Staying Afloat

2019 Festival of Creative Learning: Staying Afloat: Anxiety and the Winding Way to Peace of Mind

by Daphne Loads

You may have noticed some colourful ducks in Levels café earlier in the month. They were making a guest appearance as part of “Staying Afloat: Anxiety and The Winding Way to Peace of Mind” on Wednesday 22nd May.

Part of the University of Edinburgh’s Festival of Creative Learning, this interactive talk brought together 15 students and staff from all over the university to talk about anxiety over coffee and cake. It was facilitated by Annie Lee, an experienced trainer and facilitator who promotes good mental health and wellbeing. The ducks are her mascot and trademark! Annie, like many others, has experienced anxiety. She uses her knowledge and experience to encourage us to look at it from a different point of view. She has worked with lots of different people in different circumstances, including those experiencing domestic abuse, asylum seekers and people who are unemployed.

So what learning did people take from this event?

  • Anxiety has its benefits

Annie posed a challenging question: if it were possible, would we eliminate anxiety from our lives altogether? Or does it have some positive aspects?

As one person said, “There are things about anxiety to keep and even treasure.” Some felt that their anxiety motivated them to work to a high standard. Others acknowledged that sometimes if it weren’t for anxiety, they would have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

  • We’re not alone

People took comfort from the fact that others had similar experiences, and felt the benefits of sharing and being open.

  • There are ways of coping

We each put together a personal toolkit of our current strategies, and new ideas based on how other people manage their anxiety.

  • Kintsugi

Annie introduced the idea of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with precious materials, so that the mending is not only visible but beautiful.  This can be a metaphor for healing.

  • We can share our learning with others

 “ Don’t confine yourself in your own sorrow or space; be open minded.”  “If I have ways of dealing with it, I can help others find ways as well.”

  • Many agreed that they would like more of these spaces and opportunities to share.

“It would be great to have a series of these workshops or something like a community meet up at the University.”

“It’s great that the uni offers this support for STAFF!” ·

“It was wonderful! I would like to do this at least once a month regularly.”

“Thanks, it was amazing.”

Cooking with Science: 50 shades of textures

2019 Festival of Creative Learning: Cooking with Science: 50 shades of textures

by Konstantinos Bantounos

What a week it was! Raising eyebrows by running around campus with hand blenders and random kitchen stuff. I think I made almost 10 kg of ice cream in total (among other things).

But thankfully I had help with my endeavours! Namely the brilliant participants of my workshop “Cooking with Science: 50 shades of textures“. This was all for the University of Edinburgh’s Festival of Creative Learning.

The ice cream wasn’t just for eating. The point was to understand a little more about its chemistry and what it takes to get a nice smooth texture. From fat concentration, to churning time and even thickening agents!

A new touch to this event was a fairly uncommon kitchen tool called a whipping siphon. Think of it as a reusable whipped cream canister that can make much more than whipped cream. It’s perfect for examining the effect of pressure on food. We made a variety of foams, which admittedly sometimes tasted better than they looked!

It would’ve been a sad textures workshop, if we hadn’t touched upon the fun world of gels. We made some gels that were fluid, and others that were bendable (literally!). All peculiar, no doubt. But used with finesse, they can take culinary sensations to a new level! We were impressed by how the same liquid ingredients would give a very different taste sensation, depending purely on texture.

In the spirit of the Festival, the participants got creative. Inspired by their new superpowers, they concocted new recipes. No doubt, you’ll see them at gourmet restaurants soon. 

Many thanks to Mihaela for her amazing photos: © Mihaela Bodlovic 2019 Festival of Creative Learning #FCL19

For more science and cooking, you can check my posts here:

Enjoy the short video with all the highlights!

Bringing an Interactive Physical Workshop into a Synchronous Digital Space

Find Your Startup Idea Workshop: Blackboard Collaborate, 2019 Festival of Creative Learning

By Robert Pembleton, Enterprise Officer at Edinburgh Innovations

My job is endlessly rewarding. I have the privilege of working with University students who are looking to become entrepreneurs, often bringing to the table some really exciting, innovative, and delightfully preposterous ideas. Sometimes, however, they are interested in joining the entrepreneurial community and becoming a company founder, but they haven’t come up with an idea yet. For those students, my team has developed a few iterations of a Find Your Startup Idea workshop, which has been run successfully for a few years and has generated a bunch of great business ideas based on students’ skillsets, available resources, and – most importantly – passions.

However, it can be difficult to find a time that students are able to attend and to find a location that suits everyone. So, as an experiment, I decided to try to bring this workshop online: Find Your Startup Idea Workshop: Blackboard Collaborate #FCL19. At first it would have to be a synchronous session, but ultimately the hope is that this can be made interactive and accessible by any student at any time. Because sometimes you want to try to come up with a business idea at midnight on a whim, and that should be okay.

What better time to experiment with a new way of educating students than the Festival of Creative Learning? To inform my methodology I enrolled in the Institute for Academic Development’s course on Blackboard Learn, Introduction to Online Learning. My learnings from this can be reflected in the ultimately delivered workshop: using Blackboard Collaborate over other tools to deliver a synchronous session, ensuring that students feel as if it reflects a human interaction via personalising myself as a facilitator, and ensuring that students had an opportunity to co-create, personally generate, and provide feedback during and after the event.

Personalisation of event facilitator via introduction and photo

Planning the event seemed straightforward at first. This is a workshop that we have been delivering consistently, successfully, for a couple years; the content had been developed, tested, and re-built. Plus, Blackboard Collaborate is a flexible tool that allows for activities which mirror lots of the interactive, physical activities which have made this workshop effective. However, transferring these activities into Blackboard Learn and Collaborate came with some speed bumps, meaning that the project took more time than I had allotted for it and some of the grand ideas I started off with had to be shelved. Of course, when I run this session online again, all of these challenges will be translated to learnings. If I run it consistently, it will become just as second nature as running the physical workshops.

As part of the Festival of Creative Learning, we enjoyed the huge advantage of opening up this workshop to an audience which we don’t normally reach, including a number of sign-ups from outside the country. When delivering the session, I didn’t realise that one of the participants was getting a distance learning MSc and attending our session from the Caribbean. Other attendees mentioned that they don’t normally have the time to attend our in person workshops, and having it online allowed them new access. It was amazing to see learners actively collaborate on innovative business ideas, in real time, with no barriers between them.

Learners collaborating on creating a list of business ideas using tools available on Blackboard Collaborate

My intention to deliver this workshop alone without any support, as proof that it could be done with limited resources was… ambitious. I realised shortly before the session that my usage of breakout rooms, and keeping track of ideas generated while also facilitating wouldn’t be possible. Luckily two of our student ambassadors (Alison Wood and Victoria Pi) stepped in and helped me manage those breakout rooms, troubleshoot IT problems, keep track of ideas, and generally keep morale up. They were essential to making it work this first time, and as Victoria said “That went better than I thought it would!” I’ll call that a success.

My team and I in our “Mission Control” room for the online workshop

I think next time I could possibly do it myself or with one other person, and scale up the event to more learners. I’m hoping to have the chance to give this a go in the next academic year, as it was great to be able to reach out to our distance learners and others that don’t normally attend our in-person events. Many thanks to the Festival of Creative Learning for the opportunity! If you want to chat best practice about delivering this type of workshop or about how Edinburgh Innovations supports the University’s student entrepreneurs, feel free to hit me up at