What's it all about?
The Bower is a public writing space for us to collaboratively write, edit and support one another in blogging and publishing. It is constructed in a Googlesite, which means that it's easy to include images, sound and video as well as words. It's hosted by The Bowerbird, but as he's a metaphor Lou (Mycroft) @loumycroft has been the one to build the bower.
The idea is that everyone has their own writing page (bower) and works away in it - maybe collaborating with other(s). When a few people have gathered, we can do a number of things:
invite each other in to comment/edit
have real-time writing bootcamps
open pages where we share ideas for publication etc
We'll probably think of other stuff too :-)
What's the Bowerbird?
In Australia, the Satin Bowerbird constructs a bower not to live in but to attract a mate. He decorates it with 'shiny blue things', the straws and bottletops of human detritus, which are beautiful to him. In the wild, there will be a whole lot of bowers and when the female chooses one male to mate with, the other males' bowers get kicked over. Excitingly, though, all the materials are later repurposed into new bowers and this is the metaphor Lou fell in love with. In the meantime, Kay continued to use experimental, creative pedagogies with undergraduate students, which included writing and visual art.
How does this relate to education?
During her role as one of the #MHFECrowd curators of the Community Learning Mental Health research, Lou surveyed community educators in England and one of the 'shiny blue things' she uncovered (but which was not unknown) is that as a profession we have forgotten how to tell our own stories. We can tell 'tragic life stories' of students just fine, but when it comes to explicating what we do and why, we've lost it. Against the backdrop of a (re)naissance in #FEResearch, but a lack of confidence in writing/publishing from the field (in Lou's view at least), The Bower seemed like a good idea - a space to practise, co-write and learn.
Who is involved?
It's lovely to see new bowers being created and fascinating to look at the different images people have chosen to decorate their space. We hope that anyone out there who wants to write alongside others, even if they doubt themselves, might come and join us once we begin to publicise. So yes, that means YOU, whatever your role, place in a hierarchy, education context etc. Are you an educator of some kind? Do you want to write? Yes? You're in.
How do I get involved - and how public is it?
This whole venture is about writing in public because otherwise you'd just be writing, right? You'll set up your own page (jump to How to Join In to find out how to do this) and you can hide your page from the navigation, essentially making it 'invisible' (only you will know the link). Then, when you want to, you can invite us in to read and comment. We strongly recommend that you push yourself to forget that people *could be* watching (though they are probably not), because we believe that writing publicly grows confidence. We will all learn together! Although we (Lou and Kay) have used Googlesites as a collaborative writing space before, lots has changed and there's much to learn.
We quite quickly learned, for example, that Apple and Google still only talk to one another through the medium of Chrome. So if you're using any form of IoS (Mac, iPhone, iPad) you'll have to use Chrome to edit the pages. Thanks Cheryl Reynolds for helping us learn this (again).
Constellations of Practice
What? The Bower is just one of many spaces in which educators (who may or may not identify as #dancingprincesses) gather to share ideas, energies and courage. If you're on Twitter (if not, why not) check out the hashtags #FEResearch #dancingprincesses #UKFEchat #thinkingenvironment #APConnect - we also have Slack discussion spaces (for #FEResearch and #APConnect), as well as meeting for real whenever we can (please feel free to add in any other hashtags here).
We (whoever is around, no formal 'we') map opportunities to connect here: https://padlet.com/advancedpractitioners1/matrix Please add to it!
Constellations are time-limited: whoever's here are the right people, for as long as it's working. And although Lou and Kay set this up, they don't take or want any ownership of it. And we are all here equal as thinkers and there will be no inequality games. So battle that impostor syndrome, turn off the internal editor and WRITE.
The Bower is based on rhizomatic theory and this nomadic approach is how Lou and Kay choose to operate: it is what it is. We assume that each of us will have a personal, ethical practice and that constantly we'll 'walk our own boundaries' to monitor this and call out others if we have to. We don't intend to impose an external ethics.If it changes into something else, we *may* fight it or just move on:
"Constellations of practice contain the possibility of anti-fascist working, as long as they don't hang around too long after the work is done, to become reterritorialised, or incorporated back into 'the machine'." (Mycroft and Sidebottom, 2018).
Not sure how this will work, but years ago we ran writing bootcamps once a week - 30 minutes writing like that cat in the typewriter gif and 30 minutes appreciating/peer reviewing one another's work.
We're thinking of giving it a go Thursdays 8pm from 28th March.
And maybe the occasional 'tomato writing' bootcamp?