Tag Archives: Brain-fluff

Passivity⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I’m feeling a bit ranty this morning. Crazy Scottish lady is rising a little close to the surface.

I’ve been reading articles (old and new) and watching videos (old and new) this week which are replaying familiar EdTech tropes and I’m sick of it. I’m not going to quote anything directly here because I have no interest in fighting with or offending anyone. Rather I’m going to rant and people can take offence broadly. Sorry in advance. I love you all.

A summary of what is annoying me goes a bit like this:

VLEs are bad because: vendors, surveillance, no access after courses finish, no access for academics to each other’s work. It’s a closed system. It’s a waste of student time. If only we could all just use WordPress instead (insert other variants on the theme of open technologies).

“IT” run our stuff and they don’t understand. Snake oil salesmen charm our senior management. If only they knew what we know.

Learning analytics are bad, evil. Algorithms, surveillance, surveillance capitalism.

Repeat the above for AI and automation, add in something about loss of teacher agency too.

Fundamentally I am getting cross because whilst I see genuine issues and *genuine* concern, I also think that I see a quite a lot of lack of agency and responsibility. Not across the board, but enough to piss* me off.

I completely get that some of what I’m reading is from people who have little agency or traction in their particular EdTech setting. Some of what I want to rant about requires an amount of privilege to action. That I can even have a wee rant on my blog is privilege, however: Some of the people I’ve been reading are quite senior in their organisations or have significant platforms; there is always *something* that can be done, no matter how small.

Don’t just complain that this is the nature of the IT / the approach of senior management / the power of big vendors (don’t not complain though!). Things are not perfect by a country mile, but a whole lot of this is about local institutional choices and culture, and until that changes, institutions are going to keep investing in and implementing technologies in the same low denominator, low trust, uncritical way.

I don’t have all the answers. I’m
not sure anyone does, but I can tell you what I believe. If you want to resist, you can do worse than to start occupying territory. Institutions are fundamentally collections of people, not abstract concepts. Culture is not immutable.

Get to know your IT colleagues. They are on the same below-industry-salary as you because mostly they give a damn about the same things as you. Talk about the “virtual team” who make our EdTech activities doable. Include them where you can in your work, ask to be included in theirs. Prove that together you can do more interesting things. Demonstrate the value of working closely to the institution by talking about the great things you achieve together. Give thanks privately and publicly.

Remember that at the point you advocate technological solutions (WordPress etc) you are “IT” too. This learning technologist / IT bullshit* is a false divide. If there are big divisions between your job functions this is organisational culture in your institution, or in your head.

Find out who your data protection or legal people are. Learn from them. Implement their best practices in whatever small way you can. Permission to use data, record keeping, contractual negotiations, bringing them into conversations with suppliers, consent forms. Arm yourself with whatever weapons you can find in this area. Give thanks privately and publicly.

Do the same for data architects. If roles like data stewards, data owners etc are defined in your organisation then try make sure someone with EdTech awareness is the owner for things like VLE activity data. It might even be something you need to do. Give thanks privately and publicly.

Get to know your procurement people. Learn about what they do. Understand better how to use procurement processes to your advantage. Once the ink is dry on a contract it’s all over. Give thanks privately and publicly.

There’s probably lots more to add here, the main point is start always by holding your own internal setup and choices to account, and being as active a participant in those processes as you can, because that’s something you can and should influence. If our field is as important, critical and vital as we think it is, then be prepared to get into the trenches.

This is dirty, dull work. There are no prizes, no conference presentations, no sexy innovation projects in this space. But it has integrity.

Also do this work with grace. Do it without aggression, do it respectfully even when you deeply disagree. If you are genuinely motivated by improvement then don’t do this work by being an asshole* to people. Even EdTech vendors.

This is a rant btw. So it doesn’t have coherence, you will be able to pick holes in it, I probably have contradicted myself. I don’t care. It’s not important. What is important is that we all do something that is doable in our context to move forwards. There is no magic bullet here. Just hard work. Get on with it. And be proud of it too.

* don’t be a potty mouth like me either.

After the Wiki rush⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last Friday I led a Lost Literary Edinburgh Wikipedia editathon as part of the Being Human Festival. It focused on forgotten women authors that have been surfaced again through the enormous text mining activity that underpins the LitLong project.

