Category: People, Place and Work

near future data skills

Picture taken by me at the National Cryptologic Museum. No rights reserved by me. https://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic-heritage/museum/

Another excellent learning technology workshop from University of Edinburgh at ALT conference will be Data Skills for All

Most of our UK universities already have the Digimap Service, but I suspect few learning technologists have any idea how it can be used. The subscription often belongs to the Library, or to just one academic department so the power of the tools are not being utilised.

Co-created with academic and service users it enables students to use and understand data, to learn how to present it, and in doing so, to develop critical thinking through the use and interrogation of data.

Learning technologists who work closely in partnership with staff and students to deliver a technology enhanced curriculum can play a key role in ensuring that students learn appropriate data skills to apply in authentic learning task situations.

Participants will have the opportunity to understand how the platform and service is already being used, and to engage with census data to understand the range and versatility of the service.

This workshop will be of benefit to both FE and HE practitioners, who need to support students to gain critical data skills and spatial literacy that are already essential in the work place, as well as increase their ability to interrogate data and understand it.

dealing with relationship breakdowns

Picture taken by me of a projector at the National Museum of Scotland. No rights reserved by me.

This is the session I’ll be presenting at ALT Conference next month.  It’ll be filmed and streamed apparently.

edit: Recording here https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2018/sessions/next-expect-locusts-dealing-with-relationship-breakdowns-18-47/

What happens when things go wrong? How resilient is the relationship between edtech and educators when we are tested by strikes, snow and sedition? How do we best learn from critical incidents? Can breakdowns in trust be repaired? What will we do when it happens again?

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

Early 2018 saw an unprecedented period of industrial action at many UK universities. Never before in the 25 years of ALT have so many colleagues protested for so long against their employers, and never before has there been so much technology available to those employers to mitigate the impact of that strike. Where should learning technologists loyalties lie when they are asked to provide systems such as VLEs and lecture recording services which can be used to keep the business of learning and teaching running? When support is withdrawn and communication breaks down what agency do you have?

In addition to industrial action by learning technologists and academic colleagues who are members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) in March we also saw extreme weather events across the UK resulting in school and university closures which left many staff to stay at home and work remotely and many students to access their materials in distance learning mode. As the strikes and the snow dragged on the edtech polices and practise in many large institutions were tested. The UCU were vocal and vexed by the use of recorded lectures with or without expressed permission. Large collections of openly published lectures and learning materials, which had once been hailed as assets of great value came under scrutiny as strike breakers and motivations for institutional support for OER were questioned.

Session content: evaluation and reflection

This experimental and exploratory session will give ALT participants the chance to consider their own ethical positions with regard to strike action, business continuity, policy and practice in educational institutions and learn from insights and lessons learned by the learning technologist community. The session will be of particularly interest to CMALT holders who reflect on their own professional practice and colleagues who hold responsible roles as service owners, service operations managers and senior managers.

It is hoped that this session will be the start of a wider, longer conversation about disruptive events, professional roles, management negotiations, actions short of a strike, and the impact on academic buy-in for technology which disrupts learning and teaching.

Previous, related blog posts

http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/2018/03/06/woke/

http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/2018/02/22/strike-that/

http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/2018/03/07/teach-out/

http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/melissa/2018/02/28/glue/

References

Schön, D. (2008). The reflective practitioner : How professionals think in action.

Tripp, D. (1993). Critical incidents in teaching : Developing professional judgement. London: Routledge.

Lam, W. (2002). Ensuring business continuity. IT Professional, 4(3), 19-25.

Lecture Capture Emerges as Key Resource for University Business Continuity Planning; Echo360 Sponsors October 1st Business Continuity Planning Webinar for Higher Education. (2009, September 23). Internet Wire, p. Internet Wire, Sept 23, 2009.

McGuinness, M., & Marchand, R. (2014). Business continuity management in UK higher education: A case study of crisis communicationin the era of social media. Business continuity management in UK higher education: a case study of crisis communication in the era of social media. International Journal of Risk Assessment and Management, 17 (4). 291 – 310.

