2016, the year of what you want and 2017 the year of what you need?

Having successfully switched off from work for almost 2 weeks, and as it’s  Hogmanay I thought it timely to post a quick final 2016 post.   I have been trying to think of my 2016 highs and lows, but to be honest I really don’t have the energy or inclination to trawl back through the year. But I do want to thank you, dear reader for taking the time to read my little rants over the year.

Watching/reading and listening to the plethora of yearly round ups, I keep being reminded of something a documentary producer and former boss once said to me.  He said, “the trick is to give them what they need, not what they want.”  It’s probably been one of the most useful things anyone has ever said to me.  Finding out what people need, as opposed to what they say they want has been something I’ve spent most of my professional life doing.

In 2016 the Brexit and Trump results were examples of people voting for what (they thought) they wanted, and politicians and pundits riding an easy rhetoric to appear to be giving people what they wanted but not actually explaining how they would bring about  the kind of change that is really needed.  The markets are happy just now, but how long will that last?  The complications of Brexit haven’t even begun to be understood.  The impact of the USA being run like a business (and a business from somewhere in the mid 20th century by the sounds of things) is probably not actually what the “real” people of the USA need.

I had a bizarre experience this week when listening to former Cabinet Minister Michael Gove explaining his statement about not trusting experts. Apparently what he actually meant was that there should have been more rigorous criticality of some of the claims that were made during the Brexit campaign. On that I can agree with him (another example of the madness of 2016 – agreeing even briefly with Gove!) . However I do think that he kind of missed the irony of his statement when referring to academics.  Academics based their professional lives and reputation on criticality and rigorous review.

So my new year’s wish is that everyone starts to take a bit of time to engage with trying to understand what it is we all need, be that around climate change, how to sustain our health and (national) health service, education, the role of the UN, international diplomacy, Brexit, and trying to raise the level of public debate and critical questioning of the things that really matter in life. Digital literacy, engagement and participation are going to be key to ensure that we can all do that. But in the meantime I’ll leave you with Mick and the boys to give you a little bit of what you might not either want nor need.

My idea for a marvelous,mechanical, post-truth, gaslighting, Trump-checking app/mash-up/service

A bit of a mad Sunday afternoon post inspired by the Teen Vogue Gaslighting article that has been doing the rounds on my newsfeed this weekend.

We need to do more fact checking. President Elect Trump needs to start getting some facts right, but in this post truth age, we can’t rely on human experts – what do they know?  So I have had “a really great idea” (if I say it three times, a la The Donald, then it will be true),  a really great idea, a really great idea.

I’m not sure if this is an app/mash-up/ service/iftt recipe but it goes something like this: The Donald speaks, some type of shazam like service records the words, and automagically some AI  (note my point above about not using experts) like IBM Watson does some super clever checking of facts (remember this is my fantasy so the algorithms are you know, actually based on facts, and adapt to include more facts – not Trump-isms), the then produces a fact score -with a percentage and some links to the facts, which is then retweeted to the @realdonaldtrump twitter account, and of course anyone else who wants to subscribe to the service.  The only way to get a higher score is to get some real facts. The drawing below illustrates.

Screen Shot 2016-12-11 at 4.35.51 pm.png

Anyway, crazy Sunday idea, but if anyone wants to build this, then I would for one would sign up,  contribute to a crowd fund to build and keep it going.


Reasons to be cheerful – #altc , and the rest

Let’s face it 2016 hasn’t had too much to be jolly about, but this week  during the #altc winter online conference I was reminded of the some of the good things in my  professional life so I thought I’d take five minutes and not rant.

During the open session on ALTs future strategy there was a quite a bit of discussion about the support ALT has, and continues to, offer around professional development. As I participated  (well, waffled might be more accurate) in the discussion, I was reflecting on my own career development and thinking about how I got started in the “crazy” world of learning technology. It was unplanned, unexpected but totally the right thing for me.

Like many of my contemporaries, I just sort of fell into a newly developing field. When I got a job as Learning Technologist, nobody (including me and my employer) really knew what a learning technologist was. However, I did have a very supportive boss who encouraged me to make the role my own. I will be forever thankful to Jackie Graham for giving me that opportunity.

Lots of my contemporaries have similar stories, or were working in disciplines where they saw the potential for technology to make a real difference to learning. Making that difference to learning was the key to all of us, where ever we came from.

