For Auld lang syne – not quite a review of the year and decade

I’m not a great one for writing end of year reviews, and this isn’t really one of them. It’s more of a brain dump around some themes in my head.  This may sound bizarre, or perhaps more accurately a sign of old age, but until a couple of weeks ago it hadn’t really been in full focus in my brain that this was the end of a decade too.  

I think that perhaps the paralysis of Brexit of over this year had something to do with that.  This decade has certainly seen some highs – the Scottish Independence referendum being one. (For the records that was one of the most inspirational political periods I have experienced, despite the result) but too many lows (Brexit, the 2019 election) in politics that has had an increasingly demoralising effect on my faith in democracy. 

That said, personally 2019 has been a very significant year for me personally. After much thought, planning and then a general, if I don’t do it now I never will attitude, I gave up my full time lecturing position to go free lance and give myself more time to devote to my life as an artist.  So far, so good. I’ll probably have more to say on that work/life balance over the next year.

My blog has been a constant part of my professional identity over the past decade. Though I have found it a struggle at times to write. However, having this space and the support from others who share my posts, and what I still find the most humbling and motivating experience, comment on posts really does keep me going.  

I had a quick look back to 2009/2010 to see if I did any kind of end of year/decade post back then, but no I didn’t. I think that’s partly because at that point my blog was really “Sheila’s CETIS work blog” so it was quite a different space. It was much more factual and less personal.   The last post I wrote in December 2009 was a short report from a new special interest group meeting called “reviewing the VLE”   My first post in 2010 was about how we captured and made a video from the 2009 Cetis conference .  Looking back most of my posts then were about IMS or Jisc meetings.  I still do a few of the latter but none of the former!

Over the decade my blog and me have evolved as my working life has evolved. I’ve renamed it, I’ve reclaimed the hosting of it. It is my space, it is I guess my professional auto ethnography.  I hope it shows how I’ve grown, that it reflects my evolving stance on education, on the growing  need for ethics in relation to data, on the need for criticality and care,  the need to keep sharing practice and questioning the context of technology.  I’ve kept writing in it for over a decade. That’s quite an achievement for me, and something quite unexpected.  I have a far deeper connection with my blog that any other of the web 2, social media things.  They are more channels I dip in an out of. Sometimes in more meaningful ways that others. 

I’ve been fortunate in that I got to experience the best of Twitter. Like most people I didn’t really get it at first, and then I did. And I am thankful for all the connections  I have made (and continue to make) through it.  But it isn’t the same as the heady days of the teenage years of the 21st century.  It’s still a really useful work tool, but I do keep my distance over weekends and holidays.  There’s too much advertising and trying to control what and when you see things.  There’s too much hate, it is I guess too much like the “real world”!  Twitter doesn’t create hate, it just amplifies what we humans do and think. We can’t regulate hate, fake news, disinformation but we can educate, and hopefully help to change those kind of attitudes and behaviours. We have to keep the hope alive that we can all play a part in that.

Over the past year, hope has been a key theme for me. This was due in no small part to the wonderful keynote Kate Bowles gave at the OER19 conference.   Later that day a workshop run by Amy Burvall and Bryan Mathers, I made a ‘’zine”. I’ve kept it in my purse all year, and I suspect it will be there til if falls apart. I show it to people whenever I can.

There have been many good times over the past decade, and some not so good ones. However, for the hope, kindness, fun, friendship that everyone in my professional life has given me over the past decade. So, I’ll raise a glass to that and long may that continue into the next decade.

Facing the Future of HE – another podcast experiment

Last week I took part in the Advance HE Community webinar title, Facing the Future: Higher Education in the era of artificial intelligence. As I was traveling home from Galway, I didn’t want to risk joining the session from the bus. Although I have to say the wifi on the buses in Ireland is pretty good. So instead did a short podcast (having been inspired by my recent experience of the InVinoFab podcast series).

The session was only open to Advance HE members, but I thought I’d share my contribution to the session -which is far less around AI but more about people, critical pedagogy and curriculum.

Finding the good place for digital transformation

Early this week I traveled to Galway to give a keynote talk at GMIT’s Teaching and Learning winter showcase. I’m writing this as I head home on Friday the 13th, the day after the night before! The political landscape I return too is significantly different to the one I left only on Wednesday.

The title of my talk was “finding the good place: what really makes digital transformation happen?” I used the tv show The Good Place as a way to focus my talk. Partly because I love that show, and partly because it allowed me to use wtf (what the fork) quite a lot:-) But more seriously the narrative themes of humanity, ethics and morality of the show are fundamental to education. There are some subtle and not so subtle differences between these and what I perceive to be the dominant narratives of digital transformation.

The show also makes great use of time, and the notion of having eternity to trying different scenarios. We don’t have that luxury in our world, but time is something that is increasingly challenging in not only our HE sector but across education. In relation to digital (or indeed any other type of) transformation it seems to me that timelines seem to have more significance than time. These timelines need to have far more time allocation for contextual and critical engagement with some fundamental questions around transformation, about what digital technologies we actually need to support transformation of learning, how can these technologies actually help in transforming our curriculum in the radical ways that are needed for our time, to help address the climate crisis for example.

Education is always political. Perhaps today more than most we in the UK are thinking about politics more than usual and just what the impact our new government will have on the sector. Digital services and platforms don’t automagically lead to a “good place” for education despite what the advocates of education 4.0 may espouse. It’s people and relationships not services and customers that are at the heart of education. Slides area available here.

Open Scotland Shared Curation #OpenScot

Open Scotland logo

During this December I will be curating the Open Scotland hashtag on twitter. This new model of open curation got off to a great start last month with Phil Barker being the first of a series of community volunteers. Phil also wrote a very useful post about the idea and ethos behind Open Scotland and this shared curation methodology. In the flurry of activity up to Christmas and the New Year I hope to at least be able to share one post on the Open Scotland blog and also have a bit more of an open education focus and filter in twitter. So, if there is anything around open education in Scotland, or beyond – please let me know – or even better just use the hashtag #OpenScot and share your work and practice.