After 2 years of keynoting from a comfy chair at home it was lovely to adventure again.
It was fun to be in Limerick, and the CONUL conference was both incredibly friendly and well organised. I was happy to have a chance to wear my space boots and stand up again in front of the slides Gill made for me.
if you were there and you would like a copy of the slides for the links, please email me.
It’s an award presented to an individual who has demonstrated significant leadership and longstanding involvement with Open Education. A person who has made significant and clear contributions to the furtherance of the Open Education movement, whose contributions to Open Education have spanned regions and/or had a global impact.
I have also successfully renewed my Senior CMALT to remain in good standing as a professional learning technologist. The assessor said it was
‘An impressive account of development activities and how they have influenced learning technology developments at Edinburgh.’ Which is very pleasing.
My CPD journey continues. I completed a microcredential Certificate in Decision Making from LSE before Christmas, and I’ve finally sent off my application for PFHEA.
In 2009 I delivered a keynote at LILAC conference.
I was the new Head of Learning Technologies Group at the University of Oxford.
The talk was titled ‘Managing Your Flamingo‘, an analogy from Alice in Wonderland, where Alice is trying to play croquet and every time she goes to play either the flamingo’s head pops up or the hedgehog uncurls and walks away. The challenges of getting our back end and front end systems working together are not much changed.
Wonderland analogies are timeless and rife at Oxford and I own a print from the original Tenniel woodblocks.
This year I am hosting a panel at LILAC which brings together Josie Fraser, Jane Secker and Allison Littlejohn. Each of our panel have more than 10 years as change agents in information and digital literacy and have led high profile initiatives to shift thinking and disrupt traditional ideas in (in)different institutions and sectors. Together they will bring unique perspectives on the topic of ‘2020 hindsight’. Come along to find out if their radical inclinations have been tempered by their time in institutions.
The conference is delayed by a year and as Josie has pointed out, you get one year’s extra reflection for free.
Hindsight bias can be dangerous if it leads us to think we ‘knew it all along’ . We all suffer sometimes from memory distortion (“I said it would happen”), inevitability (“It had to happen”), and foreseeability (“I knew it would happen”). Our panel will join you in reflecting on, considering and explaining what has happened and how things that didn’t happen, could have happened. How would things be different if we knew then what we know now?
Is there such a thing as lilac-tinted spectacles?
Back then, I spoke about different types of literacy, (digital, media and information) and questioned whether they were all comparable concepts or subsets of each other, and how far IL should integrate itself into these other literacies. I encouraged librarians to contribute to a digital literacy framework (i=skills) and encouraged everyone to edit and contribute to the digital literacy page on Wikipedia. And media literacy is a hot topic because of the Internet Safety Bill.
In 2009 I predicted that all graduates, not just computing graduates, needed algorithmic modelling literacy and back then, Oxford was working on a Modelling4all project. Check out their website, The Epidemic Game Maker provides a way to quickly and easily make models of epidemics and turn the models into games.
In 2009 I predicted that Youtube U (an educational YouTube) was just around the corner, in much the same way as the University of Oxford had just launched on iTunes U in October 2008. ItunesU and podcasting were a huge success for Oxford, we even featured in the ipod advert on the telly. Who’d have thought that podcasts would be having such a renaissance a dozen years later?
Our partnership with Apple on Itunes brought massive scale and reach, millions of downloads for openly licensed recorded lectures. When Coursera and Edx came in 2012 I thought the reaction would be similar but I struggled to get Oxford interested in MOOCs. They never did, and have suffered no ill-effects as a result. I moved institution and Edinburgh now boasts a boat-load of online open courses. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s them.
I was also wrong about YouTube U. But I have spent some years building something similar in-house. The widespread use of lecture recording has added a whole new type of ‘learning resources’ which are part of the way students learn, study and revise. Huge, born-digital collections.
No-one can really predict how the future will be. We learned that last year. But we can pay attention to signals and think about readiness. I know that the work we did at Edinburgh around business continuity for snow and strikes served us well for Covid.
It is perhaps challenging for online learning leaders and learning technology aficionados to come to terms with the fact that we did not deliver this change through careful support, inspirational argument or the power of convincing evidence. We had to do it in ways we never anticipated. We have been forced to do things we hoped we would never have to do. We have put in place systems and support for rushed replication of on-campus delivery online. We have become middleware. We are at the same time essential and largely irrelevant. And we are caught in a crazy world in which students and staff who would previously have mounted barricades to resist the use of technology in their teaching are balloting their unions and lobbying management to insist on it.
How will this play out? If students do well in their exams this year will we hail the lift and shift as a success? Perhaps all our previous insistence on planned, careful design was unwarranted. Are exam results the measure of good teaching and learning? If so, it’s a good thing each institution has autonomy in assessment and everything is open to interpretation. In whose interest is it for the shift to online story to be told as a huge success or a massive failure?
A picture I shared on Wikimedia has been given by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a gift to President Joe Biden.
Just goes to show that serendipitous things happen when you share openly.
President Biden and Dr Biden are visiting the UK this week. In preparation for the visit the Downing Street offices began searching for a thoughtful gift. They know that the Bidens have an interest in history and in the life of Frederick Douglass. They found my picture of a mural of Douglass on Wikimedia and contacted me.
I gave them a high-res version and the Prime Minister’s Office got it printed up and framed.
When I saw the mural I recognized the subject immediately. The artist is talented and the image is striking.
Frederick Douglass was one of the most photographed people of his time, many people were interested in him and he was keen to ensure that he was represented as an equal during such a difficult time in American history. During the 1800s he sat for more portraits than even Abraham Lincoln.
