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

Thinking Outside the Tutorial [and the PALs room]

2019 Festival of Creative Learning, Engaging the Disengaged: Creative Facilitation in the Tutorial

by Anita Lekova

Student peer assisted learning leaders (PALs) Anita Lekova and Julia Manzo detail their work with PhD student and tutor Larissa Nenning to create a festival event centered around promoting creative learning at the University.

The idea for this event conceived on a blustery Scottish evening under the dim lights in the DHT underground cafe. The idea was simple: to have a space for peer leaders and tutors to connect over the material they share. With the innovation and drive of former PALs leader and current tutor Larissa Nenning, a dream was able to become reality.

What followed was a whirlwind of brainstorming, coffee runs, avocado toast, and marketing. An event like this was a first for all of us involved, and we were determined to make it a success. Within the University, students have access to a plethora of materials, between lectures, tutorials, and peer learning sessions. Every student learns differently, however, and we really wanted to look at alternative teaching techniques that are frequently used across SPS tutorials and PALs sessions, and offer a space to discuss best practices.

In terms of marketing, Chrystal Macmillan building became our saviour. Posters and flyers about our event were placed all across the building, including in the PhD room. Once we had opened the event sign-ups to the public, we were thrilled to see that our advertising had worked – we had a mix of tutors, lecturers, and PALs leaders all signed up.

The day before the event was spent preparing custom-made booklets for participants and arranging goodybags, which included pens and further creative facilitation resources. These included a sample lesson plan template, information on PALS schemes in SPS, the official PALS Leader toolkit, and the SALTO Youth Holistic Learning Toolkit. At 9 PM we left CMB with high hopes for the following day!

On the Day of the Event

The day began the same way any successful event does – with copious amounts of coffee and a fair scramble to get materials in order. With the room set up, and ten minutes left until participants arrived, we took a moment to reflect on our plan for the day. With the outline up on the board, and catering waiting outside, we were feeling good about the next two hours.

Pedagogical Reflections

Anita Lekova, Event Coordinator, displaying participant work on University learners

The session began with reflections on the different types of learners that exist within the University. We ran an activity where groups worked to brainstorm the different enablers and barriers to learning at University. It was a great space for people across the University to discuss some common challenges that face students, how it impacts their learning abilities, and how we can help turn barriers into enablers.

Ingredients and Recipes for Successful Facilitation

The next activity was centered around what goes into creative facilitation. We had participants shout out key features and methods which we put into a framework of ingredients and steps to a recipe. With just a hint of patience and a dash of optimism participants were able to share methods that incorporated these creative ideas into the facilitation process.

Participant reflection on recipes for creative facilitation

Session Planning

The last event we ran was on practical application of facilitation techniques in session planning. First, we had participants brainstorm common problems that they face in their sessions – for example, students being rowdy or underprepared. They then had to create a lesson plan that actively took these problems into account.

Groups then shared their plans and got feedback from everyone in the room. It was really interesting to see how different people came up with a variety of different, and creative, ways of both presenting material and engaging students. For example, one group had the problem that sessions had low attendance, and the students that did attend were shy. The group had the idea to have each student create a diagram where they would write down what they know about a topic, and then pass to the next student. Each student would add to the paper, and the last student to add would present the final result to the group. This alleviates the stress of speaking as students can get their ideas out on paper, while still being able to work as a group and see what the other students think.


The session ended with some general discussion in the group on what their plans had entailed, and also some enlightening conversation on feedback methods. One participant recommended centering the session around a common question that would be raised at the beginning of the session, and then answering the question at the end. Another shared that she asked her tutorials a different feedback question each week, which we thought was a brilliant way of getting comprehensive feedback without overwhelming students. 

In the spirit of this conversation, we then had to ask participants for feedback specifically on our session. We included feedback sheets in the goodie bags that we handed out at the beginning of the session.

In general people thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to discuss different creative learning techniques and flesh out common problems with the other participants. Many also responded that they now knew more about PALs schemes within the School of Social and Political Science, and it was lovely to hear that the collaboration was appreciated.

