New Wordpress Blog
We’re Andy Todd and Andrew Kirk and we’re IT Trainers from the Digital Skills and Training team, Information Services. We design, develop and deliver IT and digital skills training events and materials for staff and students across the University. Our team also runs the University’s Lynda.com service, which provides staff and students 24/7 access to a free library of 250,000+ HD videos tutorials in IT, digital, business and creative skills – delivered by industry experts.
Having previously attended (and enjoyed) Festival of Creative Learning events ourselves, we were inspired to develop and run our own event for this fantastic festival.
Our two, two hour events, ‘Learning and Teaching with Lynda.com’ introduced attendees to the Lynda.com service, showing them how easily the service could be used to learn new skills, or embed Lynda.com content into teaching. We taught attendees how to search for, view and share content, curate and share their own view/course playlists, link certificates to LinkedIn profiles, and download content for offline viewing.
We loved delivering these sessions and found it to be a great way for us to speak to staff and students to find out which digital skills they were passionate about learning or improving, and how they intended to do so before learning about Lynda.com. It was particularly satisfying for us to hear how positively attendees spoke about the Lynda.com service after we had demonstrated and they had used it, and how important and valuable they believed it to be as a free resource for our staff and students.
Overall, the event feedback received was really positive, with several attendees stating an improved confidence using the Lynda.com service as a result of attending our event, with all attendees stating that they would recommend it to others.
Given how much we enjoyed running events this year, we’ll definitely be applying to run some more next year – so keep an eye out for us in the event list.
If you happened to miss this event don’t worry, we enjoyed it so much we’ve decided to make it a permanent offering. Find current/future dates, and booking links for the ‘Learn and Teach with Lynda.com’ course on our webpage at: https://edin.ac/2JdwJgr
To find out more about the Digital Skills and Training team, please visit www.ed.ac.uk/is/skills. For more information on our Lynda.com service including how to get signed up, please visit www.ed.ac.uk/is/lynda.
Andy Todd and Andrew Kirk
Digital Skills and Training
Information Services Group
Hi everyone I’m Kostas, one of the many event organisers of FCL18. My event was “Cooking with Science: From molecular gastronomy to gourmet cooking”. I’m a PhD student, with a background in Electronics & Electrical Engineering. Nothing to do with cooking!Why I got involved in the Festival
The Festival was an opportunity to change people’s attitude towards cooking!
Food science is a hobby and passion of mine. It has changed the way I cook, or even shop for food. You read product labels with a different understanding! I wanted to share the things I’ve learned with others.
The science-part is surprisingly fascinating, touching upon soft-matter chemistry and physics. The cooking-part is a platform to express creativity. Such themes are at the heart of the Festival of Creative Learning. Not to mention, you literally get to taste your creations!Cooking with Science: A workshop
The event’s theme was “how scientific principles lead to better cooking”. More than just demonstrating science using cooking. Each recipe started with an overview of the science and equipment, followed by participants doing the cooking. We used thermometers, scales accurate to 0.1 milligram, and some unusual ingredients. Here are some highlights:
Chocolate-flavoured modernist mousse: We discussed thickening agents and viscosity, then used Xanthan Gum to make a mousse.
Carotene butter using a centrifuge: We explored emulsions and emulsifiers, then used carrot juice to make carrot butter. This was a tough recipe, but we had fun using a DIY-centrifuge made out of a salad-spinner.
Orange juice fluid-gel: The gooiest part of the day. We discussed gelling agents and the peculiar case of fluid-gels, which are something between a liquid and a solid. The gel tasted better than it looked.
Super-creamy ice-cream: Everyone’s favourite! We discussed ice crystal formation and its impact on ice-cream texture, then we made some very tasty ice-cream and churned it using dry-ice.Impact & future plans
Running this event for the first time was quite challenging. Some of the recipes were at an experimental stage. I can only applaud the amazing work of the participants, who kept going even when things got messy (literally!). In the feedback, most participants said they picked up new skills, and planned to try out some of the recipes at home. I am hoping that some may develop a passion for food science.
I hope to use all I’ve learned to run more events like this. Cooking gets people’s attention, so it is perfect for public engagement and outreach. I’d like to try this out in science festivals.
While organising the event, I met people from various Schools and Institutes throughout the University. Several showed interest in working together to run more food science events or mini research projects. Fingers crossed, cross-disciplinary collaborations may be coming up.
