Graduation photos

Live from the Little Chef on the M6 heading south from Sheffield… some shots from today’s graduation ceremony.

Well done all of us. Thanks Sheffield!

seas on the steps_9125

joseph graduation ceremony_9102

joseph and twinkle graduation_9119

joseph anne peter twinkle_9148

CILASS for Students website (private launch)

This mumble features a fair bit of bathing in my own glory (so no change there then).

I’m delighted to say that the CILASS for Students website is complete. It won’t be officially launched until the next academic year, but I won’t be around then, so I thought I’d quietly launch it to my friends now …as I made it 🙂

http://cilass-students.group.shef.ac.uk/

The aim of the student-targeted site is to promote an understanding of and engagement in Inquiry-based Learning, raise
awareness of the work that CILASS does, and provide an opportunity for the amazing Student Ambassadors to tell the world about the incredible things that they do.

It’s based upon an original site created last autumn by all of the CILASS Student Ambassadors, with further input from the CILASS core team. Being an ‘official’ university site, last year’s attempt to communicate with students was severely limited by the uni’s CMS (Content Management System) which basically guarantees that even the most exciting of ideas end up looking about as interesting as a pile of rotting onion skins. Here’s the most exciting page on the university website :-p

I think it was around March when I proposed that we do our own thing. Take it out of the university template. Create our own site from scratch. I wasn’t really imagining that I’d end up creating a 50-page site. Bloomin’ crazy idea if you ask me, end of my final year and all. But it was something I really wanted to do, so it just sort of happened. I was able to use the material supplied by the SAN for the first site, and benefited from lots of feedback from them during the development process – special thanks to Emmy and Ali.

I must say, I’m really pleased with the result, and I’m delighted by the response it’s received. The CILASS core team have been very complimentary; seeing the site for the first time the director told me it had made her day. The university’s Pro-vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning also emailed to say how good he thought it was, whilst central support staff were also very impressed by how comprehensive it was – yet studenty in appearance.

I should add that it is still in need of a lot of padding. My goal was to create the basic structure and core content – the plan now is for the SAN to fill in the holes and make it into a great resource.

I’d like to thank Sabine and Nicola for allowing me to do this, for giving me the freedom to pursue the project in google 20% time style.

I’m now in the process of creating support materials for the site (using the gorgeous Screenflow – OS X 10.5 only). One fear of mine (and of the core team) is that without me there to supervise the site might fall into dissaray (look what happened to the beautiful site I created for Milky House 5 years ago! Talk about cannabalisation). Thus, support material is vital.

I’d like to be able to use the site as a part of my portfolio. I don’t see myself going into website design for a living, but nonetheless, I think it’s a good demonstration of versatility (and I don’t want to be pointing employers at TGW now do i?!).

Thanks to everyone who contributed, a great team effort! I look forward to seeing it being developed further over the next year.

Parting

So here we are WigStylers, back in my hometown. I mean, home village. It’s been a manic few days, what with my travelling by train or car hundreds of miles to the three corners of the UK (Sheffield, London, Hereford) to meet important people, give presentations, pack all my belongings and move house.

In the past 24 hours I’ve given away at least half of all of my worldy stuff. I find it has to be done in stages. On the first day I can only dispose of those things that I have no emotional attachment to and have no use for, but by day three I’m giving away things I’ve had for years, presents from friends and family, valuable stuff that I could use but would cost too much to send to Japan.

It hurts to part with some of these things, but I think it’s healthy. I don’t want to be dependent upon ‘stuff’ for happiness in life. All of these belongings will find new homes thanks to the local charity shops.

Having said that, I can’t live without my Macbook so no, you can’t have it.

The remaining three boxes await Yamato Kuro Neko (Japan’s No.1 courier which also has an office in the UK, Tel 01753 657 688) who will come and pick them up to Ship to Japan at the end of the month (£50 for a 25kg box by surface mail, £80 by airmail).

It’s good to have left Broad Lane Court. I feel I’m able to get a bit more closure on my uni years and associated projects. With no base there any more, I feel able to shift my energy and attention down to Herefordshire (and of course the wedding). I do still have three Sheffield-based projects left to deal with, but am working on that. 

Need to get it all done ASAP, *Twinkle* arrives in 8 days, and I still have a wedding to sort out. 
It’s a pretty wiggy time though. I think life is going to get even more interesting from here on. 
I wonder where I’ll be a year from now…

LTEA Conference 2008: Long Live Inquiry-based Learning!

It’s now the day after the closing of the LTEA (Learning Through Enquiry Alliance) conference 2008, and my head is beginning to clear. I attempted to write about my experience of this event last night, but I was “all conferenced out” as fellow student ambassador Barbara put it – my mind was just a sea of tags:
conference tag cloud
It was an intense week. In the days leading up to the event’s opening on Wednesday, I worked with the CILASS core team to help prepare the conference Wiki, a virtual space in which delegates could share, discuss and reflect upon their experiences of Inquiry-based learning. Aside from passive use of Wikipedia, I had no prior experience of working with Wikis, and thus found myself engaging in an intense IBL activity on my computer. Once I’d familiarised myself with the basic structure, I was surprised by how easy it was to manipulate; this has encouraged me to contemplate how I might include a wiki within my own website (another project to add to the IBL-inspired list!).

