Designing learning in unsettling times

Post originally published on by Daniela Gachago and Xena Cupido

Responding to COVID-19

As the world braces for an onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have taken drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus.  These measures have included government-mandated lockdowns, which requires citizens to stay at home in an effort to quell the spread of the disease. Currently, in South Africa, we find ourselves in a state of suspension. The country has literally come to a “stand-still” with only essential services in operation. This has resulted in school and university closures as part of the effort to contain this global pandemic.  According to Unesco (2020) monitoring, approximately 14 612 546 South African learners have been impacted by this nation-wide closure, of which 1 116 017 are university students.

In an effort to continue with the academic project, universities across the globe are considering online solut…

Teaching in times of disruption and the ethics of care

I follow with huge interest how universities worldwide are moving their teaching and learning online. I am fascinated by how fast they move, how well prepared they seem (at least from afar) and mostly, how uncritical they are about issues of access and social justice when it comes to online learning.

Here at in South Africa, and in particular at CPUT, any attempt to introduce online or even blended learning has to be mindful of our learners, often not able to access digital resources from home, or not necessarily digitally literate enough to follow this kind of learning. I see very little critical engagement at the moment from around the world, with the exception of articles such as shared a few days ago on Facebook: Please do a bad job of putting your courses online, by Rebecca Barett-Fox. So far she is the one of the few who considers how students might be differently positioned, as she writes: "They will be accessing the internet on their phones. They have limited data. They n…

Towards an ethical pratice of digital storytelling in Higher Education

Lecturers at CPUT have been using digital storytelling (DST) since 2010 across all faculties and many disciplines: for teaching and learning, in community engagement projects but also more and more as a research methodology. In our context we define digital storytelling as the process of creating a (personal) narrative that documents a wide range of culturally and historically embedded lived experiences, by combining voice, sound and images into a short video, developed by non-professionals with non-professional tools within the context of a digital storytelling workshop (Lambert, 2010; Reed & Hill, 2012). Introducing DST at our institution has improved digital literacies and student engagement, provided a space for critical reflection and enhanced multicultural learning and engagement across difference. However, adopting this sometimes emotional and process-oriented practice into an educational context, with its constraints of course objectives, assessment regimes, timetables and …

10 days in Toronto...

I am sitting at the Toronto International Airport gathering my thoughts on the last 10 days in Toronto. I attended two conferences: the American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies  conference (AAACS) organised by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and AERA. 
What are my thoughts so far:
AERA was amazing this. Big as usual, but somehow I was better at choosing sessions. Rather than by  streams or SIGs I mainly went by names of people I wanted to hear speak. I didn't do any key notes, but lots of sessions by the people I follow. This seemed to have worked well. I focused on critical media literacy, decolonisation, whiteness, emotions/empathy, post-qualitative inquiry and narrative research.
I really got back into feminist affect theorists - vowed to read Sara Ahmed and Lauren Berlant again. Discovered Sara Ahmed's Phenomenology on Whiteness, which I need to read and re-read. Went to a fantastic session on Dis-Orienting Whiteness, by Victori…

First full learning design workshop done and dusted

Last week we offered our first full learning design workshop to staff members across all Faculties. We had 20 participants - way more than we expected for 2,5 days at our beautiful campus in Granger Bay. The workshop was a result of work we have been doing in collaboration between the Centre for Innovative Educational Technology and the Fundani Curriculum Development Unit. We have been drawing from our experiences of our blended learning design short course, in which we tried to promote a Design Thinking mindset. We characterise a design thinking mindset as a mindset that promotes problem orientation, focus on practice, exploration and play, learner empathy, reflection and resilience, becoming change agents and collaboration and generosity (see more here).

Our workshop (see outline and notes here) last week was a combination of a number of exercises / activities we designed over the last few years.

The persona activity, an adaptation of Joyce Seitzinger's personas, which has become …

Re/turning as slow methodology in affective writing encounters

I have met with colleagues from UWC and UCT for some years now to talk, think and write together (and drink lots of coffee in between). For a long time this has been a space of respite and comfort - away from the tensions and conflicts at work. Started during student protest time, it has moved us into coffeeshop spaces, re-appropriating coffeeshops across the Southern Suburbs as spaces for reflection and engagement. I appreciated the honesty and vulnerability we committed ourselves to, in our sharing and writing. Writing for pleasure. Writing without a deadline, without a purpose. Writing together. But as academics do, eventually deadlines, products, purposes crept in, conference were attended, papers written. This video, created by my amazing colleague Niki Romano, is one product of our writing, which we will share at HECU this morning. Its bittersweet to watch it. Its a beautiful piece of art, affecting and affected, it takes me back to good times, but it also did something to us. C…

Reflections from the Decolonial Transformation Workshop at the University of Sussex

It's one week since the Decolonial Transformation Workshop finished at the University of Sussex. It was a beautiful, inspiring, intense, thought provoking, emotional space. First and foremost it was an unapologetically black space. A space for people of colour to share their experiences. As white participants we were welcome but it was clear that in that space we were visitors / observers. And it was absolutely fine. I was grateful to be allowed in, to be given the opportunity to listen and learn.

There were two main questions that came up for me from the workshop. The first one is : How do you unlearn something you don't know you have? And the second one is about complicity and culpability. Why is it that the closer racism comes to home the more difficult it is to address? To make it more clear, I need to tell some stories. On one of the workshop days I was introduced to a woman of colour. She had beautiful grey dreadlocks, I thought she looked just like Toni Morrison. But w…