Jennifer’s Creative Week

Here at the IAD we’ve been talking a lot about blogs, and how best to keep them lively. So we came up with the idea of having a regular once a week ‘blogging hour’, and I’m going to do my best to think of something interesting, inspirational, creative, fun and provocative that I’ve learned or experienced that I can share with you each week. I’d love to hear your responses and to find out more about what you are learning, seeing, doing, making and dreaming.

Over the weekend I was in Sibiu, Romania, where I was reading poetry at the Z9 Poetry Festival and it was hot (about 30 degrees), gorgeous and very inspiring. I met poets from Italy, Spain, Germany, England, Sweden, Slovenia, Hungary and of course Romania and swam in saline lakes at the Sibiu Salt Mine Spa. On Sunday I will be flying to Budapest for another poetry festival – more on that when I get back.

Today I had a great meeting with Dr Oliver Escobar, who is doing amazing work re-imagining the democratic process. I find it very moving that he is doing something so positive in the face of today’s political structures which can feel stagnant and impossible to shift. He is a visionary (as well as a poet, as I discovered!) and these are just a couple of the many exciting projects he is currently involved in: Distant Voices and Vox Liminis.

I’m sitting here in Levels Cafe writing with my colleague, the marvellous Dr Catherine Bovill, and a cool tune came on and she explained to me that it was by Christine and the Queens, who I hadn’t come across before. We had a look at their dancing and talked about identity, gender and movement, all of which seem to be at the heart of what inspires the band. So interesting! In return I had to share my new favourite music video by OK Go. It gets me every time. Have you seen any videos or heard any songs recently that got your heart racing?

Have a great week – I’ll be in touch when I’m back from Hungary.

The Festival of Creative Learning – past, present and future

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February seems like a long time ago, but we have been very busy behind the scenes of the Festival of Creative Learning, well, learning…and being creative. Before the Scottish summer and ‘other’ festivals truly overwhelm our senses, we would like to share some updates to remind you that we are here, and to begin sparking your imagination with ideas of how you can work with us from the new academic year.

Firstly, we have listened. Since the February festivities, we have been carefully reading all your feedback about all aspects of the very first Festival of Creative Learning. Informed by what we have learned so far, we are delighted to share that by September we will have a beautifully improved and significantly more functional website that we hope will represent the innovative and dynamic values we embody. In tandem with this we are working to make the event booking system more user-friendly, allowing our marvellous event organisers to showcase their offerings in a superior format.

The other big change you may notice is how we will communicate and share resources with those delivering or supporting events.  Basecamp attracted some criticism from those of you involved this year, so we are currently undergoing a process of separation from this platform whilst consolidating our resources based on what you have told us you really want. We are not quite ready for the grand unveiling yet but we are confident enough to assure you that it will not be perfect. We have decided to practice what we preach by being open to taking risks, to failing, and to ‘building and prototyping ideas in a supportive environment’. As always, we look forward to receiving your feedback.

It has not all been about change though, we have also taken some time to celebrate the achievements and recognise the positive impact of the Festival. Just this week, Jennifer and I bumped into two students who worked with us in different capacities this year and are currently enjoying internships at the University. Hearing that one of these superstars is currently concocting a cunning plan in collaboration with other members of the University community to develop their event ready for the Festival next year has made our month. Gladly this is just one example of the impact the Festival has had. The next piece of good news is that hot off the press is our Festival Impact report, designed by Dave McNaughton to highlight some more but by no means all of the Festival stories. Take a look below and be sure to share with your friends and family.

 

The excitement does not end here! We are very pleased to share our Festival film crafted Perry Jonsson. This includes a selection of images and interviews from the February week and is a celebration and alternative way of capturing the Festival. You can view it here. We hope you like it!

We are often asked how people access support for creative events outside the February week and very soon we will have the answer for you. Coming to an Institute for Academic Development webpage near you we will shortly be announcing our revamped funding schemes process, which might just have something for you!

Finally, for those of you heading away at any point over the next few months have a lovely time. For anyone like me who will be working hard non-stop throughout do get in touch and share your ideas and plans for the next Festival of Creative Learning.

Master Class: Poetry & Creative Learning with the MasterCard Scholars

 

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I’ve been delivering writing workshops for a long time now, most regularly at the Scottish Poetry Library to people who, though at various points in their writing careers, have poetry on the brain. Since starting as Projects and Engagement Coordinator for the Institute for Academic Development (IAD), it has been interesting to think about how my skills as a writer and writing teacher could be of use in my new work which has the wider focus of encouraging and exploring creative learning, innovation and collaboration across the University of Edinburgh.

