Quality and Higher Education.

Posted by PH on October 04, 2015
Education, Students / 1 Comment

The stated “mission and strategic goal” of my employer—University of Wales Trinity Saint David—is Transforming education, transforming lives. My default view on mission statements is to view them with some suspicion: however, I actually kind of like this one.

Can we transform education? Well, maybe… that’s actually a pretty tall order. However, it’s true that the practice of teaching and learning in the vast majority of Higher Education establishments is largely archaic and no longer fit-for-purpose: almost anything we can do to transform this has got to be A Good Thing. When our SA1 campus with its new-fangled teaching spaces has been built we’ll be in a better position to judge. Let’s just say the jury is out on this one, because the challenge is not going to be in building those new spaces but in fundamentally changing long-established and deeply engrained habits and practices. As Robert Pirsig has said:

If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.

Can education transform lives? This one’s easier to answer: yes, it definitely and unequivocally can. I know this to be true from personal experience: a year’s study at City University completely and utterly changed me forever. It remains one of the most profound experiences of my life, and I remain eternally grateful…

But looking at this idea a little more critically, it’s obvious that just saying we’re “transforming lives” isn’t really good enough. Surely we need to say that we’re transforming them for the better? And, from there, go on to say what we actually mean by “better”. Happier? Ready for the workplace? More confident and mature? Perhaps all of these things…

The word that I am going to use as a unit of measure here is quality. Now quality is a concept that we all think we understand. I’m pretty sure that if I put a selection of objects out on a table somewhere—it wouldn’t matter what: cakes, or watches, shovels, underpants—we could all reliably pick out the high quality items from the poor. Quality, then, seems to reside in the objects around us. It is a property of things. But if we think about this a bit more, we can see that this is only actually true for a limited set of things. We do not, for example, say things like “oh, look at that high quality sunset”, or “look, there goes a high quality bee!” In fact, the only things we describe in terms of quality are those that are man-made. And the reason we describe an object as “high quality” is because someone—a designer, artist, craftsman, engineer—has invested that object with quality in the first place. Quality is something we make.

And the way we make quality is by engaging openly, honestly, calmly, and skilfully with our materials, whatever they may be. We have to pay attention to every detail. We must show infinite care. We must love what we do. It is our total commitment to the creative process that makes quality, that invests our animations, our games, our films, our music, with quality. In other words, quality is a function of the creator’s interaction with their materials.

We can take this train of thought further. Even if we do our very best and create a high quality product, that still isn’t enough. Before that quality manifests itself someone has to interact with it. So, yes, quality is embedded within man-made objects. But much more than that it is the fundamental descriptor for all human experience. Quality is the means by which we measure what is happening to us in the here-and-now. Quality is a function of interaction. It is the human measure of experience.

So what happens when we bring our new understanding of quality back to our mission statement, to transformed lives? Well, firstly, it implies that there should be a high quality interaction between the student and the university, particularly (obviously!) a high quality learning experience. Our job as educators, therefore, is to teach the student to engage openly, honestly, calmly, and skilfully with their materials, to pay attention to detail, to show infinite care, to show love for their subject. Then, secondly, it should follow that our transformed students go out into the world and make it a better place by investing everything they do with quality.

That is the goal. That is what we are here for.

[This is an edited version of a speech I gave at the School of Film and Digital Media end-of-year show in June 2015.]


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SDM 2012 Games Showreel

Posted by PH on September 23, 2012
Education, Students, Visual Culture / No Comments


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SDM 2012 Showreel

Posted by PH on September 19, 2012
Education, Students, Visual Culture / No Comments


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SDM Showreel 2011

Posted by PH on December 30, 2011
Music & Technology, Students, Visual Culture / No Comments

Just in time for 2012 here is the School of Digital Media showreel with its new soundtrack (by BSc Music Tech graduate James Radford):


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Air Guitar

Posted by PH on November 21, 2010
Music & Technology, Quote of the Month, Students / No Comments

Here’s a slick bit of online augmented reality hi-jinx created—I’m very pleased to be able to say—by two ex-Swansea Metropolitan University students, Rob Chalmers and Tristian Ballard (now both working for media production company FauvelKhan). Everything you need to know is in this video:


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SDM Degree Show 2010

Posted by PH on May 26, 2010
Education, Students / No Comments
SDM Degree Show flyer

School of Digital Media Degree Show 2010 Flyer

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Did You Know?

Posted by PH on April 25, 2009
Education, Students / 7 Comments

This should give my students something to think about:

So. What does it all mean? Well, for those currently studying in Higher Education it means things like these:

  1. The idea that your education will be finished when you leave University is patently daft. You will need to train and retrain yourself many times during your working life.
  2. You will almost undoubtedly changes jobs many times. You may also change careers more than once. The only constant will be change.
  3. Consequently, the most important skills you need to master are a) the ability to bootstrap yourself whenever necessary, and b) the ability to critically evaluate new information. The principle function of a university degree is to teach you how to do these two things. You need to learn how to learn.

End of lecture.

[Thanks to the G-Man for the video link.]

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2 Minutes Of Madness

Posted by PH on June 10, 2008
Students / No Comments

A great little video created by Stefano Ottaviano with music by Ben Williams:

Stefano and Ben have both just graduated from Swansea Metropolitan University (Animation and Music Technology respectively).

Good stuff.


Clare Hale

Posted by PH on July 20, 2007
Students / No Comments

Clare Hale graduated this summer from the School of Digital Media at Swansea Metropolitan University with a First Class BA (Hons) degree in Multimedia. And very well deserved it was too!

Clare was also the outright winner in the ‘Web & Interactive Media’ category of Computer Arts magazine’s Graduate Showcase 2007:

Again, very well deserved and completely justified. Clare has a great range of skills: she’s a sensitive and talented designer with a good range of technical knowledge to back up her artistic flair; she does a mean presentation and is therefore really good at selling her work; she’s a very nice person who works well in a team environment. All of which would be meaningless without the fact she works really hard at it, she puts the hours in…

Her Major Project submission was an interactive web site built using Flash and called Clare’s attention to detail and instinctive design sense are well in evidence, as is her great appreciation of the use of sound in a multimedia object (which, for me, still remains the least-developed aspect of new media production). There are some fabulous touches: check out how she manages going through the front door, and compare that, say, to the way the same thing is handled in the early Resident Evil games. (OK, it’s not really a like-for-like comparison because the RE sequence is basically masking a background load operation, but stylistically the comparison is 100% valid.)

Anyway, you can check out all of Clare’s stuff at Well done Clare. Best of luck.

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BA (Hons) Multimedia Showcase

Posted by PH on July 09, 2007
Students / No Comments

Here’s a short film I made showcasing this year’s BA Multimedia graduates from the School of Digital Media at Swansea Metropolitan University: Clare Hale, Sam Jones, Juliette Tessyman, Geoff Taylor, and Peter Boelen. There’s some excellent work on display here, so well done to all:

As with my last post, this was a project where I made heavy use of screen capture software. This time, because I made the film at home and it was therefore done on a Mac, I used SnapzProX. This seems to be the screen capture software of choice on Macs, and I must say it worked very, very, well. The unusual interface—i.e. there isn’t one when it’s in action—seems to cause people a few problems, but I must say I found it pretty straightforward from the off. We could either say that the guesses I made about its operation were correct, or that the software has been designed in an intuitively correct way…


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