“…might there be other voices to hear in the chorus? Other, less familiar stories? By letting the algorithms do the reading, we’ve tried to set that familiar narrative of Edinburgh’s literary history in the less familiar context of hundreds of other works.” (About Litlong)

Over the course of the day we had 20 participants either physically in the room, or contributing remotely (thanks @WikiWomeninRed).

Quite a few of the participants left wanting to come back and do one of our “Train the Trainer” sessions so that they can learn to run their own events. Hopefully they got a good sense of what running a training session needs to cover having seen myself and Sara Thomas deliver sessions. Ewan McAndrew has also made some great open resources available online at the TES website to support running Wikipedia training sessions and of course there’s our Wiki Basics SPLOT (which incidentally seemed to work very well – largest number of users pre-registered for an editathon ever!).

What may be less visible is some of the other work that goes on around an editathon to make it successful. So here’s a handy list:

In advance:

  1. Research. You need a list of articles to create or improve in advance of the event. Muireann Crowley did a brilliant job of pulling this information together for this editathon. This is foundational stuff – an editathon will lack focus without this.
  2. Swag. Stickers, t-shirts, bags, pens, badges, Wikipedia handouts. The infamous “Citation Needed” keyrings. A little something to take away or use as prizes.
  3. Snacks. Editing is lots of research and thinking. Tea, coffee, sweet things, fruit all keep the energy levels up.
  4. Advertising: Set up a wiki events page, whatever booking system you plan to use, and knock yourself out on social media. Use some of the research info to highlight things people could focus on in the editathon to try catch the imagination.

On the day:

  1. Tagging: Get users to write on a board which articles they are working on. As articles are created, add a template to their Talk pages to identify them as being created as part of this event. Also make sure all new user accounts created have included a template on the User page identifying them as new accounts.

    Screenshot of Litlong editathon template. No rights reserved by me.
  2. Helping: Be familiar with the main sources of information in advance – you are probably going to have to help editors find information on the day, and also answer queries about the best way to reference or cite information. If you have a friendly Librarian, get them involved in editathons if you can, because this is their super-power. You will also need to help move pages from Draft or Sandbox into the main (Article) space for new users.

After the event:

  1. Impact: Use a tool like the Outreach Dashboard to track all the pages edited and improved and do your stats to quantify the impact of the event. You may have your own reporting requirements, but it’s always good to update the Wiki events page to note the outcomes of the event.
  2. Thanking: Make up a template thanking participants for taking part and add it to the Talk page for their User profile. Use it to highlight how many pages were edited/improved/new resources added etc. Include follow on actions, sources of more information, mailing lists, related projects. Whatever you think will help participants to continue outside the editathon activity. Thank them again. Pictures of virtual snacks can be a nice idea.
  3. Aftercare: Monitor the articles created for a week or so afterwards, particularly checking the Talk page and watching for any suggestions of deletion / significant improvement required. Be prepared to put up the Wikipedia Bat Signal if that happens (aka yell for help on Twitter).

Running editathons isn’t just about generating content, it’s about building open knowledge community and capacity. Follow up is important.

My follow up after the event is to take Ewan’s template slides and adapt them for myself. They worked pretty well for me, but I need to put a little of my own voice (and bad puns) into them. I may well create an online version rather than Powerpoint slides because I’m really enjoying the SPLOTPoint format for this kind of resource. I’m reliving my late 1990s technical authoring dreams all over again….

After the Wiki rush⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last Friday I led a Lost Literary Edinburgh Wikipedia editathon as part of the Being Human Festival. It focused on forgotten women authors that have been surfaced again through the enormous text mining activity that underpins the LitLong project.

“…might there be other voices to hear in the chorus? Other, less familiar stories? By letting the algorithms do the reading, we’ve tried to set that familiar narrative of Edinburgh’s literary history in the less familiar context of hundreds of other works.” (About Litlong)

Over the course of the day we had 20 participants either physically in the room, or contributing remotely (thanks @WikiWomeninRed).

Quite a few of the participants left wanting to come back and do one of our “Train the Trainer” sessions so that they can learn to run their own events. Hopefully they got a good sense of what running a training session needs to cover having seen myself and Sara Thomas deliver sessions. Ewan McAndrew has also made some great open resources available online at the TES website to support running Wikipedia training sessions and of course there’s our Wiki Basics SPLOT (which incidentally seemed to work very well – largest number of users pre-registered for an editathon ever!).

