Today was finalist results day for the students on my Post-Punk Britain Module. Together we’ve laughed, done cutting and pasting, swapped celebrity gossip, kicked over a few statues and analysed the history of subcultural theory and practice. They have made me laugh and they have me think in new ways.
Yesterday was the last seminar of this year’s Post-Punk Britain course that I teach with Chris Warne in the third year of our History degree. It is a funny sort of course; it is not really about Punk, and quite a lot of people might think it is not really about History either. It is about what we can do with punk. We do some history of subcultures stuff, but really it is about thinking of punk as a methodology, as an ethos and as a form of dissidence or resistance. In practice that means it’s an ongoing pedagogical experiment. Each of the three years we’ve run the course has been totally different. This is partly because the students collaboratively set the agenda and choose what directions they want to go. It is partly because we’ve been funded through Technology Enhanced Learning and Excellence in Teaching to run a set of student led projects; DIY Digital and DIT Digital. These projects are scavenger history. Students create open access educational resources inspired by the course using apps, social networks, and websites that were often designed with other purposes in mind. Like a DIY zine, it is a way of taking what we can find and making it our own.
On a Thursday night in August 2015 I sat at home remotely supervising 4 of my post-graduate supervisees who were sitting in a pub in Brighton. I tweeted a series of discussion points. They set the agenda.
In my last post, Part 1: Remote Control Supervision, I introduced the ideas behind the experiment.
I’ve chosen to play with thinglink for the images in this blog post because that seemed like an appropriate way to represent the connections between the different forms of thinking, experiences and places in the experiment, without losing sight of their different contexts.
The first two tasks of the first session were designed to set up a sense of community among the group and include them in the evaluation of the project. There were then two subsets to the experiment; the first was to map the ripples of their own research by finding ways to trace a series of layers of explanation about their projects. The second subset was to reflect on the experiment itself. The first section was about audiences and being familiar with our project. The second was about supervision and collaboration
The ice breaker – (whose claim to fame in the group would I be most impressed by?), was designed to allow them to take the piss out of me if needed, and also to demonstrate that although they didn’t necessarily know each other very well, they all knew me and had a lot in common.
I love a training session. I’m always signing up for new workshops. I know there is often a load of nonsense from academics who somehow think that they are instinctively good teachers and don’t need to engage in professional development, that isn’t explicitly developing their reputation as an international scholar. In fact I’ve heard early career and established academics say some pretty shoddy things about pedagogical training. Shoddy things that they wouldn’t accept being said about their own work, their own research or indeed their own teaching. Why wouldn’t we want to benefit from the high quality pedagogical research and training experience of experts? We certainly expect people to take our own research and experience seriously. In fact I have noted a direct correlation between historians who dismiss pedagogical training whilst simultaneously separating themselves from public history, heritage, amateur archivists, genealogists or school and FE based history curriculum as not being ‘real history’. So it is alright for historians to blag it as teachers but not for teachers to blag it as historians?
DIY Digital: Doing Punk Online grew out of the third year Special Subject History course ‘Post-Punk Britain’.
The course is in its second year and from the start, my co-tutor Chris Warne and myself, imagined it as an experiment in democratic teaching and learning. We use the growth of academic work around subcultures and youth culture since 1976 to explore bigger questions around what it means to be a contemporary historian today. This means that we look at local histories, archival practices, life history like memoirs, sound, image and moving images, and oral history alongside popular culture. Although there has been a determined growth in academic work on subcultures in history, sociology, criminology, English studies and beyond, PPB puts these alongside other forms of history work outside of the formal universities. We take the memories that people inherit, share and turn into stories as seriously as the academic theories around the politics of popular culture.
When we began the Brighton hub of Wellcome’s sexology and Song-writing project we imagined that the young women involved would undertake some sort of original research and then write songs about it. It quickly became clear that the young women participants and the youth work and music practitioners had some different priorities. The practitioners wanted to concentrate on building a secure and supportive environment in which to build a collective group identity, and the young women wanted to sing songs that they already knew and liked. The young sexology song-writers didn’t want to write songs. They wanted to cover and recover them. Once we recognised that the priorities of the practitioners and of the young women needed to be our priorities too, we moved towards their goals. We weren’t training them to be researchers. They were training us in their modes of re-enactment: an active and creative intervention in a cultural circuit that brought together the legitimacy of publicly celebrated singer-songwriters, with their own experiences and voices.
Good News! Chris Warne and I have been awarded one of 6 Technology Enhanced Learning Innovation Scheme awards at the University of Sussex. Our project is called DIY DIGITAL: Doing Punk Online. The award is attached to our shared third year special subject course Post-Punk Britain. The course is in its second year of delivery, and from the very first planning discussions that Chris and I had about setting up the course we wanted to explore free and open ways of taking the discussion out of the class room and really encouraging a DIY learning model.
This post is based on a speech that I gave as part of UCU industrial action I had proposed that Union members and students shared our two hour strike on 28th January 2014 by watching the 1984 film Footloose. I’m not sure how I got away with it, but I did. Here is how I explained why to those who came to watch the film.