MozFest Reflections⤴

from @

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This post was also posted on the Association for Learning Technologists blog.

This year was my fourth trip to MozFest – the annual global gathering of the Mozilla Foundation. The event has been held in Ravensbourne College in London for the last 7 years and is a nine stories high extravaganza of participatory sessions and speaker talks covering hacking, making, data, digital art and culture, ethics and privacy, the open web, open science, data journalism, social justice, access and inclusion and many other things too numerous to list. This year there were 338 sessions spread across two days. The programme is available online to browse for a flavour of the sessions on offer.

Sessions take place in themed areas within the venue, with each space aligned to an area of strategic focus for Mozilla:

  • Decentralization
  • Digital Inclusion
  • Open Innovation
  • Privacy and Security
  • Web Literacy
  • Youth Zone

MozFest isn’t heavily marketed to the HE sector, and so I suspect a number of colleagues aren’t aware of it. However this event is the one that breaks me out of my Higher Education bubble and into thinking about open and the impact of the web in the broadest sense. I leave fired up and excited having learned completely new things and collected practical ideas and information that I can I contribute back into my own institution.

MozFest is also the most diverse event that I attend. Participants come from across the world and can be all ages and all languages. Although the event is conducted in English, participants are actively encouraged to flag other languages that they speak via stickers on their badges or in their session descriptions. Travel to London is surely prohibitive for many still, but there is usually better representation from the global south at this event than at any other I go to.

MozFest 17 slogan. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0

Each year there’s a slightly different emphasis, and this year the overall theme was about what makes a healthy internet.

Today, the concept of Internet health reaches far beyond the realm of open source code: it’s linked to civil liberties and public policy, free expression and inclusion. Discussions about the state of the web include engineers, but now also teachers, lawmakers, community organizers and artists.

(Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation)

It was noticeable this year that there were more sessions on data sovereignty and combatting fake news. Online privacy and web literacy have been a strong focus of MozFest since the start, but it felt like this year there was a bit of an inflection point – the events of the past 12 months have brought these issues into sharp focus perhaps, making it clear that they are societal challenges and not niche issues. Developing information literacy skills has been a core part of learning in an Higher Education environment and digital literacy is probably in all our graduate attributes in some form or another. These talks and sessions brought into sharp relief how much more quickly we need to move on developing these skills within our institutions, particularly as we consider new areas of activity such as learning analytics.

MozFest 17 FakeNews Poster. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0

Whilst there was no dedicated digital arts and culture track this year, there was still strong representation through 5 digital artists in residence for the weekend, and a whole programme of hands-on activities in the Youth Zone (not just for kids!).

There is so much choice in terms of sessions that it can be overwhelming, so on Saturday after an excellent first session crowd-sourcing ideas for pathways and career tracks into civic technology, I spent a couple of hours exploring each of the spaces. I picked up a copy of the Mozilla Internet Health Report and had an interesting conversation about how one goes about trying to measure such a thing and the feedback that they are using to develop the next iteration of it.

I also picked up a Data Detox kit developed by the Tactical Technology Collective at a Data Detox Bar (part of the larger “The Glass Room” project – a series of interactive exhibits that pose questions about our relationships with technology). The kit is an 8 day program, beautifully designed, printed onto cards and packaged in a small box. Chatting to the “barrista” at the Detox Bar he explained that the kit is designed to tap into our emotional response to technology products, in particular the sort of “unboxing” pleasure that comes with something like a brand new Apple product. Part of the problem they had identified was the inaccessibility of many existing online InfoSec and privacy resources both in terms of language and design. In this case they had found that a well designed physical resource was getting more traction with less technical audiences. They also had a great tips sheet outlining how to run Data Detox sessions in libraries, based on some experience within the Swedish public library system.

I visited the Meme Lab (exploring how memes are made and a little about the relationship of memes to social movements) and the Humans of the Internet podcast lounge and then it was pretty much time to run my own session “Wikipedia Games” along with Alice White, the Wikimedian in Residence from the Wellcome Library.

Saturday was rounded off with a Virtually Connecting session featuring Josie Fraser, along with ALT’s very own Maren Deepwell and Martin Hawksey – both themselves fresh from running a session on professional development for learning technologists.