To the Future and Beyond

One of the largest parts of feedback we received was on the section of our questionnaire that asked recipients if they wanted to have more events like this in the future. The answer was a resounding yes! In the future we would love to run repeat or follow-up events centered around charing facilitation techniques at the University. We are working with PhD Training to see if facilitation can be required (and paid!) training. Additionally, we would like to continue to harmonize the different teaching resources across SPS, including fostering further open communication and sharing between PALs leaders and University staff.

There is so much talent at this University, and there is so much that we can learn from each other, and that is why we think this event was not only a success, but also a sign of a bright future for University teaching techniques.

Dancing wallpaper patterns: the beautiful mathematics of tango

Dancing Wallpaper Patterns: 2019 Festival of Creative Learning

by Imogen Morris

 I started dancing Argentine tango 2 years ago, when I began my PhD on the formalisation of mathematical proofs. At first, I thought tango was just going to be a relaxing change from the intense alternation of frustration and eureka! that my PhD research involved. But I began to realise that logic, symmetry, permutations and topology weren’t just concepts that I was thinking about when sitting at my desk. I was also thinking about them, in a kinetic way, an intuitive way, an alive way, when dancing tango! I was also surprised to find that over half of my fellow tangueras were studying maths, engineering, informatics or some kind of maths-heavy science. Mathematics permeates tango, and especially the kind of mathematics which deals with infinite 2 dimensional symmetries named wallpaper patterns.

This workshop on dancing wallpaper patterns for the Festival of Creative Learning was designed to share some of the discoveries of the connections between mathematics and tango which we have worked out. It was also designed to help the people who attended find their own connections, by drawing and dancing their own symmetric patterns. Here, I’d like to share with you some of the wallpaper patterns they created and explain a little of the maths behind them, as well as how you can dance tango on them!

 All wallpaper patterns are made out of four kinds of symmetries: translations, reflections, rotations and miracles. Each of these symmetries is embodied by a tango step. In tango, you always stand on one foot. That means we can easily represent reflection by changing the foot you are standing on. I am sure you can work out steps that represent translations and rotations. You are probably wondering ‘what are miracles?’. In fact, they are the easiest to understand in terms of tango! They are just a step forward. When you step forward, you change the foot you were standing on. That means a reflection happened. But you have also moved forwards. So a miracle is a reflection plus a translation.

Wallpapers from the FCL Workshop

In this wallpaper the thin blue lines are lines of reflection and the pinwheel designs are rotation points that have 4 separate rotations around them. These are the symmetries that describe the design, but the wallpaper also has miracles and translational symmetries. You can dance the miracles by simply walking along one of the blue lines of reflection.

On this wallpaper, there are three types of points where three reflection lines meet. There is one with dots around it, one with snakes emanating from it and one with curls around (these are always at the edge). If you look closely, you can see all the points where three lines meet are one of these three kinds. The people who designed this wallpaper were more interested in the symmetries of the shapes than the colours: so if you take into account the colours, not many symmetries are left!

This wallpaper is also entirely made of reflections, however the lines of reflection meet in fours or pairs. Most wallpaper patterns that you see around you will be made of only reflections, if they are not simply translations. Far fewer have rotations. I believe there is something about reflectional symmetries that are more pleasing to the human eye. In fact, even our faces and bodies have reflectional symmetry, but no rotational symmetry. In tango, every single step you take includes a reflection, because you change the foot you are standing on. Rotations are only made out of sequences of steps. So tango is an inherently reflectional dance, and this wallpaper reflects that!

 Now that you have seen these examples, why not have a go of making your own danceable wallpaper pattern? And if you want to learn the tango steps to go with it, you are welcome at the Edinburgh University Tango Society!

Just visit our Facebook page or our calendar at

to find a class to come along to.

