MMU Learning Hive Community Launched – EVERYONE LOVES ROBOTS

Who likes robots? EVERYONE that’s who! Yesterday MMU hosted 4 local primary schools to the launch of the MMU Learning Hive Community. Hive Networks were developed in America (read about them here) and seek to establish local, sustainable networks that work to harness the knowledge, skills and resources to bring together people who want to make, create and code and those that can help them on their 1 hive

We’re at the beginning of exploring what the Manchester Hive might be like. It’s headed up by Steven Flower and Damian Payton but we at MMU wanted to see how we can plug in and help develop the network. The Learning Hive Community just makes a lot of sense to us. We have loads of talented students wanting to develop their skills and contribute to the community. We have numerous primary schools in walking distance with pupils wanting to explore and have fun with creating and making. So we thought why not bring these together, using Hive, as a common banner and approach.

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The first step is the Robot Challenge, which we launched yesterday. 6 local primary schools are participating, and four made it to the launch. The event was hosted in the awesome Learning Resource Centre in Birley Fields. It was exhilarating to go from an empty room and a hundred little tasks that needed to get done to 20 minutes later talking to a room full of 10 year olds, excitedly throwing up their hands when we asked ‘who likes robots?’

The Robot Challenge is going to take place over the next 5 weeks (see the activity sheet, produced by the awesome Liz Smart here.) The pilot yesterday introduced the student participants to the school pupils they will be working with, and then give the pupils but really everyone an opportunity to play with some fun tech stuff… including a robo-ball or some such thing that had a mind of its own. Everyone will be back on 1st April to share what wonderful creations they’ve been a’creating.

I’d like to thank the tech team in the Student Resource Centre for helping us at every step of the way, and Manchester Regeneration Team for providing a tech goody bag for each school, Kevin Tan for bringing the NAO robot, Robogals for just being awesome, Yasemin Allsop for bringing lots of fun stuff, Mark Peace and Caroline Davies for doing lots of behind the scene stuff… and everyone else who came along, participated and contributed. Lots of people found a little money in their budget, asked to students to volunteer, or were students are taking the time to participate. Liz Smart was instrumental and central to the pilot launching, so a special ‘thanks’ to 3 hive

It’s some pretty inspiring stuff and I’m looking forward to what the pupils make and then all the planning and scheming as to what we do next with the Hive.

James Duggan (on behalf of the MMU Learning Hive)

PhD Research Studentship opportunity

Manchester Metropolitan University’s research institutes MIRIAD (Art and Design) and ESRI (Education) are seeking high-quality applications for this AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award. The project is a collaboration between MIRIAD, ESRI and the National Co-operative Archive at the Co-operative College, Manchester.

The successful candidate will be supervised by academic staff from Manchester School of Art and the Faculty of Education, and a member of the Co-operative College. Trained in art/design/education or a related discipline, you will have substantial skills, at least to Masters level or equivalent. Cross-disciplinary approaches and the desire to play a role in bridging the gaps between industry and academic research are important components to this project.

It is vital you take ownership of the project, so you should develop your own research proposal within the general framework set out below. You should pay close attention to the guidelines for applicants. Before you make a formal application please contact Professor Jim Aulich to discuss your proposal (

To download the project description click here.

The dealine for applications is Friday 1 May 2015 with interviews taking place in the two weeks commencing 18 May 2015.

Building a UK-Mexico STEM Education Research Network

Last week, Stephanie Daza (ESRI) joined 20 UK-based and 20 Mexico-based researchers for a British Council Researcher Links and CONACYT funded workshop on Educational Dialogue and Transformative Learning in STEM Subjects at TEC de Monterrey, in Monterrey, Mexico. The campus is home about 30,000 students, as well as deer and peacocks.


Photo credit: Rupert Higham, Cambridge.

