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Saturday, 15 October 2016

Weaving for peace

Image: Lucky charm 1 paper weaving
by Shannon Sinclair CC BY ND 2.0

I am not talented in an artistic sense. My secondary school art teacher took a dim view of my attempts to create a homework that scored anything above 7/10 and I quickly abandoned any attempt to improve after a brief struggle to convince her that my "gift" needed to be nurtured. However, I have a love of art and I derive great pleasure from the appreciation of the talent of others and the natural beauty I see around me in the world. I do maintain a passion for creativity which, in younger days took the form of poetry writing and singing (I thank a great English teacher for his encouragement). 

Once I was working as a teacher myself, I started to derive pleasure from creating activities and designing learning materials for my students. This interest has grown and mutated since the advent of digital media. I started in the late 1980's to devise web tours and treasure hunts, use databases as a resource for realistic oral role plays and I enjoyed how the use of new media disrupted the usual classroom dynamic and helped different students shine. Of course, much has changed since then - CD-ROMs, MP3 players, YouTube, WYSIWYGs and HTML5 have revolutionised how we create. Most recently of course digital communication tools such as smart phones have helped us to connect and interact online more easily, for better or worse. 

This has been the background for me finding a new creative space. Over the past 10 years I have gradually increased my online presence as part of my professional life. Having taught myself a little HTML many years ago, I realised that websites are rather like tapestries. The beautiful appearance of a page is the result of lots of knots and threads behind the scenes, a good deal of imagination and craft goes in to the finished product - if indeed it is ever finished. When you make online you enjoy a medium that offers lots of possibilities as long as you understand your purpose. Rather like the beautiful piece of weaving above, the various aspects of my digital presence: personal websites; twitter/instagram accounts; open resources shared through various repositories such as slideshare, XTlearn; video accounts and more have to be woven together in order to reveal all the facets of my work. I seem to have arrived at a place where my "next steps" are increasingly about weaving together the various threads of my digital creation. I worry about the web needing to remain this open canvas, a democratic space where all can participate, not one "owned" by states or multinationals who seek only to exploit or control the voice of users. My digital threads are multi-coloured but when they come together they form a coherent self portrait of an educator who will always value the spirit of the artist, who nurtures talent, openness and creativity whatever the circumstances. We can use our creativity for good or evil, I choose to support a positive vision of global human endeavour. I weave for peace. 

My thanks go to Martin Weller who commented on my weaving skills after this blog post which in turn inspired me to practice more!