The open bug: a story of collaboration and resurrection

Open Education week 2014 has come to an end but open educators are open and share their work openly all year round. The week was a festival of celebrations around the globe with opportunities to share, connect and learn with others and find out what open education is all about but also stop for a while and reflect on the value of being open and sharing experiences, resources, expertise but also ideas that truly grow and evolve when we come together. There was a buzz in the air, I could feel it in the digital jungle but also in the physical one when I visited places and interacted with others.

Is open education giving away stuff and letting others use our ideas freely without any restrictions or even trample on our ideas and forget their origin, their history? Some might see it that way. I don’t.

For me open education is a great opportunity to share our learning with others, to help others and be helped but also to give something back to society. It is a celebration of human discoveries, stories, achievements, creativity and innovations, of any scale, even the tiniest one that might be of value for others. Open education has the potential to lead to personal and collective growth; to new explorations, new adventures. Together we can achieve loads. Loads more than on our own. I read somewhere that ideas live longer when they are shared. It must be true. But, I think, they don’t just live longer, they also grow in different directions. A seed can grow into an exotic plant, that will then multiply following the cycle of life and evolve into something else. Birth, growth, death, renewal. I really think sharing is the fertiliser of ideas! Respectful sharing! Sharing keeps ideas alive. Sharing is also an ideas generator. Sharing is vital for humanity and has led us where we are today. Sharing makes us who we are, creates our paths for the future, our destinies.

Our minds are magic machines, like no other and our imaginations are limitless. In our minds we flirt with possibilities and impossibilities and often we let ourselves get lost in these. But we are not just dreamers, we create new realities too. We make things happen and we make things. We make the impossible, possible. We have done this many times and will do so again, many more times. And we love to share the things we make. We always did. Humans always found fulfilment and happiness in sharing. We still do! Perhaps in the olden days, I call them BC, as in before computers, and especially before social media, sharing was more localised and it was harder to discover fresh ideas that were just born in a little village on the other side of the planet by somebody nobody outside the little village knew. Today, we all have a voice, we are all global broadcasters, sharers and makers if we want to be but also learners and  teachers, and we can all share our thoughts, ideas, creations not just with the people who are near us geographically but more often we share with people we feel are near us a-geographically if there is such a word. Technologies at our fingertips are bringing out the social animal and the maker in us and empower us to share many aspects of our lives with a much wider audience, find alias at the edge of the world that remind us that we are not alone in our thoughts… Especially creative people, I think, who are driven by their curiosity to discover and connect, to play and explore, have become global adventurers and benefited the most from seeking and creating opportunities to reach out and connect, experiment and collaborate with like minded people wherever they are which creates a sense of belonging within vibrant networks and communities. We perhaps feel also less lonely knowing that there are other people out there who push the boundaries,  take risks, use their imagination and creativity to collaborate and innovate. It gives us strength to keep moving and move on. Could this sense of belonging be the true value of opening-up, connecting and sharing with others?

During Open Education Week, our open FDOL course developed by myself and Lars Uhlin was underway, week 5 out of 6, I was invited by Dr David Walker to share some of my open education projects at an HEA event  at Sussex University.

I engaged in other open events during the week and really enjoyed Cathrine Cronin‘s and Sheila MacNeill‘s webinar around the open educator.

I managed also to watch the recording of another interesting and highly useful webinar for my PhD research especially, by Terese Bird and Prof. Grainne Conole.

On top of all that activity, travelling up and down the country and my normal working life (and my personal and family life as well!!!), I came up with the idea to offer another 5-Day course with a twist during the week. Not that I had time for this on top of everything else I was doing already, but I couldn’t stop myself… and I made the time.

I have asked myself many times what happened to OERs and stand-alone courses available under a Creative Commons licence in repositories and other digital locations and was keen to explore how these could potentially be repurposed. My idea was to use a ready-made, off-the shelf course and bring together a team of volunteer facilitators to enable interaction and support learning plus add a few synchronous happenings to the offer. From my work as an academic developer I have seen far too often that educators focus on content. Their prep often means putting a PowerPoint together and lecture notes. What do we forget? The interaction? Our learners? Content is everywhere!!! And I am not a walking encyclopedia to know everything, not even in my own professional area. Things change too rapidly and mountains of new knowledge are created as we speak. Is it actually possible to know everything and is it actually even needed?

