Friday, 30 March 2012


I was struck by this suggestion at the end of Phil Race’s ‘If I Were In Charge’ blogpost…

From Sarah Wall: GMIT, Ireland…
if I was in charge for a day I would encourage (mandatory seems almost intuitively counterproductive…but maybe not)….. a module in creativity, regardless of disciplines, i.e. across the board.
I would go one step further and request that both “educators” and “students” participate in these modules together….the them and us scenario can be a barrier. Being creative together may help in trust and “comfort” levels for students.
Creativity would involve problem solving, imagination work, the impact of choice, artistic and craft elements, music and song….play and improvisation.
My logic/reasoning is that creativity is absolutely fundamental to life and both inspires and sustains. We are repeatedly told in society (particularly when times are hard) to be innovative in our solutions. If we brainwash our students and ourselves to only absorb other peoples thoughts and deeds and suppress their/our own originality and imagination, then what are we doing to their/our innovation and indeed their/our passion.

In IADT School of Creative Arts, I think we assume that creativity is a core component of our Teaching and Learning, because a lot of us are creative, coming from creative disciplines and teaching creative disciplines (or rather helping our Learners to Learn creative disciplines in the most progressive and constructivist ways). As creative lecturers, we assume there are no ‘wrong answers’. We try to push the imaginative aspects of everything we do, all the time (some of us more than others, I admit (stretching this point can lead to all sorts of psychotic and problematic areas)

So, it’s easy for us to be rather dismissive of Sarah Wall’s suggestion… However, I’m only realising that this ‘problem’ of creativity is probably a daunting prospect for many of our IADT lecturing staff, admin staff and students.

With this in mind, I've already suggested a series of short, fun, evening workshops in lateral thinking, brainstorming and creativity, starting in September 2012, for all IADT staff, with students invited too... I'm sure they'll find some idiot to run such workshops...

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Teaching Philosphy - A Start

‘to get students past technical crap, to a creative space (where I believe most of them want to be)’

 It seems a bizarre and very basic philosophy? Is this really what’s underpinned not only my teaching, but my ideas on course development and curriculum development for the past ten years? Animation is a bizarre mix of the technical and the artistic – the technical covering basic craft aspects (art skills, drawing, concept development, writing and performance), as well as a tsunami of digital and media skills (2D software, CGI software, sound, post-production, emerging technologies (new  software, hardware and media).  The artistic covers some of the aspects already covered by craft, but in a different, deeper and more immersive way – concept development, creative thinking and ideas generation (including world creation and the more swamping immersive aspects of writing, painting and drawing).

In our 4 year ab initio course, we notionally simplify our course concept to claim that Stage 1 and Stage 2 concentrate on the development of ‘skills’ (be they artistic or technical), whilst Stage 3 and Stage 4 concentrate more on the development of ‘authorship’. The early stages tend towards a more Behaviourist teaching style and course delivery, whilst the latter stages present  far more Constructivist potentials and challenges. Perhaps the differences between the early and latter stages could be framed as the difference between ‘Makers’ and ‘Creators’? Some students struggle with the ‘maker’ role, whilst others never gather the multidisciplinary aspects of their practice together enough to become accomplished ‘creators’. In the world and industry of animation (and in the broader world of media), there are fulfilling lifelong career opportunities for both ‘makers’ and ‘creators’.

‘to get students past technical crap, to a creative space…’ let’s examine my philosophy again… Whilst technical problem solving and corner-cutting always forms part of any animation or media project (in college or in the big wide world), the technical tends to become just one problem in a pantheon of problems. I call this ‘inflicting yourself on the software, inflicting yourself on the tools’.  But beyond the technical, what is this ‘creative space’, this place where our students begin to become authors, world-creators, film-makers?

The ‘creative space’ is where authors have the confidence to move beyond concepts such as ‘ideas are cheap’ into a realm where they are the creative, they live and breathe concepts and ideas. The authors have the skills to work independently or to supervise teams of creative people, using diverse craft and technical techniques to create something from scratch, something wholly original, something wholly their own. Authors have the ability to discover and create even within this process of creation, changing concepts and ideas up to the very moment of completion. And, in the end, the best projects are never quite finished, they are merely abandoned.

A word of caution – the creative space is not an entirely comfortable place. Because creative work and the self become synonymous, problems, doubt and failure become hotwired into the author’s self, in a very raw and difficult way. Authors tend not to view any past accomplishments, but only the challenges of today and of the future. As I frequently tell my students ‘creativity is a life sentence, inescapable’. Indeed, when creative cease to do their own work, it strikes into their beings, like the removal of their limbs.

‘to get students past technical crap, to a creative space (where I believe most of them want to be)’
I had hoped to move beyond this philosophy, even in this first preliminary examination, but I haven’t. This is very much a first iteration, which can now be examined and questioned from now on, even if it is ultimately reaffirmed.