Sunday started (for me) with a series of short talks by Audrey Tang, Emily May and Nighat Dad covering topics around using technology for civic engagement, practical tips for combating online harassment, and a sobering reminder that access to the web is not available without consequence for everyone.

My next session choice was NefertitiBot – exploring the possibilities for museum artefacts to curate themselves via chatbots, rather than being constrained to the interpretation given to them by museum curators. We had a lively discussion about the extent to which bots could break free of being scripted and the potential for them to develop in ways that we might not like. With an increasing interest in chatbots in Higher Education in student support roles it was a useful and practical discussion and left me wondering about the extent to which we need to ‘perfect’ such bots versus be open about exactly what they are.

The final speakers session that I went to on Sunday was opened by Gillian Crampton Smith who talked about the emotional elements of technology design and where artists fit into the technology development process. It reminded me again of the Data Detox conversation the day before. She was followed by Sarah Jeong and Emily Gorcenski in conversation with each other talking about fake news and fake data. It served to remind me once again of how vital events like this are, where not only are the issues discussed, but solutions are crowd-sourced, discussed and hacked out across various sessions.

MozFest Data Poster. Photo by @ammienoot CC-BY 4.0




Professional Learning Opportunities with the Inclusion and Equalities team at Education Scotland⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Solution Oriented Training 16th and 17th of January 2018

This training introduces participants to the solution-oriented approach. This is a strengths-based approach which, while acknowledging problems, focuses on future possibilities and solutions. The training aims to increase understanding and awareness of the approach and develop skills in working with individuals, groups as well as skills in running solution-oriented meetings.

This two day training will take place in Atlantic Quay, Glasgow and is aimed at strategic leaders in local authorities and schools.

Restorative Approaches – National Training Days 31st January and 1st February (Edinburgh) and  14th and 15th February (Glasgow)

Many people may believe that children and young people must be punished when they misbehave. This type of response can be ineffective, dangerous, breed resentment and make situations worse as a child or young person can be resentful of punishment rather than reflective of their actions.  Children and young people require the opportunity to hear about and face up to the harm and distress they have caused others.

Restorative approaches are built on values which separate the person from the behaviour. They promote accountability and seek to repair any harm caused in a situation.

Schools may use restorative approaches as part of a planned response to relationship and/or discipline difficulties. This is a more effective response than traditional punishments. Restorative approaches can change the emotional atmosphere in a school and lead to more positive relationships between pupils and between pupils and staff.

These two day national training events are open to all staff and managers working in schools who have an interest in improving the ethos and culture in their school or setting.

Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come basis.

Training in Nurturing Approaches

We have recently completed our secondary nurturing approaches training in Edinburgh which was very well received and we hope to continue to work with all those who attended to support implementation of this approach. The Recall session for this training will be on Friday the 26th of January in Victoria Quay from 1 pm to 3.45 pm.  This will only be opened to those who attended the secondary nurturing approaches training.

On the 26th of January from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm we will be offering another opportunity to attend the Applying Nurture as a whole school approach training.  This is opened to strategic leads at local authority or school level who are implementing nurturing approaches and would like further information on this self-evaluation framework.

The Primary Nurturing Approaches 4 day training will be delivered in Glasgow on the 1st and 2nd and 27th and 28th of February.  This again is more appropriate for strategic leads at local authority and school level.  There are limited spaces remaining for this training.

Further primary nurturing approaches training and secondary nurturing approaches training is likely to be focused on supporting Regional Improvement Collaboratives where this is a priority.

If you are interested in booking a place on one of the above courses please email Hazel Gore at specifying the course you wish to attend.

Finding Purpose with Girl Geeks⤴

from @

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I promised last night at the Girl Geek Scotland event that I would write up a blog post about the workshop that I ran, so here it is.

I’ve been volunteering with Girl Geek Scotland’s Mentoring strand of activities during 2017 and last night was my turn to stand up and run the event. As well as pulling the overall event together (which is made much less daunting by working with a bunch of seriously competent and kick-ass women) this time 3 of us came forward to run the regular break-out workshops too.

You can read more about the session itself here, including details of the other 2 workshops run by Morna Simpson and Gail Logan (click View Details as the event has now ended).

