Welcome to the Tactile Academia Blog!

Tactile Academia is about exploring ways of teaching and learning in Higher Education – particularly, but not exclusively, in Art, Media and Design. The idea is to find a way to link creative practice with academic research. This project started with a particular look at object-based learning as a missing link between the two. Since then all sorts of experiential learning have been explored, particularly making both objects and visualising ‘hidden academic practice’ in a number of ways – from simple doodles to making three-dimensional artworks. Really it’s all about getting the right side of the brain in on the act of academic research and writing.

This on-going research started as part of a teaching excellence fellowship I was awarded by Staffordshire University, where I teach three days a week. My main role there is teaching study skills (and especially essay writing) to studio-based art and design students, which showed me first hand how disengaged students often are when it comes to academic practice. Having trained as a designer myself, I started thinking about what helped me when I was studying, and used these strategies to develop a range of learning activities to allow students to explore their thinking. This includes a lot of objects, visual metaphors and analogies, making projects and writing in all sorts of genre.

At the same time I also started to look for like-minded people facing similar challenges. And as the odd writing conference wasn’t enough, I decided to organise my own workshops – and was lucky enough to get some funding for these from the Higher Education Academy (HEA) as well as the support of the Writing-PAD network. We even had a writing retreat! On this blog you will find write-ups of these events, and it is worth looking at them for the work of the brilliant guest speakers I was lucky to have. (And if you are looking for a more academic format, check out Volume 6, Number 2 of the Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, which I guest-edited collating contributions from speakers and participants of the workshops.)

So on this blog you don’t just find my thoughts and ideas, but also those of other people. Stuff I have come across at conferences and workshops, as well as on the internet or twitter. Some of the posts are guest posts, some of them are simply links to events or pages that might be of interest. Really I am trying to build a resource for like-minded people facing the same challenges as me. While my official project has been over for a while, the enthusiasm of the people I have met has been overwhelming, and so I have just kept going – just like the people I met along the way. So while I might not blog as frequently now as I used to, the Tactile Academia idea is still going strong!

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My two favourite bits of feedback


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My two favourite bits of feedback

If you want to become a contributor, please let me know through a comment and I’ll be in touch.

I hope you enjoy this blog and that you will find it useful.

Alke Groppel-Wegener

  1. Really interesting site. Is there a reason for the intense purple background colour though? I’m finding it so hard to read that I’m thinking of saving articles out to Instapaper in order to link to them there. If the colour is important for a specific accessibility concern, could there be an option to change it for individual users? Many thanks!

    • alkegw said:

      Hi Robert,
      thanks for your comment. I mellowed the colour out a bit… yes, I don’t want to have a too high contrast for accessibility, but I also don’t want to turn people off! So hopefully you find this easier now.
      Let me know if you still have trouble with it now!
      Cheers, Alke

      • That seems a lot more readable to my eyes. Thanks very much for the effort! Robert

  2. We are currently build a lot of practical art work into our teaching and learning practice to help students think in different ways – to develop engaging ways of extending analytical and critical thinking – and to utilise as innovative research methods. Really interesting to see how this project takes off! Best, Sandra sinfield

  3. Hi Alke,
    Inspired by your ‘making’ work with us, we ran two high-level ‘summit’ residential events on 1. the future of the digital humanities , 2. employability and the creative industries, with leading ‘agenda setters’ from each field. Instead of the usual boring sit down and talk sessions, we got people to make and find things. Some truly inspired and inspiring artefacts. Particularly memorable: the digital humanities tapestry, the handmade Wordle, the Hamper of Employability….
    Good luck with this….and thank you.
    Kind regards

    • alkegw said:

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for stopping by, and the great feedback! I’m delighted to hear that my two days with the HEA in York had such constructive ripples. I really want to hear more – and would love to see pictures, too – maybe you would consider doing a guest post on some of this?
      Best wishes,

  4. ehannan said:

    Hi Alke, I’m really exciting to read more of your site – it looks really interesting! I love the digital quilt. Ellie

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