Tag Archives: femedtech

Threads that connect us⤴

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At the end of last week I sent off my contributions for the #femedtechquilt project, and I’m not going to lie, it was hard to part with them.  As soon as Frances Bell raised the idea for this amazing project I knew that I wanted to make something out of Harris Tweed, a protected, handmade fabric that is only made in the Outer Hebrides where I’m from, and which is woven into the identity of both the islands and the islanders.  I decided to try and make a representation of the header image of this blog, not only because Open World is where I share my open practice, but also because that header image is my own picture of one of my favourite places in the whole world, Traigh na Berie beach in Uig, on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis.  I’ve visited this beach almost every year of my life since I was a small child, I did my higher geography project on the flora of the beach, my Masters dissertation was on the anthropomorphic landforms of the surrounding area, I worked on archaeological excavations there, and I use another picture of the beach as my twitter header.  I’ve also returned there frequently with my own daughter.  It’s a place that I have a deep attachment to, which has always inspired me, and still does.

I already had some beautiful left-over tweed from a length I bought to make curtains for our VW camper van, and I bought a bundle of off-cuts when I was home in Stornoway in the summer.  It wasn’t difficult to make a rough representation of the beach, as the colours of the tweed naturally echo the colours of the Hebridean landscape.  Sewing it was more of a challenge.  My mother taught me to sew when I was a kid, but it’s not something I do regularly, other than altering clothes.  In order to sew my square, I had to get my mother’s sewing machine, which I inherited when she passed away a few years ago, repaired and reconditioned.  Using it seemed fitting, as she was a talented seamstress who used that machine to make beautiful tweed coats and jackets for my sister and I when we were young.  I was really pleased with the way the square turned out, it looked much better than I could have hoped.  One thing that really surprised me when I was making the square was just how evocative the smell of pressed tweed is. It immediately took me right back to the islands and my childhood. For me, this square represents hope, inspiration, and the unbreakable threads that connect us to the people and places we hold dear.

[See image gallery at lornamcampbell.org] My other square was much more low effort, but it still has meaning to me. It’s a tracing of the Open Scotland logo drawn in fabric pen on cotton cut from one of my daughter’s old school shirts, and it represents the hope that one day all publicly funded educational resources in Scotland will be freely and openly available to all.   Open Scotland was an initiative that I founded, along with Joe Wilson, Sheila MacNeil, Phil Barker and others, back in 2013 and I’ve poured a lot of time energy and commitment into it, so I wanted to commemorate it in the quilt.  I also love the idea that my daughter has made a small contribution to the quilt too.

[See image gallery at lornamcampbell.org]

Reflections on @Femedtech Curation⤴

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Despite the overwhelming gloom of Brexit, I got the year off to a positive start by curating the @femedtech twitter account for the first two weeks of January. I’ve been involved with femedtech in one way or another since its inception, and I often tweet using the hashtag, but this was the first time I’d actually taken a curation slot and it was a real honour to be the first curator of the New Year.  An obvious theme for my curation would have been New Years Resolutions, but to be honest, I’ve never been much of a fan of those.  I know they work for some people, but all too often they tend to become an additional source of guilt and pressure, which doesn’t strike me as a very good way to start a new year.

So instead I decided to focus on a theme of Inspiration. I had intended to tweet one source of inspiration every day, but I wasn’t quite able to do that. I did manage to tweet from the femedtech account several times every day, though this was a bit of a challenge once I was back at work.  It wasn’t hard to choose my first inspiration, Audrey Watters phenomenal roundup of 100 Worst Ed -Tech Debacles of the Decade

Audrey has been described as the Cassandra of ed tech, and indeed she is, but she is also our Mnemosyne, our collective memory.  Audrey reminds us of all the failures that the ed tech industry would prefer us to forget, but if we don’t remember, how can we possibly learn from out mistakes and move forward?

