Friday, 7 March 2014

#rhizo14 – De-schooling to Get Ahead

I have a couple THANKS to offer this week – one is to all those that have buoyed me up during #rhizo14 – and the other is to the student team who devised and delivered this year’s student-facing Get Ahead Conference. They are my answer to this week’s ‘what next’ question: we need a re-schooling rhizome and creative learning space!!

W8: Demobbing Soldiers (Mar 4-?)

“the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed [is] to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well.” Paulo Freire via Maha Bali
Question: "How can we take people who've spent their whole lives believing that [BLAH] is 'learning' and MAKE them … [plan towards their obsolescence] ? (Remix of Dave's thoughts from week 2 and week 6.)
Demobbing soldier
W8 Challenge: Help us think more clearly (big challenge!). Do we demob soldiers? Do we de/re-school soldiers? Do we mob soldiers? Who needs soldiers? Who is we?
And Sandra says, Thank you to all of you whose blogs, poems, songs, voices and stories have made this such a special special rhizome. Many of you are in the auto-ethnography project – - and you are in my mind and in my heart. 
My small rhizome…
… and one possible answer to this week’s question: keep fighting for creative learning spaces for students. Our non-traditional students especially need physical real world and real time spaces to be with each other to feel their power – to gain their voice – to SING! And that is where our Get Ahead conference comes in.
Get Ahead
Get Ahead is our conference by students for students. Ostensibly an event that promotes study and employability success – it becomes a student generated space where students have permission to be with their University and each other: to experience university as a place of opportunity, energy and excitement.
We sponsor one annually – and each year we recruit a team of students to design the day – to get students to present - to drum up interest – to run the day itself. It is hard work for a small team whose other academic work goes on regardless and relentlessly – and who may also have paid employment and families to support.
So THANKS to the Get Ahead Team! They were fearless in their attempts to drum up interest in the Conference – talking their way into lectures - talking about Get Ahead and talking people into the Conference. It was a buzzy, exciting and engaging event – and they were amazing:
Where next - and how: Staff Buy-in to student as agent
For this student initiative to work, we need Lecturers to sign up to the Get Ahead idea and help to engage their students with the Conference.
One of the Education Studies tutors worked with a Team of Education Studies students – including a couple of our first year #becomingeducational students - to produce a session for other students. They chose ‘Networking’ and spread the rhizome! The Get Ahead Conference and that session were flagged up in Education Studies Team meetings - and those staff recommended the Conference as an Enhancement Week event. Our own 'Becoming an Educationalist'  students had Get Ahead as their Enhancement Week activity - they knew about it – we made time for it - and they attended with a sense of excitement and expectation.
Initiating big ideas like 'student as partner', 'student as producer', 'student as change agent', ‘student as rhizome’... takes investment of mind, body and timetable. We think that it is worth this time and effort...
But how?
One thing this year's Team suggested is that they build on what they have learned this year - and run next year's Conference. They have also suggested that the Conference is 'built up to' from the very beginning of the year - this way staff can write it into module handbooks - and the students can run pre-conference events - with *staff* and students.
The pragmatics
We would love it if staff substituted engagement with the Conference for one small piece of course work; we can offer a menu of possible 'buy-ins': students from one Module could put on a poster exhibition - perhaps students from Work Placement can present about that - perhaps Computing students could run something ICT - Maths students could run a Quants session...  Events Management students might still run the Conference - and if so - Events Management staff would ensure that attending the conference was either a module requirement or an enhancement Week activity for *ALL* Events Management students...
We could go International?
As a second year literature student our Tom ran the first ever International Dario Fo Festival. This event was a mix of academic symposium and Theatrical workshop and performance. Alongside an International Fo Symposium, to which students were also invited, there were theatre workshops for students and people from the local community... And there were big theatrical performances as well – including Fo’s ‘The bosses funeral’ (!!).
This mix of the academic and the theatrical or the more fun elements seems a great model - we can help students do better with their studies and with their job applications - but we also provide opportunities for some of the cultural and play events that the University also offers.
De-schooling society

If students are to embrace different concepts of learning – and the what – where – why and how of it – staff have to buy in to that as well. Or… ‘that’s all folks!’

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