week 10 > in voluntary lockdown

Hundreds of people in the UK and thousands globally are still dying from this horrible virus. We have become impatient to go back to “normal” life. Apparently pigeon shooting and horse racing is starting again. Really? I guess we have different priorities. Human life seems not too matter. I despair. I worry. I am staying in lockdown.

At a time when everything feels like a race, a race against each other, the photo below gives me hope. A glimpse of hope for humanity. Watching the rocket launch and especially the warm welcome when the astronauts finally arrived at the International Space Station was heartwarming. It really showed what we can achieve together and make the impossible possible.

image taken from the live stream that was available at https://youtu.be/pyNl87mXOkc

We can work together and sustain such collaborations if there is commitment to each other, commitment to work together for the wider good. Ephemeral common interest motivated by personal gains as a driver for a collaboration is never a good sign and will not last. We see this again and again.

At the end of this week, we will be offering the open course FOS with colleagues from 10 institutions in the NW of England. We are grateful for their contributions and being part of this adventure. We hope that it will attract interest from the wider academic community and staff and students will join us to learn together. Especially now, during the pandemic where everything is changing rapidly, despite the stillness we may see, our minds and practices actually travel faster than ever before, change faster than ever before. Are we ready for September? This course will hopefully help us experience something different, something that will help us reflect on our own practice, a course that will help us experiment and learn with others. Something that will provide new ideas, something that will trigger changes in our thinking, actions, interactions and practices. The experimental nature of the course means that not everything will work. This is a given. We are not aiming to model perfection or excellence. Is any of this actually possible or desirable? Experiencing eureka moments, experiencing things going wrong, being there for each other, troubleshooting and recovering but also discovering new ways of solving old problems, we hope will make FOS attractive to all those who join us for 10 days in June. Often colleagues give up when they try using a technology and it doesn’t work. I have done it too. But every such experience is a learning opportunity that helps us re-think our own approach and the tactics we use. Tactics is a useful way of putting it, I feel, and Craig Hammonds thoughts relating to this has been an inspiration.

“To recognise and accommodate the expressive and meandering connections emergent from within the scripted worlds of liberated learners, practitioners must start to creatively and tactically manoeuvre pedagogical alterations within the stultifying rules of the academic monolith. Democratic practices and tactics should be experimented with, to ensure that serendipitous and subjective voices are afforded space to birth and grow towards meaningful explication.” (Hammond, 2017, 15)

The plan is to model real practices. Not perfection. Not everything will work. Things will go wrong. We know they will. But we will use these experiences to learn. To troubleshoot together. To move forward. We probably learn more from negative experiences if we allow it to happen. If we don’t ignore our own mistakes and shortcomings and do something about it. So easy, too easy to blame the technology or somebody else…

FOS has its roots in the final project of the MSc in Blended and Online Education I completed at Edinburgh Napier University. Like so many other ideas and concepts I developed later on. Looking back at this journey and what grew out of this experience, I can say that this course has been transformative for my practice as an academic developer. This project led to the postgraduate module FDOL at the University of Salford I developed and the open FDOL course with Lars Uhlin from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. After offering FDOL three times using PBL as a cross-institutional collaboration between our two institutions, two child courses were created that indicated two different directions of travel (ONL and FOS). My doctoral research and the discoveries I made as FDOL was one of the cases I investigated, took me to new places. FOS was born out of FDOL and some features are influenced by BYOD4L.

What else? I have continued crafting. Made two special masks this weekend. Just need to post them. I also love looking after our plants in the house and in the garden. Maybe we will even have some strawberries. Maybe.

I have been writing like mad on my final MA project. I have over 15,000 words already and still have a way to go. I know where the story is going. Just missing some of the details. I am really looking forward to my early mornings to make a little bit of progress every day. I know when I have ran out of creative steam and I stop. Thirty minutes is my max. I feel a sense of achievement every day. By the end of June, the very first draft will be complete. Maybe even sooner. I am getting there. Can’t wait to see it all coming together, also with the storydress, that is ready and waiting.

Stay safe and look after each other!

