Teaching and Learning Conference – Experience and Practice within College based HE

Friday 4th July, University Centre at Blackburn College

With Alicia Nordstrom, Director of CETL at Misericordia University, Pennsylvania ‘Remember the Data: Teaching Critical Thinking through Research-Based Assignments’

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Bookable here: http://www.blackburn.ac.uk/teach-learn-conf/

Extract from my presentation with Peter Shukie and David Meir

This presentation explores the project as a rhizomatic studio space, where the practice explored the use of virtual and real spaces to create in and share with others. The auto-ethnographic ‘self-surveillance’ process enabled observations to be made of a creative practice, gain insight into the creative process and consider the benefits of documenting, reflecting, and using recall techniques. The process of capturing and documenting not only informed the work but also formed the work itself with visual and audio narratives being incorporated.



Wearable Technology in the Arts

Details of an emerging collaboration with the University of Arts London

Wearable Technology in the Arts:


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Wearable technology to record and document practice may relate to several themes:

·       To help develop practice – used to help reflect on practice (self-surveillance)

·       To form practice – technology becomes artwork/part of artwork

·       To communicate practice – for assessment/presentation/dialogue

Drawn Together: A conversation with the collection

My proposal was accepted by the Hunterian Museum for their Hunterian Associates Programme http://www.gla.ac.uk/hunterian/learning/hunterianassociates/

Recognised as a Collection of National Significance to Scotland, The Hunterian provides an inventive platform for postgraduate researchers to share their expert knowledge and to develop their skills through meaningful public engagement and knowledge exchange activities

The project ‘Drawn Together: A conversation with the collection’ is one of nine selected for the programme this year and follows on from the ‘Making the Invisible Visible project’. This time I will be working with the visitors to the museum, using their drawings and reflections, as well as my own to create a piece of work. The work will unfold through a weeklong residency and be documented here: http://drawnconversation.wordpress.com/

Additional narrative will be recorded here as an ‘outside’ space for my own reflections on the project research.

Observing making a drawing

Recording with the Go-Pro the making of an observational drawing. The recording is to observe the process not to demonstrate making a drawing. How does watching the recording enables me to reflect on my process and how can the making be incorporated into the work itself?

Visible technology interference

Today (17/10/13) I have been thinking about how some of the outputs from the process, the films and audio, are going to be incorporated into the piece as it goes along… I have been considering whether the documentation is now becoming disruptive as I am now having to consider how using technology to document the process, as well as using technology to show the process, needs to be part of the work. This led me to look into how I might make my own hidden speakers, which are constructed using conductive thread. The thread would be ‘stitched’ or worked into drawings I produce, as responses to my imagery from the books. http://www.talk2myshirt.com/blog/archives/2429 I have also borrowed a GoPro head camera to record the making of the drawings and investigated how I might use small LCD screens to display the recordings, again incorporated into the drawings (somehow).
This speaker and LCD research is possibly a form of procrastination and distraction from making. However some form of procrastination  is an important part of the making, and the thinking I am doing is a form of ‘editing’ – thinking through and rejecting ideas about what to do next, rather than just doing them. However, I try and stop myself from doing this too much as it can result in nothing getting made… This also highlights the difficulty in authentically documenting a thought process… Much of where I am now with my ideas has evolved from a lot of internal thinking as well as external discussions:
I made a decision with this experimental research to construct a piece of work from its process so I need to accept what this process is. ‘Embedding’ the technology I am using is an important element to this. The technology (film and audio) are materials and forms of expression and communication in the same way that any other materials I use are.
I am excited about how the speakers and moving imagery might ’embed’ in the drawings as this is new territory for me.

The beginning

The initial idea; to make a piece of work from its visible process occurred last week The Beginning. It has surprised me that I am considering using my own personal creative practice as a piece of research but it seems like an interesting way to experiment with methods and also find out more about my own interests in the areas of reflection and the design/creative process.This experiment could be considered a piece of ‘Practice-Led Research’ where I am examining and making visible the process of creating something. I intend to just ‘do’  in terms of making the work and document/ record reflections as much as I can with whatever methods seem appropriate – drawing/photographs/writing/film/audio/internal thoughts/conversations (resisting the temptation to plan without documenting).

I am attempting to record as much of the thought process as possible. The starting point for the idea has been recorded as an audio recording:
– the decision to experiment with my own creative practice occurred after thinking to myself about conversations around stimulated recall and recording creative practice. This experiment will be completed alongside additional research and experimentation.
The experiment could be replicated with students where they produce an outcome that is the sum of its parts ie; a ‘final piece’ which is constructed from the audio, film,visual material they produce through their own reflective,research,experimenting and refining process.
What does a visible process look like?
What insight does recording the process give me about my own practice?
To others looking at my practice?

I have thought about what this might mean for my research, looked to find any similar projects in my general research and been considering the validity of essentially using my own practice as a ‘study’. This has interfered with the practical aspects of making and documenting my process but a week on I feel ready to commit to it as an experimental study and record as much detail of my creative process as possible.

