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Just got this on the hotline from my colleague Dr David Manderson

“Congratulations to Kirsty McConnell, a graduate of last year’s Honours Screenwriting/Film-Making degree, for winning first prize in the London Screenwriters’ ‘Fifty Kisses’ short film script competition for her short script ‘Enough.

You can read her script and the judges’ comments here:

http://www.50kissesfilm.com/50-kisses-the-screenplays/enough-by-kirsty-mcconnell/

Well done Kirsty! A career beckons.”


I have wrtitten previously about the setting up of our UWS collaboration project “Studio Lab”  at our new Television Studios at University Of The West Of Scotland in Ayr . We have now reached Week 3 of the project and it is developing at a breathtaking pace.

Ten  4th year (level 10 )  Contemporary Screen Acting Students have worked on creating  the scenario, characters and script of a live recorded studio production of approximately 30-60 mins in length. Readers will, I hope,  appreciate that this is a substantial piece of work.It   will be recorded  “as live” at UWS Ayr  Studios on December 5th. It will be directed by professional TV Director Michael Hines , who as well as being one of Scotland’s leading directors, also lectures on our Camera Acting Techniques and Screen Drama modules. All the improvisational materials and exercises are being  been recorded , edited and disseminated online to the performance  team by volunteer Film Making & Screenwriting students as part of this crossover collaboration. The volunteer  recording team have put in literally hours of work to ensure that the acting team have the material in an edited form in order to reflect, and then deepen the characterisations which will be eventually reflected in an improvised  shooting script to prepare for the live recording.

Rebecca Skinner, Emmi Häkkä, Marius Pocevičius and Lizzie Kane in UWS Ayr Studios

As the project progresses closer towards  shooting, Broadcast Production students will become more involved, so that by the time we record, I expect a team of about 20 strong production team to be part of the behind the scenes efforts to capture the live recording of this experimental drama. Thus around 30 UWS Creative Industries students will have had the chance to take part in an authentic  hands on experience which we hope will arm them for the challenges of the Professional Creative Industries.

We have now reached week 3 of the project. So far students have worked on Object, Situation and Interactive  improvisations. This has produced approximately 3 hours of edited material. The first part of each session is taken up by watching, discussing and reflecting upon last weeks material. All the edited material has been previously posted on a closed Facebook Group where all the participating students, both voluntary and assessed, take part in creative online discussions through the week.Screen Acting  students are tasked with creating three dimensional authentic characters with a backstory, personna, and  psychological underpinning which will propel them into the creation of a fully integrated live drama.

Having now gathered a wealth of material, students are  engaged in the process of “locating” the precinct within which the final production will be based. Will it be an airport? An institution? A city street? A Spaceship? Inside John Malkovich’s head? The decision of what, where and how the precinct will be will evolve over  the next two weeks, so that by week 6, students have a firm grasp of the creative parameters of the project. By weeks 7 and 8, the  now located script will be further improvised, developed and honed. At this point, UWS Screenwriting students will distill all the material into a developing script, so that by the time we get to the Technical Rehearsal in Week 10 on Nov 28th, we will have an agreed shooting script  which fully reflects the creative input of all participants. We are then planning a final screening in our Campus HD 7:1 Movie Theatre in Week 12.

Next trimester, all the Contemporary Screen Acting students are tasked with writing a 4-6,000 word Ethnographic survey of the lived experience of the entire process.  This part of the process is has been devised and delivered by my colleague Dr John Quinn at UWS.

The combination  of the two processes, Recorded Artefact and Ethnographic Survey will combine in a 40 Credit Module to complete the Contemporary Screen Acting Research Project. We plan to have all student work submitted in a digital form and be deliverable online in the first ever truly paperless  I will update progress with the StudioLab project as it develops.

Katie Power,Catherine Lockhart,Stuart McGowan,Anna Kennedy & Claudie Baker Park improvise. Photos by William Aldridge


The first cohort of 4th year honours Contemporary Screen Acting Students graduate on Friday. This would be as good a time as any to look back and reflect on the first two years of the Programme to assess how we have developed and where we might be going.

The Class of 2011

There was a crucial point in the development of Contemporary Screen Acting at University Of The West Of Scotland and it took place after the initial Accreditation Panel meeting in March 2010. Generally , the panel was very supportive of the notion of a new niche degree in Screen Acting. It would fit snugly between our two other programmes, Performance and Musical Theatre. It would encompass Social Media and the New Technologies, it would arm actors with the skills to navigate the post-web 2.0 world. It would be new and exciting, collaborative and inclusive. But there was one thing missing. The name. The name was going to be “Screen Acting”, but somehow the panel felt that this didn’t suitably reflect the course content. It needed something else. Something to bring it up to date. Now whether it was Dr Sarah Nealy from the University of Stirling, or Ali de Souza from the then RSAMD, someone came up with  the term….”Contemporary Screen Acting”.

