Creativity space

via GIPHY

One of the claims I make in the metaphors book I’m about to send off is that they provide a much needed route for creativity for practitioners in learning technology. I think this is important for two reasons: 1) it lets us think about ed tech in different ways; 2) people working in learning tech are creative people, often from other disciplines, who need some release from the daily grind of releases, roadmaps, support, etc. As Jim Groom likes to argue, the original open web was a creative space, and we can all do with a bit of creativity in our approach to teaching.

So, it’s rather ironic for me that the writing of this book has demonstrated how much creativity is under pressure in the current context. I booked a not unreasonable 15 days study leave to complete the book. But, like so many people, I have a number of different roles at the OU. Each of these needed attention, with the result that of my 15 allocated days, I managed just two devoted to the book.

Part of the reason I write books is because I like the process of writing books. In the past I’ve taken myself off for a week or two to somewhere romantically windswept and hunkered down in a creative burst, accompanied only by my dog and big box of wine. This is a productive way to work, I wrote my last two books pretty much in two week sprints like this. But perhaps just as importantly, it provides an antidote to the less creative, more quotidian aspects of the job. These aspects are important and necessary, but I like to balance them out. But this recent attempt at writing illustrated just how dominant they are now. This transformed the writing process from something I relish to yet another task I needed to fit in around meetings. This feels like both a personal and systemic failure, and in pandemic time it’s rather done me in. Higher education shouldn’t become a system designed to eradicate all traces of joy.

I know how whiny and privileged this sounds, compared with people with horrendous working conditions (eg imagine working for Arise), my life is luxurious. But it’s something I hear from lots of colleagues across all universities. We know meetings, reporting, quality monitoring, etc are all important, but people need some space for creativity, for their benefit, students and the institution.

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