Category: People, Place and Work

learning technology leadership and strike action

Thank you for visiting my blog. I am out of my office and taking part in the University and College Union’s (UCU) strike action to defend our rights to fair pay, fair play and equality at work.

I was pleased and honored to be invited to speak at a recent HELF (Heads of e-learning Forum) meeting at University of Glasgow.  I was asked to speak about leadership and change from a political and ethical standpoint. How these views guide our approaches to change within an institution and the tensions that may arise. What does it mean to be and become an agent of change?

The meeting fell on the day after this current round of strikes were announced  and it gave me the opportunity to talk with these learning technology leaders about the role learning technology plays during strike action.

If we work with technology for teaching and learning then all our technology comes into contention during a strike.

This is important for HELF  because  that what happens at one university is quickly heard about at others. I know several large institutions have been having discussions about lecture recordings and learning materials last week. I asked for a show of hands in the room, to see how many HELF leaders were union members. A good number of hands went up, so I assume there will be at least a few institutions in which the leaders of learning technology are not at meetings today.

I am a strong believer that if you are a member of a union you should remain a member of that union even when you become senior management. The reason for this is that I believe you get better decision making when there is diversity around the board table, and union members are part of that diversity of thinking. Having some managers in the room who are union members means you get better management which is more inclusive and considerate of a range of staff views.

My hope, is that with this better-informed thinking comes fewer staff-management stand-offs.  But since the UCU have voted to strike again, you need to know your institutional policies on lecture recording and VLE use.

The relationship between professional learning technologists and academic colleagues is a finely balanced one. Learning technologists offer technology solutions to teaching problems and encourage innovations in pedagogy and learning. We bring technology into classroom spaces on campus and online and ask colleagues to embrace it. We assure academic colleagues that the technology is there to help not replace them. We ask for trust, understanding, communication.  We ask them to give it a go. We know that academic ‘buy –in’ is key to all of our success.  But, as part of the business, our IT services are also key in ensuring business continuity, supporting students beyond contact hours and mitigating the impact of disruption to time and place.

At a time of strike, what might before have been thought of as a fairly neutral service becomes very political. There are expectations from both sides and either way your choice of action will be political.  It may come down to your own  political or ethical position.

Management will expect you to use every tool you have to mitigate the impact of the strike,  to keep learning and teaching going. And academic colleagues, or those on strike, will expect you not to. You may have to pick a side.   Do you want to be seen as a management tool or a friend to academics?  Are you them, or us?

What impact does the decision you make to keep working during the strike have on the longer term relationship you have with those colleagues, those academic colleagues who see you  and your services as a management tool?

Although the strike is obviously not about technology per se, Learning technology, VLEs and lecture recordings in particular are very much on the union policy agenda and they will be used as part of negotiations alongside other issues. VLEs make it possible to teach larger numbers of students with fewer staff and lecture recordings make it possible to deliver lectures when they aren’t there. Neither of those sound good to labour unions. Anywhere where strikes about pay and conditions are going on any suggestion that we can  make digital materials, or recordings, or whatever available will impact directly on security of  tenure for the staff, particularly those on precarious contracts.

I hope we can have more conversations about how our roles relate to strike action. Mangers and learning technologists and learning technology managers should think about the advice and discussions which happened with regard to business continuity during the strike.   Did managers give the impression you could not or should not strike?   If you are a manager, what conversation did you have with your staff?  Is your manager in the union? Were you asked to cover for them?  Think about how you feel about retention policies and management requests to  give access to last year’s materials.  I hope we can have more discussions in this community about how we reassure our colleagues and where we position ourselves. To see ourselves as others see us.

 

 

Adult Education and Lifelong Learning

“A Permanent National Necessity…” – Adult Education and Lifelong Learning for 21st Century Britain

100 years since the Ministry of Reconstruction’s adult education committee published its Report on Adult Education, the centenary commission I  sit on has published our report which argues that adult education and lifelong learning must be a permanent national
necessity, an inseparable aspect of citizenship, vital to addressing the huge societal divisions and challenges to democracy we currently face.

You can read the full report here: http://www.centenarycommission.org/

The challenges include the climate crisis; communities more divided than in living memory, with many feeling excluded from today’s politics; and artificial intelligence threatening to disrupt jobs and permanently alter the nature of work forever. The report mostly focuses on England but we did manage to get in some references to Scotland and Wales and to the potential of digital to transform the ways in which adult education can be offered and enjoyed. Funding for adult learning and apprenticeships has fallen by 45% in real terms since 2009-10, cutting adult education participation dramatically.