The Life of an Event

A book event in 8 steps, featuring ‘The Life of a Book: with 404 Ink and Chris McQueer

Written by Kirsten Knight

Much in the way that a book can require months of writing and production to produce a living, breathing novel, events are also a painstaking process which mercilessly drain morale and resources. I’m kidding, I promise. Putting an event together is an absolute joy. The aim of the enterprise is to gather a group of like-minded (in this case, lovely and bookish) people together, and entertain, inform, perhaps even enthral them. In this wee piece, I will outline the process of creating an event using the framework of our recent event ‘The Life of a Book’. I hope that it entertains, informs, and perhaps even enthrals you.

The Life of a Book Event - people at the event

The Idea

Who is your audience and what do they want to see? These are the most important considerations to make and will ensure that anyone who comes along will have a grand old time. For ‘The Life of a Book’, we wanted to give our members the chance to hear from real-life industry professionals, giving an accessible overview of the process of bringing a book to life. From there, the decision to have a publisher and their author was a no-brainer, to specifically have 404 Ink and Chris McQueer even more so. Choose the people who are at the heart of the concept you want to put on stage.

Find Some Funding

There is so much funding available for events run by very determined people! Especially if you are a university society, like us. Knowing that this event was going to have more costs than our usual ‘pens and paper for the writing workshop’, we scoured the Student’s Association website for a fund to suit us. We found out that our event could be part of the Festival of Creative Learning, and through our enthusiasm and a clear plan, we secured enough funding to bring our wonderful speakers to the stage. Thank you FCL! (A shout out to your sponsors never hurts).

The Life of a Book - Panel

Contacting Speakers

You are the politely worded email, the politely worded email is you. In our case, we were contacting experts who we had a fairly distant connection with, so professionalism and enthusiasm were key. In much the same vein as emailing to ask for a job or internship: find out the name of the person you are emailing, be clear and give them as much information as possible (the date, the event outline, what you will pay them, etc.), show a genuine interest in what they do (you obviously have one!), and tell them a bit about your organisation and what your members will get from the event. If people know that you would value their contribution, they will be a whole lot more likely to say yes.


This one can be tricky. The best way to go about things is to figure out exactly what you want and find somewhere that caters for your requirements. We needed a stage, four microphones, and seating for around 80 people. A bit of Googling showed that the Pleasance Cabaret Bar had all of those things, so there we were! It’s good to be looking into the venue at least 2 months before the event, just to save yourself running around town like a headless chicken and eventually trying to squeeze 60 people into the corner of St. Andrews Brewing Co. Not that we would know.


Pester your designer friend to make you a fancy banner for your event and you are off! Alternatively, pay a professional designer, or wap out Paint and give it a go yourself. We shared ‘The Life of a Book’ fairly relentlessly through our newsletter, Facebook and Twitter, increasing the frequency of the posts in the lead up to the event to drum up a bit of excitement. Getting wee bios and pictures from your speakers/performers is a great way to put some variety in what you’re posting, and always remember to tag them – they might even share the post so you can reach a wider audience!


Make sure to keep your speakers/performers updated in the run up to your event – the last thing you want is them panicking, because then you’ll panic, and then everyone will be panicking and no one wants that. We made sure to send over updates on the content of the event, venue confirmations, information about invoicing us and any other relevant details. Keeping it cheery is always a good shout – you’re excited about the event and they should know that!

Running the Event

This is (hopefully) the easy bit. You’ve already planned it, after all! Get to the venue ridiculously early because twiddling your thumbs is always better than sprinting around like mad people (again, not that we would know). Welcome your speakers, check in with them, get them a glass of water… or perhaps a double gin and tonic, depending on the evening. Then nervously wait for that ‘2 minutes before start time’ rush of attendees, and you are good to go! At ‘The Life of a Book’, this was the point where the committee was able to sit back, relax, and watch our wonderful speakers do their thing.

The Aftermath

Be sure to thank everyone! Thank your speakers, your fellow organisers, the attendees, the bar staff, the tech guy, the person who accidentally wandered in and quickly ran back out – no person shall go unthanked! And gather feedback; a concise Google form does wonders for letting you know what your audience enjoyed, and what they’d like to see. Follow up on all the last wee things with your speakers and venue – i.e. payment, and more thank yous! Then get prepping for your next event, because chances are it’s only a couple of weeks away and you need to get sprinting (we would know).