I didn’t like it.

Cheifly I didn’t like it because I didn’t think of it first. In my mind  wanted the Programme to have a be simple, short and easy to remember title, and I reckoned it was a bit of a mouthful. But….I had no option. The panel wanted a name change and that was that.

Two years later, I love it. The word “contemporary” is one of those plastic, malleable catch all words which immediately fit in any situation where you have just come up with a new idea…and that is exactly what the last two years of Contemporary Screen Acting has been all about. A series of new experiments, new ways of teaching, new ways of learning, new ways of creating work for the small group of screen actors who I have had the privelege of teaching . The small group of graduates (including TWO first class honours) have been the first group of my  students to use iPods instead of video cameras, twitter instead of feedback sheets, iMovie instead of Final Cut Pro, a Panasonic AGF 101 instead of an ancient Sony Z-1. At the same time, they have been the first group of my students to make REAL videos for REAL clients, created their entire corpus of work online in their own showreels, and finally the first group who are able to go out into the world with the skills necessary for success in the connected, networked world of 2012.

Some new stuff we tried didn’t work. But thats the nature of experimntation and “contemporary” practice. If it doesn’t work, all you have to do is just not do it again. A bit of a no brainer.

Anyway, congratulations to my Honours students, and thanks for the exhilarating journey that the first two years of Contemporary Screen Acting has been. Here’s to the next two.

If you want an example of my student’s work, or are interested in studying at UWs, here’s a video which our 3rd years made to market their course.

Here’s to the next two years .


I have taught Screenwriting and Performance at the University Of The West of Scotland since 2006.  Dr Sarah Neely, who at that time was teaching Screenwriting  here,  originally asked me to visit   to deliver a one hour talk on my work in the Creative Industries. At that time the institution was called “The University Of Paisley” .  I thought I was agreeing to go and talk in Paisley, Renfrewshire,  until the day before the visit  I  looked at a map armed with the Post Code and realised that I was booked to speak in Ayr. Ayr???  What….Ayr, Ayrshire? Robert Burns? Ice Cream? Butlins? I remember phoning Sarah up the night before and asking her once again…”

“It is Ayr you want me to go to, is it? ”

She assured me that it was indeed the toon of honest men and bonnie lasses,  and off I went with my bike on the train, to Ayr the next day. I got out at the end of the line, and outside the station, asked the ticket inspector  if he could tell me the way to the University. “Oh aye, ” he said, ” Ayr College….doon there, mate…”

“No..not Ayr College…..the University….” I said.

He drew himself up to his full 5’5″ , cupped his fag against the wind, and said ” There’s nae University in Ayr, son….”

Noting my puzzlement, one of his colleagues paused from rolling a cigarette and shouted over…” It’s Craigie he’s wantin’, Wullie”

With that, a light came on in Wullie’s eye…” Oh..CRAIGIE, is it?….how did you no say?” And with that he gave me pinpoint directions to the  Craigie Campus of the University Of Paisley.

6 years later and I am still here.

The New Campus

The New University Campus In Ayr

Now renamed University Of The West Of Scotland after its merger with Bell College Hamilton, and newly relocated in our new £80 million state of the art campus on the banks of the River Ayr, the place I work in  now is very different from the leaky, drafty, run down ex-teacher training college I walked into that day in March 2006. Thankfully, there is sign outside the town which says “Ayr..A University Town” , so that even Wullie from the station will now realise that there is a University in Ayr…and a damn fine one at that!

But there is something else that hasn’t changed at all. The students. Oh they aren’t exactly the same student’s of course. Six cohorts of graduates have moved on and made a life for themselves in the time I have been there. But they are exactly the same type of students.A large percentage of them tend to come from the same housing schemes, the same small towns, the same Islands  and urban conurbations as  they did then.

