We are the audience; we are the performers

Part 1: PUNCHDRUNK

On a dank autumnal evening in 2013 I found myself in an old Royal Mail sorting office next to Paddington Station in London. Along with a friend, I had come to see Punchdrunk Theatre’s latest production “The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable” – an immersive theatre production that transported Büchner’s ‘Woyzeck’ into a fictional 1960s film studio. Punchdrunk are pioneers of what’s commonly known as ‘immersive theatre’; site-specific productions characterised by multiple narratives, non-sequential action and audience participation. Split into groups of ten, we were given masks to wear throughout (our ‘fourth wall’) and bundled into a lift before being let loose into a sprawling and disorientating four-storey maze of surreal sets, haunting soundtracks, bizarre dialogues and voyeuristic glimpses into snatched moments and fictional lives. This was immersive theatre at its best, and despite thinking that I’d struggle to engage for more than an hour (I was suffering from inbox anguish at the time), three hours later there we were; reunited through the haze after an intense and rewarding experience in which we had all been part of the action due to the blurring of boundaries between performers and audience.

My friend and I had been separated almost instantly upon arriving in the space, and were eager to discuss our experiences, to share stand-out moments, to compare notes, to analyse and deconstruct what we had taken place. However, after a few exchanges along the lines of: a) “Did you see (insert scene)?” and b) *blank look* “No?!”, we soon realised that we weren’t able to share our stand-our moments. Despite attending the same ‘performance’ we had managed to be part of completely different scenes, with only two overlaps (shared experiences) in the whole three hours. That’s the thing about immersive theatre at this scale: everybody’s experience is unique.

I’ve been thinking a lot about immersive theatre this week, as there are many parallels between a production like “The Drowned Man” and Connected Courses:

“Several reviews have complimented the scale of the production and the ambitious use of multiple narratives, whilst also commenting that the scale can at times make the experience feel fragmented and difficult to follow.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Drowned_Man_(2013_play)

Ring any bells?

Part 2: CONNECTED COURSES

Fast forward to the second week of Unit One of Connected Courses: Why We Need a Why. It’s been a fantastic experience so far, beginning with Mike Wesch in conversation with Cathy Davidson and Randy Bass (video here) contemplating the purpose of higher education and the importance of the WHY. This Storify to captures the opening event as it played out on Twitter, highlighting the main themes as they resonated with the #ccourses participants who were tweeting during the session.

Immediately after Mike’s opener, we launched the #whyiteach video project (still a few days left to contribute to this – hint hint), and it has been a joy to see the thoughtful, inspiring and imaginative contributions rolling in (both text and visual media) from #ccourses participants – and beyond!

Mimi Ito then hosted two ‘blogside chats’, Friday with Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, the authors of Academically Adrift and Aspiring Adults Adrift (video here), then Monday with Vera Michalchik and William Penual, to discuss assessment in connected courses  (video here).

In case you’ve missed all of this, @paulsignorelli has written a couple of posts that offer excellent summaries of the unit so far: Connected Courses MOOC and #oclmooc: The “Why” of Connections, Collaboration, and Learning and Connected Courses MOOC (#ccourses) and #oclmooc: Connections (and Learning) Everywhere 

At this point I’ll quote Paul (both from the above posts):

Various learners often walk away from learning opportunities with tremendously different results and rewards”

Participation in the latest #ccourses session, earlier today, inspired interweavings so wonderfully complex (and tremendously rewarding) that it could be days or weeks or months before those interweavings are completely apparent.”

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Part 3: CONNECTED COURSES AS IMMERSIVE THEATRE

I’m acutely aware that I’ll have no doubt missed other excellent summaries. One of the challenges of participating in such a vibrant community is that it can be a struggle to keep up with all the activity. It’s been brilliant reading and commenting on posts, meeting new people and pushing one another’s thinking – but alongside the ‘day job’ it can be difficult to keep up with everything when a community is so active.

We are all the audience; we are all performers.

