Dr Peter Highton

Peter Highton
Peter Highton

A year ago this weekend my father died. Peter worked for pretty much his whole career at University of Edinburgh, at Kings Buildings, in the Darwin Building. He was a molecular biologist, although at Oxford he had studied Physics. I know that his time at Oxford (Wadham) was very happy and he was delighted when I chose to spend some of my career there.

My memories of being a child visiting his lab include the smell of the foyer, the enormous slices of wood from Forestry, playing with plastic molecule models and spinning around on the office chairs.

Peter was the expert in using Edinburgh’s electron microscope and he took pictures of tiny, tiny things*. The microscope was a huge heavy piece of kit which needed to be absolutely still and absolutely flat in order to work properly. In their wisdom Edinburgh colleagues decided to put it on the top floor of the tallest tower which was known to sway in the wind.

Using his knowledge of physics Peter built a sling in which the microscope could sit, making it possible to use. He must have saved the University a fair bit of money because this thing was not cheap.

I am not quite sure what my father’s research was, I suspect it was research into microscopy. I’ ve found a few journal articles and I remember stories of  Anne Mclaren  and Martin Pollock so his work must have been linked to early genetics. When I was a teenager at school he arranged for me to have my first summer job making fruit -fly food in Mary Bownes’ lab**.

As the executor of his estate I now have a collection of these early electron-micrograph images. If I get time I will digitise them and add them to Wikimedia in the hope they will be useful to someone.

I know that Peter earned royalties from them during his career, but I can find no evidence of an ongoing relationship with an image agency, so it is time for them to become OER.   I’d love to hear from anyone who might be able to identify which of the images are of more interest than others.

From my childhood. No rights reserved by me.
From my childhood. No rights reserved by me.
IMG_2843
e.coli by Peter Highton
IMG_2847
bacillus subtilis by Peter Highton

IMG_2846IMG_2845

*Highton, P (1968) The minimum mass detectable by electron microscopy
** Time flies like an arrow but fruit flies like a banana.

OER Case study: Creating a Culture of Open

A recently published OEPS Case study by Beck Pitt

Creating a Culture of Open: University of Edinburgh describes our approach to developing an open culture at University of Edinburgh. I wrote a similar one my self a few years ago: Open Aproaches at University of Oxford.

…I would always suggest a vision should be supported by a policy, and a policy should be supported by a service and a service should be supported by recurrent funding…

Melissa Highton is Assistant Principal for Online Learning and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at University of Edinburgh.  Melissa and her colleagues support all of the learning technology activity in the institution including the development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), open educational resources (OER), the open education portal Open.ed which was launched in early 2016, online and blended learning technologies and courses, digital skills development and audio visual support at the institution.  Melissa regularly blogs in an institutional capacity, sharing ideas and what is happening at Edinburgh:

…I think it’s important to let people see how the people who are shaping activity at the institution think and to be transparent about that.

The Centrality of Openness

Since joining The University of Edinburgh two years ago Melissa described how the team had furthered the openness agenda that is central to “high-level strategy” at the institution:

…what we’ve done in the last two years is really to tighten up the thinking about OER and what those various different definitions of OER mean.  Edinburgh has a lot of MOOCs activity which is open in some ways but not in others.

We are looking at how the material in the MOOCs and other learning material, our day-to-day learning materials, and the content of our collections and various assets of the institution can be supported in making sure that the licenses on them are open licenses and that they are available for reuse.        

This work hasbeen significant for Edinburgh University because it aligns very well with the University mission, as a civic university, to make knowledge open not just within the University but also within the city, Scotland and for the rest of the world…

University of Edinburgh’s mission develops the aims of the Edinburgh Settlement which encouraged university students and professors to work together with local communities to improve life and opportunities for all: “The OER vision for University of Edinburgh has three strands, each building on our history of the Edinburgh Settlement, excellent education, research collections, enlightenment and civic mission.” [REF]

These three areas are central to informing policy and practice at Edinburgh.  As Melissa described it, the focus is very much on creating an “open culture” where open practices can thrive.  Simultaneously there was also a clear drive for a more open approach from both staff and students. The Edinburgh University Students Association were “very clear that they wanted a lot of the material to be open” whilst educators were keen to be more open in their practice but needed support to do so.