Our Report calls for:
• A national Adult Education & Lifelong Learning Strategy, with a participation target to reduce the gap between the most and least educationally active.
• A Minister with specific responsibility for Adult Education and Lifelong Learning to report annually to Parliament on progress.
• Community Learning Accounts, alongside Individual Learning Accounts to provide funding for informal, community-based learning initiatives led by local groups.

Designing learning: from module outline to effective teaching

I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting for the new, updated Butcher, C., Davies, C., & Highton, M. (2019). Designing learning: from module outline to effective teaching ( 2nd edition). Routledge.

You’ve been waiting a long time. The last one was written in 2006. Writing with Chris and Clara has been just like old times.

You’ll be thinking loads has changed in the techniques of learning design and use of technology to support learning and teaching……

For most teachers the main technology to support teaching on campus is still the VLE, but in this edition I’ve managed to include up to date examples from lecture recording, maker spaces, OER, online reading lists, diversity in the curriculum, inclusive design and learning analytics.  Course leaders still need a really good grounding in learning design though, if their teaching is going to be successful. We have  a Learning Design Service at Edinburgh which is growing from strength to strength.

Bridging the gap between theory and practice, this fully updated new edition of Designing Learning offers accessible guidance to help those new to teaching in higher education to design and develop a course. With new considerations to the higher education context, this book uses current educational research to support staff in their endeavour to design and develop modules and degree courses of the highest quality.

Offering guidance on every stage, from planning to preparing materials and resources, with a focus on the promotion of learning, this book considers:

  • Course design models and shapes, and their impact on learning
  • How the external influences of learning and teaching are translated by different institutions
  • How to match the content of a course to its outcomes
  • Frameworks to enable communication between staff and students about expectations and standards
  • Taking into account the diverse student population when designing a course
  • The place of Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), communication tools and systems for monitoring students’ engagement
  • The importance of linking all aspects of the taught curriculum and wider co-/extra-curricular activities to support learning
  • Ways to evaluate and enhance a course and to develop oneself as a teaching professional in HE.

Providing advice, illustrative examples and case studies, Designing Learning is a comprehensive guide to designing a high-quality course. This book is a must-read for any academic looking to create or update their course or module.

 

data for measuring change in equality and diversity

We began the PlayFair Steps four years ago in ISG to bring a culture change and raise awareness of E&D issues.  We’ve been lucky to have an impressive selection of academic colleagues and researchers come to give talks and seminars about age, race, disability, sexuality, religion, class and policy issues in the workplace.

Diversity efforts  which are systemic and structural  in organisations take time. Long-term culture change requires a significant commitment of resources and leadership.  We need to conduct regular employee attitude surveys about E&D  to understand how our culture is changing. Or not.

Organisational-level change take time to materialize, given the risks of setbacks and variable commitment over time. Very few organisations actually publish cultural audit survey data, most  keep the data internal for fear of negative publicity or other adverse outcomes.

We surveyed in 2015 and have just done so again in 2019.

This year 76.1% of you agree that our workplace is inclusive, compared to 40.1% in 2015. Those of you who have worked here 3 – 5 years are most likely to remember the launch of PlayFair Steps and the E&D change theme;  83% of you now agree that ISG inclusive.  

This is a really positive change. Please continue to get involved and give us feedback.

You say:

‘ It’s a great way of meeting new people, or simply feeling like you are part of a workplace where there are like-minded people.

The events are consistently thoughtfully organised and insightful. They cover a range of topics, most of which I have limited experience with but interest me a great deal”,  

it is really important as a colleague and a manager to take time out to listen to others’ perspectives in the workplace’.

We are going to do more with our data too.  This week we are interviewing for a new post: Data and Equality Officer.

Data and Equality Officer 

“At University of Edinburgh we want to use our data in inclusive ways. We are looking for a Data and Equality Officer to join our IT central teams.  

You will help us to ensure that we have the data we need to understand the experience of our diverse staff and students in the University. You will have a passion for data, good data handling skills and knowledge of gender equality, diversity and inclusion issues.   

This a new role, created as part of our digital transformation and our commitment to ensuring that our IT services and projects challenge the structural biases and assumptions of the past. ”

It’s a strong field, so I hope we will get someone to fill Dominique’s fabulous shoes.

You can read more about the PlayFair Steps https://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/playfair-steps/

genderED

Because I’ll be in Madrid I’ll miss the genderED 2nd anniversary showcase.

Dominique and Ewan will be there showcasing their work.