The Life of a Book - Committee Group Photo

Reading the Newspaper like a Mathematician

FCL 2019

Imogen I. Morris

“It’s time to let the secret out: Mathematics is not primarily a matter of plugging numbers into formulas and performing rote computations. It is a way of thinking and questioning that may be unfamiliar to many of us, but is available to almost all of us.”

From ‘A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper’ by John Allen Paulos
Slide: The Daily News, A mathematician read a newspaper!

Newspapers and online articles are filled with an attractive, addictive jumble of gossip, headlines, statistics, quotes, tips, life-changing news and celebrities. How do we sort this mess into fact, fiction, or, as I suspect forms the majority, somewhat meaningful half-truths? Making this task harder, is our innate wishful-thinking. As humans, we find it hard to look past our emotions and biases to evaluate articles and arguments in a rational objective way. This is where maths, particularly logic and statistics, can help us. And contrary to common belief, this doesn’t mean we need big calculations, abstraction from reality or number-crunching. Rather, we need to creatively imagine alternative scenarios to encourage a healthy skepticism; we need to puzzle-out mind-boggling statistical paradoxes and we need to use rational-thinking to find a clear path through an otherwise misleading and overcrowded junk-heap of ‘facts’.

 In our workshop for the Festival of Creative Learning 2019, we applied a few simple concepts to analyse a selection of print articles and online articles on current news topics. One of the most useful concepts was the difference between good arguments, which are merely those which are reasonable, and valid arguments, which are those that if you believe the assumptions, you have to believe the conclusion. We are more likely to believe an argument is valid if we believe the assumptions and the conclusion. Can you spot which of the following arguments is valid? 

  1. Tidying our houses means that our possessions are easy to find. Therefore tidying our houses makes us feel better.
  2. Cannibalism is a personal and acceptable choice although it causes harm to people. Therefore it is okay to inflict harm on people.

In the workshop, attendees chose to analyse a varied range of article topics from various sources. The body language of Shamima Begum, the health benefits of pomegranates, a rise in Chinese applications to Scottish universities, antibiotic resistance and a politically-charged article on the SNP investment plan are just a few. Almost universally, we found that the articles appealed to unnamed ‘experts’ for facts, unnamed ‘studies’ for statistics and unnamed ‘critics’ for opinions. Emotionally-charged language such as ‘back-of-a-fag-packet’ or ‘massive ego’ abounded and so did unexplained sciencey-buzzwords e.g. ‘phytochemicals’. The domains of statistics were unspecified. Apparently ‘a quarter of Chinese applications are to Scottish universities’. Is that likely? We believe the author meant ‘out of those to UK universities’. Arguments were never out of a logic textbook, but reconstructing implicit premises and reasoning, we found many that were reasonable. However, particularly the politically charged articles tended to be one-sided, presenting mostly arguments from one side.

Why not have a go at analysing a news article yourself? Here are some tips for conducting a logical and statistics-savvy investigation. Compare your analysis with the way you normally read an article. Do you find that you see flaws in statements that you would usually take on trust?

  • Try to determine the thesis of the article. What are the author’s conclusions? What is being argued for and against?
  • Is this intended to be one person’s opinion or as an objective news article? Has it been clearly labelled as opinion or fact?
  • Search out emotive language. Is it helpful in understanding the feelings of other people, or is it exaggerated and manipulative?
  • Look for counterexamples to every conclusion drawn. If they are outlandish, the conclusion is probably reasonable.
  • Work out the underlying reasoning behind arguments. Once you have found what you think is the general structure, think again whether the argument is reasonable.
  • Look for some reference for every fact (e.g. to a study, expert, book) and evaluate the quality of the reference.
  • Do the statistics make sense? Is the value expected or surprising? Sometimes a news article can present the statistic in different ways to make it seem big or small. For example, they could say ‘1000 people in the UK get disease X every year’ which seems like a lot. Or they could say ‘the chances of anyone getting disease X are 0.0015%’ which seems unbelievably small. But in fact, they are equivalent statements! So think of alternative presentations of the statistic before you decide it is large or small.
  • Are there any implicit assumptions, including stereotypes or assumptions based on our culture?
  • Is the article balanced and fair? Would anyone feel offended by what the article says?
  • Is the headline relatively accurate compared to the actual content of the article?
  • If there are any photographs, visuals and graphs, do they contradict the content of the article? Are they emotive or do they mislead? Have they been accurately labelled and explained?