There is a specific “look”  and “sound” to a group of  UWS students.  I can’t define it, but I can instantly recognise it. I have lectured to MA students in  ancient oak and leather furnished rooms at St Andrews: to groups of  Film Students in  a modern Lecture Theatre at the University of Stirling: to  Theatre Studies Graduates in a beautifully dramatic arts “Church”  at Glasgow Uni. Every one of those groups   was instantly differentiated from my students at UWS.  Let’s cut to the chase here. We are talking class. The statisticians don’t talk about class. They talk about “areas of high deprivation” or “lower socioeconomic sectors”. Whatever way you dress it up as, the “look” and “sound” of a group of UWS students is closely linked to the fact that a large percentage of them come from the sort of places that most of the middle class worthies who run Scottish Education  only see through  smoke-tinted windscreens. Many of my students are the first person in their family to take up Higher Education. Many of them are single parents. Many of them have full time jobs in very low paid areas. Many of them subsist on bursaries, grants,handouts  and overdrafts.  Over 35% of our Performance Students have special educational needs which are fully supported by our fantastic team at UWS Ayr. I wonder what the equivalent  figure is in St. Andrews? I don’t have that figure to hand, but today, thanks to the NUS Scotland, I DO have a figure which has made me proud to work at UWS, and proud to teach my students. More of that later.

The New NSS Survey is out?  Oh……great.  :..(

Creative Hack Day in The Control Room

When you work at UWS, the release of National Statistics is rarely a pleasant experience. With teeth-grinding regularity, I see the National Student Survey  “Performance Charts” which put Oxford , St Andrews and Cambridge at the top, and UWS somewhere…well…. let’s say a wee bit further down than Edinburgh.

Never mind that my students are taught in the most modern Creative Industries University in Britain.Never mind that all the hard work, toil, time, effort and downright passion that  my colleagues and I put in to our students learning experience  comes to nothing. My UWS students aren’t even included in the National Student Survey. Astonishingly, unbelievably,  incredibly, as direct entry third year “top up” students, they don’t even get ASKED what they think of their education. Why? Because  the entire NSS system is geared to assessing the thoughts of  18 year olds with A Levels  who are  studying   three year degrees. None of my students, not a single ONE of them, adheres to that biased,  Southern, middle class model. Many of my students don’t even have Highers. They left school at 16, maybe took a year out to work , or signed on. Some of them have been Fire Officers, Estate Agents,full time mothers, even a magician! Whatever their past, at some point,at some time,  they  took an access course, went to a local FE college, and achieved an HNC or an HND in Performance and Acting. They did this  in circumstances which were a million miles away from the creme de la creme of the education world who are  recruited by the “elites” .   This large group of Articulation students is completely ignored by the NSS.  Institutions like UWS  takes  large numbers of  these  students .  We   cajole them,  teache them, argue with them,  are frustrated and infuriated by them, but  finally we arm them with an honours degree , self respect,  and a practical tool kit to go out into the world and make a career for themselves. And yet my colleagues, students and I  have to watch as their progress is completely marginalised as the NSS  statistics  “prove” how wonderful the “elite” universities are, and how low down we are .

League Table Shmeague Table.

As we all know, the  true situation at the chalk face is far more  complex than any crass league tables can ever reflect. For example,  I am bursting with pride at my two Honours students who achieved First Class degrees this year. They could walk into post-graduate studies of any elite institution in the country if they so wished. However I am just as proud of  my other students who have emerged  from challenging circumstances and learned advanced criticality, reflection and transferrable soft and hard skills which will help them gain employment or create their own jobs and careers. They want  to ensure that their children don’t get the same free meals that they did, and I am proud to be part of that process. Indeed I  am literally  part of that process, because I too was  the possessor of a dreaded free  “white dinner ticket” while at school. But none of this is reflected in the cursed tables I see published in the papers every year. And do you know what? I’m past caring…..well…until today……because…..we made it to the top of a table today, and suddenly , I think they are a GREAT idea….so….

Our HD Television Studio at UWS Ayr.

Hallelujah.

Hallelujah! Let joy be unconfined!  Let the church bells ring and let laughter and mirth spread through the land! At last, some statistics are published which finally reflect the pride I feel in my institution, and which justify the passion and energy which my colleagues and I  put into our work here. UWS has come out ON TOP in a statistical survey! I will repeat that.  University Of The West Of Scotland  has come out ON TOP! We are the  top recruiter of students scoring highest using  the criteria of  the Scottish Index Of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)

According to a recent study commissioned by NUS Scotland,  UWS recruits a greater percentage of students from “deprived areas” than any other university in Scotland. Of course needless to say, this was not presented as a positive story. Did I pick up my Herald yesterday and luxuriate in the headline  trumpeting “UWS Triumphs In Campaign For Open Access” ? Errr….No. Instead these figures were described as  “Elite Universities Fail To Recruit Poorer Pupils.” ‘Twas ever thus.