During the OER13 Conference I heard Darco Jansen say:

Content is not education, interaction is!

These words were extremely powerful and stayed with me since.

But also it isn’t really about us and what we do but more about what our learners do and how we can facilitate learning and support them but also learn with them. Often we also feel restricted when given somebody else’s materials to use in our classes. We want to make and use our own and I have been thinking about this before as a possible cause for the reduced re-use and re-purposing of OER? But I might make a massive assumption here and this is not good. So please interpret this more as a question that needs to be explored further. Well I wanted to put this to the test and almost proof, if you like, that we seem to focus on the wrong things! Is learning really about the content? We say it isn’t but what are we doing about it? I had already located a suitable course for this experiment which was waiting patiently in my Diigo collection for some time now to be used… when Paul Booth, made an announcement the week before that he would launch his newly created Northwest OER Network during Open Education Week and put a call out for suggestions of network activities to the steering group, I proposed my open course idea or the hijacking if you like of an existing stand-alone course and breath interaction, facilitation and support into it but also enable facilitators to develop and grow. So learning and development opportunities for all! Could this work? The course I proposed was developed by Dr David Wiley and available within p2pu Intro to Openness in Education. Accessing the course, didn’t even require registration which was an added bonus. The themes and resources in this course presented opportunities for flexible engagement also so that anybody who participated could pick ‘n’ mix and engage as much or as little as they would like or was possible at the time. I was pleased that my idea was well received by the steering group and led to the development and implementation during Open Education Week. This was speed course building in action and required concentrated commitment. What a thrill. Previously with Sue Beckingham, we worked for 3 months to develop BYOD4L now we had only a few days. Could we make it work? As Paul embraced it I decided that we could run it together under the Northwest OER Network. I wanted to help Paul raise awareness of his new and important network for the region and also secured support from CELT. In no time, we managed to get 13 volunteer facilitators in total from 3 different continents through our networks and together, we created a facilitated version of the existing course and offered it during Open Education Week. We didn’t have to worry about content and my take on it was that participants would anyway share their own resources, much nicer that providing everything ready on the plate, so to speak.  Anne Hole also shared her collaborative flipboard and invited others to contribute useful resources and links. We used a buddy system for facilitators who worked in pairs during the week, most of them. We had done this before with Sue and it worked really well. We also created a private community for facilitators to come together to support each other and shared a Google doc folder with related information to co-ordinate activities. We focused on creating daily opportunities for synchronous and asynchronous interactions in different social spaces and our main question was how we could bring learners together. There were discussions, open air hangouts, an external webinar led by Prof. Martin Weller (blog post, presentation and recording available here) and tweetchats.

I think, the tweetchats created most of the buzz. We used the tweetchat format developed by Sue Beckingham for our BYOD4L course and it worked really well. The tweetchats brought facilitators and some individuals from the wider community together on 3 days of the week. The exchange was rich and I could see that the chats generated more questions than answers, which I think, us a good thing. I really would love to investigate why tweetchats seem to work so well. What makes them work? The week was intense, a roller coaster, a fantastic and exciting experience. Peter Reed created daily visualisations of our tweet tags based on Martin Hawskey‘s tags explorer and many of us used Stori.fy to bring the tweetchats together. There is no way, any of this would have been possible without Paul Booth, my partner in crime, Carol Yeager, Anne Hole, Helen Webster, Betty Hurley-Dasgupta, Sue Beckingham, Kathrine Jensen, Peter Reed, Lenandlar Singh, Simon Thomson, Alex Spiers, Neil Currie and all who joined us during the week. We are grateful for the commitment and passion they showed to this last-minute project and their engagement and exchange. Thank you all!