Monday, 12 March 2012

BBC article on internet education revolution

This is a BBC video article on the internet sparking an educational revolution… ‘Blackboards and textbooks are so old school.’ In contrast to Eric Mazur (an experienced educator behaving as an amateur media communicator), these people strike me as experienced media communicators and new-business people behaving as amateur educators…

‘we really designed what we call a campus…’ - Adam Pritzker – General Assembly Co-Founder

‘students can design their own curricula. Students can figure out what they want to learn, based on their experience, their aspirations, the job they want, what they want to do and then they can go off and create that…’ - Christina Cacioppo – School of Visual Arts, Design co-teacher

‘…students don’t have to do things that they don’t want to do, and not just paper things that they don’t need, things a traditional university would have them do…’ - Christina Cacioppo – School of Visual Arts, Design co-teacher

 ‘diy education offers a wider array of potential experiences. You’re not committing to paying a huge amount of money and to give a huge amount of time to a program which, if you look at the statistics, may not have a definite outcome.’ - Adam Pritzker – General Assembly Co-Founder

 most check out mentioned in the article…


This week, we in the Animation Course in IADT prepare for a public tussle with our Irish animation industry stakeholders over ‘animation education and training’. Whilst we hugely value employment in the animation industry as one desirable outcome of our educational endeavours, we do not exist solely to ‘deliver high-calibre graduates to the animation sector’. Industry tends to have a necessarily blinkered and myopic approach to our educational ambitions and endeavours. Most animation studio heads and MD’s in Ireland experienced education through more vocational, training models, many years ago. Their understanding of current education is pretty limited. Their pressing needs and requirements are immediate and wholly commercial.

I’ve also been reading infed’s article on andragogy – clearly a contested term.

The article is scathingly negative, framing andragogy as something notional, not theoretical - ‘a set of assumptions’ the author argues at one point. Late on in the article, the author quotes Jarvis (1985) in identifying that andragogy is rather a new conceptualization of education itself…

‘We need to be extremely cautious about claiming that there is anything distinctive about andragogy. In his reference to romantic and classic notions of curriculum Jarvis (1985) brings out that what lies behind these formulations are competing conceptualizations of education itself. Crucially, these are not directly related to the age or social status of learners. There are various ways of categorizing strands of educational thinking and practice - and they are somewhat more complex than Knowles' setting of pedagogy against andragogy. In North American education debates, for example, four main forces can be identified in the twentieth century: the liberal educators; the scientific curriculum makers; the developmental/person-centred; and the social meliorists (those that sought more radical social change) (after Kliebart 1987). Another way of looking at these categories (although not totally accurate) is as those who see curriculum as:

 •the transmission of knowledge,


 •process, and


 Viewed in this way - Knowles' version of pedagogy looks more like transmission; and andragogy, as represented in the chart, like process. But as we have seen, he mixes in other elements - especially some rather mechanistic assumptions and ideas which can be identified with scientific curriculum making.’

If andragogy can be framed as a re-conceptualization of education, I think it could form a useful theoretical basis for some of the challenges we currently face – helping students to learn, rather than ‘teaching’, allowing students to participate in the formation of curriculum, and incorporating flexible learning and blended learning into our educational structures.

I still have a fondness for the ‘notion’ of teaching adults, rather than teaching children.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Response to Eric Mazur

I was saddened by much of Eric Mazur's Youtube video, especially by the way he continually described an extremely stereotypical, 19th Century convention of 'lecturing' - the lecturer standing in front of a group, with 5 Powerpoint slides 'transferring knowledge'. Indeed, it shocked me to see Mazur berating such a lecturing style in yet another deeply conventional and boring lecture - neither entertaining nor inspirational, nor impressive. Many of us are fortunate enough never to have taught in this way - some of us are fortunate enough never to have BEEN taught in this way.

As a filmmaker and as a media professional, I find Mazur's use of Youtube (and of video) amateurish and repulsive. A rambling, unstructured 1 hour Youtube video - most of it a complete waste of the audience's time? 51 minutes before he actually gets to the point? I'm deeply unimpressed. Clever people like Mazur need some basic lessons in media, communication and treatment of the audience. Media is not rocket science. Much of it is common sense and a lot of it is a common courtesy respect for the audience - very little of that is evidenced here.

I agree with much of what Mazur said about whether we measure the success of our teaching and of our students learning - we use continuous assessment and criterion-based module assessment to measure how successful (or not) our students are at engaging with our Module Learning Outcomes. We're fortunate enough not to have to use exams.
Our KPI's tend to be student attrition or progression, graduation, post-grad study or post-grad employment or work in our sector.

I agree with Mazur that we don't collect data on our teaching - I agree that this needs consideration.
We encourage 'plausible wrong answers' all the time. In creative disciplines, a lack of moralistic discrimination is seen as a key component of ideas creation/brainstorming/concept development.

Much of what we do is the encouragement of assimilation, conceptualisation and innovative implementation.