Nevertheless, it IS a positive story for us at UWS! Last year we  recruited 1,117 students from the lowest SIMD sector. To give this a bit of context,  St Andrews, (which I believe is thought of as one of the elite ) , managed to  recruit……..wait for the drumroll……..a grand total of ….13.   Maybe we should call them the St. Andrews 13. Maybe they were all from the same Rugby League  team? Whoever they are, I really  do wish them well, because they must be 13 of the most outstanding students in the country. However  it  means that while 2.7% of St Andrews students might have got free school meals or had an unemployed parent, the UWS figure is 25.4%.

Not only that, but  the elite universities (what a wonderful term that is ) are actually recruiting less disadvantaged students  than they did 10 years ago. This means that these  august  educational institutions , whose senior common rooms no doubt glow with statisfaction at their domination of the NSS statistics, are getting  less and less  successful in helping the poorest attempt to break out of a cycle of deprivation and poverty than before.

The Blame Game? 

Let’s make one point crystal clear here. I don’t blame the elite unis for this. As Alistair Sim, director of Universities Scotland states in the Herald  of  June 4th 2012

“To deliver significant change in universities, you first need to tackle the root of the problem, which is the large gap in attainment according to deprivation in schools, as recent reports have confirmed,”

I’ll say!

Coupled with this, I also don’t blame the elite for wanting to recruit the best students. If I got the chance to recruit a fantastic actress who had gone to Swiss finishing school and had an International Baccalauréat ,  I would do it in a flash. But I live in the real world too. I am competing against other institutions which are deemed “elite” and superior to mine. I know that because I see it in the League Tables, so it must be true, musn’t it?

Prolier Than Thou?

Of course, The solution to these societal inequalities, as Alistair Sim points out,  lies  not in the University sector  at all. Universities are the symptom of the disease, not the cause.  It is  in the schools and pre-school system that this canker of inequality is nurtured.  The fact that elite schools dominate the intake  of elite universities  is clearly symptomatic of the effect of pouring massive subsidy and resources into the education of the 7% of British Children who attend  “independent” schools. Thus inequality is structurally inevitable if we are to continue to give parents the “freedom” to buy their children’s superior school education. Even the proposed imposition of quotas, through  which the Government plans to force Universities  to take more disadvantaged students (and which the “elite”  will inevitably rail against) , are  naught but a  tiny sticking plaster  on what is  a far , far   deeper  inequality wound in contemporary Scottish society.

The Way Forward.

If we Scots decide that we want to build a fairer society (and the evidence of election after election in Scotland is that we do ) ,  then the  only way to redress our  massive societal inequalities is through investment in education and training at the pre-school, school, FE and HE level. At UWS, we  can only do what we can do, and  I am proud to be part of an HE institution which is clearly and  demonstrably doing more to enable open  access to HE than any other University in Scotland.

Graduation Day At UWS Ayr

So let’s hear it for UWS, our students, and especially for Wullie the ticket inspector from Ayr whose town has a University which is top of the performance charts in at least one crucial area.

If you want more information on the sort of work our Articulation students do in Ayr, please have a look at the Video below. It was created, written, acted and edited by  my third years last term. These students came  straight from an HND at FE College, and have  no current voice in the National Student Survey. Let their words speak for themselves.  Contemporary Screen Acting At University Of The West Of Scotland.


Last week was the first recording run  through of the TV Studios at the University Of The West Of Scotland‘s new 80 million pound campus in Ayr. Camera Acting students from the Contemporary Screen Acting Programme were recording the first ever series of screen dialogues at the new campus. Students re-enact duologue scenes from movies such “Juno”, “Bridesmaids” and  “Let The Right One In” in order to gain experience of working in a multi-camera studio set up. The above photo shows 4th year honours student  Alana Murray working on the production of her multi-media Creative Project with her cast.

Along with the finest radio and music studios in Scotland, UWS Ayr now boasts two  state of the art HD studios with Green Screen Technology,  Autocue, and top of the range sound and editing facilities. There is space for large scale productions such as dramas, orchestral performances and musical theatre, as well as room for up to 30 students to view the process from the gallery.

The feedback from the students has been very positive. Debbie Lochran commented ” This is fantastic. I’ve never seen a set up like this before anywhere else. You get the idea that you could create any programme you wanted”

Rachel Kennedy preps her Gaelic Children's programme

Zoe Silver said ” I feel like a real professional. The first job I had to do was to be a camera operator in headphone contact with the control room and it went really well”.

Jess Munro commented “I’ve never acted in a studio before, but within minutes I had forgotten about the cameras and lights and was able to concentrate on my performance”.

As we roll out the use of the studio for the fourth year honours students and  post graduates, the amazing potential of this resource is going to be unleashed. Students will be able to create , record and distribute HD broadcast quality programmes , be they filmed dramas,  documentaries or  light entertainment shows.