In addition to co-ordinating the wiki, my duties (most of which were of course shared with my amazing friends in the Student Ambassador Network) included: taking photos (that was a self-assigned role! Thanks for indulging me, CILASS), processing and uploading them to Flickr throughout the conference; ensuring that the technology was working for those presenting; uploading powerpoints to Slideshare (still a lot to do there); facilitating sessions; being available for delegates should they have any problems; watching over the luggage, drinking coffee, and eating chocolate.

Thinking about it all now, a few episodes come to mind. I’d like to share those with you.

It’s Wednesday morning, 9am. As the other Student Ambassadors arrive there’s a feeling of great excitement and happiness in the office: the months of preparation are over, and it’s too late to worry about anything. We’re blowing up balloons to tie to lamp-posts in order that delegates don’t get lost on their way to the Keynote in Firth Hall. Turns out that Jamie is a Balloon-mungster, and prior to joining the CILASS team was at the forefront of a new movement which campaigned to promote the simultaneous blowing up of multiple balloons. Jamie’s love of balloons spreads across the office, and before long the balloon bath is the hottest attraction in Sheffield.

jamie sabine natalie and the balloons

natalie balloons balloons_8061

11am, and the delegates are now arriving. They are greeted by the blue T-shirts and big smiles of the Student Ambassadors – a welcome sign of the kind of atmosphere that will embody the entire three-day conference.

Photo: James Gould

It’s now Wednesday afternoon and I’m facilitating a presentation by four members of Sheffield Hallam University’s CETL. They’ve all been using Inquiry-based technologies to help enhance the learning and teaching experience. As I sit there hearing about their successes I find myself getting tremendously excited and inspired – the work that these tutors are putting in to help students become autonomous learners really is something to be shouted about. When bringing the session to a close, I think it might be appropriate to offer a quick bit of feedback as the only student in the room:

“I’m very happy to have just completed a four-year degree, and am looking forward to moving on into the workplace. But I tell you, hearing what you’re doing with IBL inspires me to such an extent that I’m thinking I’d like to start another undergraduate degree!”

And I meant it. I am so impressed by the effort that is being put in by IBL-orientated staff to help students engage with their subjects, and by the positive results they are achieving. People must be told about IBL! It should become a norm for prospective graduates attending university open days to ask, “Could you tell me what inquiry-based learning techniques are employed within the department?”

We’re now between sessions, the busiest time for me and my USB stick. Myself, Pam from the CILASS core team and Pepe the penguin have to make sure that the presenters in all five of the simultaneous sessions hosted in various spaces around the IC have their presentations/videos lined up and are ready to roll. Remarkably, there’s not a single problem with the technology at any point during the conference – it all goes like clockwork.

pepe and the conference flash drive_8470

The next parallel session has begun, and I’m back in the office processing photos and slides. We’re all buzzing – things are going really well. I’m starting to think about what a great team we make, students working with the core CILASS staff. I reckon we could be hired out (at great expense, of course) to dazzle and amaze conference delegates around the world!

Conference GCHQ:

Conference GCHQ

Tom, Barbara and Nat point delegates in the right direction:

the road to the keynote_8356

It’s nearing 7pm – time for the conference dinner at Whirlebrook Hall. Myself, Nat and Sabine have a true Inquiry-based learning journey to the venue as we don’t know where it is: we stop at two pubs and a private house to Inquire as to where we might find it. Finally we locate it, and we’re actually almost the first to arrive (further proof of the effectiveness of IBL)! Champagne in hand we move out to the terrace, where I soon whip out my camera once again to try and capture the atmosphere. Dinner is then served: a melon slice creation, soup and then a main dish of goats cheese wotsit on rice. Delicious. Finished off with a dessert, and more wine. I must come to these conferences more often… I’m really happy to have the chance to talk with Pam and Sabine. I learn about giving birth, and breastfeeding, things I feel I ought to know about in preparation for the birth of our children in 2010 / 2011.

Nat, the new CILASS Student Co-ordinator for the Student Ambassador Network

conference dinner_8267

Tom, and Laura: Clearly the stress of being the outgoing SAN co-ordinator is getting to her

they weren't always that way

Day two of the conference, and we’re on the coffee. It’s going to be a long one, but with a timetable in my pocket detailing what needs doing when, it’s actually pretty relaxing. It offers reassurance that things are going to happen as planned anyway, just do your bit: the power of teamwork.

Now and then someone will come into the office raving about this AMAZING session that they’d just been to – onto the award winning CILASS student blog it goes.