My workshop was framed around being clear about your purpose and drew on experiences I’ve had in my own leadership development and in research I’ve read. These are the notes I wrote for my pitch:

Leadership roles, particularly senior leadership roles involve tough decisions. There’s a lot been written about likeability versus capability – and I think we can look at last year’s US Elections and Hilary Clinton for a good example of where that debate can go at it’s very worst.

Likeability is important – but investing lots of time in thinking about how others see us can also be emotionally and mentally exhausting.

A more productive route, research suggests, is to focus on being clear about our purpose. If we know our strengths and are playing to them we will be more effective, and probably happier too.

In my session we’re going to work through the steps you can take to develop your own personal purpose statement, and then how you can align your work goals to that. It’s going to be a fast, practical, hands-on session. I’m going to make you read some research to get started, then I’m going to make you talk to each other, and do some writing and a bit of sharing back if you’re okay with that. To keep it equitable and fair, I have personal purpose statements from each of the workshop leaders to share with you!

You probably won’t get a polished end product out of it, but you will break the back of it, get some peer feedback, and leave with something you can refine. You’ll also leave with a process that you can repeat in the future.

Being clear about your purpose – your super-power as a leader – is a critical skill, and so is having the tools you need to re-calibrate it every few years.

It was tough to pack this into an hour, but I think most participants managed to make a good start and took something away that they could continue to work on. I really enjoyed running the session and the quick feedback poll we did suggested that others found it useful. I also had the added delight of knowing at least one person in the group already. I also had a good conversation with another participant after the session about making something around goal setting a regular feature each year – feedback that I’ve shared back into the Mentoring volunteers group already.

Getting data from wikidata into WordPress custom taxonomy⤴

from @ Sharing and learning

I created a custom taxonomy to use as an index of people mentioned. I wanted it to work nicely as linked data, and so wanted each term in it to refer to the wikidata identifier for the person mentioned. Then I thought, why not get the data for the terms from wikidata?

Brief details

Lots of tutorials on how to set up a custom taxonomy with with custom metadata fields. I worked from this one from smashingmagazine, to get a taxonomy call people, with a custom field for the wikidata id.

Once the wikidata is entered, this code will fetch & parse the data (it’s a work in progress as I add more fields)

function omni_get_wikidata($wd_id) {
    print('getting wikidata<br />');
    if ('' !== trim( $wd_id) ) {
	    $wd_api_uri = ''.$wd_id.'.json';
    	$json = file_get_contents( $wd_api_uri );
    	$obj = json_decode($json);
    	return $obj;
    } else {
    	return false;

function get_wikidata_value($claim, $datatype) {
	if ( isset( $claim->mainsnak->datavalue->value->$datatype ) ) {
		return $claim->mainsnak->datavalue->value->$datatype;
	} else {
		return false;

function omni_get_people_wikidata($term) {
	$term_id = $term->term_id;
    $wd_id = get_term_meta( $term_id, 'wd_id', true );
   	$args = array();
   	$wikidata = omni_get_wikidata($wd_id);
   	if ( $wikidata ) {
    	$wd_name = $wikidata->entities->$wd_id->labels->en->value;
    	$wd_description = $wikidata->entities->$wd_id->descriptions->en->value;
    	$claims = $wikidata->entities->$wd_id->claims;
   		$type = get_wikidata_value($claims->P31[0], 'id');
   		if ( 'Q5' === $type ) {
			if ( isset ($claims->P569[0] ) ) {
				$wd_birth_date = get_wikidata_value($claims->P569[0], 'time');
				print( $wd_birth_date.'<br/>' );
   		} else {
	   		echo(' Warning: that wikidata is not for a human, check the ID. ');
	   		echo(' <br /> ');
    	$args['description'] = $wd_description;
    	$args['name'] = $wd_name;
		print_r( $args );print('<br />');
    	update_term_meta( $term_id, 'wd_name', $wd_name );
    	update_term_meta( $term_id, 'wd_description', $wd_description );
    	wp_update_term( $term_id, 'people', $args );
   	} else {
   		echo(' Warning: no wikidata for you, check the Wikidata ID. ');
add_action( 'people_pre_edit_form', 'omni_get_people_wikidata' );

(Note: don’t add this to edited_people hook unless you want along wait while causes itself to be called every time it is called…)