I know that while highlighting selected posts I’ll be missing so many other, equally wonderful #ccourses contributions. I am certainly indebted to several people who have written posts which I’ll be using as teaching resources (thank you – you know who you are as I’ve commented and tweeted), such as this one from ‪@l4lp reflecting on learner perspective: http://outloudlearning.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/five-whys/. I loved @Googleguacamole’s post “Round Students, Square Colleges” (an analogy which will resonate for many of us). The #whyiteach contributions are pretty damn amazing. I loved @Marj_K’s “Every new semester… I re-work the boundaries between the known and the unknown” ‪http://wp.me/p50q4Y-D – and I can’t forget this one from @EatcherVeggies http://teachingbeyondtropes.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/the-meat-of-it-whyiteach.html – this made a real impact. There are so many demonstrating real passion and richness of thought (which reminds me, I need to update the #whyiteach GDoc…)

I’ve connected with many wonderful educators already through #ccourses and it’s been amazing how quickly we have bonded through a combination of blog-based discussion and tweeting, which has led into back-channel communication of the Skype/Google Hangout variety. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know @Bali_Maha in that ‘kindred spirit’ kind of way where you meet somebody online and feel connected through sharing such a similar (learning) world-view. At this point I want to mention other people but then am wary of excluding others through reifying a specific group, if that makes sense!

I’ve always been fascinated by individual perceptions and experiences of learning webs, knowing that ‘my (imagined) community’ is different from ‘your (imagined) community’. I imagine #ccourses as one of those bubble screensavers, we’re all popping in and out of view, constantly growing and shrinking and moving and overlapping and intersecting – and sometimes missing one another entirely…

“Despite attending the same ‘show’ we had managed to be part of completely different scenes, with only one overlap (shared experience). That’s the thing about immersive theatre at this scale: everybody’s experience is unique.” (Me, at the start of this post)

This could equally apply to Connected Courses. In the past, I have been reluctant to join MOOCs when I’ve missed the beginning, feeling like it will be impossible to ‘catch up’. This whole #ccourses experience is leading me to view things differently. The community/network is welcoming and encouraging, and I’d strongly urge those who may be interested but possibly overwhelmed by the amount of activity to-date just to dive in! Say hi, follow the blog feed, share your thoughts – dip in and out as you can. I’ll be bringing my postgrad students (Research Methods) along for the ride when we hit Unit Four as I think this will be relevant for their course. To quote a #ccourses participant:

“It’s never to late to dive into a cMOOC.” 

And finally, here’s the advice from Punchdrunk:

Your curiosity is key. The more you explore, the richer your experience will be. Delve in, be bold, and immerse yourself.

Now, where’s that blog feed….

Why I Teach

This is my post for http://whydoyouteach.wordpress.com

I never wanted to be a teacher.

I’m from a family of teachers: parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents… my parents’ friends were teachers, half of my childhood friends became teachers. Teaching was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do. It seemed so… predictable. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I didn’t want to teach. It was something I actively resisted; I transferred from my first degree (music and performance) to something else because I knew if I stayed at music college I’d likely end up teaching.

I did NOT want to be a teacher.

So I left music college and started a Linguistics degree – a good move as it turns out, as it introduced me to multiple disciplines including phonetics and speech synthesis, formal semantics and AI, anthropology, sociolinguistics… the list goes on. When it came to my intensive project, I had such a fantastic time measuring hundreds of samples looking for 10msec differences in the length of ‘a’ in 4 words in various English accents (yes, really) that I realised I wanted to carry on with research; to always be learning. I also wanted to carry on making things for the web (which was my sideline). Luckily, I came across a research  post that allowed me to do both. Best of all, it involved NO teaching, just pure R&D.

Sixteen years later, here I am: teaching.

So how the hell did that happen?!

By accident, in all honesty. An academic in the department passed away just before the autumn semester in 2000, and I was asked to deliver his multimedia modules (they were desperate – term was only a week away) and that’s how it started.

