To list or not to list? #creativeHE

glenn-carstens-peters-190592(Image: Unsplash)

I fear I may I may have inadvertently started #listgate during last nights’  #creativeHE and #LHTEchat  tweet chat around creativity and assessment.

In answer to the question  what would be at the top of your being more creative list and why?”  I responded somewhat flippantly “first rule of my creativity is no lists”

Now this provoked a few tweets such this and and this

What I then said was that lists generally are made up of things I need to do – not want to do. In the context of creativity and the conversations last night, that’s how I felt. If I am feeling creative I just do “stuff” –  I tend not to need a list. At other times I do need lists, in fact I like lists, well maybe I like making lists and then actually don’t use them and end up recreating them. . .

Anyway, back to creativity. I’m not sure you can checklist creativity . . . you could have all the elements from a list, but that still might not give you the spark of inspiration.  I could be wrong. . . I might have to make a list of the reasons why  . . . what do you think?

Getting #creativeHE

If you need a bit of inspiration this week then you should check out the #creativeHE google+ community. A week of activities to stimulate discussion, sharing and production of creative learning and teaching ideas.  I signed up for the last iteration of the event earlier this year, but didn’t quite manage to participate, however yesterday lunchtime I dropped into the google+ community and I’m glad I did.

I think creativity can be quite a scary word for many.  It has so many connotations, and an awful lot of associations with visual outputs. As I was exploring some of the selected resources yesterday, and admiring some of the creative works already being shared, one word kept coming to mind – care. To be creative you have to care.  You have to care about the process of creativity – not just the end product (sledgehammer analogy with learning and assessment, I know)

Anyway,  today’s theme is around play and games.  One of the suggested activities is to think of game you enjoyed as a child and think about how you could re-purpose it for a teaching context. I find this very difficult. I’ve never been much of a game person, still don’t know how to play chess, or WoW, or any other game really. I have to confess to a bit of candy crush habit that I’m managing in my own way – I don’t actually have to play it everyday, but it seems to help.

Maybe I have been a victim of too much enforced corporate fun.  This episode of A Point of View from Will Self, “The fun of work – really?” captured many of my feelings in the insightful, laconic way that Self brings to everything. I was also fascinated by this report of research into creativity that showed that attempts to force creativity might actually have just the opposite effect.

There are of course many ways to introduce fun into all of our lives,  one simple thing we can do is just change our location and go outside (weather permitting). It’s actually sunny in Glasgow today so that’s why that came to mind.  Just wondering if I dare suggest going outside my meeting this afternoon . . .



My connect: disconnect stuggles

(photo via Unsplash)

Donna Lanclos has just written a thought provoking post based on the recent Future Happens event.  In the post she focuses on the discussion around the hopes/fears of the participants around social media.

There was a thread that worried that social media use and presence would facilitate disconnection of students, from the same list of people and places–from each other, from their teachers, from their communities.  And from themselves–a sense that engaging with social media can be inherently alienating from one’s self, that one can be lost, that the authentic self (whatever that means) can become subsumed in the surfaces of social media performance

But as Donna rightfully highlights,  connections “are modes that shift, with priorities and practices.

I was particularly struck by one of the questions Donna poses in the blog

“What is the utility of disconnection, of being aware of practices and places elsewhere, but leaving them alone?”

It really resonated with me and how I’ve been reflecting on my work, my networks and connections, particularly over this year.

In my professional life I am pretty connected via social media. My use of it has evolved over the years and I have no doubt, will continue to do so. For me the positive benefits still outweigh the negative ones.

However I am not a slave to my twitter (or any other social media) stream. I still enjoy the (apparent) serendipity of finding things (like Donna’s post). I’ve never taken a deliberate break from twitter. To be honest I’ve always found it quite odd that some people seem to feel the need to publicise that they are doing so. But there are times when I do disconnect.  I’m not overly concerned about missing out on anything, as I believe that if anything is really important to me I’ll find out about it somehow, some way, some day.

I’ve recently had my the first part of my annual performance review.  In terms of some of my outputs, it could be argued that I have a greater connection with my external community that I do with my internal, institutional one. Should I be worried about potential perceptions of  “oh, she’s just always on twitter, swanning off to conferences, blogging”? Should that make me disconnect?

