Tag Archives: action

Brentwood Community Print

I have been volunteering with Brentwood Community Print, working to advise Paul, their web developer, as he created a first web-site for them. First and foremost the company is a print shop serving the Brentwood area – they are quick, friendly and competitive – I ordered and got 250 business cards inside an hour. I recommend them without reservation.

Secondly, they offer a place for people recovering from mental illness, providing a challenging, supportive and happy context to build confidence and meaningful work to develop skills. I have really enjoyed my time helping Paul and getting to this point has been Paul’s success. It was particularly rewarding today watching him complete ‘job 1’ – a published web-site. Everyone pitched in with proof-reading, critical feedback and ideas for improvement, some of which will provide tasks for ‘job 2’, the next stage in what is an unending series of revisions to keep the web-site dynamic and increase its quality.

Well done Paul and all the team!

 

Surprise, surprise

Times Higher Educational Supplement logo

Tara Brabazon in the Times Higher Education Supplement when discussing coursework masters degree courses:

“They are squeezed between the crowd control of undergraduate education and the over-bureaucratised doctoral programmes that dislodge the historically functional relationship between a PhD candidate and supervisor.”

She draws attention to the remarkable creativity of her students, when unleashed with a little flexibility:

“Although there is a science – and craft – to curriculum, we never know how our students will remix our aims and riff off our structure to create melodies and syncopations beyond our lesson plans.”

I know what she’s talking about and we have designed this thinking in to our new degree framework for batchelors, masters and doctorate at the University of Bolton.

Although her article is flowery in its language and this begins to grate as I get to the end, the sentiments and concepts are important:

“These students want a second chance to remake their careers and lives. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and their examples show that change and creativity emerges when courageous students decide to live their lives differently.”

Our take on this fertile opportunity is Inter-disciplinary inquiry-based learning founded in an action research philosophy.

At this point in her article, Tara switches to talking about the link between research and teaching, through the students’ inquiry referencing the HEA report Linking Teaching and Research in Disciplines and Departments.

My worry is that this paper, and her language, are not radical enough in conceiving students as co-researchers in the 21st century. Surely now, ivory-tower academic authority is no longer seen as the know-it-all top of the pyramid (to mix a few metaphors myself), but still has a vital role to play in gathering the best, modelling excellence and rigour and wisely critiquing and deferring to the evidence base from professional practice.

Tara pleas:

“I hope that through the stress and the marking, the stress and the moderation, the stress and the exam boards, academics feel buoyant at their teaching achievements but humbly reflective about what our students can teach us.”

Agreed, and I suggest we should focus on how to make these important teaching acts as delightful and stress free as possible.

A University for Improvement

IDIBL logo

Almost five years to the day that Ultraversity was validated at Anglia Ruskin University, we have received conditional approval for a new scheme based on the same philosophies of learner-centred, work-focussed, community-supported, action-inquiry and innovative assessment.

This IDIBL course framework validated at the University of Bolton is more ambitious in scope, more refined in character and draws fresh inspiration from the organisational thinking from its home in the Institute for Educational Cybernetics.

We can now begin to recruit in earnest for a Masters course in ‘Learning with Technology’ and follow it up with further courses in Regeneration & Sustainable Communities, Chronic Healthcare and other societal thematic problems which need active and vibrant attention.

In each case the proposals will be relatively cost-effective to approve by basing their pedagogy and organisation on our IDIBL framework:IDIBL framework

RSA Networks workshop

 RSA Networks

The objective of this workshop was to begin a new kind of RSA fellowship engagement ‘RSA networks’, and to discover what they might do and how they might work.

A stimulating ‘Open technology’ format was used to generate, discuss and refine over 70 ideas from the 260 fellows and staff present.

I proposed ‘What’s wrong with university” and “The University for Improvement” as ideas for debate and constructive thinking. The fellows who joined me were surprisingly gentle, compared to the RSA report “In from the cold- the rise of vocational education” written by Professor Sir Graham Hills in November 2004. Graham was project champion of the RSA’s Visions of a Capable Society programme in 2004, and he identified the following flaws in the qcademic ethos:

  • Fragmentation of knowledge
  • Internal referencing, peer review, cronyism and social corruption
  • Absence of context, flight from reality
  • Objectivity taken to extremes, dehumanisation of science
  • Authoritarian attitudes to knowledge and behaviour
  • Competition between knowledge bases leading to internal uniformity and external conformity

He continued to claim that the world of reality and technology, outside academia was:

  • Holistic, not reductionist
  • Context driven, not subject driven
  • Mission-oriented research, not blue skies
  • Teamwork, not individual scholar
  • Multi-authored publications, heteregeneous knowledge bases
  • Divergent not convergent thinking
  • Reflexive philosophy rather than objective statements
  • Decisive criterion: does it work?

Nevertheless I went away feeling that both business and academia (both well-represented in the session) were unhappy with the current state of affairs and the University for Improvement – an idea based on the Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning  project (IDIBL) I am working on at the University of Bolton –  was well received.

As Graham Hill put it: “The best way to connect the world of industry to  academia is to people it with students” – something IDIBL will be striving to do.

RSA talkaoke

RSA talkaoke

A fascinating evening sitting in the Star Trek-like environment of Talkaoke at the RSA. Discussing the development of an online environment for the RSA Fellows. A wide-ranging discussion which homed in on the confrontation between the trust and shared intent of a closed society and the creativity and diversity of open thinking. A chance to present the IDIBL project and consider its place in RSA developments to become a dynamic force for change by offering a route for those keen to embrace civic innovation in a disciplined and rigorous manner and gain academic qualification at the same time.

Ideas that can change the world

Ideas that can change the world

Went with Patrick to this excellent meeting of young and old minds. We spoke to Cameron (8) who told us his ideas for a “mp3 and mp4” player so that he wouldn’t get bored when avoiding his younger brother! It reminded me that changing the world starts small, and visions of what’s important are close to home as well as global.