It’s a genuinely exciting time for all involved.The first slate of programmes recording in the next few weeks  include a Gaelic Children’s show, a modern digitised re-enactment of Tam O’Shanter, an experimental multi-media theatre piece and a  Scottish take on the “Creep Show ” horror format.

I hope to post footage of the work as it is created, and release them through the UWS  Skillset Media Academy 

Television Presenting Workshop


This is an extract of the talk I gave at the UWS Innovation And Research Business Roadshow  at the Ayr Management Centre on Thursday 31st March 2011.
The audience were a group of local entrepreneurs, SMEs, and their representatives.
Also featuring were UWS  Business Oriented Departments,  and Dr Stuart McKay  of the  West of Scotland  KTP Centre
 

Photo

 

What is the UWS Skillset Media Academy, And How Can It Help YOU?
The UWS Skillset Media Academy is effectively a group of creative media programmes from across the University of the West of Scotland. We have  gathered them together  under the Media Academy umbrella as a one stop shop to help individuals and organisations take advantage of the technical , organisational and practical resources which exist within the School of Creative and Cultural Industries.
Skillset the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media has endorsed the UWS Media Academy as a provider of excellent media education.
The UWS Skillset Media Academy comprises the following programmes:
BA (Hons) Broadcast Production
BA (Hons) Commercial Music
BSc (Hons) Computer Animation
BSc (Hons) Computer Games
BA (Hons) Digital Art
BA (Hons) Filmmaking & Screenwriting
BA (Hons) Journalism
BSc (Hons) Music Technology
BA (Hons) Sports Journalism
BA (Hons) Performance
MA Broadcast Journalism
MA Creative Media Practice
The Academy spans two Schools ie Creative & Cultural Industries and the School of Computing
It has strong links with businesses and the creative & cultural industries and aims to:
  • Provide students with relevant work experience (eg through the UWS Production Company)
  • Provide Continuous Professional Development for individuals and businesses in the Creative & Cultural Industries.
  • Produce talented, experienced and industry ready graduates.
  • Work seamlessly with industry in the areas of research and knowledge exchange (eg Knowledge Transfer Partnerships)
In fact we tell our students that their first day in the Academy is their first day in industry.
In July this year we are moving into our new state of the art Campus at UWS Ayr.
How can the Academy help YOU?
Please think of the Academy as a one-stop media shop for:
Creative content for your website – imagine how you can use a short film on your website to tell your customers about what you do and why you are the best at what you do.
Perhaps you are thinking about implementing a social media marketing plan – we can develop your company’s social media policy, implement appropriate platforms and assist you with strategies to deliver and communicate effectively using forums such as twitter, linkedin, facebook, Flickr etc.
We can develop your website and aggregate all of the new social media strands.
List of products we can offer include:
  • Filming eg for the web, awards ceremony presentations, promotional work, training videos through the UWS Production Company
  • Training/implementation of social media to promote your business
  • Developing a media marketing plan
  • Writing for the web / web translations
  • Presentation Skills
  • Short tailored courses
All projects are managed and delivered in a high quality, professional way.
At present we are involved in such diverse projects as :
Creating Training videos on Workplace Discrimination for Law At Work.
Providing introductory Web videos for CeeD Companies.
Creating Web Content for  Applied Care And Development
We are working with Cream O Galloway Organic FarmsABC Recruitment, and are in pilot talks with many other emerging SMEs and businesses.
Please come and visit the SKillset Media Academy Website for more information, or contact :
UWS Skillset Media Academy Manager

I have blogged in the past about using new media platforms as a learning & teaching resource. The entire content of our  BA (Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting Programme at the University of the West of Scotland is delivered using Twitter, Posterous and Youtube at the very core of Teaching , Learning and , crucially Assessement. From it’s inception in September 2010, student engagement with these platforms was developed gradually over the first 15 weeks of the programme. In the second trimester of the programme there is now 100% participation from  the students and participating  staff across a wide range of New Media . However I had carried out no empirical research on the pace of takeup from the students. This was due to the fact that September 2010 was the first time I had run the programme and I had other things on my mind more pressing than research.

However it has become clear from the level of student engagement and their enthusiastic and positive feedback that the experiment of using the new media in this way been a qualified success. Obviously I was hampered in that I had no data to demonstrate to what degree this had been the case . I also did not know if the alacrity with which my small group of 15 Performance students engaged with these new platforms could be replicated across the board with other Creative Industries students. The students had, after all, been interviewed and recruited on the basis of using these new media platforms as the key deliverer of their creative screen acting work.