To quote Donna again

When people are connected to one group, does it come at the expense of connection to another?   Is connection a zero-sum game?

I don’t think so, but how I balance value judgements that could be made around my apparent internal/external/connection/disconnection is something I am always acutely aware of.  I think that my external connections and sharing actually only enhance my ability to do my job.  At times my external  connections and the support I derive from them is what actually keeps me going.

When I “swan off” I am pretty much always talking about what happens here what I/ we do.  I interact in digital/social media spaces as that’s an integral part of my role, of how I extend my knowledge, how I understand and contextualise the potential for many things, how I can support others to do the same in their context.  It’s a fundamental part of my professional identity.  How can I authentically support anyone in the use of digital technology if I don’t interact with it. How can give meaningful advice and support around developing digital capabilities if I don’t actively engage and reflect on my own interactions?

From the one conference I’ve swanned off to this year, (oer17) the notion of open hospitality has really resonated with me. I like to believe that all successful educators provide hospitable learning spaces be that physical and/or digital. We need to extend that notion of hospitality as much as we can, so that if we do use social media with our students as part of the formal curriculum we have helped them as much as possible to be comfortable in that space; that we engage with them in those spaces, that we support them in appropriate ways; that we point out (based on our own experiences) some of the challenges they may encounter. That we remind them it is us, humans, who are the trolls, the bullies.  And equally that we share some the positive experiences of social media. Share our stories of how it has allowed us to share, to connect, to extend and share knowledge, to have fun.

What does worry me, particularly just now, is that it is easier to disconnect than to connect. It is easier to use the negative arguments around social media to justify disconnection or non-connection. Like others I worry about how social networks are being controlled, closing down, manipulating us and our data, but I worry more about how else I would be able to connect in such a meaningful way.  We can control, subvert the system because ultimately  it’s what we do with our connections  that really matter.

Today's post is brought to you by the letter P – more leaking from the #porous uni

I guess when you have a title like “The Porous University” you are probably inviting a bit a alliteration at some point.  A number of big words infused through the conversations and twitter back channel from the #porousuni event earlier this week.

In addition to permeability (shout out to Alan Levine again bringing this to the table), praxis (which makes me think of Catherine Cronin’s research) and pedagogy, I was introduced to new P word –  paragogy (thanks to Neil Mulholland, Edinburgh College of Art).

From a quick google search I got this definition:

Paragogy is a theory of peer learning which endeavors to both describe the phenomenon of effective peer learning, and to prescribe key aspects of its best practice.”

and an open book on Paragogy by Corneli and Danoff  which I’m exploring just now, and have discovered that paralogy means production in Greek.

Maybe we really are moving across the alphabet in open, with less Cs and more Ps.

What can you bring to the open table? Some initial thoughts from the #porusuni

I’ve spent the last two days in Inverness at the Porous University Symposium. This was a relatively and deliberately small event, with about 35 people in the room. The event wasn’t exactly an un-conference but it was very much structured around discussion and debate.  Provocations were invited to stimulate discussions and then in smaller breakout groups we discussed and shared our reactions to provocations and attempted to create responses to them.

I am still processing the many discussions that I participated in, but there were a couple of overriding themes that I want to highlight, which follow on from many of the discussions I have been having pre and post the OER17 conference around open practice and open hospitality.

Unsurprisingly many of the provocations at the event highlighted the uncertainty, fear, demoralisation that many of us who work in education (and indeed in other parts of society) are experiencing just now.  Increasing managerialism, neoliberalism, the rise and acceptance of alternative facts.  . . . what Richard Hall neatly described as the challenge between “the pessimism of the intellect versus the optimism of the will”.

We spent quite a lot of time discussing the nature of our Higher Education Institutions, what is their role, their wider place within society? What does a University do? How does/can “open” impact on that role, that potential of exchange of ideas within and beyond our spaces?  Lots of chin stroking, deep thoughts, and critical concepts were flying around the room.

This was great, but, and yes there has to be a but. It was all at a very high level. There were lots of very clever people in the room. To misquote from Forrest Gump ‘“clever is as clever does”.

