We’re looking forward to seeing you around the LX.lab and working with you on your project. What is your goal for the AiR program?
My educational development PEP project that I’ll be working on through the AiR program is about designing a system where students can go to find resources and inspiration when they have to do assignments that require an engagement with place. This project was inspired by my students and their work: I teach the International Studies combined degree capstone, In-country Studies, an inquiry-based subject. This means my students are from very different disciplinary backgrounds. Many of them (though of course not all) are interested in projects that explore multiple aspects of the city, neighbourhoods, or region where they spend their study abroad year. There is of course a profusion of existing resources, but they need to be appraised, organised and presented in a meaningful and critically informed way.
At the same time, place and place-making (in relation to material culture and design practices) are also some of my research concerns. For instance in Mapping Edges, our current project, Dr. Alexandra Crosby (DAB) and I are researching plants, place-making and sustainability practices in the city, in sites such as ruderal landscapes, verges, gardens, and edges in general. We use mixed methods, including research through design, oral histories, archival research, interviews, photography, sketching, walking, and mapping. This project functions as a lab where we can test different methods and then teach them to students, offering practice-based insights. And in talking with colleagues from several UTS faculties, I realised that place is also central to what they research, and what their students learn.
The AiR program is what makes this project possible in terms of organisation, design and production: we will build a WordPress site including a glossary, short critical and practical essays on methods, resources available through UTS library or public, and record a podcast series.
Is there any way for people at UTS to get involved in your project during the AiR Program?
Yes! And for me it is one of the really exciting things about the AiR Program. While I write from a Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) background, the podcast series will showcase the work on place done by 15 UTS colleagues in various disciplines and areas. We hope that it will contribute to create a transdisciplinary community of practice for all the UTS academics interested in place as a topic, site of research or theoretical and methodological concern. The LX Lab is organising two events to make it possible for people to meet and talk. So, colleagues, if you read this far and are interested in place please get in touch! (Ed. note: you can also sign up for our Weekly Digest to stay informed on events at the LX.lab).
What do you think are some of the major issues for learning and teaching today?
To develop criticality and an ethics of openness, not only because critical thinking and openness to diversity feature in every job application, but also so that students can understand, and resist and change if necessary, the landscape they move in starting from a solid ethical base.
For academics one issue is to integrate not segregate research and teaching. Sometimes this is not possible at first sight, and it is necessary to think laterally. This project is an example of it.
Do you think there are opportunities for collaboration between different universities to enhance learning and teaching?
Certainly, and UTS is in a very good position to do it because of its international connections. For instance, I work with 9 partner universities in Italy and several of them offer joint degrees with other international universities. I am really interested in exploring the possibility of developing a joint program with the Università degli Studi di Bologna, where I taught in their Master of Global Cultures last year: there are so many points of contact, and a very well established partnership. We just need to find our way through the transnational administrative and institutional requirements.
Is there someone or something that has significantly influenced your learning and teaching practice?
This is a really difficult question. I learned the importance of curiosity, respect, listening, and the ability to move from micro to macro issues from a professor of anthropology, Pietro Clemente, who was not my teacher, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Siena in Italy. I was an art history major, but I found it very dry, so I spent my time hanging out with anthropologists.
Is the availability and use of digital technology important in learning and teaching?
It is important for me, although I understand it is not for others. I believe it is for two reasons. First, digital technologies can help gathering and interpreting data in ways that produce results that would not be otherwise possible. For instance: I can look at the change in the ratio between green space and built structures in my suburb by logging into an open-source map using GIS. Second, as demonstrated in studies in the past 10-15 years, digital media has changed the way we learn. A good example of this is how young people learn to collaborate and pool resources by playing online games. Also I believe that everyday technologies are good learning and teaching tools, so I invite my students to use whatever technology and media they are comfortable with. I like to be surprised.
If learning and teaching improves in one way in 2018, what way should that be?
Separating student feedback from academic performance reviews and making this known to students.
Interested in hearing more about the AiR program, or finding out how you can get involved? Get in contact with Ilaria about her project, and/or join us at the LX.lab on Tuesday 27 February for the launch! Register via the link below.