My colleague John Quinn and I teach a module on the Film Making and Screenwriting Programme here at UWS titled “Team Writing For Television.” You can read about the background of TWFTV as I have blogged previously about the module here .We
decided to attempt to use Twitter as a platform at the centre of the module for student feedback ,f eedforward and reflecti0n, using the #TWFTV hashtag.

Since the start of the Module in February 2011, there have been over 300 (and building)  separate #TWFTV responses from the students. You can carry out your own #TWFTV search on twitter to have a look at them right now.  They range from reflections on  lessons, suggestions for new themes and Television Series to studied , and real time comments on shows I have asked them to watch out of class.This has been a voluntary process. Every time John or I get an interesting tweet on #TWFTV, we RT this to our own followers. There are no marks or brownie points for the students, other than the fact that we have shown them that we read their tweets, and will respond to them if we can. The sight of a student’s face when you reveal that you are indeed going to analyse their favourite long running TV series because of a casual mention on Twitter makes the whole exercise worthwhile. Thus, they KNOW that we listen to them , and the engagement goes up steadily as a result. A point to note is that the content of the students tweets,( contrary to fears expressed by colleagues) has been overwhelmingly positive and creative as the take up has grown steadily. It takes a bit of courage to throw open the doors of the classroom to one billion potential eyes and ears, but so far no one has flamed us online, and even if they did, as is the way with Twitter, the dogs would bark, and the caravan would move on. At least I hope that is what would happen. We shall see.

As the module has progressed,John Quinn and I have been monitoring, reflecting and reacting to the tweets, and have now carried out a short interim survey of the up take and use of Twitter and feedback from the students, to see if we can draw any general conclusions. We are specifically interested in exploring the use of Twitter as a tool for enhancing the Teaching and Learning experience from the perspective of the student.

There have been some serendipitous events as a result of this process. Peter Kosminsky (@kosmoSFL )  tweeted back to us on our response to his recent mini series “The Promise”. Francis McKee of the CCA in Glasgow  ( @CCA_Glasgow) RTd one of our responses also using the hashtag.  Reaction to our discussions have come from followers of The Glasgow Film Festival, Step2CollaboTV, and even as far afield as the States and Australia. In this way, the #TWFTV hashtag, which started off as a modest attempt to engage some students in Ayr with their teaching and learning has spread its wings far afield. It’s no Justin Beiber, but at least it is causing a small ripple or two in the Tweetoshpere. I even recieved an email from New Zealand asking me about the module and if we taught it by distance learning!

Below are some of the preliminary data and findings of this anonymous survey.
It is worth noting that the *12.82% of students who had used Twitter in the past for academic communication were all studying on my Contemporary Screen Acting programme. None of the remaining students had used Twitter in this way before. This survey was carried out in Week 5 of a 15 week module, so we are one third of the way through the process.

Response rate 78% (39/50)

1. Prior to the start of the TWFTV module, had you ever communicated with your tutors about class matters via a social networking platform?
Yes: *12.82%
No: 87.18%
2. Since the start of the TWFTV module, have you communicated with your tutors about class matters via a social networking platform?
Yes: 53.85%
No: 43.59

3%. Do you think that social networking platforms are a useful tool in communicating feedback to your peers and tutors?
Yes: 94.87%
No: 5.13%

4. Would you like to see more modules using social network platforms for class feedback and engagement?
Yes: 82.05%
No: 17.95%

5. Do you prefer using tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Docs to the university VLE Blackboard for feedback and communication?
Yes: 76.92%
No: 23.08%

We also asked for comments from the students about the use of Twitter. These were almost wholly positive .

One note of criticism was that ” It’s not fair that students who don’t use Twitter have an advantage by getting their views across.” my response to that was , if you think that they are gaining an advantage, then engage!

Another comment was ” You should use Facebook. Students don’t like Twitter”

Actually we ARE using Facebook, all my Tweets are delivered to my Facebook site, and at least two of our  teams use Facebook pages to communicate with one another, as well as Googledocs and , suprise surprise, Blackboard. However I am happy not to use Facebook directly, as that’s where students tend to hang out and discuss…well everything. And I don’t want to hear everything, I only want to hear about stuff relating  to TWFTV. I don’t have to follow them or find out what they did on Friday night, but I am able to key into their thoughts and comments every time they decide to use the TWFTV  hashtag. I make sure that I do a #TWFTV search once a day , and then RT any interesting material, and also ensure that I act upon any good suggestions. One very interesting corollary to this is that it is many of the most reticent students who use Twitter, the ones who never ask questions in class, the silent majority. Twitter gives them the ability to ask questions and make points without having to intervene at class.