My next open experiment leads me to an even more playful adventure and an open curriculum… I won’t be doing this on my own, so much richer when we share the journey with others 😉

If you are new to all this open stuff,  don’t be quick to dismiss it, give it a go! Identify a mini-opportunity to open-up and connect one of your classes with the outside world and help your students connect with people out there to enrich their learning experience further and make it authentic. It will also be fab for you as you will make new connections with educators around the world and feel part of a wider community.

Remember sharing is good for all of us. But do it properly!

Remember not just to take but also to give back and if you build your ideas on somebody else’s, add proper  attribution! Give a little something back today and consider sharing your open creation via JORUM with others and see your ideas growing.

Did you catch the open bug? Share your story with me.

Note: A newer version of this post has been published in the June 2014 edition of the Lifewide Magazine. See I am adding the references below.

Thank you for stopping by and reading 😉


References (of Lifewide Magazine version of this post)

Conole, G. (2013) Designing for learning in an Open World, London: Springer.
European Commission (2013) High Level Group on the Modernisation of Higher Education. Report to the European Commission on Improving the quality of teaching and learning in Europe’s higher education institutions, European Union, available at [accessed 21 November 2013]
Jackson, N. J. (2013) Learning Ecology Narratives in N Jackson and G B Cooper (Eds) Lifewide Learning, Education and Personal Development E-Book. Chapter C4 available at: [accessed 30 March 2014]
Jackson, N. J. (2014a) Lifewide Learning and Education in Universities & Colleges: Concepts and Conceptual Aids, in N.J.Jackson and J. Willis (Eds) Lifewide Learning and Education in Universities and Colleges. Chapter A1, available at: [accessed 30 March 2014]

Jackson, N. J. (2014b) Towards a lifewide curriculum, in: Willis, J. (ed.) Lifewide Magazine, Issue 9, March 2014, available at [accessed 30 March 2014]
Nerantzi, C. & 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, avaialable at [accessed 30 March 2014]
Redecker, C. & Punie, Y. (2014) The Future of Learning 2025: Developing a vision for change, in: Future Learning, Volume 2, Number 1, Baltzer Science Publishers, pp. 3-17,available at [accessed 30 March 2014]
Weller, M. (1011) The Digital Scholar. How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice, London: Bloomsbury Academic
Wiley, D. & Hilton, J. (2009) Openness, Dynamic Specialization, and the Disaggregated Future of Higher Education, in: International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Volume 10, Number 5, 2009, pp. 1-16., available at [accessed 30 March 2014]

Let’s open-up! Thoughts after a recent HEA seminar

It is already Sunday. I can’t believe this. Where did the week go? I started writing the below when travelling on the train to London this week and was planning to have the draft ready then but I felt so dizzy in the train that I had to abandon my plan… unfortunately. So this remained unfinished for some days… I will try now and stitch my thoughts together. Hopefully it will work. Ok, let’s make a start.

This week I went to the HEA and participated in a seminar around open educational practices. As I am currently engaged in research linked to this area as a PhD student at Edinburgh Napier University and am developing open CPD initiatives in the context of Academic Development, I felt that this was an important event to be part of. I was right.

Prof. Grainne Connole made me think about the importance of the learning design (reminder for self: need to read Grainne’s 7c learning design in more detail!!!), something I feel is vital to make it work, and the determining effect and impact this has on the practice itself but also the facilitator and learner experience and learning. If we want Learners to be engaged in meaningful ways, we need to be creative and focus on the learner. This applies for face-to-face settings, blended or fully online, closed or open provision. While I am writing this, my mind wanders again to the thought that no learning is fully online. But let’s go back to my question. How can we engage all learners in a meaningful way when we bring the masses or even the world together in one enormous chaotic classroom? Can learning happen in vast networks and decentralised and distributed communities?  I have used the term ‘communities’ here without even thinking about it. Suddenly the term ‘classroom’ was gone from my vocabulary. I think learning can happen out there, learning happens everywhere and all the time. However, as we are all different, different things work for different people. I have heard and read often that open education will engage the unengaged. Does it at the moment? Evidence seems to say that it is not the case. We might have seen new sections of the global population starting to participate in open educational offers and for many it will be the only offer there is, but it is not an accessible way of learning for many who are perhaps less experienced, confident and competent in such learning ecologies. After the MOOC hype,it becomes clear that we are now recognising the role human support and human interaction play for participation and learning. How could we have forgotten? How could we had assumed that machines would be able to replace vital ingredients of human interaction? Did we get carried away with making educators superstars in the global classroom? Turning the classroom into a world stage? We’re we blinded by the numbers? Is learning and teaching a popularity contest? Why are we teaching? I thought at the heart of learning is the learner…