Future events will be announced through my social media and blog (scicooking.blogspot.co.uk).
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.
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.
- Uncovering student learning behaviours at the Festival of Creative Learning by Neil Allison. An evaluation of the practical, introductory event: ‘Collaborative user research and design techniques for better student experiences’.
- Siege of Infosec – The Aftermath by David Creighton-Offord. An honest reflection on a particularly innovative event and linked to this earlier blog post.
- The fifth annual ‘Great Medico-Legal Debate’. A report on the debate considering issues of human rights and public health.
- Visualising the campus by James Lamb, showcasing photographs and summarising learning from the event: ‘The Mobile Campus: Imagining The Future of Distributed and Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh’.
- David Claerbout: Artist’s Talk. A full-length recording of a talk by ‘one of the most acclaimed and innovative artists working in the realm of moving-images today’.
- Learning with Lynda.com. A digital magazine celebrating the Festival with a theme of creativity.
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.
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
There is Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan and King Louie. There are the elephants, vultures and wolves. But you’ve never seen the characters of the 1967 classic The Jungle Book behave like this before. They look like the singing, dancing characters of Disney’s original, but they act like real animals in the zoo.
In another video a woman emerges from a building carrying a tray of drinks, the film slowed down so much that her movements are almost frozen. Observing – close-up – you feel part of an intimate series of silent motions, seeing something that might usually go unnoticed. But as the camera pulls back the shadows on the walls are revealed. They move quickly, tracing hours in just a few moments so that you realise that the video consists of two very different timescales, minutely edited together to create a single, seamless – yet impossible – scene.
Created by the Belgian artist David Claerbout these videos are composed with great subtlety and subterfuge. They are part of an exhibition at the University of Edinburgh’s Talbot Rice Gallery that presents six of his intriguing explorations of image-making.
A cat and bird sit alongside each other in another of Claerbout’s videos. What they are doing – you might say – is not killing each other. As simple as it may seem this small video piece runs against our expectations and in doing so highlights an aspect of how we perceive the world. In this case we perceive something, a natural animosity, which is not there at all, but has been conditioned by deep-rooted assumptions. A giant slideshow on the main wall of the exhibition shows people gathered on a beach for some unknown purpose. It is a moment captured from lots of different angles, but it is hard to imagine how it could have been achieved and where the significance of this event lies.
As with many of Claerbout’s works there is also a clear recognition of the changes taking place as a result of digital technologies. Upstairs, a camera-less film takes you on a convincing journey through a woodland (Claerbout gives just enough away, for example by shifting foliage types from European to Amazonian to make you question its veracity). Yet when the ‘camera’ retreats out of a small grove into a largely flat farmed region that could never contain the woodland you realise Claerbout is playing with expectations about how reality should behave. Another work frames an image of a beautiful ornamental garden – accompanied by sounds of birdsong – only to pull back to reveal that it is a poster on the wall of a bleak modern apartment building. Forced to re-evaluate what you are seeing, these works make you consider the connections between the precarious position of meaning in the digital realm and our modern living conditions.
Throughout the exhibition you get a gnawing feeling that something strange is going on. The works are gently unsettling, difficult to pin down. And this is precisely why Claerbout is internationally recognised for work that is truly affecting. With the disquiet or suspicion his work instils you are able to really feel out the seams that connect the fabric of reality with the fabric of images.
The exhibition David Claerbout runs at Talbot Rice Gallery from 24 February – 5 May 2018, admission free. For more information please visit www.trg.ed.ac.uk.
James Clegg, Assistant Curator
Talbot Rice Gallery
Well I can’t quite believe it, but the Festival of Creative Learning is nearly here again, and it is shaping up to be one remarkable week!
Last year I had only just started a few months before the Festival, so it felt as if the main task was getting my head around what in the world it all was and how best I could help support the brilliant organisers to realise their dream events. It was a wild ride of a Festival and there are so many memories I treasure, even though I managed to come down with a not very creative cold. In spite of that, I sniffled and sneezed my way through the Birds and the Bees board game, finding penguin love to the jungle music of monkeys and birds in Potterrow’s trees. I watched the bright colours drawn out of the dyeing vats by attendees at the Edinburgh Medieval Pigment Project’s event (they’re working their natural magic again this year! Check it out at: Colouring Outside the Lines: Medieval Pigments & How to Use Them. I loved seeing so many smiling faces folding double headed swans in concentrated silence at the Hyperbolic Origami session.