I spent the next 5 years delivering a range of multimedia programming modules to students who were not much younger than I was. Although it was fairly mechanistic as I was told what to teach, I enjoyed it – and I think they did too. We had the same cultural references and knowledge of the Manchester social/music scene and I suppose it worked well partly because I understood them and could create assignments that they could relate to.

But I still didn’t want to be a teacher. Not really.

In 2005 I started using blogs and wikis with students in Europe as part of an EU project based around international student support, and this led to a Eureka moment. When I say ‘Eureka moment’, I mean that it was this shift towards open, connected platforms (where multiple audiences could engage in dialogue – to varying degrees of (in)formality) that led to my theoretical knowledge (of social constructivism) being transformed into a powerful experience; deep, authentic and meaningful. I wasn’t just describing the concept; i was feeling it. Through using open, web-based platforms we really were moving towards a culture of reflection, self-expression and participation. I was learning more about students as individuals, rather than just as cohorts taking particular courses. I became interested in learner identities, and found myself taking an increasingly holistic approach to education as these ‘web 2.0’ technologies allowed us to blur the boundaries between public and private, between education, home and work, between formal and informal learning. I had been using Garrison and Anderson’s Community of Inquiry model in my work on the EU project, and found that social presence was enhanced significantly when using Web 2.0 platforms. They would write about how they felt in a personal blog more readily than they would in a standard discussion forum specifically set up to discuss ‘the course’. Most importantly, they weren’t just communicating with their peers and their tutor; they were potentially communicating with the world, presenting themselves as individuals with hopes and fears and dreams – not just as students in formal education.

Social presence is the ability of learners to project their personal characteristics into the community of inquiry, thereby presenting themselves as ‘real people.’” (Garrison & Anderson, 2003:23)

The idea of ‘real people’ is key here. Once I started using these platforms in my own teaching, my curriculum changed. The starting point wasn’t the syllabus. The starting point was the individual. I’ve moved from ‘teaching’ multimedia programming into something that’s much harder to define. My courses involve transmedia production, digital scholarship, networked learning, with smatterings of cultural and media theory (Keegan, 2013). I’m still based in Computing, Science and Engineering, but fortunately there is growing recognition of the value of moving beyond disciplinary boundaries. Through connecting with others and developing our networks, we’re more open to opportunity and serendipity and multiple perspectives. I’d describe my ‘teaching’ now as based on learning to learn, questioning assumptions and opening minds to new ways of seeing; a pedagogy of being which is far more indebted to Freire than Skinner.

Connected learning has led to connected teaching which has led to connected courses. Nowadays i’m just as likely to work alongside colleagues on the other side of the world, connecting our learners through open, social platforms in projects that cross levels and disciplines (Cochrane et. al., 2014). I’m constantly learning from and challenged and inspired by those i’m connected to through online networks. The same goes for my students; they challenge me, they inspire me and I learn from them. I’m aware I may be eulogising here, and ‘free-range’ learning and teaching might not be for everybody. However, I can honestly say that now that my courses have become more like unbounded communities of inquiry where we go on a journey together, often into the unknown, I’m genuinely thankful to be ‘teaching’.

Because to teach is to learn together.

When I sat down to write this post I made a list of the reasons why I teach. It’s a long list. It made me realise that while I may have started teaching for reasons that were largely instrumental and accidental, it’s now become who I am.

Later today, we’ll be launching the first unit in Connected Courses: Why We Need a Why. For the kick-off, Mike Wesch will be in conversation with Cathy Davidson and Randy Bass contemplating the purpose of higher education.

Why do we do what we do?

What’s our CORE reason for teaching a specific class?

As a companion ‘make’ for this unit, we want people to share their WHY – specifically, Why Do You Teach? We’d love you to contribute short videos and images that we can pool together into a video like Mike’s A Vision of Students Today – except this time it’s us; faculty.

So have a think. Make a list. Pick one. Pick more than one. It’s always good to remind ourselves why we do what we do.

