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Knowing how to tutor ‘in the real world’ is vital if you are ever to succeed at this online.

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Spending four hours with some 30 students attending the School of Communication Arts is always an eyeopener and reminder of the worth of paying the closest attention to how a person is responding to the brief they have been set. In order to spread myself across the ones, twos and threes I sit with I set the timer on the iPhone to 15 minutes.

Four hours later my overall impression is that this is an impressive intake of students – I last sat with them in October so it is wonderful to recognise that they are in tune with the needs of advertisers – solving problems in a 21st cenutry blend of ways. Every team had answered their respective briefs with a solid response – all I felt I should do was to help them think through their rational and give them confidence to push their idea with every ounce of their energies. If I had the means to take any of them on I’d so so – they are smart, open and receptive. The real world is less kind and less receptive – someone should always be there to fight their corner, but it doesn’t alter their need to be able to sell and defend their ideas too.

So what does my background in eLearning have to offer to this? And is it possible to recreate any of this sense of collaborative creative problem solving online? Many turn to the Internet to embellish their ideas; all could be smarter with their search, not least favouring images or video, but asking what it is the Web will offer before they key in a few words. All presentations they give are as two minutes pieces created in Adobe Premier – the best are online, some pick up prestigious D&AD and other awards, many of the students are now gainfully employed in advertising agencies.

If judging learning I would conside the learning theory behind it and in the context its likelihood of success; how therefore do I judge the work of these students? As I learned at the School of Communication Arts myself the test is to be able to construct a sense of the creative brief that they must have received to get them to this point: is the problem that they are responding to self-evident? Do I know who the audience is? Can I see them as a persona, if not as an actual person? Would they relate to it? Is the ‘call to action’ clear? Is the execution memorable? Would I grab it on my phone? Would I blog about it and embed the student video from YouTube?

Open Learning with the Open University – a modus operandi in the 21st century?

Fig.1 Posing for a scamp at the School of Communication Arts, 1987

H818 Activity 2.1

I will only publish in open access journals.

I’m not a professional academic. Should I publish then I imagine the calibre of the journal will count for something. As a professional writer (copy, scripts, speeches), with exception of blogging I am used to being paid for my words.

I will share all learning material that I create and own openly online.

From the moment I started to blog I have been part of self-help groups ‘publishing’ openly on everything from blogging to creative writing, swimming teaching and coaching, social media, the First World War and e-learning. My goal over the next year or so is to produce under a Creative Commons module a series of 30 to 1500+ micro- OERs, one minute pieces with Q&A attached, as what Chris Pegler terms ‘Lego Techno Bricks’.

I maintain an online social media identity as a core part of my professional identity.

It lacks professionalism as I don’t edit it or write to a definable audience but I have a substantial e-learning blog that largely, though not exclusively, draws on my MA ODE experiences (in fact I started on the MA ODL in 2001 and blogged on that too). I use Google+, Linkedin and Twitter haphazardly by pushing blog content to actual and potential commentators, participants and followers.

I take a pragmatic approach and release some resources openly if it’s not too much extra work.

I come from corporate communications where created content is closed to employees.

I have concerns about intellectual property and releasing my content openly.

Actual words of fiction I write is my copyright, Factual I care less about. Whilst a blog is largely like a recorded conversation, a formal paper would need to be recognised in the appropriate way.

I will share all material that I create and own openly online, as soon as I create it.

No. I cannot hope to earn a living or sustain my interests if I cannot both charge for my time and my output.

Does exposure in the sense of ‘open’ learning work?

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Fig. 1. what collaboration online looks like? Activity theory meets neuroscience. This could be many heads knocking together, or the internal workings inside one.

I’m getting a sense of deja vu as the rhythm of H818 reveals itself. I’m doing the Open University module H818:The Networked Practitioner. It runs until Jan 2014.

Openness comes with caveats. It is not everyone’s cup of tea.

As people we adjust our behaviour in different environments. I am not saying that we necessarily behave in the same way in an Open Studio online (a virtual studio no less) than we do or would in an open studio, as in a collective in a workshop or ‘atlier’ that is ‘exposed’ to fellow artists in the physical world, but wherever we are ‘open’, in the physical or virtual worlds, we are nonetheless prone to human interaction with all the usual undercurrents.

For all those busy exposing themselves, the easiest default position, someone – ‘one’ being the key word, has the door closed and is getting on with the job without the distraction of others. Is achievement and success of necessity a lonely, not a ‘connected’ activity? You can do the networking once you have a product to sell or a well formed opinion to share … otherwise this is nothing more than ‘chatting’ in the First World War sense of the word – idol banter to pass the time between periods of conflict.

