I spend a lot of time persusing YouTube watching and listening to various musicians perform. It is a fantastic resource and barely a week goes by without me encountering musicians I had not heard before which interest and excite me and gift me a wonderful experience. This week I came across Avisahi Cohen the wonderful bass player and his various ensembles. As a drummer I got really inspired by these drum solos.
I began this blog in February 2012 as a means of using my own life to explore how I learn and develop as it unfolds. It has been an essential part of my project to develop my own understandings and meanings of lifewide learning and education and what I learn feeds into my activities and resources for my lifewide education social-educational enterprise which is now entering its 10th year.https://www.lifewideeducation.uk/ I have come to see this point, at the start of a new decade, as a new milestone and perhaps a symbolic turning point. Such points assume such meanings only because we invest meaning in them and then begin to act on the consequences of such meaning making. I have chosen to act by taking stock of where we have got to with our lifewide learning and education project and set myself the task of trying to iimagine the future and how we might reshape ourselves to actively participate in that future.
But I must admit, over the last 12 months my energy and enthusiasm for this project had begun to wane - it is hard to sustain high levels of motivation over the timescale of years and the stepping down of JW from her role as executive editor, who had shared my passion for lifewide had a detrimental imapact on my motivation. But two things happened in the last few months to rekindle my enthusiasm. The first was my invitation to particiapte in Harvard University's LILA inquiry (discussed in a previous post). This showed me that the ideas I was promoting were appreciated by other scholars who recognised not only their conceptual value but their practical consequences. The second event was my emerging working relationship with Dr Doug Cole who is an expert in employability expert working at Nottingham Trent University. He also shares my passion for a lifewide approach in his field of employability. Furthermore, he was able to recognise synergies beween his interests and work and the interests and work of lifewide education and was prepared to connect our two concerns through a formalised relationship. So after spending and evening talking about it Doug is joining our team as our Creative Director intent on helping us to join up, integrate and engage with the multiple pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that are the diverse pedagogical and practice domains that are relevant to lifewide education. Knowing that there is someone I can work closely with on this project makes all the difference. Immediately after my meeting with Doug I set about writing a strategy paper and my first step is to consider the contexts within which Lifewide Education is embedded.
Looking back over the last 12 years
The origins of Lifewide Education lie in the work of the Surrey Centre for Professional Training and Education at the University of Surrey, one of the Centre’s for Excellence in Teaching and Learning funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Between 2008-11 SCEPTrE developed and applied the idea of lifewide learning and education. This work provides a substantial practical evidence-base on which to develop the concepts of lifewide learning and education.
Inspired by the experience of SCEPTrE’s work and the immortal words of adult educator Eduard Lindeman 'the whole of life is learning therefore education can have no ending', I founded Lifewide Education as a community of interest company in 2011. With the help of numerous volunteers and no external funding we have: 1) established a reputation as an honest advocate and champion for lifewide learning and education, 2) attracted and served a global community of interest with nearly 600 subscribers to our mail list 3) created a HUB hosting a range of free open access resources 4) conducted numerous intellectual explorations of ideas relating to lifewide learning and education and published these through an open access magazine which has been accessed over 20,000 times 5) brought together practitioners in UK universities who are responsible for skills awards to share their practices through a conference and e-book and 6) developed an entirely new way of thinking about learning and practice through the concept of ecologies for learning and practice publishing two books [4,5] in the process and gaining international recognition through Harvard University’s Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA) inquiry into learning ecologies (October 2019) At a policy research level, Lifewide Education contributed a vision paper and participated in an EU Foresight Study Workshop ‘Open Education 2030’ aimed at developing a vision of adult learning and education in 2030.
Lifewide learning focuses attention on the holistic development of people - The focus of lifewide learning is on the way individuals develop themselves as whole people through all the affordances (opportunities) they can find or can create within their own lives. Lifewide education refers to the approaches adopted by educational institutions in order to embrace the holistic whole-of life development of individuals. It is as much concerned with the development of attitudes, values, character and creativity as it is with the intellectual development of individuals that is often the traditional focus of secondary and tertiary education.