Whilst on the one hand  I appreciate and support the need for criticality, there is also the need (more pressing than ever just now) to be able to distill our critique into something that is clear and understandable to those not in ’the academy’.  Our choice and use of language can actually close off our conversations around openness to those we ultimately presume can benefit from open education.

This event was specifically targeted at University level so there was an inherent bias and exclusivity about it. However, we were really fortunate to Alex Dunedin from the Ragged University attending.

Alex is one of those extraordinary people who just “does it” and is a truly open by default human. He doesn’t do anything for the money, because it’s in his job description, because it’s the “cool” thing, he does it because he really cares. He is an embodiment of the self as OER.   He finds places, spaces, people with ideas, people with problems and brings them together.  You can hear more from Alex in this recording of the Virtually Connecting session from the event.

‘The Ragged University project is about learning from all the traditions of free education and making them live through practice . . .The Ragged project operates in informal spaces. The spaces we are interested in are known as ‘third places’ which belong to everyone and are those which foster relaxed atmospheres. These non-institutional spaces are needed to generate certain types of dynamic between people which allow us to comfortably share what we know on our own terms.”

I *think* that I am a pretty hospital person, but its only recently that I have discovered the work of Kate Bowles around the concept in education. Being a bit Winnie the Pooh like at time ( a bear of little brain), I hadn’t quite put the two things together.  It is something that I am committed to continue to work on.

I loved Alex’s simple messages of bring education back to hospitality, find a space and just asking people to “bring something to the table”.  You might start with just one dish, but by the end you have a full table and a feast.

Although there was a lot of talking over the two days, there was a consensus that we wanted have “something” at the end of the event to share. (All the provocations, videos, and other ‘stuff’ from the event will be available over the next few days). At the end of the first day there was talk about a manifesto. However as day two unfolded the conversations turned from the high level institutional issues to the personal, pragmatic, practice ones. I may have had a small hand in that, and have to thank Alan Levine again for his explanation of porous and permeable.

I always feel that although I can’t make a huge difference in my institution I can do small things that can start to help model changes in practice of others. One of the reasons I am drawn to open communities and other open practitioners is that it is a way for me to explore, share, have fun outwith my institutional context. Being part of the open education community, fills me with inspiration, joy, hope and hospitality.

I have been trying to think of a simple way to express and share some of the ideas from the  two days. I’m still working on it but for now, based on some of the feedback from one of the group discussions about the elements of open practice, I am thinking about the open table and what we need to add to it.  What would you bring?

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What does open mean beyond releasing content? #porousuni

I’m really looking forward to the Porous University Symposium being held at UHI, Inverness next week.  The event is fundamentally an opportunity to create some space to create/extend conversations around open-ness.   There are no formal presentations or papers instead:

the symposium will be structured around a number of short provocations that address specific questions or issues, followed by break-out discussion and opportunities to further explore and synthesise the thinking that emerges.

In the spirit of open-ness here is my provocation. It’s much more about stimulating and continuing an already rich dialogue. Please feel free to add any of your thoughts in the comments and will incorporate them into the discussion, or tweet using #porousuni.

What does open mean beyond releasing content?

This blog post from Alan Levine gives a helpful definition of the differences between porosity and permeability.

when you say porosity it really means just the volumetric measure of open space. If you want a metaphor, maybe this is measure of “openness” in terms of 5Rs.

But when you say permeability you are talking about the ease of moving something through that space, and while the amount of space is a factor, others influence whether that can happen. Specifically that could mean if the spaces are well interconnected, like pathways, like networks? Maybe that is practice or pedagogy?

So in terms of the porous university maybe we need to be focusing on the permeability of people (staff, students, the wider community) and the ways we navigate through university spaces, both physical and digital.

So what does open porosity actually look like in practice? Is it about formal (licensed) open content and infrastructures or is it human processes, practice and connections?

During April there has been quite a wide-ranging debate on the definition of open pedagogy facilitated through the Year of Open. Should it be defined and aligned only to the 5Rs of retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute? Does using the term pedagogy actual create more exclusion? Is open practice far more permeable, inclusive and powerful?

In these challenging times open has to mean more than content it has to be building and sustaining open networks and connections. However, is an obsession with licensed content, our academic discourse(s), our research outputs actually narrowing the opportunities for open education outwith the academy?

Recommended viewing/reading.