It is encouraging that even the NMC Horizon Report for Higher Education 2014, actually focuses more on pedagogies instead of the tools. Grainne pointed this out and I should read the report in more detail. This is definitely a shift and signalises the need to focus more on identifying innovative ways for learning instead of replicating boring, bad and bold pedagogies. Grainne reminded us that the web is just coming out of its teenage years and social media is only turning 10. What does that mean for us? Rebellious years ahead? I think the only certain thing is that things will change and they change faster and faster. This makes it harder to keep up and makes lifelong and lifewide learning essential not just to survive but also to thrive and innovate.

All speakers talked about MOOCs and generally other open creations and open educational resources. Are MOOCs just OERs? And we know that these are under-used anyway? The world of resources is exploding. We are drowning in resources and content. Why do we keep producing more? Is this linked to our human desire of creating stuff? I am wondering. We do love making stuff and David Gauntlett has written extensive about this and I am grateful to Frances Bell who introduced me to his work during a train journey a few years ago. We do learn through making as he said. But if this is the case who is really learning more when we teachers make the stuff for our students? What needs to happen so that we focus our desire to make stuff on creating activities and spaces that foster interaction, exchange and learning? Should students make stuff instead? What about making stuff with our students?

Various acronyms came up and others were coined in the room. Not sure if it is important how we call something… shouldn’t we focus more on what it is and what we are trying to achieve? Why do we do the things we do in the way we do them? Could it be that many are on the MOOC avenue, as they want to be left behind but perhaps don’t know where they are leading or what they want to achieve? The conversation about open educational practices still seems to be an add-on. I am more interested in how we can open-up existing provision to connect learners and teachers worldwide and enrich their experience and help them grow into more open-minded individuals. Are there opportunities to join up courses? The EU calls for greater openness in the Modernisation of Higher Education to connect students, teachers and programmes more widely to enrich their learning experience and broaden their perspectives about the world but also make them reflect on the nature of collaboration and the potentials it brings within a connected world.

Prof. Alejandro Armellini was provocative and made us think about the physical campus and how this will be changing. He said

“We keep building impressive buildings but the campus of the future will be smaller!”

This is a good opportunity for all of us to reflect and capture how we feel about the above. Feel free to add your comments to this post so that we can have a conversation about this.

Alejandro, or short Ale 😉 also talked about Northampton’s baby steps in the area of open educational practices but also the need to open up more and connect with others – to collaborate! Prof. Neil Morris also emphasised on collaboration and actually suggested that all funded HEA bits for example should be collaborative ones. I really liked that idea as it would really bring institutions closer together and identify jointly opportunities for collaboration and   innovation instead of competition!!! Ale, noted that it will be hard to convince academics to be more open and consider open practices, he said, but evidence of its value, will be the driving force for change. “Academics want to see evidence” he said, but also that “we need talk to people and start from where they are“. As we all experiment with open, we should really evaluate and investigate our initiatives, even if they are mini. We need to learn more about the open learner and their experience but also open organisers and facilitators. My interest lies within collaborative open learning and how we can enable this in cross-institutional contexts. When we talk about open educational practice, it is usually a brand new flashy course (we heard numbers in the region of £30,000 to produce one of these), something that is de-touched form the normal institutional offer while I feel the potential is there to open-up all courses and connect our learners to other learners, professionals and global communities. I think if the open offer becomes part of what we do as institutions, there will be room to explore additional business models. Universities are in the business to advance knowledge and to innovate. Isn’t opening up our courses to enrich the experience of our students a good enough business model? I don’t like the phase I used here ‘good enough’ but struggle to express what I mean. Perhaps valid, valuable? Do you understand what I mean?