My wonderful and patient colleague, Lucy Ridley, and I then spent the summer reviewing our processes and the feedback we received from organisers and attendees of the Festival. We came up with a whole raft of experiments to implement in order to test what we could streamline and smooth. We have been delighted to see these changes bearing fruit, as we have worked with partners to update and re-skin our website, have slimmed down and tightened up our application forms and administrative processes and have switched up the way we communicate with and gather together our organisers. All in all the changes seem to be working to make the Festival even more creative, energised and enjoyable than before – hooray!
This year we have a remarkable number of events across an extraordinary range of topics and activities. I can hardly look at the events programme (with the help of our new and improved handy calendar search widget) without wishing I had a cloning machine as I want to go to EVERYTHING!
Some of my highlights are as follows, but I do encourage you to have a look as I bet there will be many, or at least one or two, that you’ll be raring to sign up for…
Keep an eye out for Lucy and me in our Festival Hoodies – we will be popping into events throughout the week and would love to hear all about your Festival experience.
Also a few notes for Festival Organisers before I go:
You’re all doing such a brilliant job – please do keep spreading the word about the Festival and your events. We recommend social media (be sure to use #FCL18 and we will repost), lecture shout outs and popping into other events to spread the word. Remember that promoting the events of others can often mean that they will spread the word about your event so support others and trade promotion when possible.
Impact and Legacy
Don’t forget that your event means more than what happens in the room on the day. How will you capture your event? Will you write a blog about it (if so, please send it to us for posting on the Festival blog post)? Will you photograph it? Will you film it? Will you share it on social media as it is taking place, and encourage your attendees to do so as well? Think about how you will document your event and tell the story afterwards. If your event goes on to have a life after the Festival, making real world changes in the teaching and learning at the University of Edinburgh and beyond – please tell us!
Evaluation and Attendance
Please remember to take attendance at your events and to prepare and send out a post-event survey to your attendees. It is so important to get a sense of what works and what can be improved, both for us as Festival Coordinators and for you as Event Organisers. Try to keep your surveys short and simple and make sure you are only asking questions that will supply information that will be useful going forward. We have a survey template in our resources that you can use if you like.
Think about interesting and creative ways to evaluate your event – for instance, ask people to Tweet/post their reactions, or have them fill out a little sticky note ‘leaf’ and make a feedback tree for people to leave their thoughts on as they go.
Hopefully I will manage to get through the Festival without a cold this year, though one thing is certain – I have Festival Fever and the only cure is a week of innovative, mindful, experimental, playful and joyful creative fun!
Jennifer Williams, Projects & Engagement Coordinator
Educational institutions that promote health and wellbeing have the power to not only enhance student success, but to improve the health of our communities and wider society.
What is a Healthy University?
A Healthy University adopts a holistic understanding of health; takes a whole university approach; and aspires to create a learning environment and organisational culture that enhances the health, wellbeing and sustainability of its community and enables people to achieve their full potential (Healthy Universities, 2018).
What is our event exactly?
This is a hackathon style event designed to get students thinking about health in the university setting. A hackathon is a timed competition-style event where teams are expected to get creative and work collaboratively and come up with a design or idea. The event will involve coming up with an innovative idea for designing a ‘Healthy University of the future’.
The day-long event will consist of brainstorming tasks and facilitated design rounds with lots of opportunities for creativity and collaboration. At the end of the event groups will present their ideas, dragons den style, in front of a panel of public health experts and leaders within the university. Several prizes are up for grabs and everyone will leave with a goody bag. Team designs will be showcased on campus after the event.
Why should you come?
The event will challenge you to think on your feet, network and develop skills in critical thinking, teamwork and much more. These skills will be critical both within and beyond your university career. You will also have the unique opportunity to present to public health experts and leaders within the university.
We are looking for students from all backgrounds and disciplines to join our event. Teams will be formed during the event so no preparation is required prior to the event. Lunch and snacks will be provided.
Event Date: Wednesday February 21 10:00-16:30 @ Room G.06, 50 George Square.