Resources for participants

2018 UK higher education strike https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_UK_higher_education_strike

Collective bargaining and Beatrice Webb https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrice_Webb

Equality and diversity in IT and libraries

BITS magazine artwork by Annie Adam, Graphic Design Intern

As our regular readers across the University will know, each issue of the Information Services Group BITS magazine has a theme. In this issue we have looked across all of our projects and services to highlight the ways in which we contribute to supporting the University values around equality, equity, inclusion and access.

https://edin.ac/bits-21

As usual, our feature article showcases work across each of our groups and directorates which support learning, teaching, research and engagement.

Working within such a large institution, we are able to attract a wide range  of staff to work with us in ISG. The richest source of new colleagues is our student community. Each year ISG hosts a large number of student workers and student interns. They bring fresh ideas and new thinking to our services. This issue of BITS magazine is designed by our Graphic Design Intern working alongside our established team.

When we did our gender survey staff told us that making equality real involved everyone. For this issue of BITS we asked staff to think about  how their understanding of equality and diversity feeds into their day to day work.  We got a lot of article submissions from across the organisation.  It’s actually pretty impressive, and is a clear representation that equality and diversity, openness and accessibility are part of our values as an organisation.  Many organisations are now choosing to recognise Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) expertise as a significant area of  valuable knowledge which contributes to the business advantage and has a direct and significant positive impact on reputation.

Our back page features some of the many events that staff in ISG contribute to at the Edinburgh festivals over the summer. I hope you will be able to engage with and  enjoy them.

If you would like to know more about any of the projects described in this magazine, or about the ways we aim to embed equality and diversity expertise which has a direct and significant positive impact on our organisation, please keep up to date with our celebrations and news via our websites, social media and events across the University.

diversity case studies of women in STEM

Picture from an exhibition. How? Why? What? Educational Illustration from University Collections displayed in a free exhibition from 30th March-30th June 2018.https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/library-museum-gallery/crc/events-exhibitions/exhibitions/how-why-what . No rights reserved by me.

As I’m sure you are aware,  we have been telegraphing high profile STEM career case studies of  women who work in ISG on our LinkedIn site.

In posting these case studies our goal is clear: We want to provide our current workforce with an inclusive, fair environment in which they feel valued, creative and empowered, and we hope that others will be attracted to work with us in continuing to thrive, learn and research.

There are now so many interesting, creative, rewarding and glamourous jobs available to women who chose a technology career. By not realising this our young ( and grown) women in Scotland are missing a trick. The sector is booming and there’s no good reason why all these benefits should go to men. Tech employers are keen to attract more women and greater diversity to their teams.

My advice to women looking to start a career in IT would be to look for job adverts which highlight the opportunities to be creative and to learn. Choose an employer who will value and train you in the workplace and empower you to develop further in your career.

The 2018 STEM careers case studies are:  Kirsty, Gina, Sonia, Janet, Marissa, Dominique and me.
Quite the diverse group.

presenting equality challenges

PlayFair Steps for fair play at work

Dominique and I presented our work on The PlayFair Steps at Equality Challenge Unit’s  Innovation, Change, Impact- Scotland’s Conference 2018

Colleges and HEIs in Scotland have been working towards mainstreaming and embedding equality for some time, as it is a requirement of the specific duties regulations in Scotland.

The conference aim was provide a showcase for this work and an opportunity for collaboration and sharing of experience covering:

  • Innovative approaches and radical ideas to progressing equality and diversity activity
  • Identifying and measuring effective change
  • Developing creative approaches to identifying and evaluating impact 

occupy your librarian

Picture taken by me in the street in Mons, Belgium. No rights reserved by me.

19th-23rd March is #ResourcesListWeek in the University of Edinburgh.

I am often asked about the value of lecturing ( and lecture recording). In my day, I was always told that the purpose of a lecture was to send you to the Library. A good  lecture, given by an academic colleague who is passionate about their subject and actively researching in the area will inspire you to go and find out more for yourself. Lectures were never designed to be the way to cover and transmit all the course content. The reading list is as valuable to students as the lectures.

In a research institution the Library holds collections way beyond the reading lists and provides an environment for individual exploration and discovery.

We send our students to the library clutching their reading lists. If you want the books to be there when they get there, you need a Resources List. Sending in your resources list causes your librarian to order-in what is needed.

If you think our library should hold more diverse authors, if you would like to liberate the curriculum, if you would prefer we used more open access resources, this is one way to drive that change.

The Librarians are ready and waiting, give them something to occupy their time.

