Monday, 20 July 2015

#clmooc Image challenge 4… it’s only a jigsaw puzzle… it’s a system

As mentioned in last blog post, we are busy writing the fourth edition of Essential Study Skills: the complete guide to success at university.  This is a very user-friendly book that shares some tips and tricks about taking control of your university experience – and still having some fun. It’s mainly for those like us who are the first in their families to go to university – but of course – what works with students like us, works with everyone (Warren 2002).

And then Simon Ensor issued his picture and blogpost challenge - and I had to jump in and write a brief blogpost in response to his image – cos it’s an image we use in book. 

It’s where we talk about having the ‘big picture’ or overview of a course. We say:

“Whilst it is true that we tend to learn things in pieces, one step at a time, this is helped if we have the big picture first; if we know how the subject will be covered. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, it is much easier to put the pieces together if we have the picture on the box. Similarly, if we understand how universities work and how our courses have been put together, we will be able to achieve more, more swiftly.”

Obviously that is meant as useful advice to all people coming to university – but especially for those whose family might not have been able to give them the gen – the inside track – on what university is all about: if they have not been groomed from birth to succeed in that system (if they don't have the cultural or academic captial - Bourdieu, Passeron, Wacquant…).

The picture on the box is a shorthand for saying that universities are systems and have systems – and if you understand them you can make them work for you. But it can be seen as really unhelpful – as Maha Bali points out – there is only ONE true solution to a jigsaw puzzle – and we do not want to trap people into thinking there is only one true way to survive at university – and one true way to get it ‘right’.

We have another chapter in the book: Make university positive – where we try to indicate all the other things that universities are beyond the merely academic – beyond the merely ‘get your head down and work the system’ system. We suggest that our widening participation students also join the Clubs and Societies – that they make friends – that they do not just rush off home to family duties – or rush off to work for work duties – but they spend time ‘being with’ their fellow students. That they hang out in the canteen chatting to people – that they become Peer Mentors. That they believe in themselves and develop their self-confidence and self-esteem – after all – that is what the traditional middle class student does know about university. As Stephen Fry said recently on Desert Island Discs – he only attended about three lectures in all his time at Cambridge – but he put on several plays a year – he joined Footlights – he made enduring friendships… and we want to get that across the our students too.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

#clmooc Make 3: Games as lens

This summer we are writing the manuscript for the fourth edition of our student text book (Essential Study Skills: the complete guide to university – since you’re asking… oh – you didn’t?!)… Too busy to join in officially with #clmooc I’ve been a joyful lurker – especially this week where by happy coincidence I was running a session on ‘Game-ifying your classes’ as the MOOC was exploring game making – and games as a critical lens ( 

I ran my session using the resources shared by Alex Moseley and Nicola Whitty: There is a PPT for the facilitator and cards for the stages of game-making: context, constraints, story layer and a sort of ‘secret santa’ card – given only to one person in each group – who then has to introduce a random element into the game: cheese, a penguin…

For our session I distributed chalks to write and draw upon the black sugar paper covered tables – I put out balloons, magazines for collage-production, glue and scissors and random objects to make the room feel welcome and playful…

We enjoyed the game making – especially the brilliant idea to produce a huge snakes and ladders cloth for the floor – with huge furry dice… and game cards for maths… We thought how all this could be produced by cross-collaboration – DTP producing the floor cloth – art helping with design and colour – and then ALL the students in ALL the subjects could produce the quiz cards – each year… Music students could entertain us as we played – and ICT students could produce online versions of the game to share…

As an aside, we invite our Becoming students to produce games as part of their course reflection: - and the group in this blog went on to build their game into the final Performance: … and what a day that was!

… And then we thought – we could alter the Moseley and Whitty cards slightly and get our Student Ambassadors to produce really cool induction and welcome activities…  and I told the participants about #clmooc and game week …

A virtuous circle!!