Internet of (Community) Things: an upcoming design thinking workshop

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What is it? Dr Jeremy Knox and Dr Michael Gallagher, both of the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh, are running two workshops for faculty and students on Internet of Things (IoT) technology and how this might be designed to bridge distance for the University across campuses (there are several discrete campuses within the city) and between distance (about 2600-3000 currently) and on-campus students (≈30,000). Imagine technology built-in to the campus environment that could use light and sound to represent distant student communities. We are looking to generate ideas around how IoT can be used to build community, a sense of belonging, a functional, aesthetic, cognitive, or emotional connection to the university. This workshop (student event link here) is a part of the Festival of Creative Learning at the University and linked to the Near Future Teaching initiative.

Why should you come? We will be doing design thinking around what kind of future we hope the University will have with technology, and provide you with an opportunity to make your ideas a part of that. It is a great opportunity to get outside your own subject area, do some interdisciplinary work, and perhaps come up with an idea for your own future project, capstone, dissertation, or even your own business idea. Your ideas will remain yours. It is a great opportunity to explore some links between data, IoT technology, and doing more than setting your smart thermostat. Both on-campus and digital education students will be participating simultaneously, feeding their ideas to one another. There will be coffee and tea, of course. It is in the uCreate Studio, a maker space for the University complete with tons of kit. There is a beautiful view over the Meadows. Jeremy and Michael are fun to talk to.

How will we do it? We will be designing around a set of four personas representing four students. Different subject areas, countries of origin, some distance and some on the physical campus. We will identify, if it exists, how IoT (specifically the underlying data being generated by the larger university community) can provide a sense of connection to the larger community. No need for previous skills or experience with IoT or technology, this session is purely about design and creative thinking. Our personal interest is in identifying and engaging underrepresented (or underserved) populations, particular regions, non-native English language speakers, domestic deprivation, those from first generation university families, and the like. If IoT gives us a mechanism (in tandem with other systems, of course) to reach these groups, we want to explore it. But beyond that is the potential of using data and technology in tandem in largely aesthetic and emotional ways. Beyond merely offsetting loneliness or isolation, there is work to be done here on how it proactively builds community, redefines these connections between student and student, university and student, and so on. You can be a part of that. Do join us.

SIGN UP HERE: http://edin.ac/2zAgxFa. 

 

Dr Jeremy Knox and Dr Michael Gallagher

Centre for Research in Digital Education

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Festival of Creative Learning 2018: The applications came rolling in

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Happy November and we hope you are all adjusting to the changes of the season. With this blog post, we will provide a tantalising update on preparations for the Festival of Creative Learning 2018.

The deadline for applications was Monday 23rd October at 5pm. When I left work the Friday before we had six applications and it is fair to say I was rather nervous what the overall result would be. Come Monday, any fears I had were swiftly dispatched and our inbox was inundated by a plethora of applications from staff and students across the whole University. I found myself indulging in a self-imposed application processing challenge as I tried to log and acknowledge each marvellous submission at lightning speed before the next came in. I was motivated by colleagues sending me photos of Usain Bolt, and made sure I shared the excitement by making regular progress announcements to my desk neighbour. The total exceeded her estimate significantly!

Many of you will have heard or read that Jennifer and I spent a great deal of time over the summer refining our processes and improving our communications with the intention of making it easier to apply or otherwise get involved with the Festival. We are both delighted that our hard work appears to be starting to pay off as evidenced by your hard work. The quality and diversity of submissions have been phenomenal, making us incredibly excited for February next year.

By the end of next week we hope to have notified all applicants of the outcome of their proposal. For those of you who cannot wait for the official calendar launch in January, here is an early indication of what could be on the programme:

  • Openness – events nurturing an open mindset and curiosity about learning
  • Collaboration – events creating meaningful connections
  • Creativity –  events taking risks and implementing original ideas
  • Mindfulness – events celebrating thoughtful and holistic ways of working
  • Experimentation – events building and prototyping ideas in a supportive environment.*

Thank you to everyone that shares our enthusiasm for the Festival of Creative Learning. We look forward to working with many of you over the coming year.

 

*Yes, well done, these are our values. Sorry, it wouldn’t be right for the world to know about the events before those that applied to run them.

MASSIVE ANNOUNCEMENT – #FCL18

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On behalf of the Festival of Creative Learning I would like to extend a colossal welcome to all new and returning staff and students at the University of Edinburgh. For those of you new to the city or University we hope you enjoy the opportunity to explore new lands and to anyone that is lucky enough to call Edinburgh home, be sure to share your insider tips on all things creative with our new neighbours.