 

‘tech-out’, the technology version of a ‘teach-out’

Rosie the Editor

Some of us are on strike. (I may have mentioned this before). Academic colleagues are holding ‘teach outs’. What kind of activity would be the learning technology version of a ‘teach out’?  I’m thinking  ‘making OER ‘and ‘wikimedia editathons’.

I’ve asked a guru and been told that a ‘teach-out’ takes place outside the walls, has an informal curriculum, is activist focused and free!

Open education and OER is all about ‘beyond walls’, it is about sharing, releasing openly, deliberately, resources which can be re-used by others for free. There are whole conferences about how this is informal, disruptive, beyond the curriculum and underpinned by activism for social change in HE. There are even Declarations about it.  Wikimedia is the largest online  open educational resources platform in the world.  Wikimedia is an activist organisation whose members  support and campaign for changes in copyright, access, freedoms and disruption of traditional knowledge publishing models. There is also a well known issue with gender bias in the content.

I’ve looked up some UCU guidance. They say:

“Good reasons to do teach-outs include:

  • They show students that their teachers aren’t just putting their feet up. We care about students’ education and are willing to educate unpaid — just not to do the kind of educating we’re normally paid for.
  • We only go on strike when bad things are happening, but promoting the teach-out allows us to focus conversations on a positive activity. Attending allows students (and anyone else!) to show support for the strike.
  • The teach-outs also give members a communal, productive activity to do on strike days that builds ideas, capacity, and community — and reminds us what higher education is really all about.
  • Not all members are willing or able to be involved in picketing, but are happy to participate in teach-outs, broadening the possibilities for activism on a strike day.

Organising teach-outs is very easy! Almost everyone in UCU organises conferences, open days, meetings and talks professionally. Moreover, it’s in the nature of teach-outs that they’re ad hoc, a bit improvised, even carnivalesque. So basically, it’s about doing what we’re good at, yet no-one minds if it goes wrong “

This is exactly the kind of thing we encourage through our OER activities and wikimedia editathon events.  It is #openeducationweek as well as #internationalwomensday and #ussstrikes. The best thing you can do is join a ‘tech-out’. You don’t have to cross a picketline, Wikipedia is definitely outside our walls, but conveniently adjacent, and differently owned, like a local pub or community hall.  You can learn how to do OER from our handy guides. You can join our wikimedia editathon remotely with our helpful videos.

If you want a communal, productive activity to do on strike days that builds ideas, capacity and community, and reminds us what higher education is really all about, Comrades, join me in Open Education.

 

will I strike on International Women’s Day?

Sadie, Beatrice and Joanna. 3 generations of international women.

Will I be on strike for International Women’s Day?  Well yes, I’ll have to if the UCU action carries on as planned.

But I have some questions.  The UCU strikes are on chosen days. How and why were these chosen?  We don’t strike on Friday, but we do on Thursday.  International Women’s Day is not, presumably, a surprise to UCU. Why not chose that as a non-strike day so that we can attend our events? IWD has its origins in the women’s labour movement, but to commemorate it at our university events this year is to ‘betray it’? I wish my union had not put me in this situation.

A nearby ancient institution has already got itself in a tangle by linking E&D initiatives with the pensions strike * . I fear this is why we can’t have nice things.

For me IWD is part of a bigger picture, I understand that women are disproportionately hit by pension changes, but lets use this day to talk about that and the many other inequalities. I am pleased that my University supports IWD and that there are events to raise its profile for staff and students and I want to be part of it.

I am told that there are ‘lots’ of IWD events being held by academics off-campus so I can go to those (please send more details). Or I can go to the UCU march.

Academic colleagues are not the only people who hold, attend and value IWD events,  and academics colleagues are not the only people in UCU, and they are not the only people who work at the University.

I would encourage staff who are not on strike to organise, attend and enjoy the University IWD events. It’s a great way to show your support for IWD and a healthy attendance will help to ensure that we get to do them again next year.

Here’s the post I was going to post for International Women’s Day:

The Red Thread

Did you know that IWD began with a strike by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU)? It was originally called “International Working Women’s Day“, its purpose was to give laboring women a focusing point in their struggle for fair working conditions and pay. This year International Women’s Day 2018  themes is #PressforProgress.

