The Greek translation of the story is also ready as an open picture book and I would like to thank Dr Gerasimos Chatzidamianos and Dr Eythymia Karaouta for their valuable comments and suggestions. The German translation is also ready. I just need to upload this to Storyweaver.

We are looking for an organisation that would help us print the book, raise awareness and identify ways to help children in need. 

We can all do a little something to help…

Sep 2018 update: Our edited blog post and the process of the creation of this picture book has now been published as an article in the Creative Academic Magazine:

Nerantzi, C. & Spencer, G. (2018) The spirit and wonder of collaborative making, in: Jackson, N. & Willis, J. (eds.) (2018) Creativity in the Making, Creative Academic Magazine, Issue 12a, pp. 46-49, available at http://www.creativeacademic.uk/magazine.html

 

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/

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.