That on its own wasn’t enough. While the name and description of the term were being updated, the values for them displayed in the edit form weren’t updated until the page was refreshed. (Figuring out that it was mostly working took a while.) A bit of javascript inserted into the edit form fixed this:

function omni_taxonomies_edit_fields( $term, $taxonomy ) {
    $wd_id = get_term_meta( $term->term_id, 'wd_id', true );
    $wd_name = get_term_meta( $term->term_id, 'wd_name', true ); 
    $wd_description = get_term_meta( $term->term_id, 'wd_description', true ); 
//JavaScript required so that name and description fields are updated 
	  var f = document.getElementById("edittag");
	  var n = document.getElementById("name");
  	  var d = document.getElementById("description");
  	  function updateFields() {
  		n.value = "<?php echo($wd_name) ?>";
  		d.innerHTML = "<?php echo($wd_description) ?>";

    <tr class="form-field term-group-wrap">
        <th scope="row">
            <label for="wd_id"><?php _e( 'Wikidata ID', 'omniana' ); ?></label>
            <input type="text" id="wd_id"  name="wd_id" value="<?php echo $wd_id; ?>" />
add_action( 'people_edit_form_fields', 'omni_taxonomies_edit_fields', 10, 2 );


The post Getting data from wikidata into WordPress custom taxonomy appeared first on Sharing and learning.

Glow Blogs Summer Release 2018 Survey⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Attention all Glow Blog users! We are seeking feedback on what new functionality you would like to see added to Glow Blogs. A short survey has been created to collect your feedback and is available here –

The next release of Glow Blogs is scheduled for summer 2018. In order for all responses to be considered in time for the release, the deadline for survey responses is the 30th November. All responses received after this date will be collected for consideration for future releases of Glow Blogs.

We are looking to gather as much feedback from our Glow users as possible so please complete the form and let us hear your ideas. Why not share this survey with your friends and colleagues to make Glow Blogs even better!

School Leadership: time to smell the roses?⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

It is some time since I wrote anything on this blog directly about school leadership. Having left my post as a school leader some seven months ago, I think I have had some time to reflect more on leadership in schools from a different perspective. I have still been writing and thinking about schools since I stepped down for a notional retirement. I say 'notional' because it would seem that I am just as busy and engaged as I was before, but now it is 'my busy' not someone else's. Anyway, I have also kept in touch with lots of former colleagues and school leaders, either directly, face-to-face or virtually, through platforms like Twitter. During this engagement and over the time, I have been able to observe and think about school leadership a bit further, having the time and the headspace to do so.

There is no doubt that school leadership remains a challenging role for anyone to undertake, and I have nothing but admiration for anyone who steps up and into the role. There is equally no doubt that the performance and culture of any school is still directly affected most, positively or negatively, by the  person who has the formal responsibility of leading it. This can lead to schools, and their staff, achieving fabulous things on a daily basis for all the learners and families that form the learning community. However, it can also lead to some schools suffering from a different type of leadership and experience, that leads to a lot of negative experiences for staff, learners and families.

I have been considering lately why this might happen?

It may be that the wrong person was appointed in the first place. Given all the application processes and interviews candidates have, for prospective headteacher roles, one would think the chances of appointing the wrong person for a particular post should be minimised. Of course, this depends very much on the right job description and person specification being drawn up in the first place, then appointment panels having the right sort of skills and experience to be able to match interviewees with what they are supposed to be looking for. Interview outcomes are still very subjective, despite attempts to standardise this. A lot of the interview processes I hear off seem more designed to show how clever the architects of these are, rather than finding the right person for the post! You can already see where this process might start to go awry. Add to this is the fact that there are definitely issues around attracting enough candidates, of the necessary calibre, for school leadership posts, leading to interview panels left with a very small pool to select from. Stories of one candidate, or fewer, applying for leadership roles, and of multiple searches and advertisements for these, are quite common in Scotland and I am sure elsewhere. At least in Scotland we are taking positive steps to address some of these issues through the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL).

If you have a faulty appointment process and fewer applications from which to select, then one can see how the job of finding the right leader, and best fit, for schools could go wrong at the very start. The longer the process of appointing a new school leader drags on, the more likely an eventually hurried or desperate appointment is made, ignoring any concerns about the 'successful' candidate, in that desperation to at least appoint someone. Then, in the case of local authority employers, they can move on to the next post to be filled. I would also suggest that the growth of Academies and Multi-Academy Trusts in England, and the quite obscene salaries now been offered for leadership of these, are adding another factor that might encourage some to apply for school leader positions with the completely wrong motivations towards school leadership.