To find out more about how to contribute, come on over to http://whydoyouteach.wordpress.com

REFERENCES

Cochrane, T., Antonzak, L., Keegan, H., Narayan, V. (2014). Riding the wave of BYOD: developing a framework for creative pedagogies. Research in Learning Technology. Available at: http://www.researchinlearningtechnology.net/index.php/rlt/article/view/24637. Date accessed: 13 Sep. 2014.

Garrison, Randy & Terry Anderson, (2003). E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice (p. 23).

Keegan, H. (2013). Emerging Pedagogies. In: Fraser, P. and Wardle, J. (Ed) Current Perspectives in Media Education – Beyond the Manifesto. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 128-144. http://usir.salford.ac.uk/29556/

Four Tet on the power of Twitter

I was listening to Four Tet in conversation with Benji B recently, and was interested to hear him talk about connecting and collaborating with other musicians through Twitter. I grabbed an extract as I thought it could be useful to play to next year’s students:

For further musings, it’s worth listening to the whole thing – especially from around 15:40 to 18:15, where he talks specifically about collaborations and the web. Here’s the full chat:

#MoCo360 kicks off!

#MoCo360 is an umbrella term/collective (Mobile Collaboration all around you, geddit?) designed to aggregate mobile film co-creations and collaborations across the globe. Involving the usual suspects from the #ELVSS international mobile filmmaking collaborations, along with the welcome additions of Anthony Nevin and Dave Cowlard, #MoCo360 is the social aggregator for various mobile filmmaking projects and collaborations involving staff and students from NZ/FR/DE/CO/UK, including ELVSS (the BIG one), 24 Frames 24 Hours, Shoot Me Now, Shoot Your Egg, and #marmw.

We wanted to find a way to sustain our global collaborations and mini-projects, especially when diverse student numbers and shifting semester dates work against us, while still retaining a sense of community across space and time. Hopefully #MoCo360 will give us a bit more flexibility; by connecting under the #MoCo360 banner we can still work together – hopefully all year round in an #iCollab sense – with the option of dipping into projects right through to full-on international collaborations (depending on constraints or lack of) while still remaining a collective.

So far things are looking good! It’s nice to see things shaping up through the #MoCo360 hashtag. We have VINE video intros, a wonderful group Vyclone-hello from Dan’s students in Auckland, a growing tagsexplorer and increasing activity from various platforms showing up in the #MoCo360 tagboard. It’s always great to see what others are doing elsewhere, allowing us/our students to learn from others around the globe, sharing ideas and inspiration.

Although some students have been using Vine and Vyclone to say early ‘hello’s’ to one another asynchronously, we’ll be holding our traditional Great Global Hangout on 18/19 March (depending on the hemisphere). Really looking forward to this, as it’s always quite special seeing so many people coming together through a Google hangout! Two years ago we had 50+ students, last year it was more like 100 – wonder if we’ll break our record in 2014? Lots of potential with so many students in NZ, Colombia, France and the UK this time around!

Week Five: Brisbane (QUT) and Melbourne

The first part of this week has been spent with Thom and Laurent working on curriculum design and planning for our future collaborations (we’ll be launching #MoCo360 in 2014 so rather excited about that one), before flying back over to Oz for a few days at QUT. Here at QUT, it’s been pretty non-stop. I kicked off the visit with a presentation where I floated around my blog/slideshare picking out bits of interestingness – not easy when you realise 20 mins before your talk that there are so many areas of mutual interest with pretty much everybody there (and it’s a blank slate). Since then I’ve been spending time with individuals/groups of academics and related staff, discussing emerging pedagogies, technology, media and new learning/teaching paradigms… the usual stuff, basically.

I’ve really enjoyed my time at QUT, exploring ideas in relation to their digital transformations project. Wonderful Uni with super-talented people :)

I also experienced my first staff Xmas party in the southern hemisphere. Now that i’m getting used to the whole ‘santa in shorts thing’ I’m learning to love a sub-tropical Christmas – but never imagined I’d be sharing Yule-tide celebrations under palm trees… complete with Flash Mob. #loveQUT

Week Four: Ascilite (Sydney) – Wellington – Auckland

ASCILITE (SYDNEY): After an intense week of #marmw2013 (mobile augmented reality movie workshops), it was a 5am Saturday start as myself Thom Cochrane and Laurent Antonczak flew to Sydney to deliver a condensed version of our Mobile and Augmented Reality Film Workshop at the Ascilite conference. Planning the session was in itself a useful exercise as it forced us to trim the workshop right down, sticking to the main points and activities.

