Monthly Archives: January 2014

Student blog – Peter Reid’s Pupil Immersion Visit to China, Tianjin Summer Camp 2013⤴

from

rsz_peter_chinaPeter Reid was one of the senior pupils who represented the Edinburgh Confucius Classroom hub at the 2013 Pupil Immersion Visit to Beijing and Tianjin.  This is an annual visit organised by the Tianjin Education Commission (TEC) and the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS), based at the University of Strathclyde, which aims to develop young people’s understanding of Chinese culture and language.  The group visits many Chinese, historic monuments and takes part in cultural  lessons and  intensive Mandarin language classes, for which the young people receive SQA accreditation.

It wasn’t until the night before I left for the Tianjin Summer Camp 2013 that I found myself addressing my worries. A list of them had grown in the back of my head and they now broke the seal of “I’ll think about it later” and poured into my thoughts in an oriental montage of “what ifs”: I’ve only got a smattering of Mandarin, what if the other students are fluent? I’ve barely met the students I’m going with, what if we don’t get on? And the most pressing worry – what if I make a horrible cultural mistake in class, or even in public? With the flight in 10 hours, I really should have put my efforts into going to sleep. I had researched Chinese culture as best I could, but you can’t learn a language in a night and there’s only so much you can find out about someone through Facebook-stalking. Nonetheless, I lay awake – hopelessly trying to soothe my worries with vocab notes and social networking.

“We’re spending a few days exploring Beijing and working on our architecture project before leaving for Tianjin, where we’ll have language and cultural classes”. The announcement was made to the group of fatigued yet excited Scottish students who boarded a coach at Beijing airport. Most of my worries had left me by this point, but it took a final wave of energy to disperse them completely. That “wave of energy” comes to anyone who walks down a Beijing cuisine street on a heavy, muggy day – weather that would send other countries indoors – and finds themselves surrounded by the cooking smells, the shimmering lights and the throbbing crowds of the most exciting place on Earth. If cities have their own unique characters, then Beijing’s must be one of raw power – an entire society in perpetual motion. The next few days flew by as we went from rows of skyscrapers that felt like the districts of giants to preserved villages where the houses still had the markings of the ancient dynasties. When I tried to tell people back home about those first days in Beijing, the closest I could get to explaining it was “it was just such fun”.

We then took the three hour drive east to Tianjin.

During that journey, what turned out to be the temporary medicine of Beijing Magic began to wear off and my old worries were pulled back with a tide of angst. I was soon sitting down to my first Mandarin Class. It quickly became apparent that not only was everyone at different stages in their learning, but also that the extent of each pupil’s learning before the trip was irrelevant to the teachers and it was an individual’s effort during each class which was of importance. Each two hour session flew by, not in the dizzying surge of Beijing, but as interactive lessons which gave the Scottish Hub an understanding of Chinese language and a relationship with the dynamic group of staff at Tianjin University. We found ourselves being caught up in their enthusiasm and infinite friendliness. Indeed, no lessons gave us a better insight into Chinese culture and society than the time we spent eating, talking and exercising with those ambassadors for their country. The worries which had previously threatened to hold me back were lost to the belief that so long as I followed the lead of our assistants and teachers there was little I could do wrong.

Anyone who attends the Summer Camp will be mesmerised by the skyscrapers, stadiums and traditional communities of Beijing. They’ll be rendered glassy-eyed as the garden of gleaming Tianjin architecture drifts past on a boat trip down the Hai River. However, the only thing which can turn insecurity into confidence and the one thing which will truly capture their hearts in two weeks is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Chinese people.

For further information about the immersion visit, please click here

As a result of Peter’s outstanding commitment to learning about Chinese language and culture , he is one of the twelve Scottish young people who have been awarded a scholarship to study Mandarin in Tianjin next year.  This life-changing scholarship, the first of its kind in Europe, is a result of the successful partnership between Tianjin Education Commission and  CISS.

To find out more about the scholarships and about the work of CISS and the Confucius Classroom hubs in Scotland, please click here.

