me and THEM

William Arthur Ward We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them


“This is the second time in 2 years where I have voted the same as millions of fellow citizens but found myself on the wrong side of a very small majority.  I am left wondering how and why democracy has failed me.” 

I wrote that last Friday, and almost a week on I am still wondering. Unlike my friends and colleagues Lorna, Martin, Frances and more recently Helen,  David   and David – who inspired me with title for this post  – I  haven’t really had the words to describe what I am feeling. I thank them,   and the countless other personal reflections I have read over the past 5 days for their eloquence, compassion and integrity.

I too feel despair, confusion, despondency.  Mostly though I feel like I am experiencing a type of out of body experience. One where all around me chaos is descending, I try to shout but no one can hear me, so I just float on.  Sometimes laughing at the insanity, sometimes close to tears.

Like many others living in Scotland I’ve been here before. But that was different.  That didn’t matter to THEM, until it looked like the yes campaign might win and then we got the Vow.  We were lied to then, and THEY won.  They told us the only way Scotland could stay in the EU and was if it stayed in the UK. We took our democratic revenge in the general election – but still we don’t matter to them. They still lie.

Our “United Kingdom” has been taken to the brink by ego and internal Tory party politics. The disaffection of so many has been horribly manipulated by over simplification, acceptance of casualised racism, the conflated and convoluted myths of immigration and migration, not to mention barefaced lies.

In a bizarre way I almost admire the way that the leave campaign was able to return the many serves that Project Fear sent their way.  All economic arguments were dismissed as experts have “got it wrong in the past.” BOOM! Take that Project Fear. No-one can beat the “taking back our country” return.  And no-one could. Or at least no-one was actually given the opportunity.

THEY saw to that.  Where was the rigorous debate, the balanced media coverage? I don’t know about any research being done around the coverage of both campaigns, but from my point of view dear old Auntie Beeb seemed to revel in  the easy headlines that Vote Leave campaign gave them.  “I don’t agree” was an acceptable explanation, headline and lead story.  Why were the leave campaign not taken to task about a plan after a leave vote? Why are they still not being taken to task about that?  This has been the greatest political swindle possibly of all time.

And it’s all down to to THEM. The media, the establishment, the “oh it’s ok to take a gamble so I (or my new BFF) can become PM because we won’t actually win”; the just scare them the way we did to  “the Jocks”; the I can’t reconcile my own political views with the vast majority of the membership of the party I led so I’ll just do the absolute minimum because the leave campaign can’t win, can it?;  the disaffected public who wanted to protest about so many things other than EU membership.

Sadly there’s probably a part of me in some (but hopefully not all ) of THEM. So where now? We all we need to take back control of the debate from THEM. I rejoice in the fact that so many people since Friday have taken to social media, have blogged are looking for ways to question the majority, are having their say.  We need to demand that we get proper debate, not pop concert arenas staged for waving and cheering. We need to demand young, ethnically diverse people lead the coverage, not the old guard  – not THEM.

The result last Friday morning proved that UK mainstream politics are not listening, We need to overwhelm THEM with our voices, our petitions. We can’t continue to let THEM get away with it. At the same time we must not disregard the other THEM, the ones who used the referendum as a protest. We need to help them see the facts, the truth so that they can never be victims to another swindle like BREXIT.

Who's data is it anyway? Post Brexit blues

What a day. I feel I need to write something today, but to be honest I don’t really know what. The results of the the UK EU referendum has stunned me, and many others.  What it all means I don’t know, but there will be consequences. The known unknowns will be making themselves visible very quickly.  In many ways the debate over the UK being in or out of the EU actually starts today. However, this is not a political blog, but Brexit is already affecting my everyday working life.

This morning I gave a presentation to the UHMLG Summer conference on learning analytics. What a day to be talking about data and predictions!  As I was presenting I made references to so many cross European, EU funded collaborations – not least the LACE project. I have been involved and benefited from so many EU funded projects, it really saddens me to think that future collaborations could be curtailed.

Part of my talk centred around the ethics of data use and collection. What happens to us now in the UK? It was only the power of the EU that was stopping Mrs May et all from turning Britain into a total surveillance society.  Who is going to protect my data rights now? I spotted this post on twitter which seems to suggest that there is hope from the web and big and open data, that the UK will have to  comply with wider EU and global regulations, but will it?

Today is sad day for many. I feel stunned. This is the second time in 2 years where I have voted the same as millions of fellow citizens but found myself on the wrong side of a very small majority.  I am left wondering how and why democracy has failed me. In the meantime here are my pretty pictures from this morning.
Learning Analytics – a brave new world or back to the future? – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

Where Sheila's been this week – #connectmore16

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, but I think it’s time for a revival.  This week’s outing was to the first of the Jisc #connectmore16 conferences organised by Jisc Scotland and hosted at Forth Valley College.

The events are an opportunity to  Connect with your peers, learn more about their good practice and how, through Jisc, they are making most of digital” and yesterday certainly did that.

I was very impressed with the college campus, what a lovely space and view.  Also the spaces we used for the break out sessions were really well kitted out too ( although we might have had a few more people than they were designed for squeezing into the sessions).  I was particularly pleased that we had a smart board for presentation as I was able to be all  “swooshy” ( aka share some of my digital capabilities) with my presentation which I created using Adobe Spark. I am liking this tool more and more.  I was great to see some appreciation from the audience too.