What I believe will not work is to put a gaggle of creators in the same room and expect them to collaborate. The studios of the ‘open’ type that I am aware of are either the classic Rennaisance workshop with a master artist and apprentices at various stages of their own development, or, with a similar dynamic in operation, the ‘occupants’ of a studio, or business unit cum workshop, are exposed LESS to each other and more to external commentators and contributors. This requires some formality to it .i.e. not simply ‘the person off the street’ but an educator/moderator in their own right.

It also helps if people have parricular skills sets that when combined work together – as in a team producing a film.

Is H818:The Networked Practitioner too dependent on chance? The foibles of a small cohort of postgraduate students with little in common and complete strangers … and the complex, messy, moments ‘we’ are each in. Actions differ between those who have had the course paid for by their institution, those who are doing it out of their own pocket for career advancement which requires the degree and anyone in it ‘for the love of it’ – with full-time employment, part-time employment or retirement, and any number of other commitments that colour participation and attitudes.

Over three years of this and, by chance only, surely … six of us strangers in a subgroup jelled. More often the silence and inactivity of the majority makes ‘group work’ a myth – partnerships of two or three were more likely. The only exception I have come across in the ‘real world’ have been actors working together on an improvisation – they have been trained however to disassociate their natural behaviours. The reasons why that ‘six’ worked has been a topic I have returned to often – team dynamic, spread around the globe on different time zone, all experienced practitioners and typically on our second or third OU module … digitally literate, socially networked …

Some of us study with the OU as we cringe at the ‘exposure’ of a course that requires us to meet in the flesh – distance learning suits, to some degree, the lone worker who prefers isolation.

By way of revealing contrast I am a tutor at the School of Communication Arts – a modest though pivitol role given their format and philosophy – exposure to many hundreds of kindred spirits who have been there … a sounding board and catalyst. NOT a contributor, but more an enabler.

We’ll see. My thinking is that to be effective, collaboration or exposure needs to have structure, discipline and formality. Of course this is or should be exactly what the ‘Open Studio’ platform provides. But like a restaurant, however lovely the decor, if the place is empty no one will be eating the food.

At the Brighton Arts Festival the other evening I wonder how the 80 odd exhibtors would cope if the Cornexchange was also their workshop? In certain, vulnerable environments, the only comment should be praise. Feedback is invited from those who are trusted.

A school setting is different again, as is college … people share the same space because they have to.

Open Studio apears to try to coral the feedback that comes anyway from a connected, popular and massive sites such as WordPress, Linkedin Groups, Facebook and even Amazon. Though the exposure, if you permit it, is tempered and negotiated – Facebook is gentle amongst family and friends, Linkedin is meterd and professional in a corporate way, WordPress is homespun while Amazon, probably due to the smell of money, can be catty – and in any case, the artefact is a done deal it’s not as if, to take a current example, Max Hastings is going to rewrite his book on the First World War because some in the academic community say that it is weak historicaly and strong only on journalistic anecdote. Some of the reviews read like they were posted by a PR department, not a person. Another story, but can we smell a rat as easily in the virtual as in the physical world?

We’ll see.

The communismization of knowledge and Open Educational Resources

Fig.1. I like spirals. Thirty years ago this was just a photo. For me it is an expression of what learning looks like. (I think this is St.John’s College, Boat House – or is it Balliol?)

At the base are the undergraduates, the first years, as you climb the steps you find the second and third years, then the middle common room the MA and D.Phil students while at the top are the lecturers, senior lecturers and professors.

And when you die they raise a flag.

In 1983 (or was in 1982?) this was the epitome of ‘closed learning’ – the Oxford College boat house.

Not so much ‘dreaming spires’ as ‘dreaming spirals’.

  • It was a privilege, but like many of these I’ve been either in denial or trying to shake them off for the best part of 25 years.
  • ‘Je suis comme je suis, je suis faite comme ca’ (Jacques Prevert)
  • And there’s no going back.

I was up at 4.03am. Back to bed at 6.15am. Then up again 20 minutes ago.

  • My body was tired, my head continued to buzz.

Regarding ‘Open Learn’  what’s all this fretting about process for?

Have we all forgotten the purpose of research????

Not ‘how?’ but ‘why?’

Why? Why? Why?

We are seeking answers, not trying to construct a bridge across the English Channel with chopsticks and bendy-straws.

Not to get the process right, but to get answers to problems, to find better ways, to understand and share what is going on so that we can act, or not act on it?

Sometimes I read an academic paper and it is all about the process.