Enabling Openness

University of Edinburgh developed a policy for all staff and students regarding the sharing, use and creation of OER.  This policy is grounded in the University’s mission and was described by Melissa “enabling” as well as highlighting the “…value in sharing.”  It provides guidance on attribution, encourages use of the CC BY license and advises where to share materials.  You can read more about the development of Edinburgh’s policy in this complementary case study Active Evolution: Enabling Cultural Change at Edinburgh University (forthcoming)

To facilitate both the policy and open practice, it was also critical to provide support for staff and students so that they could ask questions about creating, sharing and using OER.  It was similarly important to bring together expertise from library services, IT and other areas of the university. Melissa talked of the positivity that staff had regarding OER and open practice but noted that there had been an “open literacy barrier” previously with uncertainty from staff and students as to what license they should use, where OER should be shared etc. This is where the support service has a vital role to play:

I think what we’ve done at Edinburgh is to plan right from the beginning that any vision and policies will be supported by a support service which is available to all the members of the university.

In conjunction with this service, Edinburgh’s new open.ed portal [http://open.ed.ac.uk] also provides a go-to place for resources, information and advice on open education:

Open.ed has provided a focus for people to see all that activity together rather than it being disparate around the institution … it helps colleagues to feel part of something when they can see all the activity that’s going on from other people … has been very good for establishing an open knowledge network within the institution…

Sustainability through openness

Developing an “open culture” brings specific benefits to an institution in the long-term. Melissa described how creators of content at Edinburgh, by using an open license or providing information about how they would like their material to be used and attributed, facilitates both short and long-term reuse of the material both within but also without the institution:

…for the whole of the future now I know very clearly what we can do with that material … so in terms of sustainability having the material clearly licensed under an open culture license has significant benefits to the institution in terms of time and effort and ownership of our own content.

Clear licensing also avoids having to duplicate effort or avoid using a resource:

If we pay attention now to the licensing on our material, it saves us the time and effort of checking licenses of legacy material. And the time we would have to spend … is a cost and it’s people’s time…

The idea of an “open culture” is brought sharply into focus here: in order for openness to be sustainable it must be embedded into practice, not only that of content creators but also other members of staff such as IT experts who choose whether an open or proprietary system will be used. The importance of infrastructure and the need for everyone to ensure that open is a priority was the theme of OER16 and focus of Melissa’s keynote Open with Care…  As Melissa described it in our interview:

…not being open is a risk and not being open will cost us money in the future.

Where next for Edinburgh?

Edinburgh will be continuing to develop its existing open services, OER and offerings over the coming months, with a particular, continued emphasis on its students as “global citizens.” Reuse and adaptation of both colleagues and others materials from around the world facilitates this aim by:

…giving us an opportunity to diversify and internationalise our curriculum by taking some of the best examples from other places in the world and adapting them to our local context and including them in our curriculum…

impact of football OER

Gerardi Mercatoris Atlas, sive, Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura (24696368309).jpg
By Centre for Research Collections University of Edinburgh – Gerardi Mercatoris Atlas, sive, Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47041923

A 17th Century map of Iceland became our most popular OER for football fans during Euro 2016. The image ‘Gerardi Mercatoris Atlas, Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura ‘ which belongs to our Centre for Research Collections was added to Wikimedia in February as part of our Wikimedian in Residence partnership project. It was then used to illustrate  an article about Iceland on English and German Wikipedia. It has now been viewed more than 2 million times.

Iceland’s Euro2016  matches were on 14 June (1-1 with Portugal), 18 June (1-1 Hungary), 22 June (2-1 victory over Austria), 27 June (2-1 win over England), and 3 July (2-5 defeat to France).  Around each of these events people all over the world were keen to learn about this surprising nation.  Viewing numbers ( numbers of hits) show appreciable spikes for the matches against Portugal, England, and France.

On German Wikipedia spikes against each of the matches regularly exceeded 100,000 page views.

The biggest spike was for the victory over England!

busy bees

Picture taken by me in the street in Galsgow. No rights reserved by me.
Picture taken by me in the street in Glasgow. No rights reserved by me.

