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.
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.
In University of Edinburgh Information Services Group we have convened a reading group so that we can discuss books, articles and news stories which influence our work. We are approaching this with a technology slant, because we want to think and learn about the bigger issues which shape the context in which we create new technology and services for staff and students in the university.
Obviously because of Covid, we are meeting online and we are using/reading online resources. Our first reading group theme was the phenomenon of online shaming, which is highly relevant to the world of social media and understanding it is vital for providing support to our students as they navigate staying safe in the online world.
Our next topic was racism and racism in technology. We have created a resources list to support this topic. We’ve used our Library resources list tool and we’ve licensed the list openly, so you too can use it as a resource.
Some top tips to keep in mind when planning to teach remotely:
It is important to remember that good teaching online brings with it some of the same principles as good teaching face to face. A strong teacher presence, engaged learning communities, contact time between teacher and student and for students in pairs or groups. The following tips are designed to facilitate that as simply as possible and minimise disruption both for you and your students.
Keep it simple. See the technology as servicing some core teaching function and only choose what you need. Video for lectures (if you lecture), discussion boards for debates and dialogue, a virtual learning environment for hosting your content, a well-structured reading list, maybe a blog for student reflection and group work.
Get professional advice and ask for help early on if you can. Speak to your school learning technologist and IT support; information services staff and librarians are here to help and advise.
Communicate with students. This is critical. Let them know we are trying something new and why. Let them know where to go and who to contact if they run into difficulty. Get them talking on the discussion boards with prompts and questions at regular intervals.
Discuss with your colleagues and networks of contacts at other universities how they may have used technology in similar situations teaching in similar disciplines. Many universities offer the same or very similar learning technologies, so sharing practice can be helpful to someone you know.
Your students may already know you, but you need to show them you are present online: a picture of yourself, some short videos, encouragement on the discussion boards. Videos don’t need to be perfect. Showing personality has currency in the online space.
Consider assessments. Do you need to rethink the assessments if you are moving online? You might. There are many ways to assess online and most aren’t too complicated.
Consider which parts of your course such as fieldwork, labs, studios and practicals may have to be cancelled or changed. Think about the adjustments you have previously made for students with disabilities, are those alternative versions appropriate for all your students now?
Do the best you can 🙂 we understand this will be new and different for many teachers.
The OOFHEC2019 conference will focus on trends and high impact factors in the global and European higher education.
In a combination of plenary keynotes by key players in higher education at institutional and policy level and parallel presentations and workshops, OOFHEC2019 will cover latest developments under the following topics:
Blended and online education
Micro-credentials for continuous education and MOOCs
European university networks, internationalisation and virtual mobility
Equal opportunities and inclusion
It’ll be lovely to see so many European colleagues again. I’ll be keynoting about the progress we are making at Edinburgh in online and distance learning. There will be much talk of The European Commission’s eU.University hub for “online learning, blended/virtual mobility, virtual campuses and collaborative exchange of best practices” is now built by the OpenU consortium, led by Panthéon Sorbonne Paris1, in which University of Edinburgh is participating. This hub will connect European universities to facilitate ubiquitous access and free movement of students and learners. It will also empower European university networks for collaborative online education and virtual mobility.
Blended and online education is a main factor of innovation and change in European higher education, as is shown by the Changing Pedagogical Landscape studies. It creates new possibilities for teaching large groups of students and at the same time to intensify education in small learning communities. New learning formats support the mission of universities to link education, research and to enhance the quality of education. Innovation contributes as well to a balanced use of resources and cost-effectiveness if accompanied by organisational change and support.
(International) micro-credentials are already awarded to programs worldwide (Micro-Masters, nano-degrees ) organised by universities and MOOC platforms. Jointly with the growth of blended and online education, innovative modes for mobility are created as a complement to physical mobility enhancing the learning experience and opening new opportunities for intensive collaboration between universities.
The European Commission is supporting this innovation. In the Erasmus+ 2019 call, virtual mobility is defined as “a set of activities supported by Information and Communication Technologies, including e-learning, that realise or facilitate international, collaborative experiences in a context of teaching, training or learning”. Blended and virtual mobility is stimulated in many Erasmus+ actions, in particular in the “European universities” initiative, “strategic partnerships”, “knowledge alliances”, “sector skills” and “capacity building”.
Equal opportunities and inclusion in a diverse society are a continuous task in European society, especially with regard to gender, disadvantaged groups, migrants and refugees. This requires specific measures at all levels of education, last but not least in higher education. This is to be realized by specific organisational support for these groups, mobilizing expertise across the institution.Above all, this requires that equal opportunities and inclusion are considered as a core dimension in the design of courses by paying attention to enough flexibility and personalisation.