The following is a statement I use to give a background to my work;

themes, ideas & the creative process

I am inspired by often quite mundane objects with an interest in our relationship to them, how they are used, and the context in which we view them. Sentiment and nostalgia sometimes play a big part in my work, either through a personal attachment to the objects, or a constructed narrative.

The visual aesthetics of the objects and images I work with are really important and sometimes it is about finding the hidden beauty in the banal and everyday. By playing with interesting juxtapositions and making connections between seemingly disparate artifacts interesting qualities emerge.

Experiences and half recalled memories often inspire responses to objects and imagery the creative process often starts with photographs, the objects themselves and sketches. This ‘ideas research’ stage often involves revisiting existing work or developing unresolved pieces.

My background is in fine art painting and I specialise in charcoal, graphite, inks and oil paint. The materials are selected by what is most appropriate to the imagery and my ideas and sometimes a theme will be explored in different ways.

This has been a neat way to articulate what I like doing and how the work I have produced over a long period of time connects. I have always focused on defining what it is I am interested in and not particularly why. Why would someone be interested in the ‘beauty in the banal and everyday’ and ‘making connections between seemingly disparate artifacts interesting qualities emerge’ for example. A few months ago I felt like I found my answer, some reasons why I have always been interested in the things I have, why there is a tangible thread that connects my work. The answer, or construction of an explanation I made was when I came across a set of Waverly ‘The Book of Knowledge’ in a charity shop. The volumes were instantly recognisable to me as I had grown up with an identical set as a child and with few other grown up books in the house was often drawn to them. As I leafed through various volumes in the Charity Shop I began to see familiar images and juxtapositions of diagrams, images and texts in these alphabetised reference books. The physical weight and appearance of the books and smell not only brought back nostalgic memories but also a realisation that these books may have influenced my creative practice in a more significant way. If I were to re summarise my practice I would say that my work takes an encyclopaedic approach where links are made between different forms of imagery aesthetically or thematically. Seeing faded black and white images, which are difficult to distinguish as either photographs or illustrations sit alongside scientifically labelled diagrams or hand tinted colour plates of famous paintings. Where images of people curling sit alongside illustrations of cuttlefish.

I bought all twenty of the volumes and they have been sitting in my studio ever since. The information and imagery now dated both in terms of facts and political correctness is what I absorbed consciously and subconsciously and it has since occurred to me that the experience as a child of pouring through information organised as chunks of alphabet is possibly the equivalent of big broad internet searches which take a novice researcher onto interesting, unfocused and distracting journeys. Where in an instant you can access a much wider source of knowledge with equally interesting juxtapositions and contrasts.

This is the context for the work I will be making and ‘The Book of Knowledge’ volume COU – GEN the starting point. The imagery I am drawn to will be responded to in a variety of ways…

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Case studies

As part of my role as Information Learning Technologist Specialist Practitioner I have been developing some case studies on how staff currently use technology in their teaching practice. The case studies serve to highlight the good practice that exists within the college as well as to inspire and introduce different technology tools. They examine the affordances certain tools have in terms of supporting teaching and learning: the benefits, difficulties and issues that exist when trying different tools and methods. the first one is based on a colleagues experience of using Voicethread with her learners:

A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that can show images, documents, and videos.  It allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in different ways; using voice (with a mic or telephone), writing text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). It allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place from anywhere in the world.

Context in Classroom

Dr Val Jessop has been using VoiceThread with her students in a variety of ways. Val asked students from her B.A (Hons) English Language and Literature Studies course to debate utopian and dystopian views on e-literacies as part of their Language, Identity and Representation module. Val started the debate with a typed explanation of what the terms mean and additional questions as prompts for students to add their own views. Students engaged with the tool and process and were able to add their views simultaneously; the synchronous approach enabled students to explore the tool with guidance and demonstrated a different way to exchange ideas. There were students absent who were able to sign in and see what discussion had taken place and also contribute their own views so a good tool for inclusivity.

Some students found the usability of the tool challenging and became frustrated that they were not able to get the tool to work for them, however they were able to see the views of others being exchanged. The students felt this was a fundamental flaw of technology, particularly VoiceThread, in fact the use of the tool became part of their active debate! Their feedback raises the issue of how we integrate the use of different technology tools in teaching and learning and that our lesson design and course design to some extent needs to have the infrastructure in place to teach students how to use the technology itself. The students were exposed to an interesting method of debate and in a sense the ‘medium is the message’ in that some students’ dystopian views of technology were confirmed by their experience of using it. However, with reflection students saw the benefit of having collaboratively constructed a resource and could see the potential for revision later on.

The students used the typing function rather than recording their voices mainly because they were in one room, however confidence in recording ones own voice can also be a barrier. However when this element was discussed with students they did feel that ‘tone of voice’ and being able to emphasise points could be communicated more successfully in this way. Val intends to develop her use of Voice Thread by using it to create resources; uploading a poem that gets deconstructed over a series of explanations.