You may be interested to know what the LTW teams have been doing to support you in the last 6 months.

To support the development of digital skills since January 2016, the Digital Skills Programme has delivered 136 face-to-face courses, to c.1400 attendees, across all Colleges and Support Groups, using 40 tutors from across ISG.

To support capacity building for online learning 25 staff across the University have signed up for the recently launched CMALT programme for learning technologists.

To support online learning at scale we have delivered 8 pilot Learning Design workshops with 21 programmes interested in holding workshops in the future.

To support sharing and use of video MediaHopper now holds more than 5,000 video items uploaded by staff and students. Around 10% using a creative commons license (OER). 200 people have been trained to use the new media tools.

To ensure that users can understand and engage with our University we have published 51,000 published pages on Edweb.

To ensure that our students can gain work experience alongside their studies we’ve employed more than 20 student interns.

To make you more comfortable we’ve upgraded 300 open access PCs  and refurbished 52 rooms and spaces.

To make the world a safer place we have launched MyLungsMyLife and Self-Help for Stroke web projects  at the Scottish Parliament.

And that’s all on top of maintaining, running, patching and upgrading all the major systems and services you use for teaching and learning every day.

Wikimedia UK Partnership

ticketHappy news: OER16 Open Culture Conference was awarded Wikimedia UK Partnership of the Year.  The conference was co-chaired by Lorna and me. In a letter of thanks Lucy Crompton-Reid, Wikimedia UK Chief Executive and Michael Maggs, Wikimedia UK Chair wrote:

We are delighted to award Wikimedia UK’s Partnership of the Year to the University of Edinburgh, for the Open Educational Resources Conference in 2016.  The strong presence of Wikimedia UK at OER16 was only made possible by your support as conference co-chairs.  It gave a high level of visibility to the charity within a prestigious international conference, which will have an ongoing benefit for us as we develop our work within education. On a separate note, we are also delighted that the University of Edinburgh is hosting the first Wikimedian-in-Residence in the higher education sector in Scotland.

Lorna has also been appointed as a Wikimedia trustee.

people know people

Issue 26 p. 1 front cover Illustration of hanging a sheet on a washing line Usage terms: We have been unable to locate the copyright holder for Hanging a sheet on a washing line. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item. - See more at: http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/spare-rib-magazine-issue-026#sthash.qZnKW0Db.dpuf
Issue 26 p. 1 front cover
Illustration of hanging a sheet on a washing line
Usage terms: We have been unable to locate the copyright holder for Hanging a sheet on a washing line. Please contact copyright@bl.uk with any information you have regarding this item. – See more at: http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/spare-rib-magazine-issue-026#sthash.qZnKW0Db.dpuf

As part of the PlayFair Steps equality and diversity initiative in ISG we have been looking at our staff demographics and considering our recruitment practices.

There is many a cliche to be heard around how difficult it is to recruit women into tech jobs. Some of it is true, some of it is lack of imagination. As a large tech employer in this city we compete for the best talent against other tech employers in the city. The competition for new graduates, skilled software engineers, designers,  excellent IT managers and creative thinkers is hot*.

As an organisation we recognise that we need to improve the diversity in our teams to improve our insights and creativity, to draw upon a diverse set of ideas and experiences and to model for our own students the world in which they might want to work.

One of the things we’ve done is to start employing student interns. Dozens of ’em.  It’s been really invigorating. All the teams in LTW have benefitted and I am personally very much enjoying having the most up-to-date thinking and input from the interns in my office.  Dominique works with me on my gender equality plans and Polina works with me on digital marketing and recruitment. These two projects are linked. If we want to get more women into our organisation- particularly at senior levels- we need them to apply for our jobs in the first place.

I am not certain that as a tech employer we are very well served by our recruitment strategy currently. We have no specific graduate careers track in ISG, no ‘return to work after a career break’ initiatives and we tend only to advertise in ‘university places’ such as our own HR pages and jobs.ac.uk**.  I’ve never seen a twitter feed or anything similar pushing out our jobs (other than mine).