Too often staff are unsure if they are aloud to do things! I really liked Neil’s idea of giving academics the freedom to explore and experiment. Constructing and imposing no-no policies won’t work and definitely stifle creativity and innovation. Let them play, let them experiment and build a vision together. If there is buy in at all levels and we all work together great things can happen and they did happen at Leeds, according to Neil. There was a shared vision and this helped to put all puzzle pieces together and start creating a more open future together.

I could continue writing here as this event triggered a lot of thinking into so many different directions but I will make a pause here hoping that some will respond and we can turn this into a conversation. Just would like to add the following quote shared by Ale which makes a lot of sense to me…

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

unzipping minds #flexcpd

The SEDA conference “Creativity in Educational Development” is now over and I still feel the buzz… in my ears, my eyes, my sole and my heart. I have really started feeling part of a supportive Ed Dev community where we can openly share, debate, support each other and grow – together. I had the pleasure to meet new and old friend and engage in fruitful conversations that made me think deeply about my practice but also educational development more widely.

It was wonderful that I could also be there for Prof. Norman Jackson‘s keynote around Creativity in Educational Development. Norman had contacted me a while back and asked me to contribute to his research project. How could I refuse? I really valued the opportunity to share my thoughts, ideas and experiences regarding creativity and I was looking forward to finding out what he had discovered about creativity in Ed Dev more widely. It was truly fascinating to hear. All related resources can be accessed here. Norman said that he discovered among others the following: “The greater the challenge, the greater the motivation to be creative” and perhaps this is why I have become who I am today. Reflecting on my journey through life I have to admit that I experienced a number of extreme difficulties that must have required great strength. I am sure we all have! For example, I had to learn to read and write Greek while attending secondary school and operating at that level academically when I was 12 and we moved with my family to Greece. Until then I was brought up in a German speaking environment and was attending a German school. From the top of the class in Germany, I touched rock bottom when I started the Greek school… I could only speak broken Greek we used at home for the 12 first years of my life… Suddenly another world became my new home and I felt a foreigner in my own country. I remember some classmates laughing about my pronunciation and I felt alone, excluded. I still feel alone today, sometimes, but for other reasons. I am sure we all feel and perhaps this is a good thing as it helps us collect our thoughts and discover who we really are. I wrote about this in my previous post. The challenge I faced when arriving in Greece was enormous. The rejection I felt was massive. Did this make me a more creative person? I don’t know. I guess I was resourceful and developed resilience. I wanted to succeed. Soon I was back on track.

Norman’s research, confirmed to me that ed developers thrive when they enjoy autonomy and can make connections, synthesise and implement creative ideas, when they innovate and are supported by colleagues, leaders, the institution and the wider community. We need to stop doing things that don’t work! Conservatism and resistance are blockers of creative practice and usually comes from people who don’t fully understand Ed Dev, according to Norman. Norman’s resources linked to his keynote are available here. I would highly recommend to access these if you are an Educational Developer. The resources and research findings are also extremely valuable for University Leaders as they provide an insight into the nature of Ed Dev, their people, aspirations and working practices but also the difficulties they are facing. Reading in between the lines we discover how we can truly support Ed Development in our institutions so that they flourish and help individuals, teams and whole institutions to trigger culture change and transform their teaching practices and the student experience. They provide rich food for thought, opportunities to re-think practices and find ways to empower Developers! If we learn to value what unites us instead of focusing on what separates us, we will be able to collaborate and achieve great things. My friend Carol Yeager says: On our own we go fast, with other we go further! This is so true!

in Alison’s LSP workshop

It was wonderful to met Dr Alison James, from the London College of Fashion. I participated in Alison’s LSP workshop and Alison in mine and we started talking about possibilities  to collaborate in the future. I am so pleased that delegates found both LSP workshops useful. Photographs from both workshops can be accessed here.