Voicethread is a tool that gives students choice and ownership over how they interact and contribute to a resource. The integration of audio and or video with online instruction ‘promotes higher levels of student engagement and may lead to increased student satisfaction and enhanced learning experiences.’(Revere and Kovach 201, p.120). Many technology tools align well with good pedagogy, Voicethread can be used as reflective tool for the individual or used collaboratively and ‘provides an easy way for students to listen to and add to the work of their peers [which] may encourage more authentic peer assessment.’ (Educause 2009).


  • It can be embedded onto your Moodle pages
  • Can be used synchronously/asynchronously
  • Learners have a choice over how they record their comments
  • No software to install.
  • Threads can be exported to MP3 players or DVDs to play as archival movies.
  • Quick to create a resource that can be used and developed

Try it out:



Educause (2009), 7 Things You Should Know About VoiceThread, Education Learning Initiative http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/7-things-you-should-know-about-voicethread, last accessed 23 October 2012

Revere, L, Kovach. J V. (2011) ‘ Online Technologies for Engaged Learning A Meaningful Synthesis for Educators Online’ Technologies for Engaged Learning The Quarterly Review of Distance Education Vol. 12, No. 2, 2011

Reflecting on Reflection

This post includes a resource I put together for a teaching session with my Year 2 BA and FdA students this week. For their research projects they are using blogs rather than paper based files to document their research. There are two main purposes of the module, firstly they are researching so that they can put together a proposal and design their own brief for their next project, secondly, they need to show evidence and analyse the research methods they have used.

Last week we focused on the mechanics of setting up a blog, the different research methods they might use and using a template to analyse them. Last week I encouraged them to reflect on this session as a first post on their blogs and found myself explaining their posts as falling into two main categories. Their posts might ‘propel’ forward and evidence what they have found or done and/or they might be reflective posts that consider and ‘discuss’ where they are at.

I could tell that the students were comfortable with seeking and acquiring information (and we revisited Harvard referencing so they could credit and reference their findings correctly) but less comfortable with the idea of reflective. pause for thought posts. This week I addressed this by looking at the affordances of blogging, with them, as well as some practical help on reflection and writing reflective posts. This was followed by a ‘Skills Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats’ activity which got them to consider reflection in more depth. The resource I put together was developed form notes I had taken from Jenny Moon’s (2005) paper as well as an article/podcast by Jill Walker Rettberg (2009);

Blogging as a Tool for Reflection and Learning

*      Frequent writing can help you become more confident about your research

*      I can give you more documented formative feedback

*      It is more obvious when you are on the right or wrong track

*      Others in your ‘network’ can contribute to your research and forming of ideas

*      You can research as part of a much larger community

*      You will develop a clearer ‘voice’ of your own, which will give you confidence that can be carried through into dissertation writing.

*      Feedback is fast

*      Blogging combines aspects of ‘thinking-writing’ with aspects of ‘presentation-writing’

What is reflection?

We reflect on the things that we have no immediate answer to.

We construct knowledge through making connections and relating things we know to the new things we encounter.

Rethinking what we know – thinking about what we know in a new or revisited context enables deeper learning to take place which is not the same as taking on new information without forming links.

Reflection can demonstrate learning.

Embed reflection in assessed tasks leads to better reflection and deeper learning.

Reflection gives the right conditions for learning

  • Slows down the activity
  • Ownership and ‘student voice’ in learning process
  • Metacognition – an awareness of ones own learning
  • Reflect on challenging material

Notes from Jenny moon (2005)

‘“thinking-writing” and “presentation writing”

Thinking writing is the kind of writing we do when we’re thinking through problems or topics, when we’re writing for ourselves and not for an audience…writing can actually help us think. Presentation writing is the kind of writing you do in order to communicate a message. When you use presentation writing you always have a reader in mind.

In a personal blog, each post is usually written quite quickly, and you publish each post immediately. Rather than drafting and revising until each piece of writing is perfect, bloggers tend to publish more frequently and with less perfectionism. You blog your immediate impressions and your first responses to ideas you have read about, or you blog about your experiences or about discussions that are going on in other blogs.’ (Walker Rettberg 2009)


There was more to the resource in terms of pointers for the tone and style of writing but I think the explanation of what they were being asked to do and why was helpful. I have been able to examine my own learning through teaching and the learning of others, the different context or perspective shift has given me a more refined idea of what reflection is and hopefully my students.


Moon, J. (2005) ‘Guide for busy academics no. 4: learning through reflection’ (online), The Higher Education Academy. Available from: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/York/documents/resources/resourcedatabase/id69_guide_for_busy_academics_no4.doc

Walker Rettberg, J. 2009, Virtual book e-pedagogy for teachers in higher education, weblog, accessed 05 October 2012, <http://www.virclass.net/eped/index.php?action=static&id=29&gt;