Friday, 16 October 2015

#creativeHE – W3: the hermeneutic space

It’s the third week of the #creativeHE course:
 – and that clever Chrissi Nerantzi has organised this as a Peer Learning week… And in practice it’s become a space in which to realise that you can join in, it’s not too late to catch up…

So this week we have been doing just that. Several colleagues from work were thinking about doing this course, so we had a F2F lunch meeting and decided that, yes, it was still possible to join in. In our sub-group we managed a small Hangout – declaring an interest in exploring the use of social media with students to help them to curate their own PD experiences… and in exploring social media in the workplace to help staff bond as a CoP across courses and Faculties. I saw that another group were going to explore creative ways of capturing lecture content - a big visual/multi-modal strand is emerging – and I’m really interested in seeing where that goes.

In our first year module this year, we are experimenting with getting our students to be much more multi-modal in their presentations – leaping beyond the Poster Presentation to a whole new level of challenge. After their first scoping of the university as a site and sites of formal and informal learning, each group has to present their findings in a different MODE – choosing the one that challenges them: Comic book; jigsaw puzzle; Pack of cards; Marvel Comic; Song; Dance; Poem; Newspaper article; Memory envelope; Cabinet of curiosity; Short story; 3D object; Pop Art; Patchwork; Something knitted or crocheted; Painting or drawing; Collage; Academic poster; Installation; Animation…
More ways students can show what they know:

On the subject of our students
The W3 effect is something to think about in our F2F teaching too perhaps – is it about this week that all our students are feeling overwhelmed, swamped… feeling that they are already too far behind to catch up?

We start our first year with a deceptive simplicity with questions, role plays, drawing, discussion... they survive a nuclear apocalypse and re-build the world.

We plan this to be creative and dialogic … and as they are wrestling in deep ways with key issues, they get to learn about each other, they form friendship groups and bond as a cohort.

We found that this third week did in practice slow down a little bit… there was time to draw, to talk, to think, to present and to listen. Hopefully this still felt productive – but also perhaps, it helped the students to think that the course and their degrees were do-able.

Get creative with us?
Our programme exists in dialogue with the blog that we write each week – and where we extend the sessions with links to key articles, useful Webinars and so forth:

If you have any suggestions about activities to use with our students – do get in touch… AND if you have suggestions as to useful blogs, webinars and other online resources that we could flag up in our class blog… please let us know about them also.

And finally – it’s only W3 in 'creativeHE - it’s been a great hermeneutic space – and it’s not too late to join in!!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Invitation to join the open course: Creativity for Learning in Higher Education, MMU

This autumn I am mostly joining in with Chrissi Nerantzi's open course: Creativity for Learning in HE. Like everybody else I am much too busy and have so much to do I daren't even think about it all... BUT if I don't make time for this - then what's it all about anyway?

So - I am sharing this invitation with you  whoever you are! And hope that you too will make the time - take the leap - and join us... Come on in... the water's lovely!!

Here's Chrissi's invitation: 

Dear colleagues,

The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom will be offering the open course Creativity for Learning in Higher Education. I’d like to invite individual colleagues from across the HE sector and groups of colleagues from the same institution and their tutors to join this course as part of their CPD given them the opportunity to spice up their teaching.

We will explore the following themes:
·         Conceptualising creativity in higher education
·         Enablers and barriers of creativity in higher education
·         Learning through play, games, models and stories
·         The role of curiosity and other intrinsic motivations for engagement
·         Developing creative methods and practices
·         Evaluating a pedagogical innovation

This course will be used as a case study for my PhD research in open cross-institutional academic development, with a focus on collaborative learning and I would like to invite learners to participate in this study.

The open course site for Creativity for Learning in HE can be accessed at

The facilitated online part of the course will be offered over 8 weeks starting on the 28th of September 15 until the 20th of November. Participation is flexible and can be fully tailored to personal and professional circumstances and time available. Collaborative learning opportunities will be there as an option for those who wish to learn with others.

I hope this sounds interesting and useful for you and colleagues. Please share this invite with others who might also be interested and access to get started and connect with other learners in our online community at Really looking forward to seeing you there.