After some difficulties with the technology!!! my workshop started, thanks to plan B and the help of Andrew (thank you Andrew). During my workshop around developing reflection and engaging in reflective conversations using LEGO(R) I had a eureka moment. My ex-colleague Sian Etherington was brought into the session via Skype. I was holding Sian in my arms (this was pointed out by one of the workshop participants afterwards) via the iPad. A question from one of the delegates made me think and re-think deeply about the approach I used up until then related to the preparation for the Professional Discussion and what the students knew about the LEGO activity in advance. Something that Sian said as a response to a question by a delegate, helped me to identify that there was room for further improvement. I started talking out loud within the session and shared my modified ideas as they were developing. I came to the conclusion that in the future, I would avoid providing details about the LSP activity. If students knew details about the task in advance, they could prepare this and be strategic and less reflective. The model should also emerge during the process of making. So what could I do? I definitely needed to change the approach! Students could be told that there would be a task but not exactly what it would be. When they arrive for the Professional Discussion, a sealed envelope would be given to them which would contain the LSP task. Each task would be different and fully tailored to the specific student based on  tutor’s observations about this particular students from classroom participation and portfolio work. This way, the tutor and the external panel member, but also the student could focus in on specific aspects of the learning journey and provide more insight where needed. I am pleased that the question was asked during the workshop and that the response by the student made me think about how to refine the approach for future use. Always learning something new if we are open to new ideas and willing to challenge and be challenged.

we all build

It was a wonderful surprise also to see Prof. Sally Brown and Prof. Phil Race actively participating in my session.

Alison’s LEGO suitcase. Do you recognise anybody?

During the conference I had the opportunity also to discuss plans to join up CPD initiatives between MMU and Sheffield Hallam University (SHU). I really look forward working with colleagues from MMU and SHU on this initiative. Exciting times ahead. Other project ideas were also discussed with Sue, Kathrine and Ola (who doesn’t know it yet) and Alex. Overall a truly fruitful SEDA conference. Thank you everybody for making it such a rich experience.

Risky not to take risks and other thoughts around inflexible flexibility #flexcpd

I really don’t know where to start. Have you ever wanted to share every single moment of an experience with somebody… with everybody, and when the moment comes to do this, you struggle? You loose your words? They disappear? This is how I feel right now. My fingers touch the keyboard but I am not sure if they (my fingers with the help of my brain – is this learning through (automated) writing?) will manage to capture something that makes sense, something that captures my thoughts, reflections, excitement and discoveries. Whatever I capture here, will be messy, this is part of reflection and I plan to revisit what I write here. I don’t have a problem with this. This is normal but while I write the word ‘normal’ I actually seem to develop a negative feeling about ‘normal’ – this is very odd! Anyway, let’s stick with normal for now, at least. The messiness will help me organise my thoughts over time, and with others (so hopefully somebody out there will respond) make sense of my experience and move forward – to learn, to unlearn and relearn. I am super excited!

Now I have written a whole paragraph without actually saying anything… am I mumbling?

My head is filled with good stuff, loads of it. My developer batteries are fully charged so to speak.  Ok, so what actually happened? What on earth did this woman do (me) to get so excited? Some of you might ask… You will not believe this! Some of you will find this very strange indeed and not normal at all.  BTW, not normal, seems to work well here. It would actually be interesting to get your reaction, any reaction when you find out what put me in this state of super-excitement. Ok, I better tell you now 😉 because otherwise you might just click away from this post and I will have missed this great opportunity to share my story with you and engage hopefully some of you in a conversation about my experience.

Well,  I went to the HEA today where I attended (don’t like this word at all, makes my presence immediately very passive), participated in an event lead by Prof. Danielle Tilbury and Dr Alex Ryan around Flexible Pedagogies (the report was published today so feel free to access here). Yes, Alex and Danielle and their work, of course, are responsible for my current state of mind. I guess, I am also to blame as I have allowed this to happen. It was fascinating. I am unable to tackle the experience in a linear way, as my brain works better in pictures. To organise my thoughts, I look now into my notebook. I also did this on my way back (no, I wasn’t driving if anybody is wondering). Usually my notes don’t make much sense when I read them again, but I really could engage with these and they lid up parts of my brain and further connections were made between York and Glossop.