Yvonne Laird and Jillian Manner
With thanks to the Edinburgh Medieval Pigment Project for their contribution to #FCL18
We’ll be holding two workshops during the Festival of Creative Learning at the University of Edinburgh. Both workshops are free of charge and open to the public.
Where: 50 George Square, 2.54
When: February 21st, 10:00-13:00 & 13:30-16:00
The morning session will focus on dyeing, using woad and cochineal. We’ll have woad plants & cochineals for everyone to see & we’ll explain how they both yield colour before we use extracts of the dye to dye wool! Participants will also be allowed to bring one item that they’d like to dye with either colour. There are a limited number of spaces available for the morning session!
The afternoon session will be based around the process of decorating a manuscript! We’ll have a variety of inks, quills, and vellum for everyone to experiment with. This will be operated on a drop-in basis, but we ask that everyone registers their interest so…
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Information Security. It’s not considered the sexiest of topics, despite the news coverage it seems to be getting lately.
Just those two words can conjure up images of men in ties nagging you to update and patch your devices (because you should) or companies crashing and burning as they lose users’ data.
Frankly, using information securely is too important to let people ignore it due to its perceived lack of appeal…
As part of a push to make Information Security an easier pill to swallow, we pitched an event for the Festival of Creative Learning where we could use a topic people seem to find more interesting and apply it to Information Security, overcoming apathy with analogy.
So, what will happen?
You and your group will be set two challenges. In the first you will act as cartographers for the kingdom of InfoSec with one of you group playing the part of the Lord and the others as their trusted advisors. You will map out all the websites and organisations with whom the Lord may hold data and where they hold key data, forming the main city and the outlying lands.
In the second challenge you will then look at how they can defend these things from two types of enemies: Raiders and the dreaded Order of the Black Hats, a group that will use subterfuge, mercenary armies and even the plague to bring your harmonious Kingdom to its knees.
You will learn how best to protect yourselves as individuals online and what beneficial behaviours and defences are synonymous with medieval warfare (firewalls as moats and gates, anti-virus as guards and medics etc.)
Why should you come?
To engage with a key life skill for the Digital Age through collaboration, creativity and world building. You will get the chance to think strategically and see how the lessons of centuries past can be applied today. Most importantly: because it is fun, educational and free.
So come along, try something a little different and get an idea of the scale and safety of your digital Kingdom.
Tuesday 20 February – 13:00-17:00 @ Room 2.13, 50 George Square. Book now.
Thursday 22 February – 13:30-17:30 @ Room 3.2, Lister Learning and Teaching. Book now.
Information Security Consultant – University of Edinburgh – January 2018
It is with great pleasure that we are now able to reveal the full programme for #FCL18, the curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning at the University of Edinburgh taking place this 19-23rd February.
Jennifer and I are incredibly proud of the 100-and-something staff and student event organisers that have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes since September to plan their individual contributions to this fantastically diverse celebration of creativity, learning and innovation. The commitment and enthusiasm they have all shown to everything the Festival aims and values is inspirational, not least because they have all chosen to be involved on top to their already demanding work and/or study schedules. If you are one of these superstars, thank you!
The vast majority of events are free and open to people who are interested in ideas beyond their subject area. There are talks, conferences, field trips, workshops, film screenings, walking tours, games, hacks, and much more! At this stage I cannot possibly highlight any events in particular and would wholeheartedly encourage you to put aside some time to browse the full programme available on our website. You will also be able to benefit from the recently enhanced calendar and search functions on our re-vamped webpages.
Over the coming weeks we will be introducing some contributors to you in more detail through guest blog posts. Stay tuned to read more about who they are, what they do, what their event is and who should attend.
Finally, for now, if you are a student at the University of Edinburgh and looking for a way to be involved in the Festival whilst earning a bit of money, check out the recently advertised Promotion Assistant opportunity on our Facebook page. We will remove the advert as soon as we have received sufficient applications so don’t delay and contact us today.
Projects and Engagement Administrator, Institute for Academic Development
What is it? Dr Jeremy Knox and Dr Michael Gallagher, both of the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh, are running two workshops for faculty and students on Internet of Things (IoT) technology and how this might be designed to bridge distance for the University across campuses (there are several discrete campuses within the city) and between distance (about 2600-3000 currently) and on-campus students (≈30,000). Imagine technology built-in to the campus environment that could use light and sound to represent distant student communities. We are looking to generate ideas around how IoT can be used to build community, a sense of belonging, a functional, aesthetic, cognitive, or emotional connection to the university. This workshop (student event link here) is a part of the Festival of Creative Learning at the University and linked to the Near Future Teaching initiative.