If you would like to explore this topic further, here are some of the resources I found inspiring when putting this workshop together.


‘A mathematician reads the newspaper’ by John Allen Paulos

‘Logic’ by Wilfred Hodges


Some interesting resources on using argument technology to analyse an ethical debate:

Collections of spurious correllations:

Guide to logical fallacies with examples of politicians making those fallacies:

BBC podcast on spotting statistical fallacies in the news and understanding statistics in our lives:

Looking Back at The Dissection of Medical Dramas

The Dissection of Medical Dramas was a fun and interactive workshop that used role-play and popular television medical dramas, such as Grey’s Anatomy, Chicago MED and Scrubs to identify and discuss ethical issues that arise in the medical context. It aimed to enhance the audience’s understanding of the issues.

Dissection of Medical Dramas Poster

The workshop covered various issues, such as:

  • The four governing principles in medical ethics
  • Consent
    • Explicit and implied consent
    • Consent and refusal of consent
    • Informed and valid consent
  • Rights of refusal in relation to competent adult patients
  • Rights of refusal in relation to women in late pregnancy
    • Limits to autonomy in pregnant women
  • Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) Orders
  • Advance Directives/Decisions
  • Children
    • Mature Minors and Gillick Competency
    • Parental refusal
    • Best Interests
  • Mental Capacity
Dissection of Medical Dramas Slide

The audience members were very engaged during the discussion of these matters and raised some extremely relevant and interesting questions, allowing for reflection and consideration of some controversial, topical and emotive issues. Most audience members participated and we had some illuminating discussions as a result of the questions raised by the audience members. This was extremely rewarding and added to the overall value of the experience.

Photo of attendees at Dissection of Medical Dramas

The feedback we received from the audience on our event was very positive. All of the audience members who provided feedback said that they would recommend the event to others and that they learnt something new. Almost all of them said that they found the event to be very useful. Upon reflection of the event, we felt like we would need to better manage our time should we run our event again in the future as we were unable to cover the role-play segment on the day. We had an unexpected, yet welcome, enthusiastic and highly engaged audience that raised several questions and issues after each clip. It was more important to have audience engagement than cover everything we had planned, however, in future we aim to better prepare for this so the audience gets to experience both segments, while ensuring that they can still be actively engaged.

Furthermore, the event might have benefited from a different room as the lighting, which would not turn off, reduced the quality of the images and video clips we showed.  The room boasted terrific views of the coast line and the Firth of Forth, but unfortunately the window blinds had to be drawn.  Another feature that could be considered should we run the event in the future would be acquiring a smaller, more intimate space as this one was quite big, making the number of audience members look smaller.  Some people mentioned that the room itself was not the easiest to find and possibly a more easily accessible room would increase numbers.

This experience has nevertheless been amazing and certainly highly rewarding. The event has had a great impact as shown by the positive feedback we received and we have also been approached by members of staff to discuss our event with the purpose of sharing it with others.

Zahra Jaffer and Lynn Kennedy

LLC Blethers

Image of Veronica Vivi, this year's LLC Blethers Lead Organiser
Veronica Vivi is this year’s LLC Blethers Lead Organiser

LLC Blethers has once again been part of the Festival of Creative Learning and it has been a success! Looking back at the months of organising and planning that preceded the event, I can say that LLC Blethers was a team effort and that the hard work paid off. 

LLC Blethers is an evening of a series of lightning talks, where presenters support their presentation with 20 slides each lasting 20 seconds. The format requires fast talking, confident presentation skills, good timing and the ability to engage with the public while delivering more or less complex and academic topics. The series of talks is then evaluated by a jury formed by Edinburgh University staff and/or members who will decide the overall best presentation and will also award different prizes for other categories (such as ‘best use of the format’, ‘most creative’, and so on). This year we had the pleasure to be joined by Michelle Keown, Alan Binnie, Miriam Gamble and Niki Holzapfel. 