One of my early meetings after starting here was with Johanna Holtan who used to run the Festival of Creative Learning which I now look after. She is a powerhouse and the job she has moved on to is running the University’s MasterCard Foundation Scholars Programme, which ‘supports the brightest and best African scholars with great potential but few educational opportunities’. When Jo found out that I am a poet, she asked if I would deliver a workshop for some of her scholars, and I was delighted to accept.

Jo mentioned that the scholars were having a visit from the poet Upile Chisala, and while I wasn’t able to attend her reading (which I was very sad about as I knew it would be amazing and from the reports of the scholars it certainly was), I wanted to respond to Upile’s poetry in my workshop. Jo works on the project with Stephen Kaye who sent me over some of Upile’s poems, and these were the starting point.

It was such an inspiring session, and all of the scholars produced work which was original, authentic and thrilling. We started by reading out a selection of Upile’s poems together and discussing them, then we did free writing with prompts like:

I am beautiful because…

and

I celebrate myself because…

and

I am a fire because…

We then wrote poems, shared them with one another and celebrated one another’s creativity and original vision. I think only one of the scholars was a poet who had written, performed and won awards before, along with her many other activities, so for the others I suspect the exercises were somewhat more unusual but they were all brilliant at diving in and having a go, and what each one wrote was really special.

It is encouraging to realise that poetry workshops can be used to work with people from various backgrounds (academic or otherwise) in this way, as I have always believed that reading and writing poetry is for everyone. Not everyone will do it all the time, and not everyone will be published, but everyone can enjoy and learn from poetry, and gain insights about themselves and how they communicate their inner life and work. We are already planning a poetry workshop as part of this year’s Beltane Annual Gathering, looking at how researchers can incorporate poetry workshops into the teaching and sharing of their work, and I’m hoping we can use poetry in other areas as well, as do other academics working at the IAD such as Daphne Loads. Daphne has a book coming out in which she explores engaging with poetry and other writings as a way into thinking about teaching practice and teacher identity. Due out in 2018, Rich Pickings: Creative Professional Development activities for University Lecturers, is to be published by BRILL (formerly SENSE).

Poetry can seem like a foreign language to people when they are not used to it, but one of the great things about it is that it is our own language used in new and exciting ways which are often even closer in form and structure to how we think, feel and dream, and ways we can all understand if we open our minds to the forms. Often when we try to communicate with one another we run up against the shocking realisation that not everyone thinks the same way we do, even though we’re all humans in bodies with minds, and yet if we embrace the diverse ways we think and express ourselves rather than closing ourselves off, we can learn so much. This is something poetry teaches.

Resilient Researchers

A great blog post from our IAD colleague Sara Shinton on resilience (including a discussion of what resilience actually is!)

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First of all a huge thank you to the speakers at the Resilient Researcher event which I was involved in today. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, resilience is my word of the year so I was really pleased to be able to work with two sponsors, SUPA and the IOP, to put on a day of talks, discussions and (best of all) live music to help some of our researchers understand and develop their thinking around this idea. It was a huge pleasure to work with Anne Pawsey from SUPA and the School of Physics and Astronomy on developing and delivering the day.

It was amusing that most of the speakers started by admitting they had looked up the word as part of their preparation. This echoes my own experiences of writing a guide to resilience for the IOP last year (in my pre-Edinburgh existence). My favourite definition was…

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Festivals, Festivals Everywhere!

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credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Edinburgh is widely regarded as a world-leading festival city with a colossal programme of events running throughout the year. Beyond the official calendar promoted through Edinburgh Festival City there seems to be a never ending stream of diverse, engaging and exciting festivals appearing…everywhere! It is encouraging to see many of these festivals thriving and returning year-on-year.

At the Institute for Academic Development we loved delivering the first Festival of Creative Learning for The University of Edinburgh and have been dedicating time recently to explore the successes and growing edges of the curated week to inform future improvement and development. Having carefully combed through all the wonderful and constructive feedback we are beginning to shape a cunning plan to implement some changes. We want to provide even more opportunities and support for staff and students at the University who embrace the challenge of organising and delivering events throughout the new academic year. We will share all of this with you once the embargo* has been lifted, but in the meantime we would like to highlight a few other festivals the University is involved with that have attracted our interest lately.

Festival of Museums at The University of Edinburgh, 19th-20th May 2017. Part of the nationwide Festival of Museums with events taking place across University buildings.

Festival of Open Learning, summer 2017. Taster, introductory and short courses offered by the Centre for Open Learning.

Festival of Social Science, November 2017. A week-long celebration of social science with events held across the United Kingdom. Applications to organise an event are being accepted until the deadline on 4th May 2017. Guidance for potential University of Edinburgh applicants can be found here.