Even with our more 'technical' disciplines, we're encouraging our students to assimilate procedures and then to
make their own of the tools and techniques (we characterise this as 'inflicting yourself on the technical')

All of our instruction could be framed as 'small group instruction' (under 30 students, frequently smaller groups)

22 minutes of Mazur's Youtube video - Mazur's argument is an argument against the stereotypical convention of lecturing.

For me, the notion of a lecturer lecturing directly from his teaching notes is rather like lecturers reading their Powerpoint text bullet points aloud... It's idiotic.

Mazur's revelation at 27:43 - 'a lot of my learning happened outside of the classroom, when I tried to figure things out for myself...'
I believe some of this 'figuring out' can be pre-empted, can be guided... The students need to do the heavy lifting themselves, but... The lecturer can guide, can warn (especially warning against really time-wasting) pitfalls...

27:50 I agree that the HARD part, the assimilation, is left to the student...

Mazur's point about 'students haven't even understood what I did in week one!' points to a very inflexible, sequential delivery. None of his lecturing is recapped or repeated? Each previous lecture becomes a mandatory prerequisite for all subsequent lectures? No wonder his students are confused.

32:00 a 'traditionally' taught class...
34:30 the way we 'traditionally' test our students is extremely misleading
If so, we've never 'taught conventionally'...

39:15 grading the 'conventional problem' versus the 'conceptual problem' (right answers versus wrong answers)
I believe we've moved beyond this 'conventional problem' idea...

44:00 blindly applying recipes you don't understand...
why don't the students understand such recipes? Recipes? Formulaic solutions?

finally, as an unforgiveable 50 minutes of Mazur's video passes, he starts to realise that students discussing the problem is a way to proceed! Fabulous.

51:00 Mazur's notion of 'the better you know something, the more difficult it becomes to teach' may often be true. However, in many of my lectures, I've come to assume that the subject (especially the students' entry into the subject) will be a challenge and will always present difficulties.

52:34 I like Mazur's idea about pre-class reading.

I agree with Mazur's idea of using the class to do DEPTH, not coverage.

'Peer Instruction and teaching by questioning, not by telling' - we get them (even in the technical disciplines) to learn by doing, less by 'watching us showing'...

59:00 'I decided NOT to do any problem solving in class 'students don't dervive any benefit from seeing the lecturer solve problems on the board' 'you don't learn by watching someone else do it...'
I disagree with this sweeping statement. In some of our more practical technical classes, the students work through their own projects in class, based on the brief. When I identify a technical problem, especially a recurring probelm, I'll demo a solution on the projector - but then I'll return to the student to watch him or her working through the problem in his/her project. If they haven't understood, I'll talk them through it (getting them to 'do' it (they do the driving), then I'll get them to go through the solution from scratch again. If they still haven't got it, I may demo the solution again on the projector.

1:01:00 Better understanding leads to better problem solving (good problem solving does not indicate good understanding)...
I agree with this...


Prezi Intro Prezi

a Prezi introduction Prezi!

First Post - from Feb 23rd

notes and responses to the 230212 face to face day

Contrary to what Vincent suggests, I assume that my subject is not easy for all of our students. I assume that a percentage of our studnets will struggle with individual aspects of our multidiciplinary activity and will need to be helped along, coaxed along, dragged along.

student survival/progression/graduation and subsquent postgrad study /work or employment in our media sector are reasonable and measurable KPIs

I do set out to change people's ways of thinking

we'll do the scholarship of learning in the 2nd session - Martina

My Teaching and Learning Philosophical statement... should include...

How do I refine teacher/student roles?

critical lenses...

Eric Mazur - Youtube - Confessions of a Converted Lecturer - check this out - inspirational

My outline PDP chart, already contains at least 10 entries...

  • My personal work - internet series, short films and other film and tv projects is ongoing
  • This PDP course (and another DCU ECTS module on online assessment) are finite - both must be completed by July 2012
  • NDLR screencast work must be uploaded by June 20th (and presented in IADT T+L showcase (June 7th))
  • DL041 course development... ongoing
  • restructure Stage 3 digital components into a cross-school 'matrix' opportunity
  • restructure DL041 course into a 3:2 BA/MA incorporating flexible direct entry, new forms of delivery, flexible pathways (including part-time, distance, module by module etc)
  • My MA? - MA by research, into the T+L (challenges, opportunities and potentials) of animation - target? early 2013?
  • My PhD? - into animation T+L - target time?

Vincent says - you can't predict the future?

We'll be learning Prezi? I don't believe Prezi's the answer to everything...

An exciting day!
I believe you can, if you're the one doing the subject research, subject leadership - then you're not only ahead of the curve, you ARE the future.

student input
interaction with peers and colleagues
interaction with scholarship and literature

What are the purposes of my teaching?
Who am I? (as a teacher?)
What is the purpose of education?
How do I think students learn?
What teaching methods do I use?

1. conceptualisation of T+L
2. integration of responsibilities
3. relationships
4. T+L assessment methods

I do tend towards androgogy - the development of adults, rather than pedagogy - the teaching of children.