The event took place at The Counting House as we always strive to organise the event at an informal venue to promote students and staff to mingle in a context outside university which fosters communication and interpersonal relations. 

The plethora of presenters who joined us this year and which were selected through a Call for Presentations earlier in January were from the Postgraduate community in LLC and they all did a superb job at crafting and presenting their talks. We had the chance to display a variety of interests and academic research, from table-top role-playing games about climate change, to a feminist overview on banning the Disney princesses, to how to make a movie on a micro-budget. 

No less importantly, the event would not have been the same without the support of local businesses who kindly offered prizes and vouchers for the winning presentations. 

You can find more about LLC Blethers at

Creative Learning in Anatomy

facial muscles workshop photo
Facial muscles made from wax on plastic skulls, How Do We Make Facial Expressions?

I am a Teaching Fellow in Anatomy and a freelance Medical Illustrator with a passion for the enhancement of anatomy education through the use of art and technology. Anatomy is a visual subject; one which students must be hands-on with to allow for them to understand the three-dimensional composition of the body. The use of creative learning techniques compliments anatomy education extremely well as it allows students to recreate the anatomy through different materials. I am interested in the different resources we can create for students outside the anatomy lab to aid in their learning, but also the resources we can offer to people with an interest in human anatomy, so what could be a better place than the Festival of Creative Learning?

As part of the Festival of Creative Learning I organised two arts-based workshops, with the help of my colleagues, focusing on different areas of the body; How Do We Make Facial Expressions? and Art-Beat: Art and Anatomy Presents Clay Hearts. Both workshops were hands-on creating the anatomy from either wax or clay, to build up a three-dimensional representation of the muscles of facial expression or the structure of the heart.

Clay Hearts

Anatomical clay hearts, Art-Beat: Art and Anatomy Presents Clay Hearts

The workshops were open to anyone with an interest in human anatomy and trying new creative ways of learning. Both workshops had to accommodate for the varying levels of anatomical knowledge to allow for everyone to understand and also to enjoy the information they were learning. Therefore for both workshops I used a presentation to display images and anatomical terminology to help guide the attendees through the anatomy.

The goal of the workshops was for the attendees to feel that they had learnt something new by the end of the workshop, whether that be anatomical information or a new artistic skill. The great thing about using art as a learning resource is that it can make your mind focus on the task of creating something, and help you relax from our busy everyday lives. This kind of learning technique also allows for us to create an end product, which can be taken home and admired, such as the clay hearts, or photos taken to show everyone your creation, like the muscles of facial expression sculptures.

Both workshops received positive feedback, which I was extremely pleased about, not only as it showed people enjoyed the workshops, but also because the comments showed that people left feeling like that had learnt something new. The words used to describe the workshops were brilliant; therapeutic, fun, innovative and relaxing, to name a few! The Festival of Creative Learning was an excellent place to try out these new ideas, and I would highly recommend the festival to anyone who wants to try out a new idea!

To find out more about ArtBeat: Art & Anatomy Edinburgh, a group running art-based anatomy workshops at the University of Edinburgh, follow us on Twitter @ArtbeatEd and on Facebook @artbeatedinburgh. You can also keep up-to-date with anatomy events on the Anatomy@Edinburgh website; or follow us on Twitter @AnatomyatEd.

Thanks for reading and I hope this inspires more people to think about using art to learn more about the human body!

Victoria McCulloch

Sharing Stories From #FCL18

by Mihaela Bodlovic

It is seven weeks today since the curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning (19th – 23rd February) started and we are already well along with planning for the 2019 Festival. Jennifer and I are still processing the feedback and evaluations from the week and aiming to refine our processes and resources over the summer, but early indications suggest it was a great success! Compared to last year when we spent a whole week in ‘Festival Decompression’, locked away in a quiet room getting our heads round our first year at the helm, this year we only spent a half day planning our summer work priorities, suggesting we have now found our feet.