This event brings together educators and researchers working on gender and sexuality studies from across the University of Edinburgh. We are delighted to celebrate the second anniversary of genderED, the University’s interdisciplinary hub for gender and sexuality studies. This reception will include an interactive showcase of research, teaching and institutional initiatives, inviting attendees to learn about gender and sexuality studies work across a wide range of disciplines. genderED’s work and directories span the whole University, and the showcase will give a snapshot of exciting and varied ongoing work.
Dominique will be speaking about the gender equality work we do in ISG in The PlayFair Steps
Ewan will be speaking about the gender equality work we do in ISG in Wikimedia

Mary Somerville Data Centre

As part of our activities to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day this year, and to mark the occasion of the completion of a major upgrade project in the James Clerk Maxwell Building  data centre, we are going to name the data centre after Mary Somerville, so it’ll be the MSDC at the JCMB.

I’ve written about Mary before, on this blog  and on Wikipedia. While it is exciting to think of Ada Lovelace as a pioneer, she was not actually a crusader, nor a feminist actor on any political stage. If you are looking for a a female scientist and activist to celebrate, Mary Somerville is your woman. Mary Somerville played a key role in defining and categorizing the physical sciences, was one of the best known scientists of the nineteenth century and a passionate reformer. She was the author of best-selling books on science and a highly respected mathematician and astronomer. She was a very clever woman and was for several years Ada’s tutor and mentor. A staunch supporter of women’s suffrage and a great advocate of women’s education in 1868 Mary was the first person to sign J.S Mill’s petition to Parliament in support of women’s suffrage.  I’m very pleased that we are able to  name our data centre after her.

Mary Somerville (26 December 1780 – 29 November 1872), was a Scottish writer and polymath. She is the person for whom the word scientist was invented. She studied mathematics and astronomy, and was admitted as one of the first female members of the Royal Astronomical Society.  She campaigned for votes and education for women.She wrote a number of influential and interdisciplinary science books and when she died in 1872 The Morning Post declared “Whatever difficulty we might experience in the middle of the nineteenth century in choosing a king of science, there could be no question whatever as to the queen of science.[James Clerk Maxwell himself later commented: “The unity shadowed forth in Mrs Somerville’s book is therefore a unity of the method of science, not a unity of the process of nature”.

She said:

Mathematics are the natural bent of my mind

and at aged 90:

Age has not abated my zeal for the emancipation of my sex from the unreasonable prejudice too prevalent in Great Britain against a literary and scientific education for women

There’s a very good book called ‘Mary Somerville: Science , Illumination and the  Female Mind‘ by Kathryn Neeley which  describes some of the challenges in categorising Mary because her life and work crossed boundaries and assumed roles. She was a devoted wife and mother as well as eminent scientist. She was sociable with a wide network of connections which included eminent mathematicians and scientists of the day. While formal science education was already closed to women, science itself was not yet so formalised as it is today and many of the discoveries of the day were by ‘amateur’  scientists working privately and sharing their findings socially.

When we write the biographies of women scientist for their wikipedia entries, often we find ourselves telling their story as  ‘translator’, ‘helpmate’, ‘illustrator’, ‘junior partner’ in scientific work of their father, husband or brother. This was not the case for Mary. Neither was she writing for female audiences to engage other women in science or for children or teachers. She had a privileged position in society and was at the heart of her scientific community. Amongst her community of friends were Caroline and William Herschel, Mary and Charles Lyell ( whose notebooks have just been bought by University of Edinburgh), Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace and  Annabella Byron.

 

ALT-C 2019

It was my pleasure to welcome the Association of Learning Technologists back to Edinburgh. We hosted the conference here in 2001 and I am very pleased that we are able to do so again.

University of  Edinburgh and ALT have a long standing relationship, a long standing commitment. As well as providing a venue we have also provided some top quality speakers.  Sir Tim O’Shea was a keynote speaker in 2006, Jeff Haywood in 2014 and Sian Bayne in 2017   and there are more than 20 Edinburgh University colleagues presenting here this time.

We also have a long standing commitment to CMALT , some of us have had our CMALTs for a very long time, others are shiny new getting their awards at this conference . I am proud that we have so many CMALT holders working at Edinburgh, an important part of ensuring the professionalization of our learning technology staff who provide services across all the schools. Its that discipline of reflecting on the evaluation, context and policy environment in which they work which ensures they are able to work as part of a community of shared knowledge within the institution and that is a unique business advantage for us.

Delegates were impressed by our venue, the gorgeous McEwan Hall. The name, yes it is it is name of the brewing company.William McEwan paid for the building in 1897 with the profits from much pale ale, export and 80 shillings. You may be able to tell that its been recently renovated. We had 19 miles of scaffolding in here so that the conservators could clean and restore the paintings.