Where next?

I felt like a little Christmas tree. A lonely tree in the middle of a big and dark forest.  Another metaphor is popping into my head now… was I also Red Riding Hood. This is actually how I often feel. This is I think how creative people feel… often… too often. Red Riding Hoods (yes, plural, there are loads of them out there, I have seen many!) take risks, are not afraid to explore new paths. To make new discoveries.  But also mistakes. Curiosity is a good thing! The wolves (yes, plural also) are out there. Always nearby. What and who do they symbolise? Something we can think about. When I started writing this posts, I didn’t think about fairy tales, I didn’t think abut Red Riding Hood. Suddenly the story emerged, the fairy tale became real, was brought to life, and jumped out of the digital page I am typing and I find now that it actually links somehow in a metaphorical way with what I am attempting to say. The good thing is that fairy tales have good endings. I like that because the good will spread. For me it is not about winning. This is why I didn’t say ‘the good will win’. Perhaps winning over? Once upon a time, I used to be a translator, you see, and it is important to find the right words to be true to the original, to say the things we mean, to communicate a message properly and share how we feel, always respecting the original, the people. This is of course harder when using a foreign language… in my case English. Languages and cultures bring us together but they also separate us and are therefore exclusive. The same happens for other reasons, economical, social etc. We all have experienced exclusion, one way or the other. I don’t like this but it is not about what I like or dislike, but maybe it is. It is, I think, important to focus on the good for all, the wider community. And I would say that collaboration and open mindedness as well as flexibility are features we need larger portion of if we want to drive innovation. Isn’t this what universities are for? Am I getting anywhere yet?

Alex and Danielle talked about the need to focus on flexible pedagogies beyond just flexible learning (moving beyond pace, place and mode). And while they struggled a bit pronouncing the word ‘pedagogy’ it was not at all ‘all Greek’ to them! In the contrary! The researchers called for

  • learner empowerment (students as change agents – but also staff? We need educators who are change agents or educators as change agents, even better! Developers are frequently called change agents too)
  • decolonising of education
  • crossing boundaries
  • social learning
  • transformative capacities and
  • future facing education!

Wow!  How can we make all these things happen. Do we need to re-imagine higher education? Do we need to re-connect with our curiosity and drive for innovation? How do we support and reward innovators? And what about the risks? Alex and Danielle used the Socratic way to respond to a question about risks: “Anything outside the norm is risky. But can we afford not to take risks?” Can we afford to ignore the innovators? Can we continue pushing them to the periphery? Can we continue discourage experimentation? We all seem to agree that we do need some kind of framework to encourage creativity, adaptability and risk taking. In theory this all sounds fantastic and for me personally, I would love to see something like this implemented, yesterday, please. Is this possible? Institutions have responsibilities, they are the enablers. But also people within these institutions. Universities wouldn’t be anything without its people. But how can we change things from within and from outside? Academic development plays a vital role in this process. We Academic Developers push the boundaries and model innovative practices. Academic development is about quality enhancement and modelling disruptive innovation. Alex and Danielle agreed that Academic Development can have a transformative impact if we see and experience it as an open greenhouse for active experimentation, for research into our teaching practices, for collaborations beyond walled gardens. As Academic developers we work with people, ideas, concepts and pedagogies that influence and shape strategies and policies but also the people we work with. Alex and Danielle talked about the need to:

  • reframe academic relationships (students, teachers)
  • adapt a co-creation model of learning
  • focus on the application of knowledge in real-world scenarios
  • go beyond specialist expertise
  • use the virtual spaces that forster dialogic and collaborative learning and development
  • break down walls and open-up our practice
  • undestand global connections and embed diversity
  • develop the skills and behaviours to lead change and shape the future

We were reminded that “the technological mist is overshadowing pedagogical conversation” Experiences are fragmented and disconnected. What are the vital ingredients to deal with complexity and rapid changes, that will equip teachers and students for the uncertain future and put all the puzzle pieces together? What are the puzzle pieces? What do we really need?