 

The post Student blog – Peter Reid’s Pupil Immersion Visit to China, Tianjin Summer Camp 2013 appeared first on Engage for Education.

Exploring Leadership at the 2014 ACTS Conference⤴

from @ Association of Chartered Teachers Scotland

ACTS National Conference 2014

Participants at ACTS Conference 2013

Participants at ACTS Conference 2013

EXPLORING LEADERSHIP

1 March 2014, Stirling Management Centre

 Introducing the 2014 ACTS National Conference, the theme of which is teacher leadership in the 21st century.  This year’s programme includes a very timely selection of speakers – Mike Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education; Petra Wend, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Queen Margaret University and a key player in the implementation of “Teaching Scotland’s Future”; and Chris McIlroy, former CHMIE and central to a range of developments in Scottish education.  The afternoon session will be chaired by Graham Donaldson, former CHMIE and author of “Teaching Scotland’s Future”.

Workshops will cover all stages and aspects of education, and there will be lots of opportunities throughout the day for discussion, debate and sharing.  An interesting addition to this year’s workshop sessions is  ‘TeachMeet’, giving delegates themselves the opportunity to deliver a short 2 – 5 minute presentation on a topic of their choice.  For full details, see workshop information.

We are delighted that the Conference is sponsored by Scottish Government, EIS, NASUWT, VOICE, and GTCS, all of whom will be represented on the day.  We are extremely grateful for their support.

To register for this exciting event, please complete the booking form, including your workshop choices.  Full details of the workshops are provided here.  If you have any queries, please e mail us at actsconference2014@gmail.com

We look forward to seeing you on 1 March at Stirling Management Centre!

With very best wishes,

Andrina Inglis

Chair

Questioning assumptions about openness⤴

from @ Open World

Like many of my colleagues on twitter this week, I spent most of Tuesday following the #MOOCs2 back channel from the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education’s MOOCs: What we have learned, emerging themes and what next event.  Inevitably the issue of degrees of openness arose with many participants questioning and discussing the variable openness of MOOCs and their relationship to OER.   Anyone who follows this blog will know that this is a bit of a hobby horse of mine so I followed the discussion with interest.

Quite coincidentally, half way through the afternoon OERs4OpenShools (@OERs4OS) tweeted

Hoping to find a nice example of an open OER based course I klicked the link and was met with the following

oer4schools

Now I know I could simple have logged in, but I can’t help finding it slightly off-putting when a site that purports to be open immediately confronts me with a log in screen.  In a fit of impatience I tweeted:

To which Javiera Atenas (@jatenas) replied:

As so often happens, I didn’t have the time to dig any deeper so it was left to Pat Lockley to point out that this site appears to be a ning community which most likely has no restrictions on joining.  Still unconvinced I replied:

At that point Pat pointed out that OER-Discuss, the Open Education Resources Jiscmail list of which I am a moderator, also requires users to sign up, which I had to concede is a very fair point.  The whole discussion certainly led me to examine my own assumptions and preconceptions regarding openness and to turn my original question “How open is open?” back on myself.  Is a simple log in screen really a barrier to openness?  Does it discourage people from engaging?  And on a more personal level, have I got unrealistic ideals of what constitutes openness?

 PS. For the record, I’ve now tried registering for OER4OpenSchools and it appears to have a three step registration process.
1. Enter name, e-mail and dob, answer question, fill in captcha.
2. Receive e-mail and click authentication link.
3. Enter full name, country of residence, job description and reasons for wanting to joining the community.
I confess I gave up at step 3. although the site owners are very apologetic about the authorisation and authentication process:

“We have to approve every new member to protect the community from “spammers.” We apologize for any delay this causes. Please tell us why you are joining this network.”


Scottish Government Support for Open Education?⤴

from @ Open World

(Cross posted from Open Scotland.)

“We broadly support open licences and OER and need a serious public debate on this issue.”