In UK, the concept and practice of lifewide learning was grown in higher education where they can be related to other policy- driven and practice-based movements for example those relating to – personal development planning (PDP) and e-porfolios, employability, leadership, citizenship, volunteering and social inclusion to name a few. The extent to which Lifewide Education as an organisation has been able to connect to such practitioner movements is questionable.
Looking forwards to 2030
I have always believed that a lifewide approach to education is about helping people prepare for the rest of their lives and my thinking has been influenced by future visions of the world developed by others. In an attempt to look over the horizon at what learning will be like in the future, the EU commissioned the Joint Research Centre IPTS to undertake a Foresight study in 2009 which was published in 2011. The study aimed to identify, understand and visualise major changes to learning in the future. The process developed a descriptive vision of the future, based on existing trends and drivers, and a normative vision outlining how future learning opportunities should be developed to contribute to social cohesion, socio-economic inclusion and economic growth. Figure 1 summarises the most important components of this vision which might be summarised in these words.
The overall vision is that personalisation, collaboration and informalisation (informal learning) will be at the core of learning in the future. These terms are not new in education and training but they will become the central guiding principle for organising learning and teaching. The central learning paradigm is thus characterised by lifelong and lifewide learning and shaped by the ubiquity of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). At the same time, due to fast advances in technology and structural changes to European labour markets related to demographic change, globalisation and immigration, generic and transversal skills are becoming more important. These skills should help citizens to become lifelong learners who flexibly respond to change, are able to pro-actively develop their competences and thrive in collaborative learning and working environments.
Figure 1 Conceptual map of the future of learning 2030
The explicit role played by lifewide learning in this vision of near future learning is connected to the ideas of learning anywhere/anytime, informal learning and the capabilities to plan, manage and self-regulate own learning and development. These capacities will be key to being an effective learner in this vision of future learning as it unfolds in the decade to come. But lifewide learning is also connected to the ideas that learning is both personal and individual, yet also social and collaborative. As Jackson shows lifewide learning provides a conceptual framework that enables the learner to view themselves 'as the designer of an integrated, meaningful life experience. An experience that incorporates formal education as one component of a much richer set of experiences that embrace all the forms of learning and achievement that are necessary to sustain a meaningful life'.9 p115
Looking forwards 50 years from now
The children, adolescents and young adults of today who are participating in education (and the other parts of their life) will be the workers and citizens of societies 50 years from now. They will live in a world that is unimaginably different and we argue that the way we educate today will lay the foundations for survival and flourishing in the distant future. In this context lifewide takes on new meaning and relevance. In all societies education is used instrumentally to prepare people for work – to equip them with knowledge and skills so that they are employable both generally and more specifically. But the emphasis is on the short term – entry into the work force. What societies need to be doing now is paying attention to the more distant future – that is the real challenge for tertiary education and why the idea of lifewide learning with its concern for the development of the inner character core of people is so much more relevance now than it did a decade ago. For we have entered the machine age - the age when human beings will compete with machines which will progressively out-perform us; an age where humans as biological machines may well transition to becoming humans that are partly genetically engineered and partly mechanically and electronically engineered.
While nothing is certain about the future there are lots of pointers that indicate that the role currently performed by work will significantly change. Economist, Danial Susskind’s new book ‘A world Without Work’5 paints a vivid picture of a future containing far fewer opportunities for work than the present. In such a social environment people will a) have to be financially supported by their Governments through some sort of universal wage and b) have to be able to find purposes and meaning in their lives that are not related to work (the activity through which most adults in their day to day life currently find purpose and meaning). We argue that the development of an appreciation of how life provides such affordances through a lifewide approach to education would help build a foundation of awareness that will help people sustain themselves in their distant future.
Although we cannot tell how long it will take to arrive at a world with less work for human beings to do, there are clear signs that we are on our way there. The problems of inequality, power and meaning are not lurking in the distance, hidden out of sight in the remote future. They have already begun to unfold, to trouble and test our inherited institutions and traditional ways of life. It is up to us now to respond10 p238
Nothing is certain about the future – even the short-term future and certainly there will be many challenges in the decade ahead. Sustaining our enterprise with very little resource and voluntary support will always be a challenge but we are bolstered by the belief that our mission to support and advance the principle that 'the whole of life is learning therefore education can have no ending'2, is a worthwhile cause.