Why should you come? We will be doing design thinking around what kind of future we hope the University will have with technology, and provide you with an opportunity to make your ideas a part of that. It is a great opportunity to get outside your own subject area, do some interdisciplinary work, and perhaps come up with an idea for your own future project, capstone, dissertation, or even your own business idea. Your ideas will remain yours. It is a great opportunity to explore some links between data, IoT technology, and doing more than setting your smart thermostat. Both on-campus and digital education students will be participating simultaneously, feeding their ideas to one another. There will be coffee and tea, of course. It is in the uCreate Studio, a maker space for the University complete with tons of kit. There is a beautiful view over the Meadows. Jeremy and Michael are fun to talk to.
How will we do it? We will be designing around a set of four personas representing four students. Different subject areas, countries of origin, some distance and some on the physical campus. We will identify, if it exists, how IoT (specifically the underlying data being generated by the larger university community) can provide a sense of connection to the larger community. No need for previous skills or experience with IoT or technology, this session is purely about design and creative thinking. Our personal interest is in identifying and engaging underrepresented (or underserved) populations, particular regions, non-native English language speakers, domestic deprivation, those from first generation university families, and the like. If IoT gives us a mechanism (in tandem with other systems, of course) to reach these groups, we want to explore it. But beyond that is the potential of using data and technology in tandem in largely aesthetic and emotional ways. Beyond merely offsetting loneliness or isolation, there is work to be done here on how it proactively builds community, redefines these connections between student and student, university and student, and so on. You can be a part of that. Do join us.
SIGN UP HERE: http://edin.ac/2zAgxFa.
Dr Jeremy Knox and Dr Michael Gallagher
Centre for Research in Digital Education
Happy November and we hope you are all adjusting to the changes of the season. With this blog post, we will provide a tantalising update on preparations for the Festival of Creative Learning 2018.
The deadline for applications was Monday 23rd October at 5pm. When I left work the Friday before we had six applications and it is fair to say I was rather nervous what the overall result would be. Come Monday, any fears I had were swiftly dispatched and our inbox was inundated by a plethora of applications from staff and students across the whole University. I found myself indulging in a self-imposed application processing challenge as I tried to log and acknowledge each marvellous submission at lightning speed before the next came in. I was motivated by colleagues sending me photos of Usain Bolt, and made sure I shared the excitement by making regular progress announcements to my desk neighbour. The total exceeded her estimate significantly!
Many of you will have heard or read that Jennifer and I spent a great deal of time over the summer refining our processes and improving our communications with the intention of making it easier to apply or otherwise get involved with the Festival. We are both delighted that our hard work appears to be starting to pay off as evidenced by your hard work. The quality and diversity of submissions have been phenomenal, making us incredibly excited for February next year.
By the end of next week we hope to have notified all applicants of the outcome of their proposal. For those of you who cannot wait for the official calendar launch in January, here is an early indication of what could be on the programme:
- Openness – events nurturing an open mindset and curiosity about learning
- Collaboration – events creating meaningful connections
- Creativity – events taking risks and implementing original ideas
- Mindfulness – events celebrating thoughtful and holistic ways of working
- Experimentation – events building and prototyping ideas in a supportive environment.*
Thank you to everyone that shares our enthusiasm for the Festival of Creative Learning. We look forward to working with many of you over the coming year.
*Yes, well done, these are our values. Sorry, it wouldn’t be right for the world to know about the events before those that applied to run them.
On behalf of the Festival of Creative Learning I would like to extend a colossal welcome to all new and returning staff and students at the University of Edinburgh. For those of you new to the city or University we hope you enjoy the opportunity to explore new lands and to anyone that is lucky enough to call Edinburgh home, be sure to share your insider tips on all things creative with our new neighbours.
With this blog post we are delighted to announce the call for applications to participate in the second ever curated week of the Festival of Creative Learning, taking place from 19th – 23rd February 2018. This is a unique opportunity for you to embrace your creative spirit and find space for your imagination to flourish. We value openness, collaboration, creativity, mindfulness and experimentation so if you have an idea or project along these lines you should certainly apply. Our aims can be found on our website and we would encourage you to consider these alongside the Festival Application Guidelines when completing your application (both also available on our website). The deadline for applications is 5pm on Monday 23rd October 2017.