Our Festival Pop-up programme continues throughout the year, so if you would like support with arranging an event that meets our aims and values before February please contact us. We are also open to receiving guest blog post submissions should you have something to share that you feel our audience would enjoy.

*there’s not really an embargo, I’m just pretending to be a covert operative today as we had a VIP visiting our building earlier.

The Awards: the results are published

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On Wednesday 15th March 2017 we acknowledged the efforts of everyone involved in the curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning with an award ceremony and thank you reception at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI). The event was incredibly well intended by event organisers,attendees and partners, all of whom received a  beautiful Festival of Creative Learning stainless steel water bottle as a token of our thanks for their involvement in #FCL17. Take a look at the Storify we made of the event here.

We received 131 nominations for nine awards, which made the task of shortlisting and deciding the winners and runners up for each category incredibly difficult. We frequently found ourselves debating whether we could just give everyone an award, but eventually concluded nobody would thank us for keeping them there a week while we presented them all.

Now, as we are rounding up our Festival “decompression and future planning” week, I am pleased to publish the results for all who were unable to attend the event. Feel free to applaud your efforts and those of others as you scroll through the images below. All photography is courtesy of the marvellous Mihaela Bodlovic.

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Thank you once again to everyone involved. Be sure to look out for pop-up events throughout the year and get those thinking caps on for ideas you could pursue as a pop-up yourself or for #FCL18! Contact us to discuss your creativity in more detail.

Pop-Up Event | Law and Artificial Intelligence Hackathon

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Artificial Intelligence by GLAS-8, under a Creative Commons license

Is the future here? Not a long time ago when one came across a term “artificial intelligence”, one’s first thought about it was probably a sci-fi kind of concept where human-like machines perform mundane tasks. In the last decade, the technological developments, such as the use of smart technologies in the era of the Internet of things, have proved that once unimaginable hi-tech solutions can become a usual affair of our everyday lives.

Likewise, the development of machine learning and artificial intelligence has steadily influenced many industries. The approaches and methods of indexing and analysing information have advanced to the point that machines are potentially capable of replacing humans.

The legal field has not escaped the influence of advancement in technology.

The legal landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade with advances in technology, the launch of new types of law firms and more international firms than ever before. Notably, while there is still much to develop, artificial intelligence may be a game-changing innovation in the legal market.

Even though questions about the potential of artificial intelligence in the legal field have received a significant amount of academic attention, there is a still a lack of discussion among stakeholders. When practical tools that use artificial intelligence are developed, the questions of ethics and liability arise. Moreover, these developments mean that we already have entered a phase where machines do at least some work of lawyers.

Are we ready to accept the future and do we know what the full potential of artificial intelligence is? Will data scientists be employed along with lawyers by law offices in near future? This would mean that both lawyers and data scientists would need to learn to speak one language. Therefore, it is crucial to bring future professionals – Law and Informatics students – together to think about how artificial intelligence can transform the legal industry.

The event – Law and Artificial Intelligence Hackathon – which take place on Friday 31st March 2017 in the Outreach Centre basement, Holyrood campus, will deal with some of the questions discussed above. The event is open to Law and Informatics students, but anyone can join in for the panel discussion.

There is an opportunity to take part in the panel discussion with three distinguished speakers from the field. David Halliwell is Director of Knowledge and Innovation Delivery at Pinsent Masons LLP. Akber Datoo is the founder and managing partner of the legal data consultancy, D2 Legal Technology (D2LT). Jimmy Vestbirk is the founder of Legal Geek, the biggest LawTech startup company, and the co-founder of F-LEX, an on demand paralegal service.

As an added value, students will have an opportunity to develop some practical ideas at the workshop and pitch their ideas in front of a jury. The workshop has already been sold out but Law and Informatics students are encouraged to join the waiting list.

Get your tickets for the panel discussion or join the waiting list here.

Liva Skolmeistare

Edinburgh Law Connections

 

Meet Eat Drink Think

A great blog post on very interesting (and award winning!) event for #FCL17

A World of Words - Lucinda Byatt

Robbie Bushe from University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Open Learning organised this great event at the end of February as part of the University’s Festival of Creative Learning. It was held in collaboration with one of Edinburgh’s newest and most innovative restaurants, The Food Studio, brainchild of Benedict Reade and Sashana Souza Zanella. The restaurant was started in November 2015 and has garnered praise and The List’s Newcomer of the Year award in 2016.