Please note, ethical approval for this study has been granted by Edinburgh Napier University and further details about the project will be shared with group/course/module/programme leaders who are considering joining us with a group of colleagues.

Thank you for considering this.

Best wishes,
Chrissi (Nerantzi) from CELT, MMU

Monday, 20 July 2015

#clmooc Image challenge 4… it’s only a jigsaw puzzle… it’s a system

As mentioned in last blog post, we are busy writing the fourth edition of Essential Study Skills: the complete guide to success at university.  This is a very user-friendly book that shares some tips and tricks about taking control of your university experience – and still having some fun. It’s mainly for those like us who are the first in their families to go to university – but of course – what works with students like us, works with everyone (Warren 2002).

And then Simon Ensor issued his picture and blogpost challenge - and I had to jump in and write a brief blogpost in response to his image – cos it’s an image we use in book. 

It’s where we talk about having the ‘big picture’ or overview of a course. We say:

“Whilst it is true that we tend to learn things in pieces, one step at a time, this is helped if we have the big picture first; if we know how the subject will be covered. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, it is much easier to put the pieces together if we have the picture on the box. Similarly, if we understand how universities work and how our courses have been put together, we will be able to achieve more, more swiftly.”

Obviously that is meant as useful advice to all people coming to university – but especially for those whose family might not have been able to give them the gen – the inside track – on what university is all about: if they have not been groomed from birth to succeed in that system (if they don't have the cultural or academic captial - Bourdieu, Passeron, Wacquant…).

The picture on the box is a shorthand for saying that universities are systems and have systems – and if you understand them you can make them work for you. But it can be seen as really unhelpful – as Maha Bali points out – there is only ONE true solution to a jigsaw puzzle – and we do not want to trap people into thinking there is only one true way to survive at university – and one true way to get it ‘right’.

We have another chapter in the book: Make university positive – where we try to indicate all the other things that universities are beyond the merely academic – beyond the merely ‘get your head down and work the system’ system. We suggest that our widening participation students also join the Clubs and Societies – that they make friends – that they do not just rush off home to family duties – or rush off to work for work duties – but they spend time ‘being with’ their fellow students. That they hang out in the canteen chatting to people – that they become Peer Mentors. That they believe in themselves and develop their self-confidence and self-esteem – after all – that is what the traditional middle class student does know about university. As Stephen Fry said recently on Desert Island Discs – he only attended about three lectures in all his time at Cambridge – but he put on several plays a year – he joined Footlights – he made enduring friendships… and we want to get that across the our students too.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

#clmooc Make 3: Games as lens

This summer we are writing the manuscript for the fourth edition of our student text book (Essential Study Skills: the complete guide to university – since you’re asking… oh – you didn’t?!)… Too busy to join in officially with #clmooc I’ve been a joyful lurker – especially this week where by happy coincidence I was running a session on ‘Game-ifying your classes’ as the MOOC was exploring game making – and games as a critical lens ( 

I ran my session using the resources shared by Alex Moseley and Nicola Whitty: There is a PPT for the facilitator and cards for the stages of game-making: context, constraints, story layer and a sort of ‘secret santa’ card – given only to one person in each group – who then has to introduce a random element into the game: cheese, a penguin…

For our session I distributed chalks to write and draw upon the black sugar paper covered tables – I put out balloons, magazines for collage-production, glue and scissors and random objects to make the room feel welcome and playful…

We enjoyed the game making – especially the brilliant idea to produce a huge snakes and ladders cloth for the floor – with huge furry dice… and game cards for maths… We thought how all this could be produced by cross-collaboration – DTP producing the floor cloth – art helping with design and colour – and then ALL the students in ALL the subjects could produce the quiz cards – each year… Music students could entertain us as we played – and ICT students could produce online versions of the game to share…

As an aside, we invite our Becoming students to produce games as part of their course reflection: - and the group in this blog went on to build their game into the final Performance: … and what a day that was!

… And then we thought – we could alter the Moseley and Whitty cards slightly and get our Student Ambassadors to produce really cool induction and welcome activities…  and I told the participants about #clmooc and game week …

A virtuous circle!!