What may be less visible is some of the other work that goes on around an editathon to make it successful. So here’s a handy list:

In advance:

  1. Research. You need a list of articles to create or improve in advance of the event. Muireann Crowley did a brilliant job of pulling this information together for this editathon. This is foundational stuff – an editathon will lack focus without this.
  2. Swag. Stickers, t-shirts, bags, pens, badges, Wikipedia handouts. The infamous “Citation Needed” keyrings. A little something to take away or use as prizes.
  3. Snacks. Editing is lots of research and thinking. Tea, coffee, sweet things, fruit all keep the energy levels up.
  4. Advertising: Set up a wiki events page, whatever booking system you plan to use, and knock yourself out on social media. Use some of the research info to highlight things people could focus on in the editathon to try catch the imagination.

On the day:

  1. Tagging: Get users to write on a board which articles they are working on. As articles are created, add a template to their Talk pages to identify them as being created as part of this event. Also make sure all new user accounts created have included a template on the User page identifying them as new accounts.

    Screenshot of Litlong editathon template. No rights reserved by me.
  2. Helping: Be familiar with the main sources of information in advance – you are probably going to have to help editors find information on the day, and also answer queries about the best way to reference or cite information. If you have a friendly Librarian, get them involved in editathons if you can, because this is their super-power. You will also need to help move pages from Draft or Sandbox into the main (Article) space for new users.

After the event:

  1. Impact: Use a tool like the Outreach Dashboard to track all the pages edited and improved and do your stats to quantify the impact of the event. You may have your own reporting requirements, but it’s always good to update the Wiki events page to note the outcomes of the event.
  2. Thanking: Make up a template thanking participants for taking part and add it to the Talk page for their User profile. Use it to highlight how many pages were edited/improved/new resources added etc. Include follow on actions, sources of more information, mailing lists, related projects. Whatever you think will help participants to continue outside the editathon activity. Thank them again. Pictures of virtual snacks can be a nice idea.
  3. Aftercare: Monitor the articles created for a week or so afterwards, particularly checking the Talk page and watching for any suggestions of deletion / significant improvement required. Be prepared to put up the Wikipedia Bat Signal if that happens (aka yell for help on Twitter).

Running editathons isn’t just about generating content, it’s about building open knowledge community and capacity. Follow up is important.

My follow up after the event is to take Ewan’s template slides and adapt them for myself. They worked pretty well for me, but I need to put a little of my own voice (and bad puns) into them. I may well create an online version rather than Powerpoint slides because I’m really enjoying the SPLOTPoint format for this kind of resource. I’m reliving my late 1990s technical authoring dreams all over again….

Open for all⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Another visit to my beloved Mansfield Traquair Centre this evening. 17 years on and it still takes my breath away. To have the responsibility and the stewardship of a place like this a privilege.

This evening was the Friends AGM. Formal business was blessedly succinct. A conversation between Susy Kirk and Elizabeth Cumming was delightful.

Chatting afterwards I confessed to a slight girl-crush at the moment for Dr Bendor Grosvenor.

What’s not to like about fighting for open access to the nation’s cultural heritage? The Chairman of our Board of Trustees (Dr Duncan Thomson) clearly agrees as he was one of the signatories to this letter in The Times.

This is a subject close to my own heart, and to friends in the room with me this evening. I’ve written about the Royal Hospital for Sick Children Mortuary Chapel murals before.* Many of us this evening remain concerned and worried for their future.

Fundamentally though, how do you raise awareness of the murals uncertain future when so few people know about them now?

One of the problems with public awareness is the location of the murals. They have remained largely inaccessible for over 100 years as they form an integral part of an incredibly intimate, private, and moving place. A mortuary chapel in a children’s hospital.

The most obvious way of making such a space more accessible, without being intrusive, is to make good quality images available online under open licenses. Until recently the only images that existed either belong to NHS Lothian (all rights reserved – mostly 35mm slides), or to Historic Environment Scotland (crown copyright – majority of images listed in Canmore date from 1982 and are not available online even to view).

I’m pleased to say that’s not the case any more. There are now 62 high quality images** of the murals, all available on Wikimedia Commons for immediate use under a CC-BY 4.0 license. Since initial upload they have already had their categorisation data enhanced and been linked up to Phoebe Traquair’s Wikidata profile by a keen editor (not me!).

