Cumulus PLUS+ My Cumulus Story by Dr Patrique deGraft-Yankson

Cumulus conference REDO Kolding, Denmark, May 2017

The Cumulus Plus grant which gave me the opportunity to participate in the REDO conference has done more than awakening the spirit of REDOING in my teaching and learning of design.

Being my first travel outside the African continent, I naturally perceived my journey to the Cumulus REDO Conference in Kolding as a unique opportunity to experience what it would feel like to be a delegate in a conference held outside my continent. As would be expected therefore, my expectations were very high about almost everything I imagined. In reality however, my imagination failed to capture what the actual experiences were to be.

Entering the Kolding community for the first time and encountering its serenity, calmness and the amazing blend of built and natural environments justified the appropriateness of its choice as a venue for the REDO conference. The welcoming atmosphere set for the conference in the Design School Kolding, the well ‘designed’ conference space and the wonderful delegates were some of the things my imaginations would never have been able to reach if I had not physically participated in the conference. More than all these things however, most of my unexpected experiences were to be encountered in the absolutely educative conference proceedings.

Much as every component of the proceedings at the conference was impressive and educative, I really would not be truthful to my conscience if I failed to acknowledge the fact that the keynote speakers invited made a big impact on my Cumulus REDO conference experience. The presentations easily passed as some of the greatest lectures I have ever had in my entire academic and professional life. Great in terms of exposure and sensitization to issues about my profession I had hitherto not advanced my thinking into, probably due to the level of design awareness and practice in my part of the world.

The very first keynote speech on design for play set the stage for my expectant and attentive mind to really get ready for a rewarding learning experience. The in-depth talk on designing for play gave me a better view of the role of play in effective teaching and learning and assigned tangible forms to my own thoughts on how some local games in my culture could be beneficial in my professional praxis. Like my previous knowledge and experience with LEGO, my perception about the psychological needs and benefits of games in learning had largely been attributable to children and beginners. And as I learnt from my teacher training education, games and play are vital to the healthy growth and development of children. The new definition of play, as I deduced from the conversations, which linked up ‘games’ to absolute enjoyment in what people set out to do, gave me a different understanding of games in learning. To a very large extent, almost everybody is engaged in one kind of play or the other, and the outcome depends on how well their games have been ‘designed’ and how well they enjoyed them, whilst ensuring that they had to play their games without being childish. The assertion that the developers of high technologies, including the computer, did so not even out of necessity but because they loved what they do, was noteworthy and indeed, very contemplative.

Coming from a country where the citizens have numerous issues with their political leaders, my exposure to how Denmark is witnessing “the rise of design for public sector innovation to a point where it is at the heart of several national reform processes” made me wish I was one of the political leaders in my country. Design as a catalyst for social cohesion and transformation was not something I had figured out to be implementable within the wider national picture, and this particular discussion slung my imaginations high on how the Denmark story could be replicated in my country. Indeed this presentation was a deserving overture to my memorable field trip to the Kolding Municipality, my attendance to the Danish Design Award and all the wonderful things I experienced in Kolding through the Cumulus Conference.

For me, the Cumulus Plus grant which gave me the opportunity to participate in the REDO conference has done more than awakening the spirit of REDOING in my teaching and learning of design. The benefit of the conference has been one of a very urgent need for the re-engineering of the entire pedagogic system for art and design in my part of the world. Insights gained from all my encounters with delegates from all over the world drags me to the realisation that a lot of imbalances need to be properly addressed to aid the actualisation of the full potential of design as a driving force for true democracy, national cohesion and development.

I believe Cumulus has impacted very positively on my professional development and I owe Cumulus a great responsibility to make this impact felt locally within my practice.

Learn more: PdeGraftYankson_Bio

Dr Patrique deGraft-Yankson
Acting Head, Department of Graphic Design
University of Education, Winneba
Winneba, Ghana

ABOUT CUMULUS PLUS+
Cumulus PLUS+ is a grant scheme addressed to academics and staff working in colleges and universities in art, design and media in higher education from different parts of the world and countries less familiar to Cumulusians. The grant it to enable participation in a Cumulus conference. The aim is to create the opportunity for friendship between people and generate partnership and exchange of knowledge between the different institutions.

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