We were all a bit different, experimental – long before edupunks were even thought of. I think most importantly we were willing  to fail  (partly because back in the day “stuff” just didn’t work very well) and laugh with and at ourselves. We often forget to acknowledge the role of fun in learning and career development.

That diversity of backgrounds is one of the things I still cherish. I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with so many clever people from such a wide range of academic disciplines, and they have all accepted me and valued my opinions, and my work and in turn influenced my own development.  Long may that continue.

So, I know it’s a bit schmaltzy , but  I just wanted to say thank you to everyone (especially you, dear reader) I have worked with, and continue to work with.  In these exceptionally unstable times, our communities, our networks will be need to be stronger than ever. In these physical and metaphorical dark days it’s good to remember that there are still some reasons to be cheerful.

Open sanctuary versus cyber security

The title of this post might be a bit misleading. It’s not a “fight” situation, or playing one of the other in black and white. This post is more about me trying to make sense of some “stuff” that has been churning around in my head for the past couple of weeks about my relationship with open education and openness in general. Doing our institutional cyber security training yesterday has helped give me a (sort of) focus for the post.

So, the last couple of months, in fact the whole of 2016 has been, to put it mildly, a bit of a funny old year. In the first of her annual ed tech review posts, Audrey Watters has (as ever) accurately summarised the feelings of so many of us regarding the loss of so much and so many.

Despite the corporate driven changes to many social media platforms, and in particular twitter, I have found solace after Brexit, after the US election, from many of my friends and colleagues and others who I don’t know, as they have expressed and shared their feelings. There are too many people to mention, but Martin, Lorna, and Helen  spring to mind.

This open sharing helps keep me sane, helps me fight my despair around the post truth climate we all find ourselves in. I make no apologies for “my bubble”. I also know many people are moving to different places in protest at many aspects of social media platform management and data manipulation.

last week as I tried to follow the “cool kidz” into mastodon, I felt for the first time in a long time, isolated, unsure and really not at all comfortable in a social network -see this comment for more. Part of me wants to start an “occupy” movement in twitter, claim back our network, but I digress.

I’ve always, probably naively, tried to keep Politics our of my professional life. Dealing with internal politics has always been quite enough. But that’s no longer the case. Education, imho, has never been so Politcised. It’s never been so necessary for all of us in education to be so. We are where the fight back against post truth, the dismal of fact needs to be strongest.

The theme of OER17 – The Politics of Open  will have even greater resonance than when it was first announced. Planning a contribution to the conference is where and when the notion of open sanctuary came to my mind.

I found it really hard to come up with anything to submit to the conference, and partly that was do with internal politics. Actually sharing some of the issues I perceive in my institution openly could potentially put me in a very difficult position.

During discussion for a fingers crossed successful workshop submission to the conference, with the wonderful Frances Bell and Viv Rolfe, they reassured my that I wasn’t alone. Our open networks allow us to reach out from the institutional madness, to inspire us to keep going and do our bit to support OEP and OER to grow within our own institutions. I’m still not articulating all of this very well, but I hope you’ll bear with me.

So yesterday I had to do my cyber security training. OMG, that’s 2 hours of my life I’ll never get back. Now, I’m not writing this to have a go at anyone involved in producing this. It’s all standard corporate training with the obligatory “high quality” videos and quizzes. But I have a real issue with this whole cyber security thang.

It’s all about closing things down, about corporate security, about platforms vying to place themselves as the most cyber secure cloud, about shutting down our civil liberties.

I realise there are serious issues “out there in cyber space” (and is it just me or does cyber space just sound scary?) around data, information management and access. But, particularly in a university setting instead of taking the (cyber) stick, padlock, lock down approach be thinking about empowerment? About developing digital capability and capacity?

Uncertainty causes fear (hello Mr Trump, Mrs May). Uncertainty causes people to make mistakes. If you are clear and confident about “stuff” you’re going to be able to make better judgements for example not to send exam marks via email. Instead of sitting through 2 hours of videos, wouldn’t it have been better to you know, try something different? Maybe a team based scenario where you had to deal with some major data breach that was (and this is crucial) relevant to your context? Maybe look at productive failure approach (as highlighted in this years OU Innovating Pedagogy report)

It’s easier to just push out corporate style training. Isn’t it ironic that in universities where we are supposed to extend notions of learning and teaching, we can’t see past standard corporate training for our staff? Another way to turn us off, to make us disengage, to make us fear the open,  disengage from open practice, for the platforms to come in and take over?



My little bit of sanctuary  . . .