Teamwork: Interdisciplinarity and Pedagogical Beliefs

A few days ago I attended an ‘away day’ along with my academic colleagues who deliver modules on our BSc Professional Sound and Video Technology degree (PSVT). We’ve been running the PSVT programme for over 10 years now. It is a combined technical/creative degree with elements of audio, video and web. It’s less ‘technical’ than our other course offerings within Computing, Science and Engineering – such as Digital Broadcast Technology and Acoustic Engineering – and while it used to be seen by many as a poorer sibling to the more technical degrees, as our organisational culture has gradually shifted towards interdisciplinarity (resulting mainly from a general shift towards renewed appreciation for interdisciplinarity in HE along with our move to MediaCity) it’s now really coming into its own. Entry tariffs are increasing year-on-year, and our students are building up fantastic portfolios and blurring the boundaries between education and industry through a smorgasbord of live briefs and student placements. And yes, our students ARE awesome.

I’ve never opened up in an online space when it comes to PSVT as a programme – or as a team of educators. Nowadays, our academic identity can be played out over so many spaces; from our personal learning networks (blogs, twitter), to international collaborations (in my, case I often work alongside colleagues in New Zealand and other countries more than I work with colleagues in my own institution). While we work and often socialise together, I’ve certainly never shared deep discussions with most of my immediate colleagues on the PSVT team in relation to THEORIES of learning – and crucially, our personal beliefs. The reason? Partially, time – but also, we’re so damn different…

This is why Tuesday’s meeting was so special. We spent 3 hours together with the sole intention of learning more about one another’s approaches to assessment and module content in order to identify areas for improvement in terms of curriculum, pedagogy and overall coherence. We’re already very proud of the PSVT programme which we review/refine every year, but thanks to ‘Our Leader’ Dave Eustace (sorry Dave, hope I’ve not embarrassed you) we all came away from this meeting with a much deeper understanding of one another’s practice, identifying emerging relationships between modules and discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the broad range of pedagogies that the students experience on the programme, which is highly interdisciplinary in nature. Upon entering the room, we were greeted by guitar music played and recorded by members of the group – enjoyed by us mere mortals while the audiophiles critiqued the production (there’s an insight into the team right there – I love that we can rib one another in this way). Dave had peppered the walls with quotes and articles from educational research/reports designed to get us thinking, and opening up about our practice and how it fits (or not) with the rest of the group.

I feel truly honoured to be part of a team who are able to open up and articulate their beliefs and pedagogies in the complex space that characterises PSVT (traditionalists… progressives… scientists… arts… teaching vs. learning curriculum), and it was basically the perfect end to the academic year for me. These are the kinds of discussions that would be commonplace in a school of education – less so in a science faculty (which is where we ‘belong’). Our discussions were illuminating, informed, respectful, and genuinely rewarding. I feel extremely positive about our team and our programme, and in all honesty it’s great to feel this way after what has been a turbulent time both within our institution and the HE sector in general.

I’d be really interested to hear from others who work in highly interdisciplinary teams. What are your experiences? How to do articulate your practice to one another? How do you resolve tension and conflict in terms of pedagogical beliefs (assessment is an obvious one here)? How do you negotiate the terrain between traditional and progressive approaches, between diverse/competing epistemologies?

So many questions… would love to hear your thoughts.

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Curiosity and Connecting (The Purpose of Education)

Yesterday I sat by the water, thinking about this post. Where to begin? We all seem to think along the same lines (yay, homophily) and I do feel that much of what I want to say will have already been said.

My eyes were drawn to a sculpture on the waterside. I read the words that covered the piece, and was struck by a quote which encapsulates curiosity, motivation, identity and community – and also triggered deep memories of a similar experience in my own childhood. Continue reading

Running a module as an ARG a.k.a. The Rufi Franzen Mystery

So the secret’s out. We’ve had the Big Reveal.

#psvtam (otherwise know as the BSc Professional Sound and Video Technology, Advanced Multimedia module) was a game – an alternate reality game.

A game that took so many unanticipated twists and turns that I’m still trying to process everything. For the past 48 hours I’ve been replaying the past 3 months in my mind, thinking about every clue, red-herring, reaction… wow. Continue reading

The Joy of Teaching: Learning Journeys and Transformations

One of my undergraduate students posted his weekly course reflections earlier this evening, and I was really moved by this post – extract:

“I cannot shake the growing feeling of “loss” which comes from moving to another semester and the introduction of new lecturers and their module content whilst in the same breath saying goodbye to the friends I have made.”

Continue reading

The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online

At this year’s ALT-C conference, I’ll be contributing to a symposium session along with Frances Bell, Josie Fraser and Richard Hall. In our session, The Paradox of Openness: The High Costs of Giving Online, we will pose a range of issues for debate, provoking participants to reconsider the costs of participation online, openness, and the sharing of resources. I’ll be focusing practice-based scenarios based on the publishing and sharing of digital artefacts that highlight areas of uncertainty, risk and the personal cost of openness. In this post, i’m exploring ideas around:

The Tyranny of Authenticity (identity) Continue reading

Bringing the Social into the Sciences

Here are my Pecha Kucha slides from the Education in a Changing Environment Conference 2011. It’s a whistle-stop tour of the ways we are using social technologies in a traditional science faculty to develop a culture of learning through conversation and co-creation.

Appropriation, Participation and the Creation of Celebrity: Introducing Internet-Mediated Urban Eccentrics

Abstract for AoIR11 (Ben Light and Helen Keegan)

Our paper concerns the potential, and processes of, the internet-mediated construction and communication of urban eccentrics; ‘local characters’ who have traditionally been known to unconnected groups within a geographic locale. Our work suggests that the internet has the potential to connect these groups and generate notoriety for urban eccentrics, transcending time and space. This is not a new phenomenon; the Nowhere Guide, launched in the 1990s, allows contributors to share memories of ‘local heroes’ and Gawker has spawned similar sites (Wired 2008). However, despite literatures around online fandom (Baym 2002) and micro-celebrity (Senft, 2008) it appears that the relationships between digital media and urban eccentrics have received very little academic attention. Our research is based on a discourse analysis of the Facebook fan page associated with a particular urban eccentric and other artifacts connected with them and shared throughout the Internet. Continue reading