However, lets assume the appointment process has gone reasonably well, and a suitable candidate has been appointed. Things can still go wrong. I am sure most headteachers or school leaders start a new role with a clear vision of what they would like to achieve, and the difference they want to make for the learners in the establishment they will lead. They will have shared this vision at interview, and may have refined it further as they get to know the school and staff better. There is definitely a 'honeymoon' period for most new school leaders, whilst they get to know and understand their new role and context, and vice versa. If you are employed by the local authority, they may leave you alone for a period of time, the may even provide support through mentoring or coaching, but even they seem to understand you have a lot to do as you get to know your new school deeply, then begin the process of developing it further.

As a new headteacher, you may have  a plan for your actions in the first week, month, three months, six months, and so on. Generally, you will be allowed to get on with this as you grow into the leadership of your new establishment.

If everyone who takes on school leadership is clear about their vision, their values, principles and aims, which are clear and positive in nature, what happens to deflect them from these so that their leadership mutates into something more negative? I have seen this happen many times, and have spoken to headteachers who were extremely positive and enthusiastic about all they hoped to achieve at the outset of their appointment, then have met them again a few years down the line to discover their view and their attitudes have changed. Some recognise this themselves, others don't. So, what happens to bring about such change?

Plenty of people in the system would say that a re-shaping of school-leader vision and approach is inevitable as they become more aware of the challenges and responsibilities of the post. They become more politically aware and begin to better understand their responsibilities as corporate and sytem leaders. To a certain extent this is true. I was always fond of saying if you were the same teacher as you were twelve months ago, you have wasted a year. The same applies to school leaders. I would expect any school leader worth their salt to be continually developing their understanding and practice throughout their career. With more experience often comes more responsibility and influence, school leaders need to embrace this. However, this is not the sort of professional growth and change I am talking about.

I am speaking of school leaders who have changed negatively because of the pressures of the role, or the demands of the system. Many of these leaders became leaders because they were excellent teachers and they understood learning and teaching deeply. However, they seem to forget all of this when they become school leaders, as the focus of their activity shifts from learning and teaching to systems, structures, accountability measures and meeting the demands of employers or governments. How often have you experienced school leaders who have forgotten, or decide to take no notice of, the daily demands on class teachers, as they seek to impose the latest directive from above them in the hierarchy? Equally, there are school leaders who have moved further up the hierarchical chain of command themselves, and have completely lost sight of the demands placed on school leaders on a daily basis, or how they coped with this when they were a leader in school. Either way, the effects are detrimental to their leadership and schools.

Having been a school leader for eighteen years, I think I have a good understanding of the competing demands for the time and attention of  leaders. I acknowledge that we have roles and responsibilities beyond the immediate confines of our school, and that we need to balance these against everything else expected of us. What I do feel is important is that we never lose sight of why we wanted to be teachers, then school leaders, in the first place. We must always ground our actions with our values and vision for education, and should continue to do so throughout our careers. Yes, we have to develop and improve our practice and understandings of all the aspects that fall under our remit, part of which is learning to compromise at times and pick the fights we are prepared to have. However, if we have our learners and families front and centre of our thoughts and actions at all times, then we are more likely to take the right actions for the right reasons. It is when we become focused on the demands of the system and structures that we can sometime loose our moral and professional compass.

I have met too many headteachers during my career, and since I left, who say things like 'I am just keeping my head down' or 'I am working from one holiday to the next'. When such attitudes and behaviours become normalised it points to something being drastically wrong in the system, and the portents for the future are not good. I would ask all school leaders to be aware of their behaviours and attitudes, and the subtle changes that can happen over time, and for our system leaders to think carefully about how they might be contributing to the destabilisation of the very system the purport to support.

Any system is made up of people, otherwise it is just a programme. Therefore, I believe it is important that all the people help to shape it, by challenging what needs to be challenged, and supporting everything that makes us better. It is too easy to slip into something that is detrimental for us all, but especially our learners and families.

Time to smell the roses of the system, methinks!

In my next post, I will look at some of the ways you can protect your leadership  from the negative changes identified here.