Frederick Douglass is part of the cultural history not just of the US, but also of Scotland. He came to Edinburgh several times, first in 1846 . He made a number of public anti-slavery speeches and wrote letters back to the USA from here. He considered the city to be elegant and grand and found the UK to be very welcoming. ‘Everything is so different here from what I have been accustomed to in the United States. No insults to encounter – no prejudice to encounter, but all is smooth. I am treated as a man an equal brother. My color instead of being a barrier to social equality –is not thought of as such’.
I was born in Scotland but I am a dual national by virtue of having an American parent. My US family are in Maryland and I am delighted to see this image of such an important American icon here in our public spaces. The fact that I am a dual national seems to be an added bonus for the gift to President and Dr Biden.
I took the photograph on an evening walk during lockdown just as the sun was setting. The mural is very close to the building where Frederick Douglass stayed while he was in Edinburgh. I shared it on Wikipedia so that more people could see it and enjoy it.
Some people on Twitter are being a bit rude about the traffic cone but I would remind you that both Edinburgh and Glasgow have a fine tradition of adding traffic cones to significant public art works and perhaps David Hume wasn’t using his.
As we try to predict what the future may hold there are a few things from the Before Times that we still know to be true: Open educational resources, open source software and open access digital tools offer our last, best hope for equity and inclusion. Education must not be dependent on digital platforms controlled by private companies, and large educational institutions must show their support for open sharing, collaboration and assurance of accessibility for all our audiences. As well as deep reflection on our purchasing decisions and the skills in our edtech teams we must ensure ‘open literacy’ within the curriculum and within pedagogical training. As we struggle against the denial of scientific knowledge, actively fight misinformation, attempt to decolonise and care for our planet, there is much to be done. Melissa will bring stories from Scotland on how universities are rising to these challenges and bringing their own leadership to the table.
This year I have invited my teams to a virtual Burns night on Monday.
‘Please bring your favourite poem/ song/dance by Burns or any of his contemporaries or similar Scottish music. Burns was prolific and one of the joys of his work is that you can find a poem or a view from him on just about anything. If you can find his view on Brexit ‘While Europe’s eye is fix’d on mighty things’, COVID ‘Tae a virus’ , lockdown ‘Here’s friends locked doon on baith sides o’ the firth’, working from home, social distancing ‘Gin a body meet a body, catching Covid, Aye?’, face coverings ‘Fair fa’ your honest, covered face…’, well-being, hobbies, black lives, sourdough, furlough, home-schooling ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley’, Teams ‘To see oursels as others see us!’ or elearning you’ll win a fab prize.’
Haggis is just haggis, a smile is just a smile.
Our virtual Burns Night featured beautiful music performances from Lauren (Wild Mountainside) and Lorraine ( The Silver Tassie), and the suggestion that we all upload pictures of our haggis dinners to Wikipedia.
During the evening a number of lost Burns manuscripts were given their first public performance. A selection is curated below:
When chapman billies leave the street And drouthy neebors video meet As Waitrose delivery is running late An’ folk begin to accept their fate; While we sat boozing at the telly And getting fou and awfy smelly We think na on the lang Scots miles. The fit bit steps we tracked with smiles That lie between us and our hame Whare sits our sulky sullen dame Gathering her brows like gathering storm Nursing her Deliveroo to keep it warm.
So, Shall Distance
This tale o’ truth I shall read, woman and mother’s son take heed; Whene’er to drink you are inclin’d, Or social joys run in your mind, Think! ye may buy joys for now But wi’ mair pox horrible and awfu’, Three lawyers says it is unlawfu’.
We think na on the lang Scots miles, The mosses, waters, slaps, and styles, That lie between us and our hame in argyle house, Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet, To think how many counsels sweet, How many lengthen’d, sage advices, The workers wish the boss, consise is.
That dreary hour she opens Teams in; On such a night she was online in. The storm without might rair and rustle, Karen did na mind the storm a whistle. Till first ae system, syne anither, Gave up working a’ thegither, And roars out, “Media Hopper doesnae work!” And in an instant all was dark: And scarcely had she Liam rallied, When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees bizz out wi’ angry fyke, When plundering herds assail their byke; As eager runs the market-crowd, When “Catch the thief!” resounds aloud; So Karen runs, the witches follow, Wi’ mony an eldritch skriech and hollo.
To LISC Ah, Karen thou’ll get thy fairin’! In ITC they’ll roast thee like a herrin’! And KSC awaits thy commin’!
The Cotter’s Night Locked In
O Scotia! my dear, my native soil! For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent, Long may thy hardy staff of IT toil Be blest with health, and peace, and sweet open content! And O! may Heaven their simple lives prevent From covid’s contagion, weak and vile! Then howe’er crowns and coronets be rent, A virtuous populace may rise the while, And stand a wall of fire around their much-lov’d isle.
At the recent WikimediaUK AGM the work of the Wikimedian in Residence team at University of Edinburgh once again received awards from their community. Ewan continues to work across the University to embed wikimedia skills in the curriculum, with some considerable success. His work in producing a new publication including case studies of how this can be done won an honourable mention in the Partnership category (we have won the partnership category before, so it would be inelegant to win again).
We also had success in the ‘Up and Coming Wikimedian’ category – A joint win for Emma Carroll (for the phenomenal work on the Scottish Witch Data project) and Laura Wood Rose (excellent work supporting the Women in Red events). I am particularly pleased to have success recognised in this category because a huge part of our commitment to the digital skills of wikimedia at Edinburgh is an investment in training and empowering new Wikimedians to join the community.