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.
Projects & Engagement Coordinator, Institute for Academic Development
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.
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
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.