Other inspirations I shared over the course of the fortnight were…

Annual reflection posts shared by friends and colleagues

ALT

Wiki Loves Monuments Winners

Hong Kong Protest Artists

The #femedtechquilt project

My final inspiration was a twitter thread about Archive Of Our Own, which provides a salutary contrast to Audrey’s 100 Ed Tech Debacles, and which I’m posting in its entirety below. 

It’s an Open Source repository initiative, launched in 2009, which has over 2 million registered users, and over 5 million items. In had 281 million page views in the first week of January this year alone, and 1.12 billion in the month of December. It’s *huge*.  The repository is not for profit, has no foundation funding, no sponsorship, no advertising revenue. It supports anonymity and pseudonimity and it doesn’t collect or sell user data. It also has a hybrid tagging system maintained entirely by volunteers, which is a thing of wonder.  It’s based on inclusive feminist design principals and built and maintained almost entirely by women, many of whom are young, queer and nonbinary. Last year it won a prestigious international award in recognition of its achievements.  Some of you will already know what I’m talking about, others might be wondering why they’ve never heard of this astonishing initiative before.  It is of course Archive of our Own, the archive of fanfiction managed by the Organization for Transformative Works. It’s an incredible achievement that’s been almost completely ignored by the majority of the tech sector for the last decade. I’ll leave you to decide why. I started my curation with @audreywatters sobering “100 Worst Ed Tech Debacles of the Decade”, and I can’t help reflecting on what AO3s has achieved in the same period.  At a time when concerns are growing about identity, surveillance, data ownership, & ethics, AO3 shows us that there is another way to be, that another kind of internet is possible. If ed tech opened its eyes, it could learn a lot from AO3 *and* the women who built & maintain it.  To learn more about this incredible collaborative achievement I can highly recommend this 2018 Open Repositories Conference keynote by Casey Fiesler, @cfiesler,  And you can follow @ao3org and @OTWnews here.  I’ve also written a blog post AO3 – The mad woman in the open source attic?

That thread got quite a response when it was retweeted by AO3, and I was very grateful when Frances also drew attention to it at the start of her own curation, however I’m still not sure that many ed tech people sat up and took notice. 

Although I use the #femedtech hashtag frequently I felt a much greater sense of responsibility when tweeting from the account. I was very careful about what I shared, reading every blog post, paper or news article from start to finish before tweeting it from the account. In the process I discovered several voices I would not have come across otherwise, including Marianne Thamm, whose powerful article In Defence of South African Hope, was brought to my attention by Laura Czerniewicz.

At the same time that I was curating @femedtech, I was also tweeting from my own personal account and curating the University of Edinburgh’s OER Service account, @openededinburgh.  All three accounts require different approaches and voices and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the boundaries sometimes got a little blurred on occasion. I didn’t consciously try to mute my own voice while curating @femedtech, but I was always very conscious of the accountability of my words.  So it was really interesting after the end of my curation when Maha opened a conversation about the diversity of curators voices on femedtech.

All in all I found curating @femedtech to be a really positive and empowering experience and a great way to start the New Year.  I’m already wondering when I can sign up for my next slot! 

LTHEchat: Extending Communities through Networks and Frameworks⤴

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Last week I took part in my first ever #LTHEChat.  I’ve been a huge admirer of LTHEChat for years now but I’ve never really been able to take part before, primarily because the timing doesn’t usually work for me. Occasionally I manage to catch the final questions and I often enjoy catching up with the tweets afterwards.  Last week’s chat was a little different though as it was led by the #Femedtech collective. A group of us (Sheila MacNeil, Frances Bell, Maren Deepwell, Laura Czerniewicz and I) worked together to frame the questions and provide some contextual information in this blog post #LTHEchat 155 with #femedtech. The theme of our chat was Extending Communities through Networks and Frameworks and these are the questions that we posed. 

Q1. Inequality affects all of us. Can you share examples of how inequality affects you in your professional practice?

Q2. Can you share any experiences/comments on gender inequality in your workplace? Here are results by role from ALT2018 survey.

Q3. Can you share other networks and/or people that have influenced your thinking/practice about inequality and how/why?