The delegates are happy. The keynote address, given by the President of the University of Miami, is both relevant and thought-provoking. As the day moves on so notifications of changes to the Wiki increase in number – it’s being used as hoped!

Thursday evening sees us take a coach from the IC to The Edge, the new student village where the delegates are staying. I’m happy, relaxing with friends, eating olives and parsnip crisps, chatting with a member of Sheffield Hallam’s CETL. We’re then ushered through to a large room adjoining the bar: time for a bit of entertainment and reflection with Playback Theatre (York).

conference playback theatre_8387

Playback Theatre are quite remarkable. Consisting of teachers, counsellors and actors, they literally play back to the audience thoughts and feelings that have arisen from the conference. An academic might express her feeling of fear that arises from embarking upon new adventures in IBL, and the joy of then seeing students come into their own through the new module. The actors listen to the story, and then spontaneously create a short performance that sums it up. There’s little in the way of ‘lines’ as such,rather, movement and sounds take centre stage. I was delighted, amused and entertained by their production. Others in the audience were deeply touched; tears were shed. For me, it highlighted just how much passion the delegates had for what they were doing, how, at the end of the day it’s about doing the best one can to make a difference, and finding satisfaction though helping others.

The closing plenary saw us once again in Firth Hall, summing up the questions and ideas that had arisen through the conference. Thanks were then given, with special mention made of the CILASS core team, and the Student Ambassadors. My mind flicked back through the previous few days, and indeed us SA’s really had had a positive impact upon the entire conference. By participating to the extent that we did, we were able to not only paint the place with bright happy blue t-shirts, but also to provide the student point-of-view in many of the discussions – this of course is vital as students are half of the equation when it comes to Learning and Teaching.

I feel that this conference was a model for what a conference should be, and I hope that everyone who attended from other universities goes home and sets up their own Student Network!

Me, demonstrating the brand new CILASS student website – made BY students, FOR students

san skills session_8408
Photo: Sabine Little

The overall feeling I have looking back on the LTEA Conference 2008 is one of gratitude. Gratitude for having been able to take part in such a fantastic event. Gratitude for having been a part of such an amazing team made up of such genuinely lovely people.


Photo: James Gould

There was very much a feeling of partnership between students, staff and visiting delegates throughout, with little sign of hierarchy. I felt very much valued and appreciated as a student: this makes me feel incredibly positive about the future of higher education in the UK, and I won’t hesitate in moving back to the UK from Japan 10 or 15 years down the line in order that my own (as yet to be conceived!) children are able to benefit from it.

Long Live IBL!

This post is cross-posted on the CILASS Student Blog

Post-student life begins

Sheffield Panorama 1

So yes, the change from student to non-student is going well. Having got rid of much of my coursework last night (I would have kept it had I been staying in the UK), I then advertised my last few books on Amazon – they were sold within hours and are in the post to their new student-owners. I’ve trawled through the backlog of emails, and moved all my uni work to the archives. It feels good. There’s now space for something new.

The dark clouds have parted, and *Twinkle* and I are stronger for the storm. That’s the thing, after really dark times, the sun shines extra bright. I’m loving organising the wedding, and having a lot of fun with the website (Apple’s iWeb and .mac do have their uses after all).

This evening I was able to attend a free life-coaching session courtesy of the university’s White Rose Enterprise Zone. That was good. It helped me shift my focus from what has passed, to what is now, and what has to come. And I was reminded once again of the importance of listening.

26 hours later

I was up at 5am today, for a jog to the top of the hill I’ve been meaning to climb for 4 years. It’s opposite my house and has great views of Sheffield. I had such a great time. Two hours of walking in peace in that huge park, taking photos, listening to the Radiant Vista’s Craig Tanner. I was so surprised to discover a woodland in Sheffield, and a huge green open space with a helicopter landing pad in the middle, bigger than a full-size football pitch.

I uploaded the original 6-photo panorama to Flickr which shows up the detail of the uni and all in the middle, including of course the beloved arts tower and ic. I uploaded this shot too – it’s a structure that stands on the top of the hill overlooking the city – I wonder what it was?

sheffield viewpoint_7341

I’m loving this space. I have a tonne of things to do, but I’m able to work on them without feeling guilty. I even have time to read the books I was given at Christmas, and I’ve started my latest Murakami audio book again.

Oh, and I started studying Japanese again! I really like the “learn Japanese through newspapers” book I won at the speech contest, and so am doing one of those short lessons every day. The learning never stops!

I watched a film tonight too, Pay it Forward. This was given as an assignment for my coaching course (I’m in week four now, and really feeling the benefits). The film had me in tears though. But what a great idea. I’m sold on it and will work to become more aware of opportunities pay it forward myself. I have a lot to pay forward, having been the recipient of so much goodwill in various guises.

Spot the Arts Tower
flower-framed sheffield_7297

Anyway, bed time for me. I have a lot to do this weekend, and then of course Monday is the event we’re all waiting for – Steve Jobs’ keynote from WWDC. We are VERY excited!