Meet Eat Drink Think was run on three consecutive evenings and the purpose was to highlight the contribution of Europe and Europeans to Scottish food and culture. Each evening four university tutors from the Centre for Open Learning gave short talks on various aspects of food and culture, and the menu served by Food Studio was inspired by the subjects of these presentations.

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Alongside me were Carina Dahlstrom-Mair, John Gordon and Pasquale Iannone.  Carina started the proceedings with a lovely talk…

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Pop-up Event | Human Rights Objects & Photography: Looking at Human Rights Practice from New Angles

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20th Genocide Commemoration at Camps Kigali, 2014, Rwanda, by Astrid Jamar

This Thursday 16th March, Astrid Jamar (Political Settlements Research Programme (PSRP), Law School) and Laura Martin (Centre for African Studies) are pleased to invite you to a workshop which will be experimenting with creative teaching methods that involve the use of objects, photographs and academic texts to explore human rights and transitional justice. It will encourage participants to combine artistic and analytical skills to look at these disciplines from new angles.

Extensive human rights and transitional justice research underlines frictions between policy and practice. Many institutions are unable to assist individuals most impacted by these violations. Our innovative workshop aims to impact on students’ learning experiences by encouraging them to think beyond normative discourse and consider what human rights violations really are, what they mean to different individuals and how to engage with conflict-affected societies.

By using photographs, the workshop will encourage participants to think beyond standard learning practices. The participants will discuss issues raised in these pictures and how the selected academic quotes connect to the images. Throughout these discussions, the use of objects and images will underline ethical issues often obscured in traditional text-based teaching methods. It will encourage students to think critically and pragmatically about their future professional environment.

Registration is required so please sign up here. Priority will be given to students whose studies are related to transitional justice and human rights.

The workshop is a pop-up event which is part of and supported by the Festival of Creative Learning.

Astrid Jamar

I’m a Perfectionist… Get Me Out Of Here!

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Mindfulness by Darragh O Connor, under a Creative Commons license

“Are you a perfectionist? Does this cause you problems?” Clearly there are a lot of students who answer yes to these questions as our event was fully booked with a long waiting list. So if perfectionism causes you difficulties, take heart – you’re not alone!

The workshop was designed to involve a lot of active learning and talking with other students. For the first exercise we shared in pairs the positive aspects of being a perfectionist, as well as the problems we experience, then fed these back to the whole group. Perfectionism isn’t something we have to get rid of from our personalities; it’s possible to keep perfectionism in balance so we can reap benefits. Participants mentioned that perfectionism can lead not only to achieving a high level of performance, but being well-organised and reliable, and feelings of satisfaction and greater involvement in whatever they’re doing.

How to overcome the problems though, which students said include stress, procrastination, dissatisfaction, loneliness, and low self-esteem because of unhealthy expectations?

We talked a lot about focussing on the idea of making progress rather than achieving perfection. In order to avoid procrastination we can break down tasks into small, manageable parts, focussing on working steadily through these, and rewarding ourselves for setting and achieving realistic goals. We also looked at moving on from ‘all-or-nothing thinking’, which sees everything that is not as good as we want it to be as a ‘failure’. We practiced changing a negative thought, such as ‘I did badly on that assignment’ to one which recognises difficult feelings but also any positives and pointers for making progress: ‘I was disappointed in my mark, but I got some positive comments for that assignment as well as some feedback about how to improve in future.’ This is an example of re-thinking ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity. We can turn any experience into a great opportunity by asking ‘what can I learn from this?’

In between the discussion exercises, Ali Newell from the Chaplaincy led us in mindfulness exercises that help relieve stress, including a sitting meditation and tai chi (simple mindful movement). No special equipment or clothes are needed for these exercises and it’s possible to do them as a lovely start to the day, in breaks from working, or to relax before going to bed. The Chaplaincy also offers free lunchtime mindfulness sessions (see below). We ended the workshop with some singing for fun – also an excellent stress-buster, very good for physical and mental health.

One of the things participants found very valuable was the chance to discuss how they would put their learning from the workshop into action. I was delighted by the positive feedback. We may run this event during the Festival of Creative Learning next year, and in the meantime, if you have problems with perfectionism, do look for help (e.g. from your Personal Tutor or Student Support Officer) and try some of the suggestions given above.

Rachel Howell

Web resources:

http://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/is-perfectionism-getting-in-the-way-of-your-life/

https://personalexcellence.co/blog/overcome-perfectionism/

 

Stress-busting mindfulness at the Chaplaincy:

Capacitar Tai Chi 1.10-1.40 pm Tuesdays

Mindfulness 1.10-1.50 pm Thursdays

Yoga 1.10-2.00 pm Fridays

All in room 1 at the Chaplaincy Centre. All free. All welcome.