OPEN INVITATION if you would like to join our team of volunteers or you would like to offer your opinions and suggestions on how we can improve what we do please email me – Norman Jackson (Director Lifewide Education) email@example.com
1 Jackson, N. J. (Ed) Learning for a Complex World: A lifewide concept of learning, education and personal development. Authorhouse
2 Lindeman, E. C. (1926a) The Meaning of Adult Education, New York: New Republic. Republished in a new edition in 1989 by The Oklahoma Research Center for Continuing Professional and Higher Education
3 Jackson, N.J and Willis, J. (Eds) Lifewide Learning and Education in Universities and Colleges. Lifewide Education available at: http://www.learninglives.co.uk/e-book.htm
4 Jackson, N.J. (2016 & 2019) Exploring Learning Ecologies ChalkMountain: LULU
5 Barnett, R. and Jackson, N.J. (Eds) Ecologies for Learning and Practice: Emerging ideas, sightings and possibilities. Routledge
7 Jackson, N.J. (2013) EU Lifewide Development Award Vision Paper. Contribution to EU Foresight Study Open Education 2030 available at https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/openeducation2030/category/vision-papers/lifelong-learning/
8 Redecker, C., Leis, M., Leendertse, M., Punie, Y., Gijsbers, G., Kirschner, P. Stoyanov, S. and Hoogveld, B. (2011) The Future of Learning: Preparing for Change. European Commission Joint Research Centre Institute for Prospective Technological Studies EUR 24960 EN Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union http://ipts.jrc.ec.europa.eu/publications/pub.cfm?id=4719
9 Jackson, N.J. (2011) An Imaginative Lifewide Curriculum, in Jackson, N. J. (ed) Learning for a Complex World: A lifewide concept of learning, education and personal development. Authorhouse 100-121.
10 Susskind D, (2020) A World Without Work Allen Lane
I don’t make things very often but over the last couple of weeks I have invested time, energy and money in building a sound booth in our rehearsal room. Although I had a rough idea as to what they looked and sounded like ( few years go I had been put in a cupboard lined with acoustic foam to record a children’s story I had written) I more or less improvised rather than following a design. Actually the whole project was triggered by some of the ceiling coming down and after I had repaired it and cleaned up the mess I decided the room needed a bit of tlc. I like to think I am resourceful and I have had a sheet of glass that was part of a shower encloser sitting outside my backdoor for about three years so that became the core of one of two walls I had to build. It was ridiculously heavy but my brother-in-law helped me carry it across the garden and fix it I place. It was almost a perfect fit. Then I built a frame for the second wall with studding and MDF and fitted an old door I had in the shed. That gave me the framework. I clad the outside of the glass with foam (stuff I had saved from an old sofa without knowing what it would be used for) and a layer of MDF. Inside the cubicle I put old duvet covers on the walls and covered them with black removal blanket and then put acoustic foam tiles on the roof and glass and carpet tiles on the floor. It gave me a lot of satisfaction to make something and I was pleased with the result and when we tried it out for recording it worked very well.
At one level – bringing something new into existence that when built seems to fulfil its purpose is, I suppose, a creative act, but it didn’t feel creative. Rather it felt like a steady process of constructing something from existing materials some of which I had readily to hand (you might say were waiting to be used) and some of which I had to go and buy. In terms of a process it felt like the way Tim Ingold describes making as a process of growth brought about through working with the materials. I want to think of making as a process of growth. This is to place the maker from the outset as a participant in amongst a world of active materials. These materials are what he has to work with, and in the process of making he joins forces with them, bringing them together or splitting them apart, synthesizing and distilling, in anticipation of what might emerge. (Ingold, 2013, p. 21)
So what motivated me to spend time and over £300 on making the sound pod. Well it wasn’t the idea of building a sound pod to put our lead singer in the box to stop annoying us. No, I was motivated by the bigger idea of producing our musical this year and making reasonable recordings of the songs. We tested an incomplete version of the sound pod and produced some recordings that were better than any we had produced before.