~Michael Russell, MSP

This was the Minister for Education’s response to a question I put to him earlier today regarding Scottish Government support for open education policy and open licences for publicly funded educational resources in order to benefit learners, not just within Scotland, but internationally.  The Minister was speaking at the Future of Higher Education In Scotland and the UK event in Edinburgh, organised by the ESRC Fellowship Project: Higher Education, the Devolution Settlement and the Referendum on Independence.

In a wide-ranging speech outlining the Scottish Government’s vision of higher education in an independent Scotland, Russell stated that we need an education sector that can meet the challenge of new technological advancement and institutions that can fully explore the potential of new technologies for learning. MOOCs and OER have great potential to form new pathways to learning, to widen participation and promote a culture of collaborative development and reuse. Consequently a core group supported by SFC has been established to look at the benefits of OER and promote online learning resources produced by Scottish universities.  This group is composed of the Open University and the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde; UHI may also have a role to play.

While it’s hugely encouraging to hear the Minister for Education acknowledging the importance, not just of the inevitable MOOCs, but of OER and open education more generally, I have some concerns that with such a narrow group of stakeholders involved in the core group, the scope of the debate might fail to encompass the wider benefits of open education to the Scottish sector as a whole.  Open education policies and practice have the potential to benefit teachers and learner right across the sector, in schools, colleges and universities, in formal and informal learning scenarios, and to support life long learning right across the board.

As yet, no further details have been released regarding the nature of the core group activities and the level of SFC investment, so we will continue to watch these developments with interest.

I hope to able to blog a fuller summary of this event shortly, but in the meantime, Martin Hawksey has made a twitter archive of the event hashtag available here: #HEScot


Scottish Government Support for Open Education?⤴

from @ OPEN SCOTLAND

“We broadly support open licences and OER and need a serious public debate on this issue.”

~Michael Russell, MSP

This was the Minister for Education’s response to a question I put to him earlier today regarding Scottish Government support for open education policy and open licences for publicly funded educational resources in order to benefit learners, not just within Scotland, but internationally.  The Minister was speaking at the Future of Higher Education In Scotland and the UK event in Edinburgh, organised by the ESRC Fellowship Project: Higher Education, the Devolution Settlement and the Referendum on Independence.

In a wide-ranging speech outlining the Scottish Government’s vision of higher education in an independent Scotland, Russell stated that we need an education sector that can meet the challenge of new technological advancement and institutions that can fully explore the potential of new technologies for learning. MOOCs and OER have great potential to form new pathways to learning, to widen participation and promote a culture of collaborative development and reuse. Consequently a core group supported by SFC has been established to look at the benefits of OER and promote online learning resources produced by Scottish universities.  This group is composed of the Open University and the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde; UHI may also have a role to play. 

While it’s hugely encouraging to hear the Minister for Education acknowledging the importance, not just of the inevitable MOOCs, but of OER and open education more generally, I have some concerns that with such a narrow group of stakeholders involved in the core group, the scope of the debate might fail to encompass the wider benefits of open education to the Scottish sector as a whole.  Open education policies and practice have the potential to benefit teachers and learner right across the sector, in schools, colleges and universities, in formal and informal learning scenarios, and to support life long learning right across the board.

As yet, no further details have been released regarding the nature of the core group activities and the level of SFC investment, so we will continue to watch these developments with interest.  

ETA A summary transcript of Russell’s speech has been made available by the Scottish Government here. The relevant paragraphs relating to open education are as follows:

“I am very encouraged by the potential of massive open online courses – short courses delivered online that can be taken by anyone, anywhere. Of course, we must ensure quality of provision, however, free resources such as these have great potential to provide pathways to formal learning and widen participation in higher education.

“That is why I have indicated to the Scottish Funding Council that, in supporting this new work, they should facilitate the best open practice in Scotland and enhance the sector’s capacity and reputation for developing publicly available online learning materials.

“It is a very exciting prospect that a student anywhere in the world can access materials presented by world-class academics working in world class Scottish universities.