Open universities have a unique and long tradition in this, while they are also continuously innovating policies, organisational frameworks and teaching and learning in this respect.
We all know that moment when you realise that the AV tech is going to want to fix the radio microphone pack to your dress. We all know that the single most considerate thing we can do to make our content accessible is to use the mic supplied. As a woman who always wears dresses and those dresses rarely have waistbands or pockets here are my top tips:
1) Stay still. Clip the mic to your dress, put the pack on the lectern, and don’t stray far. This has the added advantage of offering a chance to hold on to, lean on or bang the lectern to punctuate your talk.
2) Use the fixed mic instead. In many of our teaching rooms and some of our conference venues, there’s a mic fixed on the lectern for you to use.
3) Hold the pack in your hand. I realise that some women have small hands, but the packs we have are not much bigger than a mobile phone ( yes, I know some phones are too big for women’s hands, but it’s not a problem I’ve ever had).
4) Use a hand-held mic. If you like to walk around and your hand is big enough to hold it.
5) Use the lanyard round your neck. The universal design solution. All University of Edinburgh staff, and most conference delegates will be wearing a lanyard with a staff card or ID on it. These lanyards are perfect for clipping the mic on to and the pack will hang easily on your tummy next to your staff card.
6) Use your shoulder-bag. If you happen to be wearing a cross body handbag, or you have one you like which matches your dress, put the mic pack in there with your card, phone and keys and wear it as you present.
7) Knit your own attractive accessory. The perfect gift for the female professor and definitely a gap in the market.
Now, you might be outraged that women’s dresses rarely have pockets. That’s certainly a feminist and historical issue which could get fixed. Or you might suspect that radio mic packs have been designed by men for men. You might be right, but I’ve looked into the technology (I asked an expert) and those mics are not going to work without the pack and those packs are not going to get much smaller any time soon*.
So my last tip is:
8) Be glad you are not on Love Island. Those women are wearing radio mics with their bikinis. They have no pockets and their waistbands are too skimpy for much weight. They wear their microphone packs on belts around their middles, moving them regularly so as to avoid unsightly tan lines. It is what it is.
We have a range of these belts with microphone pack pouches available from ISG if you would like one. Its a very practical solution, but please don’t jump into the swimming pool with it on.
*If you are interested in the next generation of technology coming, you should check out ‘flexible beamforming‘ from Sennheiser. We’ll be trialling this in the new Edinburgh Futures Institute building when it is ready.
Offering students work experience in our STEM organisation is a no-brainer for me.
We get up to date ideas and creative thinking from them. They get real work experience and digital skills from us. The digital sector in Scotland is booming and students are hungry for work experience which will help them to succeed once they graduate. If you are not studying a STEM discipline the digital sector may be hard to enter, we need a pipeline for students to find their way into well paid jobs and new roles.
This is the fourth year I have hosted interns in LTW and the numbers keep getting bigger. This is credit to all the teams and managers who establish a range of really interesting summer projects and to the reputation we are gaining as a great place to work.
Our interns come to us via a variety of routes. We are happy to host 24 new student interns this summer (11 via Employ.ed, 10 as VLE support, 2 Napier Placements, 1 Equate Careerwise) , plus 2 returners from last year (Anirudh and Samuel ), 2 who have been with us for 3 years ( Dominique and Vicki), 6 student trainers and 10 media subtitling assistants.
While they are with us the interns write blogs and as they leave we ask them to reflect on what they have learned. Each team and project they are involved with benefits from their input. And yes, we pay them.
You’ll be aware that we have been running ‘Developing Your Data Skills’ Programme for staff and students at University of Edinburgh this year. The programme has been very successful and we have now had more than 100 learners complete. Since our staff live and work in Edinburgh and the region, I think this can be seen as part of the investment we are making in retraining and upskilling in data skills for the city. We have evaluated the programme and gathered feedback, so we will be able to report on the ISG KPIs.
We have designed the course to fit with participants’ busy working lives and thought specifically about how to attract mid-career learners to upskill in this area.
Participants have enjoyed the programme: ‘There are many data courses out there. Having a course which is specifically designed and at the correct level was time-saving and encouraged me to finish. I loved doing the course and I’m keen to get started on the next level. I would not have been able to do this without the course format, nor the tutor with her helpful, caring approach.’.
There have been many more comments from participants that echo these sentiments along with a real thirst from learners to go on to study all 3 levels of the Programme.
We will be having a ‘graduation ‘ celebration for all the staff and students who completed the programme on Monday 1st July. If you would like to come along to hear more about the successes and how they plan to apply their new and improved data science skills, please let me know by reply and I will send you a diary invitation.