With this blog post we are delighted to announce the call for applications to participate in the second ever curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning, taking place from 19th – 23rd February 2018. This is a unique opportunity for you to embrace your creative spirit and find space for your imagination to flourish. We value openness, collaboration, creativity, mindfulness and experimentation so if you have an idea or project along these lines you should certainly apply. Our aims can be found on our website and we would encourage you  to consider these alongside the Festival Application Guidelines when completing your application (both also available on our website). The deadline for applications is 5pm on Monday 23rd October 2017.

Your event may involve performing, painting, crafting, writing, dyeing, baking, playing, escaping, debating, combining these, or something else entirely. It may be the celebration of something you have been planning for a while, or you might never have done anything like this before. All of these are equally valid as proposals and exciting for us to discover. To get even more inspired be sure to read our impact report available in an earlier blog post and watch the short Festival film from February 2017 available to view here.

We look forward to sharing more blog posts and creativity with you this coming year, but to make sure you don’t miss out on any updates follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UoE_FCL and Facebook @FCLUoE. You can also join our mailing list via this link: http://edin.ac/2us2Rqc (EASE log in required) or email us at creative.learning@ed.ac.uk.

Lucy Ridley & Jennifer Williams

Projects & Engagement Team

 

 

Sound and Silence

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In a world where there seems to be an endless amount of chatter, sometimes what we most need is a little peace and quiet (especially in the midst of the Edinburgh Festival season). I’m a big believer in making space for meditation, silence and walking around in nature to listen to the wind in the leaves and the waves whispering up the sand. Having said that, one of the interesting topics that came up in a meeting last week was the importance of dialogue and conversation, which, arguably, is quite a different activity than the somewhat more one-sided flow of information streaming at us from screens (I write this while realising this blog is doing the very same, though ideally this will amount to a conversation of sorts – I’d very much welcome your responses).

How can we keep channels of communication open, especially when we are not always sitting in the room with the person we’re engaging with and when we don’t always agree with each other? How can teachers and students surmount boundaries of age, power and knowledge to have valuable exchanges of information and experience?

In terms of what’s available online, I love podcasts for this reason – by their nature they are often already a conversation between at least two people, rather than one person speaking at you. They have conversation at their heart and I enjoy learning from hearing experts talk about their fields and areas of interest, especially when they are interviewed by non-experts who draw out so much for the layperson to contemplate.

There are many ways technology can help us to have fruitful conversations and exchanges with one another – to reduce rather than increase isolation, but the value of face-to-face human interaction and socialisation should also be celebrated. How do we find the balance here, between silence and sound, between online and in-person?

Here’s a challenge for you this week – can you have a conversation with a stranger or with someone you know but about something you disagree on? Can you do it in such a way where you both learn something from the exchange? Can you spend some time in silence (virtually and in reality), on your own and in public? Can you embrace the noise around you and vibrate with it?

If so, tweet us or write to us – we’d love to hear your stories.

 

 

Jennifer Williams

Projects & Engagement Coordinator, Institute for Academic Development

 

 

 

Living the Learning

It was a bit of a shock coming back to work on Monday after a week spent in the sunshine on a mountaintop outside of Budapest (aka beautiful Visegrad). I was there for the annual FISZ Tábor or summer camp of the FISZ Hungarian Association of Young Writers. Paired with two brilliant Hungarian poets, Ferenc L. Hyross and Ferencz Mónika, Scottish-Mexican poet Juana Adcock and I spent the week translating each other’s poems, swimming in the Danube and climbing to the top of the mountain to soak up the breathtaking views. It was such an immersive learning experience! We lived, breathed, ate, drank and danced Hungarian culture into our bones.

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It reminded me that there are so many ways to learn, and that the real relationships we make with people when we are invited into their spaces and cultures are invaluable and privileged. It’s interesting to consider how we can celebrate ‘living the learning’ at a place like the University of Edinburgh, where so many people gather from so many countries and cultures, and where learning and border crossing take place not only in classrooms but also in so many other spaces – cafes, parks, dorms, bars, streets, mountaintops… that when we live together and play together learning comes naturally and does not feel forced, boring or difficult.

The idea of playful learning also came up in a conversation at the IAD in which a colleague introduced me to the Play and Creativity Festival at the University of Winchester. Led by Dr Alison James and her team, it looks like brilliant fun while also exploring what our Festival of Creative Learning hopes to experiment with and inspire in University learning and teaching culture – a diverse and open-minded approach to creativity, both in and out of the classroom, that can lead to incredible experiences and valuable innovations.

Somehow it’s Friday already! Last night I did a reading for the SUISS Summer School students who are working on Creative Writing and Scottish Literature here at the University of Edinburgh this summer, and tonight and tomorrow night I’m reading with three other poets at the Edinburgh Food Studio where the chefs have prepared a course to accompany each of our poems. I can’t wait to find out how the poetry tastes! Sweet, I hope… very sweet.

Happy weekend wishes and more soon, Jennifer

Jennifer Williams, Projects & Engagement Coordinator

Institute for Academic Development

 

 

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.

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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.