It’s the start of the new year. Not just any new year but the start of the next decade. A decade that could well be my last! At the start of the last decade I was gainfully employed at the University of Surrey but only 16 months later I embarked on a new pathway as an independent writer, publisher and facilitator. A few months later I created my website and started my blog to some curate some of the events in my life. It has been an interesting decade and a lot has happened to me and my family and most of what happened to me was not planned it emerged from and through the milieu that is life. As I interacted with the world and caused some sort of disturbance in it, the world interacted with me and caused some sort of disturbance in me. A good example of this was the invitation I received last June, from the Harvard LILA team to contribute to their inquiry into learning ecologies. My involvement in LILA was a direct result of me interacting with the world to explore the idea of learnig ecologies and sharing my ideas. More and more I realise that everything that has gone before – what John Dewey would call my undergoing – feeds into my present thinking and guides my decisions and actions for the next stage of my undergoing.
So what of the next decade? At the start of every year I wonder what next? And every year interesting possibilities seem to emerge. I start this year with optimism. I am looking forward to meeting Doug Cole who is interested in joining me on the lifewide education project which I feel is need of a serious injection of energy and new ideas. I am also thinking about my new book project although I have yet to decide on the idea I will explore. But I am confident that with a bit of imagination and an open disposition something will emerge as I interact with this beautiful and unpredictable world.
As I drove past a cemetry near where I live which looks onto Box Hill .I was struck by the brighteness and beauty of it all. The hill was covered in low cloud, but the whole scene was framed by a deep blue sky. I could not imagine a more peaceful and uplifting final resting place. It seemed to provide me with a rich metaphor for the past, the present and an eternal future fullof hope and possibility.
In the last few weeks I have focused on producing a Guide to explain how to map a learning ecology. I produced some maps when I was writing ‘Exploring Learning Ecologies but I have never sat down and tried to put my ideas together on the idea of mapping a learning ecology. I came up with four ways of making a map.
1 Narratives – a story using a timeline to structure events, situations, interactions and achievements
2 Diagrams – using a timeline to structure events, situations, interactions and achievements
3 Diagrams – using the ecological framework to identify the elements of an ecology of practice A) List B) Narrative
4 Diagrams that seek to show the dynamics of an ecology of practice as a snapshot
“We do not learn from experience we learn from reflecting on experience”(John Dewey - 1 p.78)
The key question is what is the value in making a map of our learning ecologies. I think the main purpose of making such a map is to raise awareness of our own work practices that enable us to learn.
Mapping, analyzing and visualizing our own experiences is a learning process in its own right and research indicates that it is more beneficial to articulate, codify and analyse our experience than accumulating similar additional experiences (2). What is learned through refection can lead to enhanced performance through increased self-efficacy (2) i.e. the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the course of action required to manage prospective situation.
The process of making a map becomes a powerful prompt for reflecting on our experiences enabling us to inquire into how, why, when, where we are learning and what we have learnt and created. A set of questions to aid reflection, based on the heuristic, is provided in Appendix 1.
An ecology of practice map is not only a checklist of the actions undertaken to achieve particular goals. Its purpose is to reveal the way the maker deliberately and imaginatively wove together and accessed the affordances in their environment, the ideas, resources, contexts, relationships, spaces and places to learn, perform and create new value.
Once codified, we can mine our experience to learn from it and improve our own practices with questions like: ‘What have I discovered through assembling (or re-visiting) this ecology which should make more effective in the future that I have been in the past”? Or, more metacognitively, how could I improve the assembling of an ecology like this one to make it more effective for me? (John Cowan in providing me with feedback on this guide).