One of the creative outputs we commissioned for this year was a new Festival Film, expertly crafted by Archie Crofton. We are absolutely delighted with the result and strongly encourage you to watch and share widely as a celebration of one of many great initiatives at the University of Edinburgh. The full film is available on Mediahopper. Alongside the film, we also invested in a full portfolio of photos from many events, captured by expert photographer Mihaela Bodlovic. A selection of these photos have or will be shared on our social media channels over the coming weeks. View the first album of day one on our Facebook page.

 Organiser Stories

It is always a pleasure to read the stories that appear in various creative formats from our Event Organisers. Some of them will be sharing with you directly over the coming months via this blog, so stay tuned. Below are some examples of records that are available for your reading pleasure, providing an insight into some of the events and activities that took place during the week.

Finally, in our organiser survey this year one of the questions was ‘If you were to tell a friend about what your most memorable experience was over the course of preparing for and delivering your event, what would it be?’ These are some of my personal favourites:

  • Running around University campus carrying ice-cream mix, dry-ice and a large stand mixer.
  • The event itself and the pleasant interaction with people, those who attended our event really were passionate about the topic, and that was great to see.
  • The creation and strengthening of the community.
  • It is very refreshing to be involved in academic dynamism and get to know people from different backgrounds.


Monitor our website for pop-up events taking place during the rest of the year.

The best souvenir from Edinburgh


I read somewhere that words and ideas are big stones in a river. Jumping from one to another you can get to the other side. However, if you always jump on the same ones, you always end up at the same point. The edge of the river is long and there are lots of different flowers.

On February 16th, at 10 pm, I arrived in Edinburgh to attend The Festival of Creative Learning. Pulling my bags on the steep streets, the only noise in the city was the little wheels of my luggage. Cloc cloc cloc. All the rest was quiet and beautiful and magnificent.

I am currently working as the Communications and Outreach Technician at the Institut de Neurociències of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (INc-UAB). My tasks include, among others, designing activities to share with the general public what researchers do, and helping to establish a dialogue between scientists and society, for a better and more responsible research.

I usually look on the internet to find out what is going on in Science Communication and Public Engagement in other institutions, to find inspiration to do my job. That is how I discovered the Festival, which seemed an amazing initiative to me. I contacted Jennifer Williams, Festival Coordinator, and she told me they were open to receive my visit. Thanks to an Erasmus grant and all the help Lucy Ridley, Festival Administrator, Natalie Poyser, Senior Admin Officer – Business Operations, and Jennifer gave me, there I was, ready for new ideas!

By ‘new ideas’ I mean two different things. On one hand, they are different solutions to a challenge, using tools that are not the usual ones. It is an excellent new idea to explain what rubisco does through a virtual reality game in which you are the enzyme and have to capture carbon dioxide to convert it into sugar. It must be what creative means. The Festival was full of creative ideas that made me want to know more about the world.


On the other hand, a ‘new idea’ is a new thought that opens a fresh perspective on a thing that you already knew. Like when you suddenly understand the lyrics of a song you sang when you were a child. It is impossible to return to the previous point anymore, as your perception is changed forever. This should be what learning means. I learned a lot at the Festival, about all sorts of things: minerals, language, folklore, plants, poetry, witches…

I am so grateful to the Institute for the Academic Development for giving me the chance to attend the Festival. I would especially like to thank Natalie for all the paperwork, and Jennifer and Lucy for organizing everything. I could feel all the energy and love they put on the Festival, and I think that is one of the reasons that make the project great. I would also like to thank the people I had meetings with, who shared their brilliant work with me: Dr. Jane Haley, Dr. Heather Rea, Dr. James Howie, Colin Sanderson and Stuart Dunbar. Talking to all of them was very, very interesting for me.

I came back home full of vitality and happiness. Everybody had been so generous with me and had put so many new stones in my river- the best souvenir I could ever bring home. Now it is time to explore the edge and smell all these beautiful flowers.

Roser Bastida Barau