Kamloops. Creativity in the Open. Out in the open. The Wilderness stretches as far as the eye can see, and there is water in the valley, snow on the distant mountains, etched clouds above, and wonderful smiles to surround us on the TRU (Thompson Rivers University) campus here in Canada. It was an opportunity to push boundaries and explore. My appetite for learning is large and this was a feast.
The convergence of beautiful surroundings, people, thought, has been magic over the past few days during the Creativity in the Open event, organised by Tanya Dorey. It has been a privilege to share so much with these people. It started as a conversation at an online meeting between academics from diverse fields – a curriculum designer, a biologist, a philosopher, and a musician. It was our ‘play-date’ where we could talk and snatch a precious few moments to know one another better than text-base interactions allow. (there’s a story connecting that meeting to the event that just happened, and that will be in the collaborative magazine Kintsugim issue coming out in about a week)
There is an inherent joy for me, in being at a place and an event where creativity is valued, welcomed, and fostered. I knew that I came bringing something that would be new for people – playing instruments and giving them the tools to make some recognisable sounds in a short space of time. Working together in different ways than the everyday desk environment provides, and using a different medium to convey creativity – sound. I would be pushing people, but there were also opportunities for people to push me. Read more
Yes you can. That’s a powerful refrain in my life, and it underpins so very very much. I had the privilege of teaching on the ‘Applied Imagination’ module at the University of Warwick yesterday. To contextualise, this class sits within Warwick’s Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) and the students come from all different departments and schools across the university- trans, inter, cross disciplinary are all big themes of the class, as well as thought, imagination, belief, and accomplishment.
It was such a special morning. I set off pre-dawn with my little care packed full of instruments, as my session would use music, but music as a metaphor. I know that people are not going to learn to be ‘musicians’ in a couple of hours, but music is so wonderful – it moves, it grooves, it makes you feel, and for so many of us it remains untouchable. I love to bring people to something that is perceived as being outside their reach. <— Hold that thought; I’ll return to it in a minute. Read more
I felt privileged to be there. Really, it was moving. You reminded us of what we do and sometimes as teachers we forget- Seeing him get it and the look on his face. When he looked at you like that, that is what it’s all about. Witnessing that learning happen was really something. -Holland Otik
What was this all about? I was invited to speak at the Hereford College of Arts 10th Annual HE Symposium to speak on ‘the value of a creative education’.
Music everywhere. Cellos everywhere. Smiles, laughter, learning, good work, new strings, new learning. It is difficult to sum up what a magnificent weekend has just happened with 25 amazing cellists: students, professionals, teachers, children, parents – so many walks of life. There was incredible generosity to support from so many different angles- from a private donor, to three string companies each supporting us with strings, one sponsoring one of the workshops, and then there were the parents and teachers. We had cello cake and cupcakes! Oh my goodness… and the teacher who sat with the youngest students throughout the whole weekend to make sure they didn’t get lost.
Have a little look into what we got up to:
The recordings are taken with my phone as rehearsals went on (you can even hear me counting in the background…) and the music over the last few photos was recorded at the concert – by me, with my phone, while conducting. It was at that moment I thought – oh drat! I could have made a good recording with the zoom recorder in my bag… the bag over there… It’s tricky to get all the planning right when you are planner, orchestrator, director, and deliverer, and if the recording was the only thing that slipped, well that’s pretty good for me.
This last piece was composed by the gal singing, and I had talked to her and said we had a cello orchestra, so why not write out a string accompaniment? She made it easy, and that was great. We did not, however, get to rehearsing it. So only a very few (the youngest members) had heard it before we performed it. The thing is, it is a lovely song – about ‘our perfect world’ and the lyrics say – I’m dreaming of our perfect world, and you’re there… come, take my hand… – It is 100% positive. When we played it, the orchestra could be relatively together and in tune, despite not having played it – and it was a lollipop at the concert, not the main works, so perfection wasn’t the aim for this one – it was about the experience. But, because it was easy, people had enough spare attention to enjoy, look around, and soak it in. I had no score, only the parts, so I was looking at the players the whole time, and something magic happened. One by one, they began to smile at me. It wasn’t everyone, but about 5 just grinned, and I thought, This, this is why we make music, why we teach, what it really means to learn.
Ok, I get sentimental, and I admit to being very optimistic and enthusiastic, and it is without apology. I was moved by those smiles, and by the support of people – parents, partners, babies (yes we really did have a 2 month old baby at the Cello Weekend), and unseen supporters (Thank you Charles!). Thank you to everyone who attended and who made this weekend possible. To the University for the use of the Chapel, to the string companies: D’Addario, Jargar, and Larsen, and to the players. You are truly amazing.
Assessment to develop Student Agency and Achievement
That was the title of my workshop at the SEDA (Staff and Educational Development Association) Conference on Assessment & Feedback and I had great fun. There were 40+ in the room and the plan was to talk to them for the first bit, presenting core ideas and a context for assessment. Then we broke into five groups, around tables and I gave them the brief to write an essay based on the information given so far…
What happened next was very interesting indeed. Everyone did something very different to what I expected. In my naive mind, I imagined that people would ‘get on with the task’ and just write an essay.
This was the beginning of a fantastic lesson for me. I know I was presenting, but I was learning. Read more
I did bring a suitcase of ukuleles to #OER16 in Edinburgh. It was as part of the BEST (Build Engage Solve Think) workshop I was running on learning networks. The workshop was based on the Open Source Learning Kit built by Mark Cabrinha. It was designed as a tactile tool that could represent the people, places, spaces, that were involved in learning, and through manipulating the pieces, and putting them together the user could create a representation of a learning network.