Martin Hawksey has made a twitter archive of the event hashtag available here: #HEScot and all papers from the event have now been uploaded here: Seminar 3: The future of higher education in Scotland and the UK.


Michel Callon and the Scallop Fishermen⤴

from @ Cat's eyes

fishing net

Ethically sourced photos from John Johnston’s cc flickr search tool

I’ve always loved coastlines – living in Banff in the north east of Scotland for most of my school days has left me with a rather sentimental hankering for rocky shores, the sea, fishing boats, big waves and harbours. We’ve been spending holidays in western France, near the atlantic for nearly 20 years now and I’m developing a similar rather dewy nostalgia for the big altantic skies and coast, wild horses on salt flats and artisanal fishing scenes like the one above. It’s all so charmingly low-tech (at least it is in my romantic imaginings, anyway!).

So you might imagine with my recent tentative dabblings with actor-network theory I was quite intrigued when my PhD colleague Julia mentioned in conversation with Tara (see last post)at our last PhD workshop  the light-bulb moment she had when she read Michel Callon’s  chapter on ANT  (Callon 1986) in Power, Action and Belief: A new sociology of knowledge? (J Law, ed. 1986) which narrates an interesting tale of the scallops and fishermen of Brittany’s St Brieuc bay. Julia isn’t alone, Tara told us – this is the  switch that illuminated ANT for many people, apparently.  I had to read it.

The chapter starts by outlining four pivotal “moments of translation” (Callon 1986 p196)identified in the analysis of an investigation into declining scallop population in the St Brieuc bay. These are problematisation; interessement; enrolement  and mobilisation,(processes which build and change the network - see Callon 1986) and a detailed study of how translations (the micro-negotiations which shape or change the network and its actors) such as these,  can give an account of how power relationships are constructed, maintained or destroyed within the network, and how certain actors go about getting other actors to comply. Callon goes on to explain how previously favoured methods of sociological analysis are no longer adequate  to explain matters of science and technology in stylistic ways (because sociologists tendency to censor actors when they talk about themselves or social backgrounds); theoretical ways (Callon suggests we need to accept that natural sciences are as  unstable and uncertain  as social sciences, therefore they can no longer play different roles in analysis) , and methodological ways (the identities of actors is problematic and needs to be fore-grounded as such, not ignored) (Callon 1986). He proposes 3 principles to underpin a different sort of analysis: agnosticism in not privileging any one point of view or censoring any commentary from the actors on their “social environment” (Callon, 1986 p200); generalised symmetry in using the same vocabulary throughout the analysis for all actors-

“not chang[ing]registers when we move from the technical to the social aspects of the problem studied” (Callon 1986, p200)

and free association to remove distinctions between the natural and the social ; to

“follow the actors …..[ to see how they]… “build and explain their  world” (Callon 1986, p201),

avoiding imposing pre-conceived frameworks for analysis on them.

The actors in this network are three researchers, their associated scientific community; the scallops in various stages of development, and the fishermen. The scallops have been fished to species -threatening levels; the scientific community has developed (in Japan) a new technique of intensive scallop – farming; the fishermen having depleted the bay are concerned about their livelihoods and the researchers want to experiment with the methods from Japan in an attempt to  restock the bay. And so the story begins…..

The researchers defined the study around the central question of:  does the species of scallop in the bay anchor itself in a similar way to the ones in Japan?  The question may seem simple but in fact in posing it the researchers have made themselves indispensable in the network – problematisation. They have defined what other actors want: the fishermen and their desire for continued livelihood; the scallops and their desire to survive, and the scientific community and their desire to advance knowledge about scallop farming. They have “forged a holy alliance…..to induce the scallops to multiply” (Callon  1986 p204) and in doing so have  established themselves as an obligatory passage point (OPP) for the other actors in the network.(Callon 1986). Power passes through them in this passage point.

Interessement  works to include and exclude actors in the network. It seems to be often associated with devices. Interessement devices in this study are: the collectors and tow ropes used to help anchor the larvae which will hypothetically grow into scallops; the scientific knowledge generated by the researchers and their wider  community of colleagues.