Below Felipe Eduardo Martínez Díaz, International Relations Coordinator, led the campus tour; TEC features impressive tiled murals by the artist Jorge González Camarena. Photo credits: Steph Daza



In university-industry partnerships, students at TEC work in interdisciplinary teams to create new products and innovations, at times participating in 24-hour hack-o-thons and resulting in new patents. The university has designed its laboratories and learning spaces to be open, collaborative, flexible, and fun. Some features in the space below included no walls (or glass walls), trampolines, tents, hanging chairs, a 3D printing lab, and moveable furniture. Photo credits: Steph Daza



The face-to-face workshop also had a Google+ community group “STEMk12dialogue” where members shared photos and information. Keynotes covered a variety of topics, such as dialogic analysis (e.g. Bakhtin), global STEM trends, and collaborative research. Many participants gave informal mini-talks about their own research. Each of us also joined two working groups. Steph participated in the globalization content group and the funding planning group. The funding group identified mobility and networking grants. Of note, Mexico is a partner country in UK’s Newton Fund to develop science and innovation partnerships. A special issue and an edited book are also being organized.

Additionally, we had the opportunity to visit local schools and explore the Horno III interactive science center. One program–Ciencias en la Familia—stood out for its quality, size, and accessibility. Working in partnerships with schools over the last eleven years, the program has supported 5000 families to complete six different science experiments a year at home. Families keep journal and lab notebook. All 66 experiments come with easy to follow instructions and use everyday, low-cost/recycled materials. Family science is inquiry-based learning about science; for example, families made robotic hands and air-driven cars. Below is the instruction page for a robotic hand made out of straws. Photo credit: Steph Daza


In addition to science content, parent and student testimonies discussed family science as play, communication, relationship building, study skills, literacy, and citizenship. The project is a model of citizen science or science and society. Three of the program’s developers/supporters were members of our group: Adrián Lozano, Cristina Reynaga, and María Cristina Moreno. Lozano, pictured here with the Head of School and parent participants, describes the project. Photo credit: Steph Daza


Part of our group posed with students in front of Ciencia en la Familia display. Photo credit: Cristina Reynaga, Cinvestav.


Meals were shared and provided opportunities for cultural exchanges. TEC’s award winning student dance troupe entertained us with traditional dances from the region of Nuevo Leon set to live music, also performed by TEC students.

Stephanie Daza

Chiasma Creative Currencies Event

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I attended the Chiasma Creative Currencies event, hosted by Design in Action at the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Technology Solutions Centre in Edinburgh. The event brought together designers, academics and currency enthusiasts to work together to develop potential business ideas for the potential currencies of the future, such as:

LOCAL CURRENCIES: Local currencies, such as the Brixton Pound and the LETS Saint Exchange, offer ways to generate and retain money in a local economy, in some ways running counter to distributed cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, yet both are potentially empowering models. Where is the value and opportunities for businesses and consumers to capitalise on these markets?

BITCOIN: Cryptocurrencies can appear to be shrouded in mystery, with elusive ‘mining’ reminiscent of gaming, while the media is full of stories about illegal or Dark Net activities that make use of the distributed peer-peer network. Yet Bitcoin (a software-based online payment system), for example, is open-source – offering a new model for financial transactions based on trust, and maintained through its Blockchain transaction database, challenging the government-regulated fiat currencies that we all use today. How will Bitcoin and its successors disrupt conventional transaction models and how can Design ideate around these series of transactions?

FINTECH: The rise in contactless payments and mobile banking raises issues of security. Blockchain databases and reputable traders enable provenance and tracking of complex transactions and hash function that make up a Bitcoin, but workarounds are available to attempt true anonymous transactions. What are the potential implications for FinTech and how can developers and artists present and solve these challenges in experimental and thought provoking ways?

The process was as challenging and exciting as these ‘sand pit’ type events are, meeting lots of new people and continually having to ideate and pitch ideas. One of the biggest differences of this event was that it was located in RBS’s Technology Solutions Centre, which enables people to explore ideas for new financial technologies in settings that simulate where they will be used. Finance is a different world!

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Through this process and working with a really interesting bunch of people I am developing a couple of ideas:

One, link the citizen income to a time bank contribution to society. The citizen income is a policy proposal whereby each and every citizen receives a guaranteed income just for being a citizen. Except in situations where people require extra help through disability, for example, there would be no other state benefits.The benefits are that people would be able to not work as much but rather be able to contribute to their families and communities. It is Green Party policy although it’s recent airing did not go well (read more about it here). One recurrent concern with the Citizen Income is that people get something  for nothing. One way around this is to link the Citizen Income with an obligation to contribute to a community through a time bank. Thus each citizen would receive £6000 for being a citizen but they would also be required to contribute 50 hours to their community through the time bank – walking dogs, fetching groceries from the shop or doing what ever they can.