I should add that Twitter is used exclusively as an ADD ON platform to our VLE, Blackboard. All important messages, assessments,dates, pdfs of lectures and the like are posted on Blackboard, and these are supplemented by a weekly videocast from me which you can see on the blog above.

These findings were  presented and discussed at the Student Engagement in Learning & Teaching Forum (SELT) in the classroom of the Future at the University Of The West Of Scotland on Thursday 3rd of March at 10.45 GMT. We carried out a real time discussion with the students and staff, and  demonstrated  a real time Twittter Ticker on display. The idea that a group of students can contribute any where , any time , to a discussion about the delivery of their own teaching and learning is a relatively innovative idea, and one that I will continue if I present the final figures. Another interesting point which came up in discussion is that we fully expect the students to continue engaging in online discussion using #TWFTV after the module has finished. We will archive the searches and use them as a resource for next years class. It may be the case that this cohort of students will carry on this method of feeding back in other classes. Time will tell.

We will continue with the monitoring process as the weeks go by, and share our data and findings in a concluding blog. along with a set of  conclusions.

Watch this space, and for a real time update, carry out a #TWFTV search on Twitter right now.

I will be presenting the final results at the TeachMeet event at UWS Ayr on Thurs  April 23rd.


Back Burners

David Simons The Wire

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Week 1 Video blog

Team Writing For Television is a level 9 Module I deliver along with my colleagues Dr Jill Jamieson and John Quinn as part of the Film Making & Screenwriting and Broadcast Production Programmes at the UWS Skillset Media Academy Ayr Campus.

We investigate the theoretical underpinning of shows such as David Simons’s The WireTrue Blood (Ball 2008), and Sky Atlantic’s Boardwalk Empire,  and then apply these lessons to the practical task of writing a long running TV series.

This year we are  by the fact that for the first time this year we will be using Twitter at the core of our delivery. We will be using #TWFTV hashtag to allow students to receive feedback, for them to feed forward and also to reflect on their learning experience on an ongoing basis .You can read the preliminary results here on the BCI Research-Teaching Link.  This innovative online discourse both in class and outside should  hopefully provide us with an instant two way creative relationship between staff and students.You’ll be able to follow developments on Twitter by simply performing a #TWFTV search so there will be no hiding place from negative or positive feedback.

The students are all skilled in using Screenwriting Formatting software (such as CeltX and Final Draft, ) and have learned elementary Screenplay narrative structure in previous Modules such as Introduction to Scriptwriting and The Short Film. In week one they took part in an initial skills audit where we assessed their likes, dislikes, preferred genres and technical skills . From this data we have formed them into nine hopefully coherent teams whose task is to create the Bible for a long running TV Series. Each of the teams nominates a scribe whose task it is to record and publicise the discussions and action points of the individual groups online in a WIKI on our VLE , Blackboard.

Stuart Hepburn Working "The Grid"

The cohort of 68 students are now about to enter week seven  of the fifteen week TWFTV process. What started off for all of them in the first week was  a 30 second elevator pitch of their own individual idea. Gradually, as the classes go on, each individual student’s creative idea has  been  honed down to one per team, and the teams are constructing a Bible, Series Arcs, Character Arcs and outlines for each individual episode of their Team Project.

Over the next few  weeks  they will work on their project,using the creative grid system to develop their Team  Bible into a coherent 15 minute pitch which they will then deliver to Industry Professionals from the BBC, STV and MG Alba on Monday 18th of April.

In this way, Work Related Learning is embedded right across this level 9 module. (It’s worth noting that some of our best writers have gone on to work professionally on Shows such as River City and Waterloo Road.)

After the pitching session in week 10, each team member then writes an individual Episode of the Series. They also contextualise their learning by researching and writing a 2,500 word essay on a specific theoretical aspect of Team Writing. The end product is an entire scripted season of a long running Television series, from opening Episode, to the Final springboard to the second series.

As the Module rolls out, I’ll blog most weeks on the development process.


Glasgow city centre panorama from Lighthouse t...

Creative View From Glasgow.

The University Of The West Of Scotland’s School of Creative and Cultural Industries Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) is aimed at producing an innovative training video on discrimination at work. The project is designed as bespoke piece of training  for our partners, leading Glasgow law firm, Law at Work, and  is now entering a crucial phase in Week 7.

UWS graduate and KTP Associate Chris Young has delivered a 20 page research dossier on Innovative Training Videos which was discussed at our last  programme meeting at our partner  Law At Work’s  HQ in Glasgow.  This impressive  body of research will provide the creative team  with the theoretical underpinning for the next stage of the process. It is this critical research  based approach which  makes the KTP unique in terms of it’s  impact on our creative educational practice and the service  that we can provide for industrial partners such as Law At Work.