“The devices of interessement create a favourable balance of power: for the first group, these devices are the towlines immersed in St. Brieuc Bay; and for the second group, they are texts and conversations which lure the concerned actors to follow the three researchers’ project. For all the groups involved, the interessement helps corner
the entities to be enrolled. In addition, it attempts to interrupt all potential competing associations and to construct a system of alliances. Social structures comprising both social and natural entities are shaped and consolidated.” (Callon 1986, p210).

Interessement therefore seeks a double whammy – to enrol certain actors in the network and to eliminate any competing relationships, e.g.  currents underwater, marine predators  or elements of doubt among the fishermen. Successful interessement results in enrolement in the network, and enrolement describes the

negotiations, trials of strength and tricks that accompany the interessements and enable them to succeed.” (Callon 1986 p212).

Not only is power  established in problematisation, it also works through interessement to develop the network and actor identities.

Mobilisation or who speaks in the name of whom? Representation is occurring often in this network to social and natural entities. The converse of representation is silencing certain voices – power is demonstrated in this way.  Some examples are the few larvae who do anchor themselves -they are invested with the power to represent the anonymous mass of larvae; the representatives of the  fishermen who accept without argument the proposals of the researchers: the authors of the research in Japan who represent the wider scientific community, there is uncertainty however over the question of whether or not the masses will follow their representatives, and this – this mobilisation  is the unravelling of the network. Transformation and displacement occurs; for example, the  scallops and larvae become numbers then tables and curves in data charts for the scientific community and the three researcher are imposed spokesmen and have become representatives for all the entities in the network. But…..will those they represent continue to act as their representatives assume they will? No! Dissonance and betrayal is their undoing!

The researchers thought they knew enough to say the larvae would anchor in the bay, but their experiment was not replicated year on year – the scallops became dissident, escaped from their collectors, or failed to anchor in the first place “representivity is brought into question” (Callon 1986 p 225) but not only for the shellfish, for the fishermen as well. A group of them mutiny and fish the scallops one Christmas eve – thinking no doubt of the reveillon feast ahead of them to celebrate Christmas. So the network is not stable, it is seriously disrupted, and its representatives are challenged  and betrayed by the actors they assumed to represent.

The different types of translation processes described in this study illustrate ANT in action – Callon concludes by saying it also demonstrates the power of representation in silencing majorities in claiming to give them a voice within a constantly  changing social  or natural world. It’s a fascinating  study and a very engaging tale. I’m not sure I had a lightbulb moment; I read and reread it several times, felt a bit more enlightened about ANT and  was very keen to find out what happened in the end. There is obviously loads more to say about this – it’s a much commentated and critiqued paper, but I think I’m done for now. Not sure if I’m over and out with ANT though – I might like to investigate further, but it will be for another study, not my PhD. I need to focus now on critical realism, social/cultural structures and agency……coming up next……….

_ Shells _

Callon, M. (1986). Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of Saint Brieuc Bay. In J. Law (Ed.) Power, Action and Belief: a new Sociology of Knowledge? Sociological Review Monograph. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul. 32: 196-233.


Day 29 of 365⤴

from

Day 28 of 365 by Gordon McKinlay
Day 28 of 365, a photo by Gordon McKinlay on Flickr.

Welcome home after another long day at work. It often feels that we never see daylight at this time of year.

The photo was taken with a Nikon D300s and a Cokin diffraction filter.

A numbered this one wrong when I first uploaded it.  You would think that when I am still in a January it would be reasonably straight forward to remover what day I am on.

A photo a day for 2014.

Chromebooks – the forgotten device?⤴

from @ Mimanifesto - Jaye's weblog

This was the title of a discussion thread I started over in the ISTE group on LinkedIn recently, and its proved to be one of their most popular discussions, with some really fantastic debate and commentary taking place. You’ll need to join, as it is a closed group, but this sort of discussion is typical […]