The central piece of art is known as “The Temple of Fame”  it has the names of muses,  philosophers and students. And if you look up you will see the inscription:

Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding. Exalt her and she shall bring thee to honour. (Proverbs 4:7).

You might see this proverb in knowledge creation organisations. It’s also around the dome of the Manchester Central Library and the Library of Congress. I think it means that while knowledge and education have their place, it is wisdom that makes people successful. Knowledge is the accumulation of information, understanding is the comprehension and interpretation of that information, but wisdom is the application. Wisdom is learning how to take the knowledge given and apply it to our lives in a workable manner, so that it benefits us, and benefits the lives of others.

I asked delgates to look up, but  also to look down.

As you leave McEwan Hall and head across to other sessions  in Appleton Tower,  as you go out the door look down.  You will see one of our newly  commission pieces of public art .The work is by Susan Collis it is called ‘The Next Big Thing is… a Series of Little Things ‘. It is a meandering series of little shiny dots that might go unnoticed.

It reminds us that thinking of big ideas is tempting, its exciting to imaging a technology, a magic pill or silver bullet, that one thing we are doing wrong but can correct with a single change and consequently improve the world we work in, but we should not ignore the small things.  The steady drip of work which wears down things that were set in stone and changes the shape of  what we do. That’s often where success starts.

A couple weeks before the conference ALT published an interview conversation with CEO Maren Deepwell and me, and the day the conference began we wrote a piece together for Wonkhe.

If you missed the conference you can catch up with the best bits on Youtube

 

 

in the running

EdFuturist Award

We are currently in the running for 2 more awards:

The University of Edinburgh Lecture Recording Team has been shortlisted for the ALT Community Choice Award. Check out our submission video and vote for us here: (link: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2019/awardsvoting/)  #LTA6  The awards are generously sponsored by EDINA and will be given at The Association of Learning Technologists Conference in Edinburgh in September. Every vote counts!

Also, Jeanette, Laura and Kevin have made it to the shortlist in the Scottish HR Network awards 2019 for our employing of students in the ‘Attraction and Resourcing’ category. Attracting around 800 HR and people professionals and regarded as ‘the’ event in the HR calendar. The event is in November.

In July I was runner up in the 2019 EdFuturists Awards as an individual ‘who embodies a vision of where education could be 20 years from now’. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

 

you can’t be what you can’t see

One of the new images from our online learning collection

Racial and ethnic diversity is a challenge for the Scottish HE IT sector. In Scotland in 2017 95.6 percent of the population identified as white. The next highest ethnic group was Asians with 2.6 percent. 

Jackie Kay thinks Scotland is ‘decades behind in attitudes to race’.

Skills Development Scotland highlight the  business drivers:

‘Getting race equality right in the UK is worth £24bn per year to the UK economy -1.3%of GDP. Employers with more diverse teams also have 35% better financial results.There are persistent unemployment rate gaps, with some ethnic minority groups experiencing employment rates which are twice as high as their white counterparts.  In 2016/1only 1.7%of Modern Apprentices in Scotland identified as BME’

 

Student interns work with us over the summer

In ISG we take an intersectional approach to  addressing the multiple factors, gender, race, religion, class, sexuality, and disabilities which shape the experience of our staff. Ethnicity is also a complex category. I had to google ‘do Jews count as minority ethnic?’ and there’s a whole discipline around collecting data.

Here are some of the things we have done:

We have employed an intern  (Dominique ) who is an expert in gender and race issues and how those combine to reinforce inequality. She has advised us on how to ensure that our gender equality initiatives also include race, age and class considerations.

In our recruitment, we have changed the language and images we use to  communicate what it is like to work in ISG.  We have also changed where we advertise, making more use of LinkedIn and the new Equate Scotland jobs board and the university careers service. As a result our new workers, and particularly our student interns appear to be a much more diverse group than the longer standing staff. Our interns are a pipeline to bringing new diversity into digital jobs.

We make sure that the images we use in BITs magazine and in other ISG promotional materials  reflect the diversity of our staff and discourage the use of ‘stock’ images to do so. We have also changed the images we use to promote use of technology and online learning, ensuring that the images on our websites reflect the demographics we know we have in our community. We are exploring how we can make more use of positive action images collections such as JopWell

A report from the Scottish Government’s independent adviser on race equality in Scotland in 2017 recommended actions for those with the aim of working towards achieving the goal of parity in employment for minority ethnic communities in the workplace.