HR sites, and even jobs.ac.uk rely on the premise that a person wants to work in a university first and that they’ll be looking for a job and your ad will happen to be there at that moment.  I’m not sure that is the market we most need to be in.  I think we need to be digitally transforming our recruitment approach and reaching passive talent*** while they happen to be browsing.

I have asked Polina to investigate LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has company pages, where employers can gather followers and networks and get their news and jobs in front of people who already have jobs and are busy networking in their professional field.  Looking at Linkedin I note that as well as the University news pages, our business school is already using linkedin for their recruitment. Polina is a business school student so she knows her stuff.  My hope is that  we will figure out how best to use Linkedin in ISG to get our adverts to new eyes using  linked people, friends,  friends of friends, networks, news, alumni, students and interested tech followers to show them what a great place this is to work.

I’ll let you know how we get on. If you would like to follow our nascent company page, please do.

 

 

 

*this is what I learned when i recently chaired an Holyrood magazine event on Graduate Digital Skills.

**it turns out that 15% of working professionals are scanning their network at any given time, and  45% are totally open to considering a new opportunity when approached by a recruiter. I know this. It happens to me a  lot. In addition to the 25% who say they are actively looking for a new job, 85% of the global workforce are your oyster.

*** I’m also having trouble finding anyone who has any stats about how many views or shares our ads get. What I am finding is some anxiety amongst our HR professionals that I may be about to disrupt the status quo (again).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Microsoft has bought Linkedin and Lynda. So have we!

lynda_com_logo
Lynda.com brand logo. Fully copyrighted and trademarked. Many rights reserved by them.

We are soft-launching the Lynda.com service this week, providing the University with access to an extensive library of high quality video courses in technology, creative and business skills.

This exciting and versatile new resource can be used in many ways to develop staff and student skills, support curricular teaching, assist in software and systems rollouts and enable our training providers to expand their subject range and online provision. It supports the strategic plans of the University and Information Services, and will make a key contribution to digital transformation by increasing our capacity for digital skills development, helping to develop a digital culture and supporting staff and students to improve their skills for work, study and life.

Today’s soft launch provides access for staff and students on a largely self-service basis and will allow early adopters to immediately start using Lynda.com and begin to explore the possibilities it affords. The full launch in September will offer access to visitors, integration with Learn, engagement events and more comprehensive support resources. Care has been, and is being taken to consider where your data goes and how it is used, but if you do have questions, do ask.

To create and access your account, follow the instructions at www.ed.ac.uk/is/lynda

sad loss of an open VLE pioneer

Photograph of lillies taken by me in my house. No rights reserved by me.
Photograph of lillies taken by me in my house. No rights reserved by me.

I am sad to hear that Professor Andrew (Aggie) Booth has died. Aggie was a VLE pioneer. His work influenced mine and that of many colleagues. This news, coming as it does so soon after the recent loss of Sebastian Rahtz reminds me how much we owe to the original thinking of these clever, quirky, open practitioners.

Aggie Booth was one of the first, maybe THE first ‘Professor of e-learning’.  If you have not heard of him, or perhaps have forgotten, here’s my story of Bodington at Leeds and Oxford:

Bodington was originally developed at University of Leeds by Jon Maber and Aggie in 1995. It was subsequently released as open source*.  Oxford was the first HEI outside of Leeds to offer it as an institutional VLE . The University of the Highlands and Islands also used Bodington.

Bodington was a VLE ahead of its time**. This history of online learning  lists the first scaled deployment of Bodington in 1997, the same year WebCT 1.0 was released and Blackboard was founded. A year later Martin Dougiamas began preliminary work on Moodle.  I joined the learning technology team at Leeds in 2002. The Sakai project began in 2004.

The design of Bodington was based around a metaphor of space, people and place. It was originally  developed as the ‘Nathan Bodington Building’. University of Leeds campus is full of buildings named for people. Sir Nathan Bodington was the first Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds having been Principal and Professor of Greek at the Yorkshire College since 1883.  Jon and Aggie imagined that students would find/navigate to their materials and classes in ‘rooms’ on ‘floors’ in the virtual environment just as they did in the physical.  Similar to the design of later virtual worlds such as SecondLife.  When a proliferation of virtual buildings  emerged at Leeds the virtual environment was renamed as Bodington Common.