An interesting side effect of this exploration was the way it motivated me to revise the book I self-published in 2016 'Exploring Learning Ecologies' to accommodate these ideas (3)
1 Dewey J. (1933) How We Think. Boston, MA: D. C. Heath and Co
2 Stefano G. D., Gino, F., Pisano G.P., Stats B.R. (2016) Making Experience Count: The role of reflection in individual learning Working Paper 14-093 Harvard Business School
3 Jackson, N.J. (2019) Exploring Learning Ecologies (2nd edition) Authorhouse http://www.lulu.com/shop/norman-jackson/exploring-learning-ecologies/paperback/product-24288878.html
Some examples of the visual representations I experimented with
1 Using a timeline to organise activity and interactions
2 Using a timeline to organise the elements of an EoP. I experimented with the idea of a day in my life
3 Drawing a picture as a synthesis in this case about 5 weeks of activity
4 Using the heuristic as a checklist
5 Using the heuristic with a narrative
I have always known that new challenges drive my learning so its a delight to open my mailbox and discover an interesting and exciting invitation. This happened to me a few weeks ago when I received an email from Marga Biller who is the Project Director for the Learning Innovations Laboratory at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. LILA is a 20-year old research project that brings together non-competing chief learning, talent and innovation officers from 20 global organizations to push one another's thinking and practices as they consider the future of human development and creativity in the workplace. The community consists of leaders operating in a variety of contexts such as Steelcase, Deloitte, US Army University, Merck, Independent Schools of Victoria Australia, Publicis Sapient, and Visa. Each academic year, the LILA community explores a topic related to challenges of human and organizational development. Last year LILA explored the theme of Collective Mindfulness and based on conversations that took place last year and the member’s current challenges, it was decided that the theme for 2019 - 2020 would be Ecologies of Learning in a Transforming World. Marga was inviting me to join the process to share our work on learning ecologies, lifewide and lifelong learning and I will be going to present and discuss my ideas at the first meeting in October 23 and 24th.
At this point I have little idea about how I will try to connect the ideas I have grown in an educational environment to the corporate organisational worlds of participants but over the next few weeks I will try to document some of the things I learn and also the ecology of practice I create in order to learn
WHAT IS LILA? short animation to explain how it works
An Experiment in Using Nature to Inspire Creative Thinking in Professional Conversations : a “walking curriculum”
I find the idea of a ‘Walking Curriculum’ (Judson 2018a & b) quite inspiring.
“The simple act of taking a walk—a walk with a curricular focus or purpose—can have multiple positive consequences… For example, walking can support students’ health and wellbeing by getting them moving. It can also emotionally and imaginatively engage learners by changing the “context” of learning (“context” meaning both location and the form of attention and involvement required of students).
Going even deeper, walking-based practice can support students in developing a sense of Place. Sense of Place, here, refers to an emotional connection to some aspect of the wildness in the world that surrounds them. Sense of Place involves a sense of community. Sense of Place is what can change how our students understand the world of which they are part—it can help them re-imagine their relationship with the natural and cultural communities they live in (Judson, 2010, 2015).”
In her work on Imaginative ‘Ecological Education’, Gillian Judson frames the idea of a walking curriculum as a means of engaging school children in the natural world to support ‘a place-based and context / situation specific approach to learning which aims to develop learners’ somatic (bodily), emotional, and imaginative bonds with the natural world generally, and with specific places in particular.’ I am interested in understanding how an opportunity to walk in, through and with nature might stimulate creative thinking in the contexts of professional conversation, problem solving, learning and relationship development. Here I describe a simple strategy aimed at using a walk in the garden to stimulate creative thinking about the complex primary care world inhabited by a group of experienced GP (doctors) in the UK.
Judson (2018a & b) uses three imaginative cognitive tools to help us connect to and make sense of the natural world:
1 sense of relation: the innate human desire to form relationships and, in this way, to engage with our surroundings.
2 emotional attachments with features or objects in the world we encounter or make
3 Creating or claiming special places/spaces
I would like to include a fourth cognitive tool that uses imagination to connect us in ways that are personally meaningful to our environment through the making of a cultural
artefact e.g. a story with cultural meaning
Making cultural artefacts such as photographs, drawings, paintings, movies, stories, poems or any other form of self-expression are important means for us to connect and relate ourselves and our lives to the natural environment. Through the process of making we create emotional attachments to the environment and the product (the artefact) enables us to share our meaning making with others.
By making an artefact with cultural meaning that has been grown in the natural world when we connect our imaginations, emotions, physical bodies and creativity to a particular place, time and conversation. In this example I encouraged GP’s to create a stories about problems, challenges and possible solutions illustrated through metaphors gathered from the natural world. By placing the conversations in a garden, I encouraged participants to draw on living, organic, ecological metaphors in their story forming process.