Q4. Various initiatives aim to address inequalities, led by institutions, unions and informal groups eg Athena SWAN (ASC), Race Equality (REC) and De-colononizing the Curriculum. Can you share comments/examples of how these have influenced you, or not?

Q5. What (small) changes have you made to your practice /would you recommend making in order to challenge inequalities?

Q6. In what edtech situations have you found a feminist framework useful?

Despite having helped to draft the questions I found it quite challenging to come up with rapid answers on the spot as the chat was moving so quickly and I was really enjoying reading other people’s respnses.  It was really great to see so many people so engaged with these topics.   You can see all the answers here #LTHEChat 155 Wakelet and I’ve copied my responses below for reflection. 

Q1. Inequality affects all of us. Can you share examples of how inequality affects you in your professional practice?

Simon Lancaster and Michael Seery picked up on this answer and expanded on this theme.

This answer also generated some discussion with Sheila and Su-Ming Khoo adding that they struggle to be seen and heard at times.

Q2. Can you share any experiences/comments on gender inequality in your workplace?

Q3. Can you share other networks and/or people that have influenced your thinking/practice about inequality and how/why?

Q4. Various initiatives aim to address inequalities, led by institutions, unions and informal groups eg Athena SWAN (ASC), Race Equality (REC) and De-colononizing the Curriculum. Can you share comments/examples of how these have influenced you, or not?

Q5. What (small) changes have you made to your practice /would you recommend making in order to challenge inequalities?

This simple suggestion generated a predictable response…

Unfortunately I had to duck out before we reached the final question so I’m going to take the opportunity to answer it now. 

Q6. In what edtech situations have you found a feminist framework useful?

I’ve found a feminist framework to be useful and important because it reminds me of my own privilege, reinforces the importance of inclusion and diversity, and provides a valuable support network at times of stress and uncertainty. And if I was to pick one very specific edtech situation where I found the support of a feminist network invaluable, it would be this one: Nudging the Door Open.

PressEDConf19: Reflections on the #femedtech Open Space⤴

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This PressED Conference presentation by Lorna M. Campbell, Frances Bell, Maren Deepwell and Sheila MacNeill reflected on our experience of using a WordPress SPLOT to support the #femedtech Open Space; an accessible & inclusive space to question dominant narratives of open & explore themes & conversations around openness, equality, diversity & inclusion in education.

Other Voices⤴

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This piece was originally posted on femedtech.net

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this post, tbh I’m not even sure what it is I’m trying to say, but I have a gut feeling that something needs to be said about the historiography of the open movement. Who is it that writes that history? Whose voices do we choose to amplify? Whose contributions do we remember and celebrate? Whose are forgotten and silenced? How do we acknowledge the contribution of individuals whose personal ethics and politics are often at odds with our open feminist practice? I’m talking about the saints and messiahs, the ideologues and homesteaders, the founding fathers and benevolent dictators. Men who have played an undeniable role in shaping concepts of openness in the domain of technology, but whose personal ethics may be wildly out of tune with many of the values we hold dear in the open education community; equality, diversity, inclusion, social justice.

As a sometime-historian, this is a dilemma, and I realise that even by writing this post I’m perpetuating the narrative that certain individuals are central to any understanding and history of open. I also realise that much more thoughtful writers than me have examined the history of openness and technology through a nuanced and critical lens. Audrey Watters has written extensively about our collective amnesia when it comes to the history of ed tech, and Mar Hicks has published widely about how women suffered the double ignominy of first being discarded by the UK computer industry and then being written out of its history all together.

Of course it’s possible acknowledge the importance of ideas, while purposefully “forgetting” where they came from, to retain the ideas, but write their authors out of history. But I’m really uneasy about separating the message from the messenger like this, because I think our beliefs are, to a greater or lesser degree, codified in our ideas. Our ideas are shaped by who we are, by our personal ethics and belief systems, by our view of the world around us.   If we purposefully forget where some of the ideas that have shaped our concepts of openness have come from and how they have been formed, we run the risk of sleep walking into a future where open education is for the few not the many, and where openness simply reinforces real world injustices and inequalities.