For the open sourcing of software to be effective it is necessary to build a sufficiently large and vibrant community so that the product can become self-sustaining and progressively develop to include new ideas. Oxford was an early adopter of Bodington and was a keen supporter of a wide range of developments including various marketing exercises and attracting external funding for innovations; however, whilst the system was adopted by a wide range of institutions, the number of those prepared to commit development effort never reached a sustainable level.

The teams met in Oxford in 2005 to  discuss development of Bodington in collaboration with Sakai. When Leeds University opted in 2006 to select a proprietary system for their next VLE, Oxford was left as the sole large-scale developer of Bodington and this situation was untenable. It was at this point that Oxford decided to seek an alternative platform (with a bigger and better community) and chose Sakai, deploying it as WebLearn in  2008.  By this time I had moved from Leeds to join Oxford.

Many good things came out of working with Bodington and Sakai, the Oxford developers and gained vast experience in open source software and community development. Oxford ran Bodington and Sakai in parallel for four years, Bodington become read-only in Sept 2012.

Personally, I enjoyed teaching using Bodington very much and there are pedagogical tools in there I still miss.

 

 

*On 3 October 2006 Bodington released version 2.8.0 on SourceForge. This brought good will with it from those in the open source community who may have felt Bodington had been trading on the open source moniker unfairly in the past.( OSSwatch)

** This became important when Blackboard much later filed their patent in the US for various VLE features which were on record as having been part of the Bodington functionality.

sea the elephant in the room

Salvesen Photo Album
Sea Elephant (c) Centre for Research Collections, University of Edinburgh https://www.flickr.com/photos/crcedinburgh/17180464078/

Last week, as part of our PlayFair Steps equality and diversity intiative in ISG, we invited Dr Rowena Arshad to talk to ISG staff about ‘Race Matters at Work’. The presentation was excellent and thought provoking. Attendance was low though, in comparison to an earlier talk in the same series about age.   I wonder whether colleagues hear ‘age’ and think ‘that’s me‘, they hear ‘race’ and they think ‘that’s someone else‘.

Rowena’s presentation helped us to ask ourselves questions about how we see people as ‘other’, and provided valuable insights into real, recent examples at University of Edinburgh.

As well as being one of the ISG change themes through which we are looking at our organisation and changing it to be fit for the future, equality and diversity is part of a larger consideration of digital transformation going on in the university, being championed by our CIO.

Our CIO challenges us to think about the ‘internet of me’, where each of us is at the centre of a web of services tailored to what the internet knows about us and what it anticipates  our wants and desires to be as a result.  Examples given of Uber, Airbnb etc certainly seem to make life easier for some.

I’d suggest that we cannot think about digital transformation without considering privilege and bias.  For some people, their experience of the internet is not as positive as it may seem to be for white, wealthy, north american or british men. For some it is  toxic, biased and perpetuates unhelpful stereotypes.  It is up to us as tech professionals to consider all our users and ensure that we create an internet for all. It is up to us not only to consider our unconscious bias but also to check and recheck that the services we build are inclusive.

The best way we can do that it to have diverse teams working on every project and provide safe working environments for colleagues to share their experiences which can inform our thinking. The risk if we don’t is that the more our services become personalised, the less we are able to empathise with the experience of others.

Some articles worth reading:
Airbnb’s ‘belong anywhere’ undercut by bias complaints
Can computers be racist? Big data, inequality, and discrimination
Research reveals huge scale of social media misogyny

Update:

Rowena encouraged us never to be a bystander. Following  a reported rise in racist incidents in the wake of #brexit, this is also a useful resource on social abjection.

 

design led society

Cover image of Spare Rib Issue 171. Check http://www.bl.uk/spare-rib for copyright details.

My trip to Sweden was enjoyable and informative, despite being very brief. What I learned though, was that the Scandinavians would rather the UK didn’t leave the EU. We also considered the challenges of figuring out how MOOCs fit in a higher education system which is already free and open to all and already offers online courses.

Once again, I continued my good work of pointing out to AV tech guys that not all keynote presenters wear pockets or a waistband, or wish to have a headset put into their hair. Universal design does not seem to include women 🙂