This is my CoLab Blog / by Joe Townsend

Welcome to my blog.

I will use this space to reflect on learning and teaching and the Trinity Laban CoLab project which runs from 10-21 Feb 2014.

Projects are starting to take shape and I am looking forward to more suggestions so that we can make CoLab 2014 a fortnight to remember.

CoLab is intended to release students’ creativity through extending our craft and re-imagining the canon in new and interesting ways.

I have been thinking about what makes good collaboration.

Craft: musicians learn their craft and need to spend hundreds of hours developing the skills needed to reach a professional standard.  In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks of 10,000 hours to mastery. He is building on the writing of people like Richard Sennett in The Craftsman and  Dr. Erickson’s writings. This is a hotly disputed subject, but one thing is sure, you need to focus on your subject and do repetitive practise over a long period of time to become good at your craft.

This “craft” type learning does not always consider creativity and the type of thinking that can result in innovation.

Mark Stevenson, (cryptologist, future thinker and serendipity engineer) describes creativity in terms of 5 principles to observe:

  1. Have an unashamed optimism for working together
  2. You are what you do, not what you intend to do
  3. Get involved in projects that are bigger than you are
  4. Engineer serendipity – every good idea is like 2 other ideas coming together
  5. Making mistakes is OK but not trying is irresponsible
  6. Police your own cynicism – it is the enemy of creativity.

I think that these are great, and are a challenge to think about and discuss when dreaming up project ideas, both for CoLab and elsewhere.

Add creativity to craft and great things start to take shape.

Motivation - internal and external. Why do you want to do something? what makes you want to do it? Daniel Pink has some interesting things to say about this on TED talks and if you want to plunge deeper then it is worthwhile thinking about Vygotsky and his contemporaries who discuss Social Constructivism as being a model for learning. This is where people help each other to learn in groups. the intervention of a mentor or a teacher can then help with acquisition of skills and ways of building and learning.

Flow which considers nurturing a balance between skills and challenges as an individual and a group is a great way to think about how a group is progressing. Being aware and discussing flow can be a very good way to understand how a project is progressing and developing. To find out more about this it is worth looking into the godfather of flow, Mihaly Csiszentmihaly.

In addition to motivation it is important to consider reflection. Educational theorists such as Kolb, Dewey, Boud et al have published many works on reflective processes and how we learn through taking part, capturing and evaluating the experience and then planning the next steps. Awareness of these approaches in collaborative groups can be a good way of discussing what is happening and how to move forward. In recent years there are emerging ideas about how we can form communities of reflective practice. These can happen in groups at the end of the day or at pauses in the action.

On the other hand reflection can be a solitary and quiet practice away from the activity in the bubble of a project.

Below the dividing line I have written EGO. Now, ego, in itself is not a bad thing, (and I’m not talking Freud here) but it is important in collaborative processes to be aware that sometimes individual vision can inhibit group agency. That is why the bigger the ego, the smaller the overall value.

I am trying to make sense of this equation and immediately it is obvious that there are elements such as leadership and decision making and other things that could be included, so any comments would be most welcome.

I will expand on some of these ideas in later blog posts.

Joe Townsend