Discovering our Talent and Creativity through a Purposefully Different Experience

Last Friday, staff in the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) at Dublin City University (DCU) joined together for a whole of team collaborative professional development activity. Notably, this experience was purposefully different with a creative twist. In two teams, combining over 20 people across all three NIDL units, the challenge for the morning was to produce a large piece of urban art (i.e., graffiti) based on two randomly assigned themes.

NIDL 2017a.jpg
IMG_5241.JPGAs hopefully you can tell from the selected images the two themes were Pirates and Western. At first this was a rather daunting task for people in the face of two large blank canvasses (walls). However, after a brief 101 tutorial on the basics of drawing and painting graffiti from our two expert mentors, each team set about their task by brainstorming possible concepts, sketching out initial designs and learning how to hold and spray a paint can.


Some people took to this task naturally whereas others slowly warmed to the experience, especially given the doors were left open most of the time to avoid paint fumes.

It’s also fair to say that dividing up tasks, learning new artistic skills and working in a team to produce the intended design was not easy. Notably, the two groups responded quite differently to the challenge under the guidance of their respective team leaders.

There was a lot of good banter and healthy competition, nevertheless, between the two teams as the large walls gradually filled and increasingly became alive with colourful imagery.


Over the course of the morning a number of hidden talents emerged and by the end of the experience both teams were rather pleased with their efforts. We believe the final results depicted in the photos immediately above and below illustrate the creative flair, collective problem-solving abilities and collaborative across unit potential of the NIDL team–that is, irrespective of whether you seek treasure or just prefer to have a quiet drink in the saloon.

Of course, the challenge for us in the New Year is to build on this innovative professional development experience to more fully harness our combined talents. We hope through this non digital experience (apart from the photos) that we have set a new benchmark for discovering more creative, distinctive and transformative ways of realising our vision of designing, implementing and researching new Blended, Online and Digitally-enhanced (BOLD) models of education.


In the meantime, the words of Einstein spring to mind and go some way to encapsulating the real spirit and essence of last week’s purposefully different professional development challenge, as we strive in the NIDL to promote talent, creativity, and consistent excellence:

“Creativity is intelligence having fun”

(Albert Einstein)

Promoting Innovations in Teaching and Learning

The National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) values the opportunity it has to actively contribute to promoting innovation in teaching and learning through Dublin City University’s membership of the European Consortium for Innovative Universities (ECIU). The ECIU has a collective mission of ‘challenging conventional thinking’ through a collective emphasis on promoting innovation, creativity and societal impact, driving the development of a knowledge-based economy.


A week or so ago members of the Steering Committee for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, chaired by Professor Mark Brown, met in Copenhagen to review a range of activities over 2017 and plan a number of new initiatives for the year ahead.  This meeting took place at Aalborg University alongside the annual meeting of ECIU Rectors and Presidents and therefore brought together some of the leading and most influential innovators in European higher education.


The Steering Committee supports activities ranging from regular masterclasses, leadership initiatives, exchanges for sharing of innovative practice, awards for innovations in teaching and learning, and scholarly activities which promote a strong nexus between research and teaching. With a common focus on fostering innovation the following teaching and learning statement encapsulates the shared understanding of ECIU members:

“We believe that teaching in higher education really matters. Therefore, our members share a commitment to the development of high quality educational practices which promote innovation and the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning. As ECIU partners, we value a strong nexus between research and teaching in order to fulfill such a vision. We strive to provide a modern, engaging and research-intensive learning environment, which builds on the diversity and collective strength of our respective institutional cultures, our approaches to teaching, and our students.

The ECIU has a specific interest in seeking out creative, learning-centred and future-focused teaching approaches that foster social entrepreneurship and smart use of technology. We aspire to create the conditions for developing critical responsible citizenship for inclusive and diverse societies. Our members foster real world competencies and make this possible by engaging our students with industry, professional bodies and community partners.

In summary, the ECIU represents a leading international cluster of technological and comprehensive universities who are committed to a bold mission of “Challenging Conventional Thinking” for tomorrow’s world, today.”

IMG_6585 2

In late November 2017, the annual Team Award for Innovation in Teaching and Learning will be presented in Brussels. Importantly, this award recognises that most successful and sustainable innovations involve a team of educators working towards a common goal. In 2018, the Steering Committee also plans to host a special ECIU event once again in Brussels to explore the future of teaching and learning in the wider context of the modernisation of European universities. Accordingly, it follows that our own NIDL team looks forward to contributing to this event as supporting new models of digital learning and teaching is likely to feature prominently in the programme.