In the light of our discussions, Chris is  now  finalising the shooting script of the web-based  training video.  With a planned screentime of  20 minutes, and a cast of 12, this is a major undertaking for Chris as a first time professional director.  Camera, lighting, sound ,  makeup, and catering have all been finalised for the weekend shoot, and if the script outlines are anything to go by, we are looking forward to a fantastic piece of work from Chris and his production team.

The final draft of the script will be ready by Friday 29th of October,  casting will have been finalised  by Wednesday 3rd November, ready for the shoot on Sat and Sun 6th and 7th of November. The KTP team are taking over the entire floor of Law At Works offices for two days in order to shoot the video.

Post production is slotted in at UWS Ayr for the two weeks after this, with a planned delivery of the final product to our clients Law at Work on 22nd of November. As luck would have it, the filming of the new video takes place at the same time as Law At Work are undertaking a complete re-branding of their website and corporate identity. It  is planned to coordinate the launch of the video with the new website in the new year. The timing for all of this could  not be better.

It has been a challenging process for all involved, particularly since this is the first ever KTP embarked upon by the School Of Creative And Cultural Industries.

These are exciting times for all those involved in this unique project. There’s no doubt that this will  lay down a marker for the sort of creative engagement  with industry  which the UWS Skillset Media Academy plans to roll out in the future.


Steve Briggs(Law At Work) Chris Young (Associate), Stuart Hepburn (UWS)

After a demanding recruitment process, one of our most promising graduates from the Performance BA(Hons) programme at the UWS School of Creative And Cultural Industries started work this week on a brand new Knowledge Transfer Partnership.

Chris Young , pictured left in the Law At Work HQ,  is no stranger to those who saw his porfolio of films  at our Annual Showcase in April. As part of the Tenement Productions Team, Chris was winner of the Willie Strachan Gold Medal  for Creativity.

Chris is an accomplished performer, director  and editor, and I am confident that he can act as a creative dynamo in the 10 week process which will result in an innovative training video for our Partners, Law At Work. He has completed the first week of the research phase and over the next two weeks will meet clients,practitioners and other trainers to establish the theoretical underpinning of the bespoke training video around the subject of Sex Discrimination at Work. After that, Chris has seven weeks to  write the script, recruit the performers, and direct and edit the final video. The plan is for it to become the first in a series of videos around various aspects of employment law.
Chris is looking forward to the whole process, even although the fact that he became a dad two weeks ago means that his time will be equally divided between researching the script and battling the symptoms of colic!

At the Law at Work HQ today he said “It feels like this project is exactly the sort of thing I have been trained for at the UWS. I spent two years with my fellow students preparing for this and I am really looking forward to directing   my first professional training film”

Chris Young & The Class of 2010 (Upstage Centre, of Course! ) Picture Chris Gilgallon

It is especially exciting for myself as an an academic,   as  this is the first ever KTP for the School of Creative & Cultural Industries. For background on this see my earlier blog. It will not only provide a great opportunity for  Chris , but it will act as an innovative testing ground for the development  of our relations with industry. Creative Industries KTPs are rare beasts indeed, and  we at the School Of Creative and Cultural Industries  aim for this to be the start of an ongoing process of engagement with business. At the very core of what we aim to do at UWS is to create Graduates who are fit for purpose with the transferable skills suited to  the needs of a  rapidly changing outside world .

Steve Briggs, Operations Director with Law At Work said: “We’re delighted  to be linking up with  the  UWS to produce what I’m certain will be a high-quality training video, with a “made in Scotland” feel to it. We seized the opportunity to work with a team that includes a high calibre  graduate, and accomplished actor and writer Stuart Hepburn. This was only possible financially because of the KTP funding structure, and we anticipate long-term benefits from the partnership”

No pressure there, then! I should add that my  colleague Helen Kennedy at the Innovation and Research Office at UWS  and I  have received excellent support and advice from Alasdair Cameron at the West Of Scotland KTP Centre . It’s been a real team effort, due in no small part to their  unstinting support  and I am grateful to them all.

It’s early days in the production process, and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. We have to come up with a first class piece of work for Steve and the team at Law At Work, but if the way things have gone so far has been anything to go by, I am confident we can repay their commitment.

I’ll report further on the process as it develops over the next 10 weeks.

Anyone wanting more information regarding knowledge transfer opportunities should visit http://www.uws.ac.uk/iro

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