The 10 participants were all experienced practitioners who had formed a learning set which had met on four occasions prior to this session. Most of the people in the group new each other and some had worked together in the same practice. I introduce the activity using two ideas. The first was the idea of a walking curriculum – a walk with a purpose namely: a walk in the natural world to stimulate imagination and creative thinking to gain fresh perspectives on problems and solutions to problems in their professional world. I also framed the activity as a means to encourage creativity and talked about the way our perceptions, reasoning and imagination are connected in a merry dance when we engage in problem solving using the concept of pragmatic imagination developed by Ann Pendleton-Jullian and John Seely Brown (2016). My working hypothesis was that an awareness of how perception, reasoning and imagination were intertwined in thinking about and with complexity provided a framework for thinking about creativity in this context.
My garden has three different spaces – cultivated garden with a small lake, natural woodland and an uncultivated meadow. My invitation to participants -
1 In pairs, take a walk around the garden, woods and field using all your senses, imagination and feelings to experience it.
2 Using your perceptions, imagination and reasoning - find something that provides you with a metaphor for a problem, issue or challenge in Primary Care / General Practice. Discuss why this is a good metaphor and take a photo of the object(s).
3 Continue your walk and using your perceptions, imagination and reasoning - find something that provides you with an apt metaphor for a possible solution to the problem, issue or challenge you have identified, or suggests an entirely new form of organisation or practice. Take a photo of the object(s).
4 Email your photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org
5 After 30mins the group will reconvene inside the house to share insights. Each pair will have 3 mins to tell their stories using their photos as a prompt.
Everyone took the exercise seriously. I was able to observe the pairs in discussion as they walked around the garden and took photographs and short video clips to show how the activity worked.
After 30mins participants reconvened and each pair presented the results of their conversations and shared the metaphors they had discovered in the natural world.
The purpose of the activity was to encourage professional interaction and conversations in an environment in which such conversations did not normally take place. The film demonstrates that this was achieved. By placing participants in the natural world and forcing them to seek objects and relationships that could act as metaphors for problems and possible solutions I was encouraging them to think ecologically. Participants’ stories indicated that this objective had been achieved. At the end of the session I invited participants to offer their comments on the value of the activity. Feedback indicated that what was valued was 1) the time, space and permission and 2) the nature of the space that emotionally provided a sense of liberation for usual ways of thinking and doing 3) the experience of being creative.
Was it a worthwhile activity? – ‘it certainly gets you to see things in a different light’ ‘it gives you permission to step back and look at things’
What is the value about the environment you were in? ‘There is a sense of freedom [in being in such an environment]. Normally we are pressured, always thinking about things we have to do. The conversation felt liberating’.
Did it encourage you to use your creativity? ‘The walking curriculum was very thought provoking & made me realise how creative we GP’s can be! It was such an unusual way to consider problems and solutions’
I observed two patterns of engagement with the challenge I had created
The first approach was: 1 Perceive - look at something 2 Imagine what that something might mean in the context of our experiences and practices 3 Discuss and reason how the something becomes a metaphor for experience and practice. This approach is well illustrated by the story of the children’s table and chairs as it is the first thing that can be seen as participants stepped out of the door.
The second approach began with conversations. I observed participants deep in conversation without paying attention to their surroundings and then searching for images in the environment that they could use to inspire, illuminate and communicate their story. In terms of thinking this approach might be characterized as 1 Reason (cases drawn from practice experiences) 2 Perception (look for something in the environment) with 3 Imagination to see the something as a metaphor for the problem or solution they were seeking.
‘It worked really well as a process in the sense of walking around, having a conversation then looking for pictures that fitted the conversation’
The two approaches are shown diagrammatically. The reality is that participants used a combination or blend of these approaches.
SourcesJudson, G. (2010). A New approach to ecological education: Engaging students’ imaginations in their world. New York: Peter Lang.
Judson, G. (2015). Engaging imagination in ecological education: Practical strategies for teaching. Vancouver, B.C.: UBC Press.