Your event may involve performing, painting, crafting, writing, dyeing, baking, playing, escaping, debating, combining these, or something else entirely. It may be the celebration of something you have been planning for a while, or your might never have done anything like this before. All of these are equally valid as proposals and exciting for us to discover. To get even more inspired be sure to read our impact report available in an earlier blog post and watch the short Festival film from February 2017 available to view here.
We look forward to sharing more blog posts and creativity with you this coming year, but to make sure you don’t miss out on any updates follow us on Twitter and Instagram @UoE_FCL and Facebook @FCLUoE. You can also join our mailing list via this link: http://edin.ac/2us2Rqc (EASE log in required) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lucy Ridley & Jennifer Williams
Projects & Engagement Team
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.
February seems like a long time ago, but we have been very busy behind the scenes of the Festival of Creative Learning, well, learning…and being creative. Before the Scottish summer and ‘other’ festivals truly overwhelm our senses, we would like to share some updates to remind you that we are here, and to begin sparking your imagination with ideas of how you can work with us from the new academic year.
Firstly, we have listened. Since the February festivities, we have been carefully reading all your feedback about all aspects of the very first Festival of Creative Learning. Informed by what we have learned so far, we are delighted to share that by September we will have a beautifully improved and significantly more functional website that we hope will represent the innovative and dynamic values we embody. In tandem with this we are working to make the event booking system more user-friendly, allowing our marvellous event organisers to showcase their offerings in a superior format.
The other big change you may notice is how we will communicate and share resources with those delivering or supporting events. Basecamp attracted some criticism from those of you involved this year, so we are currently undergoing a process of separation from this platform whilst consolidating our resources based on what you have told us you really want. We are not quite ready for the grand unveiling yet but we are confident enough to assure you that it will not be perfect. We have decided to practice what we preach by being open to taking risks, to failing, and to ‘building and prototyping ideas in a supportive environment’. As always, we look forward to receiving your feedback.
It has not all been about change though, we have also taken some time to celebrate the achievements and recognise the positive impact of the Festival. Just this week, Jennifer and I bumped into two students who worked with us in different capacities this year and are currently enjoying internships at the University. Hearing that one of these superstars is currently concocting a cunning plan in collaboration with other members of the University community to develop their event ready for the Festival next year has made our month. Gladly this is just one example of the impact the Festival has had. The next piece of good news is that hot off the press is our Festival Impact report, designed by Dave McNaughton to highlight some more but by no means all of the Festival stories. Take a look below and be sure to share with your friends and family.
The excitement does not end here! We are very pleased to share our Festival film crafted Perry Jonsson. This includes a selection of images and interviews from the February week and is a celebration and alternative way of capturing the Festival. You can view it here. We hope you like it!
We are often asked how people access support for creative events outside the February week and very soon we will have the answer for you. Coming to an Institute for Academic Development webpage near you we will shortly be announcing our revamped funding schemes process, which might just have something for you!
Finally, for those of you heading away at any point over the next few months have a lovely time. For anyone like me who will be working hard non-stop throughout do get in touch and share your ideas and plans for the next Festival of Creative Learning.
I’ve been delivering writing workshops for a long time now, most regularly at the Scottish Poetry Library to people who, though at various points in their writing careers, have poetry on the brain. Since starting as Projects and Engagement Coordinator for the Institute for Academic Development (IAD), it has been interesting to think about how my skills as a writer and writing teacher could be of use in my new work which has the wider focus of encouraging and exploring creative learning, innovation and collaboration across the University of Edinburgh.
One of my early meetings after starting here was with Johanna Holtan who used to run the Festival of Creative Learning which I now look after. She is a powerhouse and the job she has moved on to is running the University’s MasterCard Foundation Scholars Programme, which ‘supports the brightest and best African scholars with great potential but few educational opportunities’. When Jo found out that I am a poet, she asked if I would deliver a workshop for some of her scholars, and I was delighted to accept.
