Wednesday, September 29th, 2010...9:18 pm

The Learning Studio

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The Learning Studio is a new community of practice that we are forming to support collaboration and peer-to-peer exchange and communication around teaching and learning in art, design and media. Initially it will focus on UAL staff from across the whole institution, but we hope to expand out into the wider community and other institutions in the future. The imitative is borne of some of the same sorts of frustrations that James Clay has voiced in his post on why the traditional model of staff development and e champions has failed to really impact on the use of learning technology and pedagogic innovation. I would echo his words,

‘it’s about practitioner taking responsibility for their own staff development, to seek out a community of practice, to build on their skills, share, collaborate and move forward. It isn’t enough now to rely on a single staff development day, week or event. Staff development is an activity that happens every day.

Community is important, local, regional, national and even international. Sharing practice, ideas and problems is a way of changing culture. Building communities of practice and personal learning networks should be the responsibility of every practitioner’

We plan to meet regularly using live web conferencing on the Wimba platform, and to use other web 2.0 environments to collaborate including the new UAL social networking and staff development platform, myCPD, which is a drupal based environment for personal and collaborative development.

The next step is to being to build the connections between staff at UAL, which as is typical in many other institutions, are doing great work but often in almost isolation. One of the main drivers of the learning studio is to act as a conduit for people to find each other to share their ideas, expertise and to collaborate.

IMG_0980Having worked a lot on both the theory and practice of communities of practice, including with the man himself, Etienne Wenger, I’m both excited and nervous about the project as it has huge potential but is also likely to be difficult and challenging to build, nurture and sustain the community.

We plan to follow Wenger’s advice on developing a CoP by firstly interviewing a group of people, already identified as leaders in teaching and learning, and brainstorming with them what the terrain we should be covering is, what kind of activities we should be developing, and who else to invite initially to the community.

One idea we have had is to carry out a ‘Go to…’ survey to find out who people identify as the ‘go to’ people when they need advice or have a problem, this is a way of using the staff themselves to identify key ‘thought leaders’, innovators, e champions, or just people who get things done. This should also help us to map the current networks of collaboration an information sharing that exist and will hopefully help build the community.

We plan to soft launch it fairly soon, with a series of web conferences and other events that lead up to a university wide launch in the new year.  At present we plan to use some of the approaches we have developed on the Masters program I teach and the OPEN-i network for photojournalism that I’ve been running for the past year or so. These include regular webinars, social bookmarking using diigo, flipbite interviews, twitter as a ‘watercooler’ to share quick bits of information, questions and useful links, as ell as the more established platforms like discussion forums and blogs etc.

(If you are interested in joining the community in the future, especially if you are involved in art, design, photography and media, mail me at [email protected] and i’ll keep you updated)

What has worked at your institution in developing learning communities, and what hasn’t – tales of success and failure welcome!


  • this is a brill idea.
    Keep us posted.
    A colleague of mine and I wanted to do Coffee shop sessions but they have never happened, although I did take some of the staff to the pub when I was doing staff development with them. It’s great to see how they open up and talk to each other as they were more relaxed to. The atmosphere such spaces are able to establish is key… but somehow it was never really regarded as learning by many.

    I am really happy you are paving the way to new, effective ways to get people to think differently. We so much need it!

    Keep us posted

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