I have to confess though, I did find the onscreen keyboard a bit of challenge but the excellent IT support staff did a re-calibration and found the wireless keyboard.   I wish all our learning spaces were as well kitted out.

I presented in the Leveraging change through digital capability, alongside Lawrie Phipps, Jisc and Terri Smith, West college.

Throughout the day I was reassured by the similar challenges colleagues across FE and HE are facing in terms of using (digital) technology effectively for learning and teaching. As ever this opportunity for formal and informal sharing of practice ( particularly over the lovely cakes and scones provided)  is invaluable.

This storify gives a great overview and flavour of the day’s activities and discussions and below is my presentation.

From first steps to outstanding - developing the Jisc NUS benchmarking tool for use in staff development






Where and when are you?

Over the past month or so directions, locations and  travel seem to be on mind a lot. Not just because it’s coming up to holiday season, but also because things have been a bit unsettled at work.  A number of conference presentations and blogs have appeared in my twitter stream and have also got me thinking in terms of where and how I do things and how that is perceived by others. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while but I have finally found the space and place to do it today.

This podcast from James Clay features a discussion with Lawrie Phipps and Donna Lancos based on a blog post they wrote called  “something, not somewhere, and increasingly somewhen? .  The post reflected on some work done by Jisc back in 2007  which explored  location independent working in universities and a policy developed by the University of Coventry.  I wasn’t aware of the report  but have to agree with the points made in the post about the lack of more examples of a more formalised approach to this type of flexible, location independent working in Universities.

“Why isn’t location independent working more widespread in higher education contexts?  We wonder here the extent to which the suspicion of using digital places and tools to facilitate working presence is related to the generalized suspicion of screens and the conviction some people have that digital presence isn’t “genuine” or “real” enough.  The privileging of physical interactions at the expense of the potential for digital interactions to enhance or substitute for face-to-face meetings happens in classroom settings as well, with professors banning laptops, thinking that will make their students pay more attention.  This flies in the face of what we know about the rich potential of online interaction, the ways that people engage in important parts of their lives online as well as face to face.”

I am relatively fortunate in that I have a reasonable amount of flexibility in my job.  Working from home is not frowned upon, and in certain circumstances I actually think I am more productive when I work from home. Particularly if I have some writing to do as I don’t have the same distractions as when I’m in the office.

I still have my online presence during these times and that connectivity ensures that I can still interact with colleagues as and when necessary. I don’t need to be on campus to fulfil certain tasks. As Lawrie and Donna highlighted:

“The recognition that work does not just take place on the campus is more important now than ever before. Fixing an individual’s role to a place, in a culture where identity is becoming more important than role, can lead to loss of productivity in the individual, but from the institutions perspective it is also losing the opportunity to become greater than the boundaries of its official self.  Tying the work of individuals to a physical location ignores and blocks the benefits of being networked scholars and practitioners, of using the spaces of the web to facilitate and enhance their work, regardless of where they are physically.”

In the podcast Lawrie also highlights that often we confuse presence with work, and assume if you are “in the office/on campus” you are working and ergo more productive than if you were somewhere else. I’m pretty sure we all know of instances where that is most definitely not the case. The old walking around with some paper (or perhaps an iPad now) with a sense of purpose trick did spring to my mind.

How does this networked, location independent way of working then impact on the traditional role of the campus based education. As much as we still equate work with “the office” we still tend to equate learning with “ being in the classroom/lecture theatre”.

Sian Bayne’s recent keynote at the Networked Learning Conference explored notions of  “campus codespaces for networked students” (Jenny Mackness has also written a great summary of Sian’s talk)   Although primarily thinking about distance learners, Sian’s presentation raises key questions for campus based education too and key questions for every university in our increasingly digital age.

“the university can no longer be seen as a bounded stable place – static container in which education takes place. Instead it is re-cast as a complex enactment by which people, buildings, objects, machines are brought together to produce certain performances in certain places at certain times”

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 11.09.33 am

This is really a significant shift in perspective which I don’t think is being fully realised particularly by senior management.  Later in the presentation Sian highlighted this blog post by James Lamb which gives a fabulous critique of a new university policy around student leave of absence  and relates that to research about learning spaces he carried out with Sian

“We also looked to the work of Edwards et al. around mobilities and moorings to argue that when teaching and learning takes place within digital online environments, the university becomes characterised by ‘flux and flows rather than simple bounded space’ (2011, p.153). While our research focused on ‘distance’ learners, the distinction between students who attend classes within the university’s physical buildings and those who do not, is becoming increasingly blurred. “

So how do these flows and interactions really fit in terms of our current practice particularly around student attendance?  Like many other institutions we have a swipe card system for students to swipe into class.  This does help with many important regulatory conditions the institutions needs to fulfil such as visa compliance. But again, we come back to the simplistic notion that if you are on campus you must be “learning”.

I still believe that campus does provide an vital hub for both learners and staff (both teaching and administrative). When we talk about the learning environment, we are talking about so much more than the VLE. It’s about our own personal learning/working environments and networks. The physical campus still has a large role in facilitating this and as I have argued before, evolving more into a digital hub with analytics capabilities that can provide us with more sophisticated measures of learning than swiping in and out of classrooms. Then we can start to have more nuanced conversations about where and when we are working and learning.