DSC01267 by heloukee
DSC01267, a photo by heloukee on Flickr.

In yet another ‘incredible shrinking world’ moment, the first people we bumped into at Ascilite were some of the Canberra team (big yay!), and it was great to have Cyntia Franco at our workshop. Cyntia’s into digital art installations and sailing around the world… i.e. awesomes.

DSC01252

Huge thanks to all of our workshop participants who were happy to get hands-on straight away and engaged in discussion and debate throughout – topics ranging from identity and ethics through to transmedia practices and geocaching. To finish off the workshop we all headed down to the local station, which had a rather striking set of escalators with a lift/elevator running down the middle: quite the Metropolis feel. Using Vyclone, we positioned ourselves on escalators, concourses and the lift and got to work. Rather pleased with the finished product (WE MADE ART GODDAMIT!) – example of rapid co-creation – and filters – which you can see here. Vyclone seem to like it too.

MASSEY UNIVERSITY (WELLINGTON): The following morning it was another early start (4.30am this time – my bodyclock is getting really screwed…) to fly back over to NZ: Massey University in Wellington – or Wellywood as it’s also known. Often referred to as one of the world’s coolest cities, it’s easy to see why – it’s colourful, quirky and oozes creativity. I was fortunate to be there on an unusually sunny/hot/calm day (Welington’s notorious for gale-force winds and earth tremors), but liked the vibe of the place straight away.

Went to Massey University today - here's a Photon Plasma Acceleration Rifle :)

I was visiting the College of Creative Arts at Massey’s Wellington Campus – highlights included seeing a plasma proton gun, meeting up with Antony Nevin and finding out more about his work, learning more about Maori culture embedded in the currlculum, the fact that this is a campus with a high school in the middle, there’s a graffiti wall of fame on campus (used by kids for art projects), visiting the audio studios (felt like home)… and of course, seeing Max in his home environment. Max and the lovely Karen Curley gave me a whistle-stop tour of Welly in the evening before another early morning start – this time heading back up to Auckland for the last few days of our mobile and augmented reality film workshops.

(#marmw2013 – AUCKLAND): Over the past 5 days, workshop participants back in Auckland had been working on their personal #marmw2013 projects so these were the main focus for the rest of the week. Projects ranged from geo-located mobile-mentary through to new forms of engagement with architecture and interactive video applications. Dave Cowland did an excellent job of demonstrating how one device can be used to engage with architecture in different ways through media-rich POIs on an interactive map. Troy Egan had made a film based on the Augmented Reality Game INGRESS, which gave us a genuine insider view into the world of Ingress players in action. This actually made a wonderful complement to Candy Elsmore’s presentation at MINA – although bizarrely Troy wasn’t at MINA and wasn’t aware of Candy’s presentation. His inspiration for the film came from seeing a group of people acting strangely with their phones at a station and asking them what they were doing. SPOOKY – and yet more incredible shrinking world syndrome/serendipity/synchronicity. This was an ambitious project, giving us not only a rich insider perspective on INGRESS gameplay, but also touching on game addiction, game mechanics, identity play, social capital  and communities dynamics.

