Ok time is tight in HE but what are we doing here if we’re not excited about a little bit of a social education experiment now and again? Seriously… what harm can it do to organise a meeting and invite everyone you know to join the party?!
Actually, plenty, it’s a terrible idea.
Firstly, who has time to just mill about dreaming up projects when there are careers to develop and jobs to prepare for? I’ve got plenty of teaching and marking to do and we have to stand shoulder to shoulder with other institutions on surveys that assess very particular things (feedback, spend per student).
Playgrounds for ‘possibility thinking’ (borrowing Anna Craft’s term for the engine of creativity) are probably a luxury to be enjoyed in a more relaxed HE climate. We’re aware that students are concerned about how much they are paying, and what they’re getting for their investments, and I don’t hear them crying out for opportunities to do extra work that doesn’t count towards their degree.
Then there are the practical logistics: room hire, health and safety, costs.
Obviously I kidding around, but these are the very real concerns raised, voiced in resistance of change to the business of formal education. In my opinion though, based on literatures around learning and co-creating, and this last 2 years of ‘playing’; extra-curricular platforms like CollabHub are only a terrible idea if you want to maintain the notion that education only happens within the classroom, from a teacher to a student. Having run an extra-curricular group for interdisciplinary collaboration I am happy to report that it really is the best kind of terrible idea.
CollabHub is really based on a few theoretical and practical ideas; ideas that implicated a gaping hole in our students’ education! So I’ll outline a few of them here:
– Learning through apprenticeship is educationally valid, particularly if you consider the challenges of communicating technical and conceptual ideas.
– Tensions that students experience when undertaking collaborative and creative work that will be marked according to assessment criteria. It is difficult to take wild risks with projects that will be formally assessed.
– Young creative artists struggle with confidence as they don’t have a strong resource or portfolio behind them.
– Undergraduates know that they need to collaborate with other disciplines, but they don’t necessarily know where to find someone who can, say, create kinetic typography, beautiful illustrations, or computer games. Students don’t necessarily have the confidence or contacts to seek out collaborators.
CollabHub is based on the 5 following principles:
To build community that is welcoming, supportive and friendly.
To help give the gift of confidence due to belonging to a community, as well as confidence through the development of collaborative relationships over many years (Concept borrowed from Jean Paul Sartre).
To provide a place to legitimise play, and undertake modest and ambitious ideas that are not likely to be curtailed or compromised because they are a risk to formal academic marks.
To encourage students to be in charge of the ideas they want to develop, working together as equals rather than following direction from a tutor.
To provide a platform: online and physically, where students can throw out ideas and calls for collaboration. As well as platforms to celebrate their achievements.
The photographs presented in this post were taken by Alex Moldevan, of Rob Rideout’s Bad Ideas Band.
Out of all of the groups emerging out of CollabHub, not one of them captures this spirit of adventure and distributed creativity, or evidences the compelling value of risk-taking in HE, more than this. Rob collects musicians, the group composes a set collaboratively and rehearse for 12 hours, then play a gig before disbanding! Honestly they were fabulous when I saw them in May (though I had to hush them for fear of disrupting others in the building). You see, as Danny Atkins (co-director of Huddlefest) said at our HEA seminar in April: ‘students just don’t know how to say no’. Putting it all together certainly provides me with pretty compelling evidence that some students (at least) have a huge energy for exploring collaboration, exploring their abilities in different settings, creating for the sake of it, building relationships and business ideas on top of their formal studies, and for taking on projects of their own devising.
Maybe it only attracts the most energetic and adventurous, and maybe we’re keen to give all students the best possible HE experience that they could have, but perhaps the rest will see that there is this fabulous party going on, and everyone is invited!
Just because you don’t know what you’re going to do… yet… it doesn’t mean that you can’t take the second step from another persons’ first!
My first step was simply to arrange a meeting. Just 1 hour of my time and no risk because there were no expectations. All of the students who have exploited CollabHub (and yes that’s what I mean because that is what it is for), took the second step, and many are on a serious sprint!
It’s strange to feel so emotionally engaged in something like this, but the passions that this community has ignited is genuinely moving and I wonder if I would have enjoyed the last 2 years nearly as much without being part of CollabHub myself.
Thanks for reading!