Too often I write an assignment and it has to be written to be marked – not to generate ideas. In fact, my finest few hours, a total End of Module Assignment rewrite was a disaster for a set of marks but is my theory and philosophy of what learning is. It was the culmination of months of work, years even. Expressed somewhere like the School of Communication Arts I would have had the attention of eyes and ears.

Fig.2. Submitted as the hypothesis for an End of Module Assignment the grade was catastrophic – it is of the module, but the examiners didn’t have a grid filled with the appropriate crumbs that would permit them to ‘tick the boxes’. (I did submit more than the image, 6ft high and drawn on a sheet of backing wallpaper).

Creativity doesn’t fair well in a process driven system, either in research or in marking assignments.

This isn’t an excuse regarding a grade or the need and value of process drive, guideline controlled, parameter set research, but rather a cry for some ‘free thinking’ the ‘parcours’ of mental agility and expression.

Fig.3 The cliffs below Roche de Mio, La Plagne

There is value in going off piste.

It isn’t even the democratisation of education and knowledge either, it is the Tim Berners-Lee rather than the Google approach to knowledge – i.e. give it away for free.

It  is ‘communismization’ – which is a word, however horrible it sounds, I just looked it up.

This moves me onto dwelling on Creative Commons.

If the idea of openness is to give it away for free what is the reward for the author? Recognition as the author. However, I get the feeling that unless it is published some readers think they can help themselves to the ideas and words of others and claim them as their own.

There will always be theft, but as children aren’t we told that for someone to copy your ideas is a compliment?

We need to behave like the children we still are.

But does even that matter in an open society – theft of intellectual property I mean?

If the spreading of the word is all important should any of us give a fig?

If we have a roof over our heads, food and water, electricity to charge the iPad, the BBC  … a health service like the NHS what more can we want?

  • Better schools.
  • Better roads.
  • Better weather.

‘Peace on earth and good will to humankind’.

A better word needs to be found for what is meant by ‘communismization’.

Is is just ‘communization’?

  • Is it simply ‘open’?!
  • ‘Open’ might do.
  • Free
  • Open

As the air we breathe …

P.S. I worked the season in Val d’Isere in my gap year and returned a decade later and stayed in La Plagne from December to May researching a book and a couple of documentaries for Oxford Scientific Films. None saw the light of day, though after several weeks thinking about it I came down that cliff face. I made a big mistake by slowing down at the edge and nearly didn’t have enough distance to clear the rocks. I no longer have a death wish. And it wasn’t even fun. It focused the mind though. In fact, the best way to stop yourself thinking about other stuff is to take such risks. Racing Fireballs in the English Channel has its appeal  – I  have a tendency to end up in the spinnaker or under the hull though.

Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being.

Master of Arts  in Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)

H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes

H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change

H808: The e-learning professional

This completes the Masters Degree. I graduate on Saturday 27th April 2013

Currently (March 2013) I am taking H809 as a bridge towards doctoral research or professional consultancy. Complete in June 2013.

H809 Practice-based research in educational technology

I joined the #H817open MOOC for one part of this module. I will register for 2014

H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.

I am applying to undertake doctoral research in education – using learning technologies.
 
H809 will help prepare for applications starting in January 2014 for an October 2014 start. Most are now a 4 year programme, with a Masters in research to begin. WebSciences at University of Southampton is an interesting option – I attended an Open Day in January.
Too many active interests was a stated issue on childhood school reports. Nothing’s changed.
 
I am looking at an MA in History with the University of Birmingham which would give me the opportunity
study the First World War. (I have written extensively about this through my late grandfather’s memoire ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’)
There is more.
 
I attended the School of Communication Arts, London. A full-time programme in copywriting, art direction and design and have worked in the ‘creative’ and ‘communications’ industries all of my career.
And ‘EAVE’ (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs)
 
My first degree (BA, Hons, Oxford), MA is in Geography.
My dissertationn was on demographics. I love maps. Perhaps I should try to match maps, e-learning and the First World War. Animated it all and add some interviews and ‘drama reconstruction’.
See what happens when you let something fester and wake up in the middle of the night.
 
Neuroscience and long-term memory are fascinating too.
I need my life over. I need to split into three and start again. I need a coffee and a long walk on the South Downs. (I need to go back to bed)
And then there’s Fine Art.
 
And Creative Writing. And cooking. And the garden. There’s teaching, and moderating … and blogging. There are movies. And sailing and swimming coaching. There’s family and friend … ah. Friend? I knew there was something missing in all the above.
Scrap the lot and have a belated 50th birthday to celebrate 20 years of marriage, parenthood and the madness of being. Then sign up to crew in the Round the World Yacht Race.
And if that doesn’t kills me …

 

Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being.

Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)

H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes

H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change

H808: The e-learning professional

This completes the Masters Degree. I graduate on Saturday 27th April 2013

Currently (March 2013) I am taking H809 as a bridge towards doctoral research or professional consultancy. Complete in June 2013.

H809 Practice-based research in educational technology

I joined the #H817open MOOC for one component of this module. I will register for 2014

H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.

I am applying to undertake doctoral research in education – using learning technologies.
 
H809 will help prepare for applications starting in January 2014 for an October 2014 start. Most are now a 4 year programme, with a Masters in research to begin. WebSciences at University of Southampton is an interesting option – I attended an Open Day in January.
Too many active interests was a stated issue on childhood school reports. Nothing’s changed.
 
I am looking at an MA in History with the University of Birmingham which would give me the opportunity study the First World War. (I have written extensively about this through my late grandfather’s memoire ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchandeale’)
I attended the School of Communication Arts, London. A full-time programme in copywriting, art direction and design and have worked in the ‘creative’ and ‘communications’ industries all of my career.
And ‘EAVE’ (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs)
My first degree is in Geography.
My dissertation was on demographics. I love maps. Perhaps I should try to match maps, e-learning and the First World War. Animated it all and add some interviews and n ‘drama reconstruction’.
See what happens when you let something fester and wake up in the middle of the night.
 
Neuroscience and long term memory are fascinating too.
I need my life over. I need to split into three and start again. I need a coffee and a long walk on the South Downs. (I need to go back to bed)
And then there’s Fine Art.
 
And Creative Writing. And cooking. And the garden. There’s teaching, and moderating … and blogging. There’s movies. And sailing and swimming coaching. There’s family and friend … ah. Friend? I knew there was something missing in all of the above.
Scrap the lot and have a belated 50th birthday to celebrate 20 years of marriage, parenthood and the madness of being. Then sign up to crew in the Round the World Yacht Race.
There’s a reason why I call this blog ‘mind bursts’.

When the client moans and sighs, make his logo twice the size …

I’ve wanted to quote this for many years.

Winston Fletcher used this with images at an Advertising Association presentation at the CBI in October 1984.

When the client moans and sighs

Make his logo twice the size

If the client still proves refractory

Show a picture of the factory

Only in the gravest cases

Should you show the clients’ faces

 

Found in ‘Welcome to Optimism’ after several false starts finding the right search terms for Google.

This is another way to look at it:

I was a trainee Rep at JWT.

My merry dance around the world of advertising continues with occasional afternoons mentoring at the School of Communication Arts which I attended in 1987.

I kept a daily diary at the time, most days a single sheet of A4 whether I felt like it or not.

This was Tuesday 9th October 1984.

It was a fortnightly or weekly IPA meeting that attracted graduate account managers from across the London advertising agencies. The diary entry reminds me who I was with, the ads we looked at, where I was and what I got up to. Plenty in fact to bring it all back in considerable detail.

The other quote or image I am looking for was a set of dimming light bulbs to illustrate the ‘Mortality of ideas’ something that threatens and crushes many a great project.

A new(ish) model for blended and applied learning (or is this an institutionalised form of apprenticeship?)

These guys and several other teams are doing some great work

25 years ago I was at the School of Communication Arts under John Gillard, an inspired educator with an original approach – get the ‘industry’ to do its bit by providing cash, thought, care, time and opportunity. My own tutors read like a who’s who of advertising and the visits to the school included industry leaders from Saatchis and Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

School of Communication Arts 2.0 works

From a learning point of view what works?

  • Attracting the best
  • They pay (it is expensive, though there are scholarships)
  • ‘Industry’ has a responsibility to make it work (and the opportunity to have first dibs at the students)
  • Ideas, on brief, well thought through, imaginative and implicitly likely to add considerable worth to a product or service.
  • Motivated students and motivated ‘mentors’ doing it for free.
  • A form of shadowing and with industry briefs and placements a form of apprenticeship too.
  • Embraces the technology, using tools to ‘sell’ ideas and to communicate with supporters
  • Simple and low cost (modest)
  • FREE of a qualification (though one is now offered). i.e. the emphasis has to be on the output, on developing the teams as creative thinkers, on making them valuable contributors to a commercial enterprise for what they can do rather than the ‘qualification’. Unlike a driving licence, a diploma in the creative arts does not mean you can ‘drive’.

Does this threaten tutors in distance learning?

What does it suggest?