Judson, G. (2018a) A Walking Curriculum: Evoking Wonder And Developing Sense of Place (K-12)
Judson, G. (2018b) Cultivating Ecological Understanding and Engagement with the World through Imaginative Ecological Education Lifewide Magazine #20
Pendleton-Jullian, A. and Brown, J S. (2016) Pragmatic Imagination. http://www.pragmaticimagination.com/
It’s always worthwhile to spend a little time thinking about our own motivations and practices. I had the good fortune of spending a few days with friends in Cornwall over the weekend and spent several hours walking on the beach at Watergate Bay. The spring tide receded a long way and we were treated to fantastic vistas of beach, surf, cliffs and rock pools, combined with a wonderful dose of sunshine on two of the days, combined to create the most wonderful environment. There is no doubt that being in that particular space with the sun and wind on my face, the sound of crashing wind and waves and the dazzling beauty of all that I could see filled me, with positive happy feelings.
I had a few hours on one of the afternoons to walk the beach by myself. I could see it was an opportunity for me to do something for myself. My first thought was to take some photos to take home with me to do a painting. Then I thought, I could make a movie. I had made a movie of the rock pools on Portreath beach last September, and also of Narrawallee beach near where my mother lives in Australia, both of which I enjoyed making. So I knew what I had to do and I knew that it would be an enjoyable experience.
Over a few hours, I took lots of photos and video clips with my phone camera and enjoyed looking for the opportunities that were all around me in the landscape and seascape. I enjoyed the physicality of scrambling over rocks and jumping the little streams running across the beach all the time on the lookout for interesting features or angles. I was immersed in my project, I had a clear sense of what I was trying to do and I imagined, in a general way, how the photos I was taking, might be combined into a short movie. By the end of the afternoon I had about 40 photos and video clips to work with and I was satisfied that I had sufficient material to work with.
We returned home the next day and I couldn’t wait to get started on my movie. I had decided that I would send a link to it as a way of saying thank you to our generous hosts who had given us such a fantastic holiday, so I felt I needed to make the movie straight away.
I uploaded my photos and video clips to my laptop and spent several hours crafting my movie using ‘windows movie maker’. I selected and ordered the images, added music (after listening to several possible pieces). I worked out transitions, timings and animations, cut out pieces that didn’t fit, edited the sound track, and added some captions. I made several versions before I was happy with it. The whole thing was a pleasurable and generative experience and at the end I was satisfied with what I had made. I uploaded my video to my YouTube channel and shared it via ‘whats ap’ with my family and with my thank you message to the friends who had looked after us so well. I was delighted to receive from her a lovely message saying how beautiful the movie was and she in turn shared a short video she had made of the sun going down that evening. I also sent a link to my movie to my children who are on ‘whats ap’ by way of showing them where we had been.
All in all, this was a simple, self-contained project that took me perhaps 6 hours to achieve – half on the beach and half on my laptop. I found the whole thing very satisfying. I had used the opportunity I had used the opportunity I had to do something that interested me. I made something that captured some nice memories and felt artistic. I had employed my imagination, knowledge and some technical skills. I had shared my product and gained some positive feedback on it.
Mindful of the on-line conversation we were having in the #creativeHE Facebook group I saw an opportunity to use/share my experience and relate it to the conversation. I thought I would try to use a model developed by Paul Kleiman that I had included in Discussion Paper 3 to explain my experience. I could see and appreciate all the parts of the model in my own experience except for the 'constraints' part of the model. In my own experience described above I did encounter constraints, only possibilities and opportunities, and it was these features of my environment, together with the natural beauty of the landscape I was in, that drove my interest and enthusiasm for my making project. In looking at the representation I had made, based on Paul’s descriptions, I could also see that that all the dimensions of the model seemed to be present throughout the experience. They co-existed and interacted as the experience unfolded. I made another representation to summarise my understanding and posted my thoughts in the online conversation.
Then in response to my post Jenny Willis highlighted a feature I had overlooked in my own interpretation of my experience namely the role of ‘sharing’. I had to agree that she was right.
I have made similar movies before and I do share them through my blog and as soon as I thought of the idea of making a movie, the idea of sharing it was also in my mind. In particular, I wanted to use my movie as a way of saying thank you in a meaningful way, to our generous friends who looked after us for the 4 days we stayed with them. I concluded that the desire to gift the products of our attempts to be creative to particular people, or people more generally, is an opportunity, a motivation, an action and a potential source of feedback that sustains our interest and commitment to trying to do something creative. So I added the idea of sharing to Paul Kleiman’s model and reposted my reasoning in the on-line forum and set about writing this post to explain, in a more comprehensive way, the journey I have been on. In this way I think I have been able to advance my own thinking a little.