Although I’ve only highlighted a couple of examples here, one of the most interesting developments (for me) has been seeing the way participants went in completely different directions when they went away to work on their personal projects. These individual interpretations and applications of mobile AR film across multiple contexts perfectly demonstrates the potential for media-rich, engaging, mobile AR across the curriculum. I’d love to have one more week (or more!), so that we could bring all participants together again to collaborate on a major project  – after seeing their individual work and convening for group reflections/feedback, the potential for multidisciplinary teamwork is becoming increasingly apparent…

Auckland: Mobile and Augmented Reality Film Workshops/Journalism Symposium

(and a title so long it reminds me a really must sort out my WP template…)

Oz/NZ Week Three

Many of the contributions to last week’s MINA 2013 Mobile Film Screenings and Symposium explored locative media and geo-located production practices. Carrying on the same theme, for the past week I’ve working alongside iCollab/ELVSS collaborators Thom Cochrane and Laurent Antonczak, with the welcome addition of Vik Narayam from AUT. We’ve been running a series of Mobile and Augmented Reality Film Workshops (#marmw2013) for academics from AUT and beyond.

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 11.41.09

It’s been a packed week, where we’ve covered many aspects of mobile/locative media creation with guest speakers from around the world dropping in via Google Hangouts. Together we’ve explored collaborative mapping and augmented reality applications (similar to the recent #iCollab project); collaborative movie making using Vyclone; Vine and a range of mobile film apps; Vimeo and YouTube (or rather Vimeo vs. YouTube); mobile film history and aesthetics; mobile filming techniques; mobile audio production tools and practices; and transmedia narratives for audience engagement.

Guest speakers via hangout included:

  • Vernon Rive (NZ but currently at Cambridge University in the UK) – as an environmental lawyer, Vernon’s use of social/mobile media in his casework is a real eye-opener as he uses online platforms to highlight community issues in relation to legal cases. This led to Averill Gordon musing on the blurring of boundaries between law and PR if lawyers are using digital media to engage people/raise awareness of campaigns – reminding me of Ron Burnett‘s writing on transdisciplinarity in networked spaces, which I find myself referring to on a regular basis, including in our paper “New Global Learning Cultures: Interdisciplinarity through Networked Technologies
  • “The Swedes” (Sweden, funnily enough) who told us about the ways they’re using mobile and social technologies at Umea University – they’re wonderful, as is Thom’s blog post which tells you more about them…
  • Dan Wagner (UNITEC, NZ) who gave us a live demo of filming techniques (from the great outdoors – well the lush grounds of UNITEC at least – complete with a serendipitous tui birdsong accompaniment) particularly focusing on the technical capabilities/limitations of camphone lenses.
  • Everybody’s favourite German mobile filmmaker Max Schleser (Massey University, NZ) who gave us an entertaining yet erudite perspective on mobile filmmaking, including a sample of his mobile-mentary “Frankenstorm“, filmed at the Jersey Shore, two month after hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and caused an estimate of over $71.4 billion in damage.
  • Catherine Cronin (Ireland) – a member of the iCollab team, who talked about our international collaborative google mapping project, raising important issues around trust and identity in online networks. It’s always good to hear Catherine’s graceful musings on learning and teaching through social and mobile media…
  • Finally, Mark McGuire (University of Otago, NZ) joined us on Friday afternoon and gave a rich overview of digital media practices and possibilities before spending time talking to each participant individually about their projects, which was much appreciated and ensured that people went away brimming with ideas.

While the workshops ran Monday to Friday, we also spent part of the day on Wednesday at the AUT Journalism Symposium, where Thom was presenting on the use of mobile technologies in L+T and I was a panellist (Innovation and The Future) along with Jeremy Rees (Editor-In-Chief, APN-online/NZ Herald) and Richard Pamatatau, expertly mediated by Helen Sissons, where we discussed, debated and occasionally disagreed on the role and impact of social media on mainstream journalism.

Danni Mulrennan, who organised the Symposium (and is doing great stuff with mobile/social in journalism ed.), also gave us a tour of the fantastic journalism facilities at AUT. Myself and Laurent had a great time playing around with the VidyoCast system and making… erm… screen art

All in all it’s been a packed week, and we’ll be seeing the workshop participants again on 5 and 6 December to view their individual/group projects, which I’m really looking forward to.

Here is the G+ Community for the workshops, which gives an idea of the kind of things we’ve been covering, and for a visual summary see this Flickr set.