Distribution of non-white ethnic backgrounds in Scotland in 2017* © Statista 2019m Source: Scottish Government

‘It is generally accepted that for public services to be effective and relevant for all communities in Scotland, the public sector workforce should reflect the community it serves. The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that by 2025 its own workforce will reflect at every level the minority ethnic share of the population. According to the 2017 staff diversity data published in the Scottish Government’s Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Report, BME staff currently comprise 1.6 % of the civil service in Scotland, an increase of 0.2 % since 2013.

The position set out in the CRER report of March 2014 is that just 0.8% of staff in all Scotland’s Local Authorities are from BME backgrounds despite making up 4% of the general population in Scotland. In Glasgow City Council the proportion of the workforce from a BME background is less than 2% although the BME population is 12%.

Given that the Public Sector employs 20.7% of the workforce in Scotland, accelerating action to tackle the diversity deficit in the Scottish Public Sector and meet the Scottish Government’s equality outcomes is, I suggest, a matter of some urgency.’

One of the new images from our online learning collection

People of colour make up 9.7 per cent of the total staff numbers at University of Edinburgh and suffer structural disadvantage in pay as we can see by looking at the gender pay gap. 

BME staff are more likely to report a culture of bullying, racial stereotyping and microaggression (Advance HE/Fook et al, 2019; Rollock 2019). We have held staff development sessions on:

We have also run Wikipedia events in Black History Month and in association with  UncoverEd. We have a representative ( Rachel) on the LTC task group on decolonising the curriculum and we have created OER specifically on that topic.  We have tasked our Equality Images Intern ( Francesca) to discover the stories of diverse staff groups in university history  and we sponsored student -led university events  organised by our interns Vicki, Gina and Dominique on topics of mental health and transexuality  which took intersectional approaches to understanding the experiences of UoE students.

Ongoing activities:

  • We take care not to organise all-staff events on major high days and holidays
  • Staff, mainly in User Services Directorate, attend cultural awareness training
  • We  take part in projects across libraries and collections and across the sector to explore the implications of decolonialising our  metadata and descriptions
  • We will name the next of our training rooms after David Pitt during Black HIstory Month 2019
  • We are meeting with Advance HE to explore how University of Edinburgh can be part of their race equality project:

    ‘Racial inequality is a significant issue in UK universities. It is evidenced by the BME attainment gap, the BME staff pay gap, and the lack of representation and promotion of BME staff . A number of UK universities have made strategic and public commitments to advancing race equality, but the sector has found consistent progress hard to come by.

    Advance HE/ECU has been actively working with the sector in Scotland on race equality since 2013 to promote conversations and initiatives on race equality with universities and colleges. In 2016, the Race Equality Charter was launched, and the Scottish Race Equality Network (SREN) first met. This project aims to support a group of Scottish universities to make significant and meaningful progress in developing strategic approaches to race equality, and in particular develop effective initiatives to support the recruitment and development of Black/BME staff. Improved staff representation, whilst being a key longer term outcome itself, is also a necessary condition for significant improvement in the Black/BME attainment gap.’

There seem to be some Scotland-specific challenge, Advance HE report that:

Scottish manifestations of race inequality in HE are under-explored. Intersectionality and differences between BME ethnicities are underexplored in the national sector literature, and may be different, and/or particularly relevant to the Scottish context. Positive action is under-utilised to drive strategic and institutional change, partly due to institutional conservatism, lack of expertise and lack of leadership.

wearable tech

lovely, generous people wearing lanyards and mics
Lovely, generous people wearing lanyards and mics. Pictures taken by Laura, no rights reserved by me.

The teams in LTW’s Learning Spaces Technology spend a lot of time thinking about how best to provide high quality AV services to a diverse university community across a very mixed estate.  We aim to ensure that our technology is universal and accessible to all and that the benefit we provide to the university is useful in enabling accessible and inclusive teaching.

We support 400 rooms and 30,000 hours of teaching every semester. We pride ourselves in providing high microphone quality across the University Estate, hence why we use high-tier quality Sennheiser models.  We upgrade and improve our services on a rolling basis. Whenever Sennheiser produce a smaller or lighter model or a new technology solution we check it out.  The current model that we provide in teaching rooms is easily worn on a lanyard ( as modelled). This makes it an ideal, gender neutral solution as it doesn’t require  a belt or pockets and works fine with any neckline or dress.

It has to be said, we’ve tried out some smaller, wireless mics around the place, but the quality just wasn’t good enough for the serivce we provide for learning and teaching but you can look forward to ‘flexible beamforming‘ from Sennheiser. We’ll be trialling this in the new spaces on campus and in Edinburgh Futures Institute building when it is ready.