Two, creating a community institution that recognises, rewards and builds a community of gratitude and gift exchange – Thnku. Watch this space to see what happens with this one.

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James Duggan

Soldering a TWSU DIY Gamer Kit – First MMU Learning Hive Network Session

You’re all going to be hearing more about the Manchester Learning Hive. Learning Hive Networks are “comprised of organizations (libraries, museums, schools and non-profit startups) and individuals (educators, designers, community catalysts and makers). Together, they create opportunities for youth to learn within and beyond the confines of traditional classroom experiences, design innovative practices and tools that build the field for greater impact, and contribute to their own professional development within an active community of practice.” Read more about Hives here or watch this video:

As part of MMU’s engagement with the Manchester Learning Hive, we hosted a soldering session with CodeClub (website/ Twitter) volunteers from Manchester to build one of the very wonderful Technology Will Save Us DIY Gamer Kit.

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The DIY Gamer Kit allows you to build your very own programmable handheld gamer that you can play classic games like Snake on. We were at the very beginning, taking the packs out of the boxes and then SOLDERING the bits (technical term) together. TWSU make a series of great resources to help educators and pupils to use their resources. We used this one:

For those of you incredulous empiricists only believing what your eyes tell you, below are some photos of what it looked like:

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And finally, it working:

James Duggan

Social networking survey – can you distribute it to your students?

Shortly before Christmas, one of my colleagues from the iTEC project, Karine Aillerie from France, contacted me about a survey she’d designed for investigate young people’s use of social media for information-seeking. She wondered whether I’d be able to help to promote the survey among my contacts in the UK so we could compare results in the two countries. Of course I said ‘yes’…but I could never have anticipated how much interest there would be! As a result, we not only have French and English versions, but Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch too. As well as interest from Europe, we’re had a lot of responses from British international schools and are hoping to get representation from South America.

The aim of the survey is to investigate young people’s (16-19 years) use of social media, specifically for information-seeking activities. There are two reasons why Karine chose to focus on this, and why it particularly interested me. 1) much of the existing research focuses on social media as a communication tool and doesn’t consider its potential use for information-seeking and 2) in many schools/colleges social media isn’t really considered as an appropriate educational/information resource although students are likely to make use of it.

If anyone has contacts they think would be interested in distributing the survey to their students, please contact Sarah McNicol ( and I can send you a link to the relevant language version.

We’re planning to leave the survey open until Easter and then write up the results as an article and also produce a short summary of the key findings which we’ll make available online.

Sarah McNicol

Spaces of Deindustrialisation: Thirty Years On

Precisely thirty years from the end of the miners’ strike, three leading researchers will come together to explore the affective legacy of deindustrialisation and the representation of the miners’ strike and post-industrial spaces in the UK and abroad.

 Creative Geographies Research Cluster Eventminer2-226x300

Thursday, 5 March, 17.15 – 18.45

Geoffrey Manton, Lecture Theatre 6

For more information e-mail

Dr Geoff Bright (Research Fellow, Education and Social Research Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University) Thirty Years On from the 1984-85 miners’ strike: Two Funerals, a Party, and a Kind of Haunting Going On On the 30th anniversary of the end of the 1984-85 miners strike, this paper reflects on an ongoing ethnographic examination of intergenerational experiences of school ‘disaffection’ in four former Derbyshire coal-mining communities. A key focus is the investigation of school disaffection as an affective aspect of local historical geographies of resistance and conflict relating to the 1984-85 strike and the class memory narratives in which it has become entwined.

Professor Tim Strangleman, FAcSS (Professor in Sociology, University of Kent) Industrial Hauntings: Smokestack Nostalgia or Working Class Obituary? This paper will explore some of the images that have emerged from the process of deindustrialisation over the last three decades or more. It seeks to understand the similarities and differences between post-industrial photography collected in book format and other publishing trends in both North America and Europe, examining what this tells us about the wider meanings and values attached to industrial work in the past and present.

Dr Katy Shaw (Principal Lecturer in Contemporary Literature, Leeds Beckett University). Geoff and Tim will be joined in conversation with Katy Shaw: Head of English at Leeds Beckett and a leading authority on the literature of the 1984-85 miners’ strike. Katy’s publications include Mining the Meaning: Cultural Representations of the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike (2012).