Better to have those in the industry providing guidance and motivation than those with a teaching qualification or academic research pedigree and bias.

Where else does this apply?

Film & Television production, engineering, law, medicine, hotel and catering, sports coaching, fine art:

  • Taught by your heroes.
  • Use flexibility of employment and ease of communication to keep in touch.
  • Have some basic platforms and at the hub a dean with commitment and a sense of purpose.
  • Bricks and mortar?

A research basis as in tertiary education? I think not.

Brighton Fuse (Part 2)

Free Clipart Images

Fascinating to attend the Miltos Petridis presentation hosted by Wired Sussex at the Skiff last night and in separate conversations to hear about Brighton Fuse.

On the one hand as a postgraduate student (Masters in Open & Distance Education: MAODE with the OU and the OU MBA module B822  ‘Creativity, Innovation & Change’) I am fascinated in how collaboration works (Engestrom’s Activity Theory is the model I like to use to illustrate how minds meld between people and teams to solve problems). As a web agency person (coming to Brighton in 2000 to join Worth Media) I understand the employer position too, indeed the agency I worked for blossomed from 9 to 50+ at this time.

With so may micro-companies though, is Brighton more like a cluster of artisans rather than the South Coast Silicon Valley? With Google and others conveniently located at Victoria is Brighton not a suburb of London? Indeed, corporate video production (my background) often sees companies with a production base in the regions and a sales office in London (Speakeasy and Two Four Productions come to mind).

The contribution made to Brighton life by the University of Brighton and University of Sussex is considerable; students stay on to live and work.

Where are venture capital funded labs?

A year with the OU Business School has give me some insight into Tertiary Education and distant and applied learning, though the model I would also draw upon in relation to Brighton Fuse is the School of Communication Arts (SCA) which provides art directors, copywriters and designers into the advertising world. As they would/will do when employed people are teamed up.

They work towards a job, via placements and real creative briefs (which they may receive payment for if developed).

A qualification is now offered, though I wondered if this is a mistake and a distraction? What counts is how the learning is applied. One of the best ways to learn is vicariously, from the periphery, as an apprentice or trainee ‘being there’. How can this be brought into the mix? Learning on the job? As an apprentice as they do in Germany? That working to pass exams and to meet academic assessment criteria can be very different to working on and completing a commercial project. Instead of a marked assignment might money made or saved be the measure?

At the SCA mentors come in from industry, including many of the heavy weights from the likes of BBH and Saatchi.

It is a hybrid studio, part of the working world but distinct from it. There is talk though of moving their base from Vauxhall to Soho next year so that industry people can simply ‘drop in’. There is no use of webcasting which is a lost opportunity and common place in industry both from the desk and from boardrooms.

For electronic arts, I wonder if this team of two ought to be a team of three, that a visualiser working with a copywriter needs a programmer in order to develop ideas with this ‘third dimension’.

The analogy I would use is a band that requires a drummer, bass player and lead guitar/singer.

During the course of the evening having spoken to several people from Brighton University I realised there is a fourth requirement: the entrepreneur i.e. the band’s manager?

This is based on the view that ideas come to fruition through commercial exploitation by an entrepreneur (in may experience someone who sells well, who understands that a fresh idea will turn heads and open doors). The mindset of the innovator and the entrepreneur are very different too.

All in all, this calls for collaboration, team working, acknowledgement of gaps in our own knowledge that our only filled not by gravitating forever to like-minds, but to different minds with complementary skills. A micro-business of one is surely not a business at all. Might 3 be a minimum?

In this respect both The Skiff and The Works sound like valuable places to mix and through proximity and serendipity make things happen.

Mentoring students is two way, not exploitative, but a way to formulate and refresh thinking. Academics benefit from the interaction with their students while those in business benefit from a combination of being challenged and perhaps being reminded of how playful business can be.

Time Travel

I have a predisposition to construct stories. I am particularly attracted to portals to other worlds of for time travel. The Dr has his Tardis, I thought this this lavatory unit showed potential:

It has the proportions of a Time Machine. HGWells would have seen it. It does not have to be bigger on the inside that it is on the outside (even though it gave this impression).

I like the fact that it appears so immovable (in case someone came along a stole it?)

The shard offers a launch pad. I would segue any film-making into the booth being shot skyward like an elevator, shrinking in size until it vanishes to nothing at the tip.

Only to reappear …

A month in the past?

I can use the combination as a aide memoir. This was may three days in London, combining visits to production companies, a presentation by elearning experts Epic and mentoring at the School of Communication Arts.

Or a decade?

Or at some time in the future?

Then what?

And who does it take on the journey?

 

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