My great grandma Sadie was a member of ILGWU.  A Jewish woman working in dangerous factory conditions as a garment worker in New York.  My grandfather Stanley often complained later that he had missed out on jobs because his mother-in-law was ‘a communist’**. Occasionally I find ILGWU labels inside my vintage dresses. They are always well made. Here’s a picture of Sadie, and a picture of the ILGWU label in my dress today.

*St Andrews.

**Family lore is that she wasn’t actually a member of the Communist Party, but she voted for one, and that was enough to get her and her children on a list.

withdrawing the invisible glue?

The Hive, by Graham Sutherland. I don’t have copyright of the picture, but I do own this print at home and this picture is taken by me.

I appreciate being invited to sign the open letter that the University of Edinburgh professors are sending to the Principal. The UCU and USS are not exclusive to lecturers.  I also appreciate the effort my local UCU leadership made in talking with me about lecture recording policy in the run up to this industrial action. I also appreciate the support of my good friends who work in and around NUS Scotland who give me sage advice as I try to navigate the journey of being senior management and union member.

There’s an article in the THES today ‘USS strike: why aren’t more administrative staff on picket lines?’  It’s a good question. The article says some nice things about us like:

‘Academic-related, professional, technical and support staff are the invisible glue holding a university together and providing essential services to maintain the day-to-day running of complex institutions.’ and ‘While we all collectively work towards excellence in teaching and research, it can sometimes feel like a thankless task. Too often, administrators are blamed when things go wrong but are rarely praised when things go well. And too often they are overlooked in conversations that directly affect them.’

It suggests that there is a conversation UCU need to be having.  I think there are other conversations to be had more generally. There are conversations to be had between academic and academic-related staff, and there are conversations academic-related staff need to be having with each other*.

As a woman who has spent her entire career offering technology to lecturers who are then very rude about it, and setting her face to look interested as yet another colleague explains to her about the panopticon, I am quite looking forward to having a decent pension.

I do my best to keep relations good. I always encourage my staff to refer to ‘academic colleagues’ rather than ‘the academics’. I remind them about the fact that we all come from different discipline backgrounds, and to be aware that the kind of evidence which will persuade in one group will not in another. We talk about things you can count and things you cannot and the value of counting. I also try to discourage lazy stereotypes like ‘digital natives, ‘digital immigrants’, ‘luddites’ and ‘CAVEs’.

There are also conversations to be had about the different kinds of impact withdrawal of labour can have. Sometimes support staff withdrawing their labour will seem invisible.  I have a suspicion that if a large IT system goes down and no-one is there to pick it up the impact would be obvious.

“Are you even allowed to strike?” a colleague asked me last week.  It’s an interesting topic to discuss; the very different attitudes to being managed in the university. The lecture recording policy consultation has drawn out some fascinating stuff about informing, asking permission, agreeing, trust, ownership, rights etc from academic colleagues. It was instructive to hear some speak about their lack of trust with students, their managers and each other.

Management in the support groups is clearly different, as is the attitude to providing services**.

Do staff in support groups know/ want/ feel able to strike? Are we just as racked with guilt as lecturers who would rather be lecturing? Do we know what ‘action short of a strike’ means in our roles? all the guidance seems to the about marking and meetings. To what extent does the action itself rely on the university email for communication? To what extent should learning technology be used to mitigate a strike and how much should we help with that? Will academic colleagues stand with us if we refuse to? How many of our university systems have just one person as the single point of failure? and is that person ‘allowed’ to strike?’ Should teams cover for colleagues who strike? How rude will academic colleagues be if we are not there to fix the thing they are using, or using to work from home? These seem to me the kind of conversations we need to be having as IT professionals, and it would be great to have UCU in the room to advise.

 

 

*While I’m on the topic, I think support staff need to be discussed in a more nuanced way. I was reading our Athena Swan stuff and it seems like because there are generally more women than men in the support groups everything is fine. Until you look at the STEM bits of the support groups, like IT for instance!  ‘IT guys’ seems to be a stereotype the university is happy to perpetuate. Also, the promotions structures for academic -related staff are quite different from academic staff, and we don’t have the option to do consultancy work on the side. For academics apparently that’s a ‘nice little earner’.  I’d argue that perhaps the support staff are proportionally more ‘local’, are we a group being considered as beneficiaries of the City Deal investment? How many of us are in jobs which will be replaced by robots, and will those be robots we built ourselves?  And, you know there are going to be intersections of class, age, race, gender and academic snobbery to consider…….