That sounds either very complex or really simple. Of course educators can design learning networks – we teach. But how often do you have the chance to really reflect on a big question and go through the different possible connections? Read more
I’ve had another adventure in learning and teaching… and sometimes when things are so good, it is hard to begin to put them on paper. This post is a glimpse.
I’ll call it: ‘Part 1: Of Many’
I know that my students will have to carve their places in the world of music- that there are few traditional ‘jobs’ that exist anywhere. Graduates don’t walk out of education and walk into a single full time secure job in music. Part of what I do is work to develop experiences that hold a bank of skills so that as people progress they can build their metaphorical pantry. …With shelves full of ingredients someone can make more than a PB&J sandwich in the restaurant of their musical lives. I like (and feel the need) to grow and develop my repertoire of musical skills and experiences. Read more
I’m running a day long workshop for the HEA at my uni (University of Chichester) and in the spirit of the title of the day I thought I’d include the schedule and the info I’m using/sharing with the people attending. The schedule is below – please feel free to join in. On Twitter we’re using the hashtag #HEAOpen and there will be other ways to connect as well throughout the day. You’ll find a link to my slides HERE. I’ll be tweeting links throughout the day- so follow along! I’m @laura_ritchie on Twitter.
11:00 Twitter, websites & blogs
11:45 Listening in and reaching out: An audio interview with Howard Rheingold (part 1) Read more
These are all words that, for me, are synonymous with aspects of good teaching and learning. I didn’t always use all of these in the context of ‘open’ the way I do now. Why the change? I was never against the idea, and I think I always practiced both connected learning and co-learning, but at some point I was introduced to different technological tools, techniques, and then I was encouraged. I’m a student too – always learning to teach better, differently, and part of that for me involves reaching out. I hope to be an encourager for others and perhaps to introduce a few new things…
On January 20th I have the privilege of running a workshop on ‘Embracing Open‘ at the University of Chichester for the Higher Education Academy. It is a day long event that is free to attend for anyone who is a Fellow of the HEA, and there will be points in the day where we invite anyone from around the globe to join in. We’ll be exploring aspects of blogging, Tweets, Google Hangouts, Open Source Learning and CC content, collaborative activities and how all these can be used in different everyday teaching situations across disciplines. There will be opportunities to ‘have a go’ at using all of these, and the day will be dotted with real-time connections with teachers and learners across the globe. Students will be involved too. We’ll be Tweeting with the hashtag #HEAOpen and you are more than welcome to join in! Read more
Reflections on my surprise visit to the two-day Expo at Coventry’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab. I presented a session over the lunch break on day two that truly disrupted people – we did an orchestral flash mob, and although they (mostly staff) could see the instruments arranged and on display all morning, they were completely unaware that they would be the people playing them.
Throughout the morning people became curiouser and curiouser, and watching their reactions was lovely.
As I wasn’t on the printed programme, I had a sort of secret license to not follow traditional rules – this was a conference and speakers were respectfully introduced for other sessions, but it was also in a place that was actually named a ‘Disruptive‘ Learning Lab. So when Kate Green, who was coordinating my visit began discussing how I might be announced or how to let people know what was going to happen, and I said that I would just disrupt whatever people were doing and announce that there was something happening now…. *that was fun!
I walked into meetings and said ‘excuse me, please may I disrupt you?’ (good thing I have no clue who most of the people were or I am sure I would have been daunted) I invited them all to take part – invited the IT man, the cleaner, the Deputy Dean, staff, staff’s bosses, and their bosses, and the students. See, in this session, in my flashmob, we are all in it together and it’s about working together to realise yet untapped capabilities. I don’t know who you are, and I am not going to pre-judge what you can or can’t do. My job is to give you a chance, believe in possibilities, and show you that you can believe in yourself too. I hope that came across to the people there on that bean-shaped ‘hill’.
Everyday, as teachers, we put our students in situations where we want and expect them to learn, and that means they are vulnerable- vulnerable to failure (both public, and private failure). With a clear approach that fosters achievement and supports their beliefs that they CAN do what is being presented or asked, then somehow they (and we) tend to exceed expectations. In short we learn not to get in our own way. So in this very short 45 min session, I presented a full version of a pop song that we as a group would play, gave them a whistle-stop instructional tour of the basics of holding the instruments, gave them graphic scores for the song with their parts on it (we divided into sections, like in an orchestra). They were responsible for 5 different parts, and I took the remaining two parts, with the help of my loop pedal.
We only had time for one full run through of the song, but it worked! Along the way there were some supremely good ‘failures’, which after all is what happens when we learn. Don’t get me wrong, I do NOT mean they actually failed, but in music the act of creation is something that is ‘out there’, it is sound, and unlike thoughts or even typed text, that can be kept private until polished, sound is obviously exposed. Certainly in this group setting, all of the initial workings-out and explorations were very public. Those who sat there and did it, the bosses who willingly found their notes and squeaked alongside the students and their other colleagues, they deserve a HUGE well done. It takes guts, and it was exposing and it was a risk – and the joyous thing is that they all did it with a smile. There was a sense of I CAN, and there was laughter, and they were playing – both in terms of violins, violas, and cellos, but also in terms of playfulness. It is a real privilege that I was allowed to bring that in the middle of a very nice buffet lunch.
I won’t pretend we produced a concert performance, but I thought everyone did really well, and did achieve. Afterwards I told them they were both brilliant failures and brilliant successes. I sincerely hope they understood that I meant they were great learners, they allowed themselves to be vulnerable, to learn, to co-learn, and to be open, and as a result they were able to grow and achieve.
Many thanks to Crostóbal Cobo for the short video clip and the group photos.