References

Hammond, G. A. (2017) Roland Barthes, Guy Debord and the Pedagogical Value of Creative Liberation. Prism: Casting New Light on Learning, Theory and Practice http://prism-journal.blackburn.ac.uk/ ISSN 2514-5347 Vol. 1 (2): pp. 8-24, Available at http://prism-journal.blackburn.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2.1-Hammond-PR2-1.pdf

week 9 diary > no longer paralysed

This week I have really enjoyed making progress with my story. It is over 12,000 words at the moment and I still have a way to go, probably a month. Not sure yet about the final length. I like that I know where I am going as this story develops from a picture book story, under 500 words. I have the story skeleton. While initially, I felt paralysed by the task, progressively I learnt to love the writing process linked to this story. Now, I feel a bit naughty mixing reality with imagination, a lot of it. Something I like doing anyway. But I wasn’t sure if it was right to do this, in this particular story. As it is based on real stories. I have let go. I feel the freedom now. The freedom to invent, to be playful with language and experiences, to trigger emotional reactions in my characters, hopefully also in my readers. There is so much I don’t know still and will never find out about my parents’ past. Maybe it is better that way, maybe. The gaps have been useful for me. They test me, they challenge me and create opportunities for invention. How would it be for them to read this story, one day? Would they recognise themselves in it? Would anybody get a sense what really happened and what is made up? My wish is that the story flows as a whole and would enable the reader to immerse themselves into it from the start to the end and live different realities. Realities they never experienced. Or maybe they did and the story brings it back to life for them. The other day I spoke to my mum and she was telling me that she was reading a book… as soon as she said that I knew what was coming. She was enjoying reading it and then looked at who the translator was. It was me, her daughter. She sounded really proud. She asked me how I did it. Well, with a lot of patience and commitment to quality and respect to the original and the author, of course. It is hard work and a craft at the same time. A labour of love. I did it for over ten years, mainly translating literature. Now I was trying to write my own pieces.

I am really looking forward to my early mornings. My 30 mins writing blocks, every day, even on  weekends. I seem to be really disciplined and get an energy booster for the whole day when I know that I have made a little bit more progress. Little by little the story is coming together. I feel that I am not just creative in my approach but also critical. I go back and forward, polish, change and connect, connect tighter. Simplify. Always little by little. My daily target is manageable and achievable. I did the same when I was translating books. Maybe I am transferring that practice to a new context. Maybe this way of working helps me believe that I can actually write longer stories and not just for children? Am I growing  as a writer? A tiny bit? Writing regularly definitely helps. My very first reader, except my supervisor who has seen it a few times already, read what I had written about 2 weeks ago. The feedback was really encouraging. Can’t wait to share with them the full story. I have also been thinking about how to link the storydress with the longer story (no title yet) and have found a way, I think, that could work and connect the two outputs naturally. We will see.

Ody went for a walk with me. It was the first time for him in 9 weeks. He was ok. We had a good time together while Nassi met his girlfriend from a distance. Dating in the time of physical distancing. My plants in the garden and in the house are doing well. Our rocket is yummy, we have flowers on our strawberry plants, the tomatoes seem to do really well and I am potting and repotting mint and flowers. Also drying some mint.

I continued my crafts. The silver clay was a disaster. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. Some things are better learnt with somebody showing you. Making the moulds was the easy part… The firing, needs more work so that I don’t ruin the designs. Will go back to YouTube as the written instructions didn’t help.

I finally decided to give the cabochon pendants a try. Even managed to do this following limited instructions. I am pleased that the pressed forget-me-nots worked really well. Need to press a few more before they are all gone.

My parents’ portrait is on the wall and our black and white outline family picture is also hanging.

Thinking about one more painting for the living room. Santorini came to mind, again as an outline, white on black. Will check our photos when we went last time. I wish I was there now. I wish we had that little house on the top of the hill. I wish we could swim in the deep blue sea. I have no idea how travelling will look like in the future. On a plane, a train, a ferry. All seems scary at the moment.

We are still in lockdown, sort of, at least some of us. Many seem to ignore the guidelines, even the ones writing them. So many have lost loved ones. So much pain. I wish this virus would disappear and never come back. I am praying for all those in pain. Stay safe!

