Now we are 2: settling in to working on the outside

This month marks my 2 year anniversary as and independent digital learning consultant. What with “everything” that has happened over the last year, I’m very glad that I am still here, in every sense, still managing to make a living, and still able to pursue my development as an artist.

I know everyone felt disconnected last year, but not working “in” an institution I did feel a different sense of disconnection from my peers. I felt relieved as I watch/read/listened to colleagues sharing their experiences, the additional workload, that I didn’t have those pressures to deal; as well as a huge sense of guilt about not being able to do more to help. I also had a worry that I wouldn’t have my “how I coped with the pivot” battle scars , so would maybe be seen as irrelevant, and no one would want to employ me post pandemic.

My term of office as Chair of ALT also ended last year, that was in a sense another loss for me. More a loss of structure as ALT provided me with a very regular set of meetings. After 3 years as Chair, it was time for me to go and I was more than happy to pass the baton on as they say.

Of course I had (and continue to have) a whole different set of pressures that any independent business has to deal with. My working life is always going to be precarious, but that’s my choice and I knew that when I gave up my job.

One small thing I was able to do was share some of my feelings via this blog and I was surprised and touched by the number of people who sent me messages thanking me for sharing how I was feeling and experiencing “stuff”. That helped to give me a continued sense of connection and empathy with my PLN, which when you work by yourself has an additional importance. I think we’ve all had feelings of being lost and alone over the past year but when you are “in” an institution it can be hard to talk publicly about what you are experiencing.

Overall though, I have been really lucky in being able to continue to get work that is both interesting and worthwhile. The beginning of the year was quiet, however maybe that’s just a cycle I have to get used to. I’ve also done a number of keynotes which is great, and I think being “on the outside” does provide additional ways to provoke thinking about “stuff”. Over the past year I’ve also been able to work with the wonderful Helen Beetham which has just been a joy.

So I just want to thank everyone who has invited me to speak at their conferences/events over the past year, and everyone who has and continues to employ me (new clients always welcome!), everyone who shares, comments and answers my questions here and on twitter. Your continued support is very much appreciated.

Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

Living and learning in a time of solitude: GMIT #DigitalEd keynote

Earlier today,I was delighted to give the opening keynote for day 2 of GMIT‘s Digital Education Week. Despite not being able to all meet in person in Galway, it was fantastic to be able join so many people from across Ireland and the UK and be part of the event.

For my talk I wanted to reflect on what we have all experienced in the past year of living and learning through a global pandemic. To use the luxurious position of a keynote to ask some questions about our lived experiences, and what we need to think about going forward. I wanted to reflect on words like isolation, self isolation,solitary, quarantine. These words that are so commonplace now, but pre-pandemic were not really part of our everyday discourse and vocabulary.

What really struck me about the quotes I used at the start of my talk about solitude and being alone (and many others I didn’t use) is how out of time and context they seem right now. In all of them, there is a sense of almost noble sacrifice to solitude. Solitude is necessary for great (artistic) work.  It’s as if they all had to justify the right to be alone, to be solitary to achieve greatness, and an enhance sense of self worth. In our present day context, that seems to me like a very distant, privileged concept from a bygone era.  Enforced solitude is quite a different experience, as we all now know. It’s been hard enough to get out of bed sometimes, never mind reach the great heights of getting dressed!

The realities of living, working and learning from home are bound as much by our physical spaces as our digital ones. I used some of the recent work of Professor Lesley Gourlay to explore this a bit more and talk about the entanglements of our phsyical and digital worlds, and the assemblages we have had to create to “be” at university. Today I thought I might stand to give the talk ( I don’t do much standing these days, do you?) so I created my own assemblage of a lectern using an ironing board, and some boxes. All a bit meta, but actually it work so I might do that again!

my standing desk!

The session was recorded so I will add a link to that when it is available, but in the mean time you can view my slides including feedback from participants here.

And here is a screen shot the wonderful sketch note of the talk by Maia Thomas.