As part of this blog I’m trying to briefly write up and assess various exercises, workshops and other learning activities I’ve been involved in, either as a teacher or a student, and to think about how they might be improved and reused in future sessions.
Recently Monica Biagioli, a colleague from LCC’s design school ran a session with my MA students on using zine making as a means of reflection. As the name suggests, the collaborative unit puts an emphasis on students forming connections either within or without the course and then making work through them. The students were in the process of finishing off assignments for this and were at the stage of reflecting on their projects and how they had gone. We thought zine making might be a nice way to both get them thinking about this process and to some extent also slightly reward them after a term of rather more heavy going lectures with something a bit more practical and fun. We also thought that zines with their counter-cultural and sometimes quite collaborative history would be an appropriate medium.
We provided cutting matts, scissors, scalpels, glues and a mix of papers, Monica brought examples of various zine structures and we asked the students to bring imagery from their projects if they wished. Monica and I began the session with a quick talk through the reasons for the session, and a little on the history of zines. I also emphasized the way zine can be a great basis for developing more complicated books because they allow you to make a large number of experiments very cheaply while still getting a good representation of how a finished book might work. I also talked a little about the extensive zine collection held in the college library. Monica showed some of her own examples to the group, gave them some suggestions for sources of different book structures.
From there we dove in to making. Me and Monica were both on hand to review how things were going and provide any assistance. Having two tutors was great and meant I was able to dive out to print materials for students who had forgotten to bring imagery but wanted to print materials from their computers. We had about an hour for making before the session ended.
Befitting the aim of the session partly being to offer a bit of decompression after a very busy term we intentionally avoided telling the students that they had to approach the exercise in a very specific way and left it rather open to them to explore zines as they wished. Some intended to submit books for their assessment and used the session as an opportunity to try out structures that they were considering using. Some used the session as a way to reflect and explore what they had done over the term. Others went in very different directions and just embraced the idea of cutting and pasting whatever they had to hand in order to make a cohesive little publication in an hour.
In all the session seemed to go well, everyone got involved and I could certainly see the results in tutorials that week. I think in another session, particularly if we were running the same exercise with undergraduates, we might set clearer goals and been more specific about people using the zines they made for reflection (with some clearer strategies and examples for how this might work). I think it would also be nice to build in time at the end of the session to review what people had made and debrief on how students felt the session had gone, new questions and so forth. Even so, considering how open ended the session was however I think it worked very well and would be an exercise I would definitely run again in the future.