Jo mentioned that the scholars were having a visit from the poet Upile Chisala, and while I wasn’t able to attend her reading (which I was very sad about as I knew it would be amazing and from the reports of the scholars it certainly was), I wanted to respond to Upile’s poetry in my workshop. Jo works on the project with Stephen Kaye who sent me over some of Upile’s poems, and these were the starting point.
It was such an inspiring session, and all of the scholars produced work which was original, authentic and thrilling. We started by reading out a selection of Upile’s poems together and discussing them, then we did free writing with prompts like:
I am beautiful because…
I celebrate myself because…
I am a fire because…
We then wrote poems, shared them with one another and celebrated one another’s creativity and original vision. I think only one of the scholars was a poet who had written, performed and won awards before, along with her many other activities, so for the others I suspect the exercises were somewhat more unusual but they were all brilliant at diving in and having a go, and what each one wrote was really special.
It is encouraging to realise that poetry workshops can be used to work with people from various backgrounds (academic or otherwise) in this way, as I have always believed that reading and writing poetry is for everyone. Not everyone will do it all the time, and not everyone will be published, but everyone can enjoy and learn from poetry, and gain insights about themselves and how they communicate their inner life and work. We are already planning a poetry workshop as part of this year’s Beltane Annual Gathering, looking at how researchers can incorporate poetry workshops into the teaching and sharing of their work, and I’m hoping we can use poetry in other areas as well, as do other academics working at the IAD such as Daphne Loads. Daphne has a book coming out in which she explores engaging with poetry and other writings as a way into thinking about teaching practice and teacher identity. Due out in 2018, Rich Pickings: Creative Professional Development activities for University Lecturers, is to be published by BRILL (formerly SENSE).
Poetry can seem like a foreign language to people when they are not used to it, but one of the great things about it is that it is our own language used in new and exciting ways which are often even closer in form and structure to how we think, feel and dream, and ways we can all understand if we open our minds to the forms. Often when we try to communicate with one another we run up against the shocking realisation that not everyone thinks the same way we do, even though we’re all humans in bodies with minds, and yet if we embrace the diverse ways we think and express ourselves rather than closing ourselves off, we can learn so much. This is something poetry teaches.
A great blog post from our IAD colleague Sara Shinton on resilience (including a discussion of what resilience actually is!)
First of all a huge thank you to the speakers at the Resilient Researcher event which I was involved in today. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, resilience is my word of the year so I was really pleased to be able to work with two sponsors, SUPA and the IOP, to put on a day of talks, discussions and (best of all) live music to help some of our researchers understand and develop their thinking around this idea. It was a huge pleasure to work with Anne Pawsey from SUPA and the School of Physics and Astronomy on developing and delivering the day.
It was amusing that most of the speakers started by admitting they had looked up the word as part of their preparation. This echoes my own experiences of writing a guide to resilience for the IOP last year (in my pre-Edinburgh existence). My favourite definition was…
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Edinburgh is widely regarded as a world-leading festival city with a colossal programme of events running throughout the year. Beyond the official calendar promoted through Edinburgh Festival City there seems to be a never ending stream of diverse, engaging and exciting festivals appearing…everywhere! It is encouraging to see many of these festivals thriving and returning year-on-year.
At the Institute for Academic Development we loved delivering the first Festival of Creative Learning for The University of Edinburgh and have been dedicating time recently to explore the successes and growing edges of the curated week to inform future improvement and development. Having carefully combed through all the wonderful and constructive feedback we are beginning to shape a cunning plan to implement some changes. We want to provide even more opportunities and support for staff and students at the University who embrace the challenge of organising and delivering events throughout the new academic year. We will share all of this with you once the embargo* has been lifted, but in the meantime we would like to highlight a few other festivals the University is involved with that have attracted our interest lately.
Festival of Museums at The University of Edinburgh, 19th-20th May 2017. Part of the nationwide Festival of Museums with events taking place across University buildings.
Festival of Social Science, November 2017. A week-long celebration of social science with events held across the United Kingdom. Applications to organise an event are being accepted until the deadline on 4th May 2017. Guidance for potential University of Edinburgh applicants can be found here.
Our Festival Pop-up programme continues throughout the year, so if you would like support with arranging an event that meets our aims and values before February please contact us. We are also open to receiving guest blog post submissions should you have something to share that you feel our audience would enjoy.
*there’s not really an embargo, I’m just pretending to be a covert operative today as we had a VIP visiting our building earlier.