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In this article, we talk to Dr Iain Reid, PGT Programme Coordinator & Service Design Lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art. We discuss the challenges students face and how digital tools are used to support learning, collaboration, and creative development. 


Even prior to the pandemic, the skills students require to succeed in the future world of increasing digitisation are evolving. The role that schools, educators, and communities play in supporting this transformation has never been more important.  

Interaction with staff, classmates, and colleagues in creatively focused organisations is vital for developing creative practice. However, moving to a working from home model has impacted the level of support that was previously provided in person. 


What digital tools are you using now, both in terms of staff and students on a day-to-day basis? 

Since the pandemic, the tools used have been mainly a mixture of ZOOM and Miro. Other tools crop up like Flow, which seems to be popular with students for co-creation, Slack, Padlet, and Airtable. On top of this, the suite of Adobe tools such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and Premiere sit in the creative cloud environment. 


What about general communication with students? 

We use Canvas which replaced Blackboard as a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for announcements, day to day notifications, and project related information such as design briefs. Students also use it to submit assignments and PPJ (Project Process Journal) in PDF documents. 


To what extent is email still used? - are some people more comfortable with that? 

In certain situations, say we need to contact an individual student or specific groups of students within a cohort. Although, most of the communication is handled by Canvas. 

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What are the drawbacks to these digital tools? 

Well, some of the PPJ’s mentioned above are beginning to take on a generic ‘Miro’ look. Some of the individual identity, craft, and personalisation has been lost. The look and feel, font, layout, etc. can begin to appear a little general and reflective of whatever tool is being used.  

Also, in a physical context, a cohort of students will be more likely to be in a better position to share knowledge, skills, and style. They have almost developed a blended and very effective group practice by the end of their time together. 

Another drawback is that we as staff don’t have the opportunity to review work serendipitously. In the past, staff would help shape the direction of a project with a formal review, offering advice and guidance as part of a casual conversation. That’s not as easy to achieve in a digital setting. Experientially, the results are not as rich as you would get in a studio culture, a space that facilitates and supports collaboration. 


What impact has GDPR had on how the information is stored? 

For example, the PPJ files we received from students used to be stored on Dropbox. Unfortunately, we can’t do that now due to GDPR, so these files are stored on SharePoint, which is great because we know it’s secure and compliant with respect to regulatory aspects. 



How do you envisage digital tools supporting creative education? 

In the future, it would be powerful if we could capture information, such as key themes or methods of enquiry, from work submitted by students. This would be helpful with respect to building a knowledge base and would be an incredibly useful resource for future research. It is important though, to ensure there is space left for individual and ‘innovation space’ that comes from collaborating in the same physical space. 

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Don McIntyre

Don McIntyre

Don is a designer, technologist and educator who has spent more than 20 years working at the junction of design and technology with companies and organisations across commercial, public and applied research sectors such as Oyster Partners (now DigitasLBi), The Fraunhofer Institute, MIT and Giugiaro. He speaks regularly at public forums on the transformative capability of design innovation and divides his time between the Innovation School at Glasgow School of Art, where he is Design Director, The Digital Health and Care Institute, and Chess Digital where he is Creative Lead.

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