07 October, 2013

An American adventure in Rotterdam, preceding the H C 2013

The Honours Conference on October 3 and 4 was a great experience: that's the general comment from all who attended this get-together of honours students and honours lecturers. A one-off new event. New, that is to say : new at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Just by browsing / reading the Live Magazine below one gets a fairly good impression of what went on and how inspiring the event was. One thing is for sure: a missed opportunity for those who did not attend, such as myself.

Preceding the conference, there was a masterclass on October 2nd that was undoubtedly just as inspiring as the conference itself. It was announced as ROTTERDAM CITY AS TEXT™ - an American adventure in Rotterdam, the very first of its kind in the Netherlands.

Probably best described as a pedagogy that emphasizes the strength of experiental or active learning, the participants were invited to "read Rotterdam as a text" by having a walkabout through Rotterdam districts. Having studied the materials underpinning this approach, all of us ventured into the Afrikaanderplein market and later into specific inner district areas to explore and attempt to map the city areas as they came across at that particular moment in time: looking at Rotterdam with fresh eyes, observing and defining our own maps in order to share afterwards what we had discovered.

Apart from it being a fun experience to undergo, it was the collaborative and integrated approach that was fascinating: participants from diverse backgrounds shared their interpretations and perspectives, offering alternative explanations. In the debriefing sessions the participants' views came together and by reflecting on them there were many surprising insights. My overall impression was that for each and everyone who attended this event it had been a personally enriching experience. The masterclass was in the capable hands of two American professors: Dr. Bernice Braid and Dr. Sara Quay.
In case this has whetted your appetite, a succinct description of the City as Text pedagogy can be found here.
For international students coming to Rotterdam for a semester, this active learning experience could be just the kind of kick off  for any or all of the exchange or course programmes. It will engage students in a site specific experiential voyage of discovery that fosters critical inquiry and at the same time allows students to learn across many disciplines ! An advantage that they will benefit from for the rest of their lives.
As Umberto Eco puts it: The world is a book that demands to be read like a book.
(Pictures will be added at a later stage.)