Week 6 diary > we all had a haircut by now

… even Adam. I might actually need another one soon.
1588441668399_Attachment-1
After writing my last diary entry and saying that the weather was so lovely, and for so long… guess what… yes, it started raining. And hasn’t stopped much. Good for the plants, I was thinking. Our strawberry plants will grow. And the spinach, and the rocket. And they do. They have already. I enjoy saying hello to my plants every day and looking after them.
Work is super busy. Among others, I decided to restructure or redesign my Moodle areas to model what I feel could work for next year so that colleagues who join the units can experience it and consider similar approaches in their own teaching. And we are now almost ready to start. But first marking.
Really enjoyed the session I did this week about frameworks for learning and teaching and pleased I decided to use a hands-on approach to explain what we often do instead of telling people or just show them a flat picture. Experiencing something is so much more powerful and lasting.

… from the webinar… you can also see my mask template on the left… will need to make a few more soon

What else? Oh yes,I have become unstuck with my longer version of the storydress story. I have overcome my fear to inject imagined episodes to an authentic story of story and I have actually started enjoying coming up with ideas. I have still a lot of work to do and can’t wait to share this version with my first critical reader when ready.
We are making good use of our flour and I plan to learn how to make sourdough bread and am also thinking to get a pasta maker that looks like a German cookie maker. Seen it on eBay.
I have been thinking a lot about all my loved ones. When will I see my parents again? Bringing them somehow closer will give me some comfort and after the storydress that captures their life stories, I decided to start a portrait of them. Perhaps Grayson’s Perry Art Club on Channel 4 9(episode 1) inspired me last Monday. Very possible.

Mami and Papi started on the 3rd of May 2020

On purpose I will progress this slowly, to prolong the process, to work on it with care and love. I remember all the things they went through in their lives and my eyes fill up. Seeing them regularly via a webcam and not being able to hug them is painful. Very painful. At least I can see them from a distance.
I enjoyed my meeting with the illustration students this week and I am positive that we will continue working together on our project. Can’t wait to see this project coming together and I have done some more preparatory work on this in the last few days. Very exciting!
There are some good news regarding a Learn Greek app for all those Greeks abroad. Will share with the boys.
Also, Easter is officially over and has been replaced by spring and summer decorations around the house. Will take picture and share here.
Let’s hope the sun will shine again for all of us on this planet.

I had cut these wooden pieces a while ago… now, I am turning them into boats that will help us travel with our imaginations (yes, plural!)

week 4 diary > we got flour!!!

We got our second Easter this last Sunday. The orthodox one. And we got strong flour. A lot of it, 16 kg. Found it on eBay. It came from Germany. So much baking… is it therapeutic? It must have similar effects to crafting.

made in Germany… apparently

I wrote another story (5 in total now during lockdown) and am looking forward to discussing a specific creative writing project this Friday with colleagues and students. I can’t hide my excitement!!!

Also, over the weekend I made further progress with my storydress, my final assignment for the MA in creative writing. The Contrado site has been really useful as I have no idea how I would have done it otherwise in these challenging times. I guess, I would have come up with another idea in the end. Just hope they will remain open until I am ready.

It is almost done now but I will be writing the story up as a longer piece too and create an audio recording to accompany the final submission. I have struggled to start writing the story in a format that reveals further details. Maybe this is why I turned my original notes into a laconic almost story. A story that doesn’t reveal much. A story that says more by what it doesn’t say. They say silence speaks louder than words. Sometimes. Maybe I was avoiding writing the story or the stories I should say, as they have been so painful? Maybe. I have made a start now and will continue until it is finished. Over the next days and weeks. I have plenty of time until September and am happy with what I have achieved so far.

Going to the supermarket has become an expedition. I will always remember this. Also our cooking sessions with Nassi. We have tried all kinds of new recipes together. Not sure what will happen in September. Will he be able to go to university? As in “going” physically? So many questions… Will he be safe? And Ody and his new school? What will our new normal be when this is all over? Will it be all over? A friend told me some upsetting news recently. I can’t stop thinking of her. I wish she was living nearby.

I like to be in the garden and observing the plants growing. The rocket we planted with Ody is now out but no sign yet of the spinach. I love April and May when our garden fills with forget-me-nots.

Don’t know what else happened this week. I keep busy at work. Thinking about the now and the future. What I can shape. We didn’t go anywhere beyond the garden and my little Wunderkammer that has now also become my office. It is my little escape room too.

No haircut this week. I am still recovering from my operation but am much better. Almost 60 days now after I went to hospital. Trying to watch the news less but it is hard to escape them. Feeling sadness about all the people who are ill and loosing their lives. I wish there was a cure… I wish there was a vaccine…