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Monday, 14 July 2014

Track A - The Role of Creativity in Student Engagement, Learning through Social Learning Networks - George Dafoulas (S&T)

George Dafoulas (principal lecturer in Computing Science at Middlesex University) delivered a workshop focusing upon the value for educators in identifying and employing creative approaches toward the development of a heightened level of student engagement within the learning environment.

Imagination + Creativity + Empathy + Innovation = Value for the learner

The presenter makes the claim that although everyone possesses the facility to be creative it may be necessary for the individual seeking inspiration to adopt specific strategies to access this inner resource. Within this session the participants were invited to undertake a short exercise designed to afford them access to their own creativity.

This process consisted of a number of key elements:
  • The room lights were dimmed
  • Soothing music was played at low volume
  • The participants were asked to close their eyes, control their breathing and enter into a relaxed, meditative state for a few minutes
George maintains that an individuals creativity can be greatly enhanced once this relaxed state is achieved. He then proceeded to reveal some of the creative solutions for student engagement and learning support he had constructed as a result of undergoing the relaxation exercise.

Second Life and the Democratic learning space
George had identified the traditional classroom environment and the overt hierarchies of power that exist within such spaces as potential obstacles to student engagement and learning. He then proceeded to demonstrate how he had utilised a Second Life virtual environment as a more democratized space for learning.

School Supplies as props for learning
George has used classroom tools such as crayons and play-clay to encourage interaction and engagement within his learners. Within minutes of handing out these items within this session some participants had managed, without direction or invitation, to mould the clay into objects. George contrasted this activity with the timidity with which student approached their project work and emphasized that this might serve as a tool to reduce the impact of risk aversion within any learning group.

These creative interventions have led to often surprising but also productive learning outcomes for the learners involved. It is George’s intention to continue to explore his own creativity as a resource to better learning for his students and hopes that the insights he has revealed will encourage educators to do likewise.

Session video

Report by John Parkinson, Senior Academic Developer, Centre for Academic Practice Enhancement

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