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.


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!




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

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

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

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.
ps. Draft No. 2
pps. Gentle reminder at

playing is good for us!

celebrating food

celebrating food and life

… I am in the middle of cooking, but couldn’t help myself…

Using some recipes for inspiration but not sticking to the instructions… not a surprise really.

Please note, we won’t be eating the above in this order… ;o( but maybe we could… ;o)

Other bits and pieces under development and loads ready in the fridge, such as dragon breath tzatziki, spiced-up olives, super-yummy potato salad and loads more… no ready-made meals on our table.

Something is smelling… or burning… back to the magic kitchen.

Wishing you a creative Christmas everybody. What have you done differently this year?

ipadio: A day after stage 2 of our mixed-reality game

Visit to hear my latest ipadio phonecast

Or listen here:

Note: I am still finding it so hard to focus when I create these audio files. I am using notes but I struggle so much. Maybe I should just forget about using notes and just speak naturally. I seem to do better without them and when I just record short messages. Maybe, I should go back to that. Was really happy that one of our academics started also exploring with audio and is going to use it to capture audio reflections. Any tips on how to become more confident and comfortable when recording audio would be very welcome. ;o)

Learning through play? @pgcap #coresep11 #CMC11 MOOC

arriving or the journey just begins, yes, it just begins

Arriving or the journey just begins. Yes, it just begins...

the city our classroom or open thinking space

The city our classroom or open thinking space. No borders.

Are you ready to play? What stops you?

Are you ready to play?

Come on, let's give it a go!!!

Come on, let's give it a go!!!

What happened to learning through play?

Just wondering, what stopped you before?

Ideas flow and grow when we share them

Ideas flow and grow when we share them through play, remember?


Learning is yummy, don't you think?

What would we do if we didn't have each other?

What would we do if we didn't have each other?

Very well done to you all!

Very well done to you Fabrizio, Kirsty, Neil, Deaglan, Frances, John and Fiona (who is not on this picture)!

Special treats for our Stage 2 winners Fiona and Neil

Special treats for our Stage 2 winners - both had so much fun on the Wheel!!!

… and our Stage 2 winners are…

@pgcap #cohort2 I am so glad…

swimming against the stream

swimming against the stream

… we went for the double session this week. It wasn’t planned and we had actually given up in a way to do the educational visit again because of the very limited but very strong negative feedback we had received previously. How silly that was! When we believe that something is right, despite the fact we get an opposition, we shouldn’t really give up. I was the one saying ‘Only dead fish swim with the stream’ and then I became one of them… I think that is sad. But I have woken up now. Last week it suddenly clicked during the voting stage when we actually asked the whole cohort if they wanted to go to Manchester or stay on campus for a session there. Since we are two delivering we don’t really need to be in the same location all the time. This gives us actually greater flexibility to do different things and I just realised that. We haven’t really explored this before but I think what we did this week was a step in that direction. I am so glad we did it! A whole new world is now opening up in front of us and Neil will already think… oh my God what is she going to do next… anyway.

I actually wanted to write about yesterday last night but then other things happened and now it feels already a bit too late to reflect. I had it all planned in my head what I would write and now it is gone but I will try to capture my current thinking since I feel that it is impossible to capture what I was thinking yesterday.

The Manchester session worked. I was so pleased that everybody embraced the challenge with positivity. This time around, the scenario provided a clearer context and made it relevant to individuals delivering large-group session as well as small group sessions despite the fact that the scenario was actually for large-group delivery. So many creative ideas.

The discussions afterwards were really interesting and the answers to the question how the pairs worked together and the process they followed was fascinating. It showed again that we can’t really push the magic button and expect ideas to fall from the sky. It doesn’t happen that way. It can be hard work, frustrating and it is a whole journey in itself. We need time and space to reflect, to link, to make sense of things until we are sort of happy with our idea and thought and start believing in it that it can work and not just work, that it can work well and better than anything else we have tried before. The thing with creativity is that is really should be something of value, not just new and novel. We don’t know if it will work when we come up with the idea, turn it into a concept and start experimenting with it when bringing it to life. But at some point we need to reach the stage where we believe that it could and will work! Otherwise what is the point?

It was also interesting to experience how creative our academics really are and willing to learn with and from each other. And this is really key in the whole process and will enable us all to do great things together and move forward. I liked the fact that they took the challenge to spend as little as possible and some didn’t spend a penny and still come up with innovative ideas! It shows that we don’t really need expensive resources and that you can make big changes with little, inexpensive or free things. The how you use something is much more important to what you use. Beyond props ‘using’ colleagues and their expertise is another creative and resourcful strategy.

Too many times we focus on our need to use the latest technologies, the latest gadgets, expenisve models etc. when we have resources lying around that we could use with our students to bring our sessions to live and that applies to small- and large group teaching? However, do we really nee props all the time??? Some will thing and say, some have already in the past, that this is totally inappropriate for higher education. Are they right and we wrong? I think it is not about being right or wrong. It is about exploring alternative approaches that might work better than what is commonly used and add suspence, encourage creative and critical thinking and engage our students actively. If this happens with toys or everyday objects or photographs, that is great. Are toys and games just for children? Why do we keep thinking that these are just for kids and their use in higher education is inappropriate?

I also liked the fact that tutors have started thinking of using their own devices to create their own resources. It was really interesting to see that many yesterday had used their phones to capture photographs – which didn’t cost them anything extra. In the past we have seen many tutors having such devices but not realising the potential they have for their practice. I think this is changing now and I am really pleased about that. Some also suggested that students could use their own devices as well during sessions to provide additional opportunities to interact with each other. Especially in these difficult time using our own devices for teaching and learning will become more and more important.

Great ideas and I hope that our tutors will start experimenting actively with these to spice up their sessions.

What a super special day! Well done everybody!