I can already see the images appearing in Google image searches, and we know from other experiences that Wikimedia Commons is proving rich pickings for press articles.

My next steps are to complete the Wikipedia article I have been writing about the murals. Once that has been published the Google secret sauce will push it very swiftly to the top of the page rankings and the murals and their story will slowly start to become more open to all.

“What can be done, here and there, with moderate means and ordinary folk with such labour as they can spare […] open space amid the slums ” (Patrick Geddes)

 

* It’s worth briefly saying why these murals in particular are important and why they merit their Category A listing. They are the first mural scheme by Phoebe Anna Traquair. Traquair was a key figure in the Arts and Crafts movement in Scotland. She worked as an embroiderer, enamellist, book binder, illustrator and painter. She was the first important professional female artist in Scotland, and in recognition of this was the first female honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy. The murals are also the product of a commission by the Edinburgh Social Union, founded by Patrick Geddes. They are the sole survivor of around 20 commissions instigated by the ESU. In 1899 in a published interview, Traquair herself considered them to be her finest work.

** Honourable mention for several ladies is required here. Dr Sally Ann Huxtable of the National Museums of Scotland who recommended the superb Diane Holdsworth’s photographic skills; Diane for doing the work pro-bono; and Sorrel Cossens of NHS Lothian for facilitating access. As with Phoebe herself, women of determination can achieve great things.

Poetical escapades⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I made 2 visits to Little Sparta this year.

The first was on the most glorious summers day, blue skies, bird song and the landscape in hyper-sharp technicolour. Little Sparta is best described as a garden in attack, not a rural retreat. It is the definitive work of poet and conceptual artist Ian Hamilton Finlay and over 200 works are seated within the landscape, most of which involve complex interplays of words, form and environment.

IMG_0093

I found it quite overwhelming.

My second visit was in September, with some friends. The weather had turned, the day was more overcast and rain broke as we were leaving. I was mentally better prepared this time. We also had more time, more snacks, a better camera.

IMG_0205

To try to write anything about the relationship between the sublime and terror, in a landscape garden filled with poem-objects based on the words and symbols of the French Revolution and the Second World War would be a level of pretension that’s beyond me.

I also can’t attempt anything about the collaborative nature of most of the pieces. Hamilton Finlay conceived, but did not create most of these works and he was scrupulous about crediting his collaborators publicly.

I can’t begin to describe my response to pieces like this as a native of the part of Scotland where our decommissioned nuclear submarine fleet lies berthed, it’s half-life slowly ticking away.


(Nuclear Sail)

I remain overwhelmed.

The best I can attempt to do is to reflect upon one piece that I spent time with on my second visit that appealed to me on a more manageable level.

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“The horizontals representing the land, the verticals the sea” (Little Sparta: A Guide to the Garden of Ian Hamilton Finlay)

The nature of time at sea.
The need for time at sea.
Longitude.
A sundial that works neither on sea or land.
A sundial hidden under trees in a woodland glade.
A pole, but unclear whether it’s north or south.

Even the the suggestion of a fixed point on earth offers no clear perspective.

I remain overwhelmed, and not a little lost at sea.

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Japanese plate⤴

from @ ammienoot.com

Reading Time: 1 minute

A visit to an antiques fair yesterday prompted me to finish this thought…

IMG_9311.JPG

Japanese plate, 18th century. Called Imari-ware after the export port, but most likely made in kilns in Arita. Probably exported to Europe by a Dutch trading company in the 1700s, maybe before Chinese kilns came back into serious export production at the start of the Qing dynasty. A pretty standard object of it’s time and likely one of hundreds of thousands similar. A thing of vague origin and provenance. Now prized for it’s longevity and handmade aesthetic.

I love these objects, but I’m also very aware that the handmade artistry I so admire obfuscates the likely realities of it’s production.

IMG_9709.JPG

Another 18th century plate, this time Chinese. This sublime scholarly landscape (there are many tropes in this image) suggests a calm artistic hand, working in peace and with the luxury of time. The reality is likely very different. I am fetishising the labour inherent in these objects.

I need to remember that “making” is culturally specific and isn’t always cool.

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IMG_5508.JPG