We talk a lot about creating opportunities for learners to use and develop their creativity but what about adults? many of whom are in jobs where there is little opportunity for creative self-expression.
I recently experienced a wonderful example of a way in which many people were able to participate in a process that provided opportunities for creative expression by contributing to the entertainment at a friends 70th birthday party.
It’s an interesting story as it revealed the role of the enabler, R the wife of B whose birthday we were celebrating. It was her idea to create an event which soon became known as ‘BRIFEST’. She organized and resourced the event, found the venue, organized the catering and acted as a facilitator to connect people and encourage collaboration.
My own involvement was through my band. For me it began in October (10 weeks before the event) when I was contacted by R by email. She told me she was planning a surprise birthday party for her husband and she wanted to form it around entertainment provided by friends and family. She knew I was in a band and her husband had seen me several times so my band was on the list of possible contributors to the event along with two other bands and a lot of individuals willing to share their talents.
So, the opportunity was a public event in which people were invited to share their talents, in the spirit that anyone who was willing to contribute was accepted. The gem in all this was the way in which the invitation was made through an email in which individuals were introduced to each other by the party organiser with the expectation that collaborations would form. And form they did - two of the bands including five musicians and a singer into their sets.
Above - my band with two guest musicians
The line-up included - the amazing ukulele band formed by three people who had never played or practised together or even decided what to play until the evening of the event.There was also the ‘bottle orchestra’ who had only ever played together once, back in 1985! Clearly participants were prepared to take risks in pursuit of making a creative contribution.
In total, over 20 friends and family members contributed to over four hours of entertainment – music, poetry, story telling, singing and dancing – the list of contributors were captured on the back of a ‘BRIFEST’ T-shirt designed by the organizer.
The whole event brought home to me the value in enabling ordinary people to express themselves creatively through a performing at a public event.
So what were the steps in liberating the creative potential of participants?
It began with a need and desire in the mind of the organizer to create a significant and meaningful event in recognition of this important milestone in the life of her husband. They had a long tradition of surprise birthday parties so the idea of surprise became part of the project and everyone involved was sworn to secrecy.
The idea of an evening of entertainment formed over three months before the event and it was shared in an email with the key people who might contribute to check on their interest and availability.
Here is the email invitation I received proposing the idea.
I replied “WOW that sounds really really exciting R..a bit like Jools Holland... you certainly think imaginatively. I cannot see why my band would not want to be involved. Would we be able to use the equipment in the studios or would we have to bring and set up our own? How long were you imagining we would play for? What are B’s favourite bands/songs? Thanks for the opportunity it sounds like fantastic fun”
Of course my band was interested and I put together a set list that I thought would appeal to B and checked it with R. But I had to go to Australia and other members of the band had commitments and it was early December before we actually got together to begin rehearsing. We had a total of five rehearsals.
In the meantime the organizer’s ideas had developed further and she emailed everyone involved and encouraged collaborations amongst participants. The final sentence in the email was telling. “I look forward to seeing how all you creatives develop this skeleton!” Clearly, she trusted and expected people to be resourceful and inventive to shape the event and its content. Attached to he email was a rough plan for the structure of the evening.
This email acted as a catalyst. There followed a number of emails from participants offering to contribute and through this a number of collaborations emerged. For example, my band invited one participant to play keyboards on a song with us, another to play his 12 string guitar on a song and a female singer to join us on a song (she ended up performing the whole set with us!).
The results were quite magical with everything coming together in both a spontaneous, but well organized way on the evening of the party. A good experience for all and a good example of how everyday creativity can be facilitated through a celebratory event when people are willing to contribute and are enabled to do so. The act of performing in public motivates people to practise as individuals, and to come together to practice. The process encouraged connections to form and new relationships to develop out of which new creations were made. The spirit of the evening was captured in the final song of our set when R & B and their family joined us on stage.
To develop my understandings of how I learn and develop through all parts of my life by recording and reflecting on my own life as it happens.
I have a rough plan but most of what I do emerges from the circumstances of my life