Month: March 2015

free range education going cheep

'Poulterer, Buenos Aires [Argentina]'. Photograph of a poulterer standing with his horse carrying cages of poultry on a street in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the early 20th century. Next to him is a man carrying a milk cannister, a man carrying two baskets of fruit and another man smoking a cigarette.
‘Poulterer, Buenos Aires [Argentina]’. Photograph of a poulterer standing with his horse carrying cages of poultry on a street in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the early 20th century. Next to him is a man carrying a milk cannister, a man carrying two baskets of fruit and another man smoking a cigarette.
University of Edinburgh’s new Chook MOOC will explain the general principles of chicken behaviour  that can be used to assess welfare in chickens in hobby flocks or commercial farms. The focus is primarily on laying hens and meat chickens (broilers). The main course is likely to be of interest to people who own chickens as pets or keep a small hobby flock, commercial egg and chicken meat producers, veterinarians and vet nurses.   You know who you are.

The course begins on 3rd April and is cracking.

my week as an international woman

Picture taken at The Oakland Museum. No rights reserved by me.

I am spending much of International Womens Day this year on an international flight. I have been in California for a week  buzzing about at various meetings and gathering good ideas.

Last year on this day I wrote a blog post too.

This year at work, in my new role and new division I am involved in a new set of gender equality initiatives. I am the only female Director in Information Services, I am a mentor within the department and an Aurora role model for the Leadership Foundation.  Information Services is exploring approaches to using an Athena Swan-like framework to improve the working environment for all and my teams are working hard to figure out how we can usefully make it a success.

In the last few weeks we have carried out a staff survey in my division to gather feedback from colleagues. I am very pleased to say that despite having gone through a number of restructuring experiences and quite a bit of change, the majority of LTW staff say they are are satisfied with their jobs; receive appropriate praise and recognition; are treated with equality and respect and understand their role within the organisation.

In my new role I have been at pains to ensure that I do not send email to my staff outside of working hours. This is a deliberate attempt to send a signal that balancing work with family or home commitments is expected and ok.  When I travel I keep my wrist watch tuned to UK time to help me remember what time it is at home and to ensure that the experience of working for, or with, me is one based on mutual respect. I admit I have lapsed occasionally, mostly by mistake because the email conversation is interesting, so I apologise to my team leaders for that.

I feel like I am continuing to do my bit to ‘Make it Happen’. Do you?

open with care

Fine craft by Anne-Marie Scott. Image  Creative Commons CC-BY
Fine craft by Anne-Marie Scott. Image Creative Commons CC-BY

Next week is Open Education Week March 9-13th 2015.

Last week I was contributing to face to face (at Open Educational Practice Scotland OEPS steering group) and online discussions  (comments on How Sheila Sees it) about the difference between open educational practice (OEP) and open educational resource practice (OERP).  I imagine it will come up again this week when I am speaking at the Coursera Partners Conference.

The challenge for me, is that in discussions of OEP the ‘open’ seems very ill defined. It can encompass a full range of open approaches and does not necessarily involve any consideration of content licencing.

In OER, the open is more clearly defined.  e.g Open definition, OER Commons, Open Education Week,  as it relates to content, data etc. It is content made available to be shared, used and modified. This is why Creative Commons is doing so well; there is now a way for anyone to make their content explicitly open.

What I liked about the early JISC OER projects was the explicit challenge to release a significant amount of content from within your institution, and ideally for that process to become mainstreamed and sustainable. It meant the technologists and content owners ( academics) worked together with the lawyers and librarians/collections to release stuff at scale, either old stuff or really new stuff mostly.

Academic staff development people always tell me that teaching and learning isn’t about content, but I kinda think it is. That’s why we have libraries full of published content, and reading lists, and course packs, and slides, and handouts, and recordings,and datasets and we constantly produce and publish more as we research and teach.  And we get promoted because of it. Our students produce a bunch too, and sometimes we assess it.

As an ex- academic staff developer myself, I’d say academic staff development people don’t produce much discipline content and are notoriously bad at using each others’ so they are not big OER producers. They are more into OEP now which is such a wide concept that their expertise is needed to develop it as an area of practice.

I like OER practice. I like the rigour of defining and working within something that ‘is’, knowing what ‘is not’.  I think it is really interesting and challenging to help people to find , make and use resources, and to be literate in their use of open content. And I like to mainstream it in ways which lower the barrier to participation in OER production as much as possible. I like to put systems and workflows in place. The more wonderful, unique stuff gets out there on an open licence, the more there will be for me and others to use.

During Innovative Learning Week, we ran the first of our ‘Making open courses using open resources’  workshops at Edinburgh.  In theory that task should be much easier than it was 5 years ago. There are 900 million Creative Commons-licensed works, up from  400 million in 2010.

We’ll present at OER15 about how we got on.


first charity shop

Photo taken by me in the street. No rights reserved.
Photo taken by me in the street. No rights reserved.

During our Wikipedia editathon last week I discovered archive news  reports of the first ever Scottish charity shop. Ten years before the first Oxfam shop in Oxford. I was editing a new page about the University of Edinburgh Settlement.

In 1936 Grace Drysdale made a film about the everyday activities of the Settlement community and proposed the creation of a ‘Thrift shop’ based on an American idea. The shop would receive items that people did not want, and would accept anything from ‘luggage to cooking utensils’.[11]

A Thrift Shop committee was established in 1936, and the first shop ‘Everybody’s Thrift Shop’ opened in April 1937 at 79a Nicholson Street,[12] 10 years before Oxfam established their first charity shop in 1947. In 1938 the thrift shop was reported as being ‘a more ambitious application of the jumble sale idea’.

When the shop first opened it was a great success. People queued for an hour beforehand in anticipation and policemen were on hand to ensure the stall-holders were not overwhelmed. Reports confirm that bargains: crystal, evening shawls and furniture were to be found and that one woman left delighted with ‘a handsome suit once worn it was whispered, by a professor’.[12] Women carrying bulky purchases were ushered out to make room for other shoppers.