** ‘you provide services and are thus a servant‘, someone once told me. I think you can guess at which institution that was.

 

 

 

 

strike that

Strike that from Waddington’s Lexicon, ‘The Wonder Game’.

Sometimes, people look to me for advice and wisdom.

My advice today, to anyone who works in a role similar to mine is:  try to avoid being in an institution-wide consultation about an opt-out lecture recording policy at  a time of national industrial action.

 

We are consulting on a draft new policy at Edinburgh. It’s a good policy. It’s better than previous policies and it’s been developed over many months with input from across the University.

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. The hope, is that with this better-informed thinking, comes fewer staff-management stand-offs.

 

Because of this, I have ensured that the campus unions have been part of the policy consultation since the start. A UCU rep has been part of our task group.
What  have learned:

 

‘We can just use recorded lectures‘ is the knee-jerk go-to response of university management when threatened by an academic walk-out, but that really isn’t what this is all about. The University believes that having more lectures recorded and offering a consistent staff and student experience around that service, benefits us all in the longer term. That is why they have invested.
For colleagues at Edinburgh University, please let me assure you: The new policy is predicated on the idea that we are all in this together.

 

The new policy clearly states the essential purpose and aims to address a number of concerns.   In the Policy Point 1. The statement of the “essential purpose” in the policy is to reassure lecturers that the intention of the service is the provision of recordings for students to review, and that this is limited to the students on the Course for which the lecture is delivered i.e. those who were entitled and expected to be present at the original lecture.

 

In 1.5 it clearly states that to use the lecture for business continuity , such as a volcanic eruption leaving everyone in the wrong place around the world*, or loss of a major teaching building, or absence of a major teaching person,  the university can use the recording ‘if the lecturer and other participants agree, and as specified within business continuity plans relevant to the School. ‘   People on strike would presumably not agree.   That is the reassurance we have been giving colleagues.

 

Policy wording below.

 

Essential purpose
The essential purpose referred to within this policy is to allow the students undertaking a taught Course to review recordings of lectures given as part of that Course.  The policy also permits a lecturer to re-use recordings of their lectures for other relevant and appropriate purposes, if all the participants in the recording agree to this.

 

Use of recordings
1      The University will provide recordings of lectures to students on taught Courses, where possible, to aid their learning through review and reflection.  These recordings are not, other than in very exceptional circumstances, a replacement for lecture attendance or other contact hours.

 

1.1             The Lecture Recording Policy Privacy Statement details how the University will use and share personal data in relation to the lecture recording service.

 

1.2             Recording of sensitive personal data as defined in current legislation[1] shall not take place without the explicit written consent of the person(s) to whom the data relate.

 

1.3             The University will provide lecture recordings to students on the Course(s) to which the lecture relates.  By default, it will also provide access to the staff associated with the Course(s) in the Virtual Learning Environment.  The lecturer may restrict staff access to a recording further if required.

1.4             The University encourages teaching innovation, sharing and re-use of recorded lectures where relevant and appropriate.  A lecturer may publish a recording of their lecture as an open educational resource, with appropriate modifications and safeguards, including an appropriate attribution, licence and having obtained any permissions required from other participants or third parties whose intellectual property resides within the recording.  Guidance on this is contained within the Open Educational Resources Policy and Website Accessibility Policy.  Staff and students may otherwise only publish or share restricted-access lecture recordings with the permission of the School that owns the Course and of the lecturer and any other participants in the recording.

 

1.5             A School may use a past recording held within the lecture recording service in exceptional situations to provide continuity, if the lecturer and other participants agree, and as specified within business continuity plans relevant to the School.

 

1.6             The recordings and any associated metadata will not be used by the University for staff performance review or disciplinary processes except in the case of alleged gross misconduct.  A lecturer may however choose to use recordings of their own lectures for these purposes or to allow peer observation of their teaching.

 

1.7             Learning Analytics from the lecture recording service may be used in accordance with the Learning Analytics policy.

 

* I was first convinced of the value of lecture recording ( and video conferencing) when that Icelandic volcano stranded the staff and students of my university all around the world. There were no flights in and out of Europe and, as an international research institution, we were all widely scattered. The impact on teaching, and the research activities and conferences for those few weeks was considerable.