Following the lead of writers like Audrey and Mar we need to construct our own diverse and inclusive narrative and historiography of openness. We need to understand how people’s views are reflected in their work and we need to approach them critically and reflectively. We can’t write people out of history, and nor should we attempt to do so, but we can choose whose voices we amplify, whose we listen to, whose we hear. And we also need to learn to listen to the silences, to identify whose voices have been elided and excluded from narratives of open.   We need to be thoughtful and critical and open minded. We need to listen to other voices.


Some comments on this blog post from twitter:

Open Practice and Invisible Labour⤴

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This piece was originally posted on femedtech.net.

Something has been niggling at me for ages now. Something about digital labour and open education. I’ve been struggling to figure out how to frame this and what I’m trying to say, but Martin Weller’s thoughtful blog post on gatherer calories and invisible artefacts and Frances Bell’s subsequent comment gave me a starting point.

On the blogging calories front, there have been 6 guest OER19 posts so far, with 11 authors, all women

Catherine Cronin has eloquently reminded us that openness is a continually negotiated space, a constantly negotiated practice. We all experience openness differently, from different perspectives and different positions of privilege and discrimination. For some of us, open education is part of our job, for some it’s our research, our field of study, for some it’s a philosophy, an ethos, a personal commitment, for some it’s political. For many it’s all of the above.

I am privileged to be able to work in the area of open education and I also regard myself as an open education practitioner. My open practice is expressed in different ways; I read, I write, I comment, I blog, I participate in the femedtech network, I contribute to Wikipedia. It’s a practice that extends far beyond the bounds of my job and I have no complaint with that, quite the opposite in fact, I appreciate this blurring of my institutional role with my personal commitment to openness. That’s part of my privileged experience of openness. However the blurring of these boundaries also raises issues of digital labour.

We all have a deep personal commitment to our practice, to equity and openness, we all want to be good citizens of the open community, making a positive contribution to the commons, but when do the hours that we willingly devote to open education start to become unacknowledged, invisible digital labour? And as both Frances and Martin have pointed out, so often those that go the extra mile are those who are marginalised in some way, women, people of colour, early career researchers, those employed on precarious contracts. At what point does personal commitment become unwitting exploitation of labour?

These are problems that exist right across academia of course and open education is far from immune. How much does the open community rely on invisible digital labour? How far does it exclude those who are unable or unwilling to contribute their labour for free? And how do we mitigate this?

This thread from @HEreflections1 caught my attention on twitter last week:

One of the most pernicious aspects of stress, anxiety and burnout in education is that it often starts with individuals who work longer hours through enjoyment and an ethic of care. But at some point the organisation captures this as core work which has to be done.

As a result the enjoyment, the agency is lost and the stress begins to grow, leading eventually to hate and/or exhaustion in some cases. And it creeps up on people so that they blame themselves. This is the failure of the system, and any discussion of well-being or

expert groups focusing on happiness misses the point completely. What starts with dignity and vocation is smashed by performativity, by human as resource, and by an inability to see education as a community.

The point that particularly struck me was this:

What starts with dignity and vocation is smashed by performativity

And this was echoed by Laura Czerniewicz during this week’s OER19 preview webinar when she cautioned that

“Good intentions can undermine themselves with unintended consequences.”

When so much of our open practice is mediated through social networks there is sometimes a pressure to always be “on”, to always be commenting and contributing, to always to be seen to be doing. And it was this that prompted me to ask this question in our femedtech OER19 Open Space

If there a performative aspect to openness, what does it achieve and how?

I don’t have an answer to this question, and I’m not even sure I know where I’m going with this yet, but I do think we do need to be able to balance our agency as open practitioners and citizens of the global open education community with cognisance that it is our digital labour that sustains that community at both the personal and institutional level.

Introducing the femedtech Open Space⤴

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This blog post, by Frances Bell and I, originally appeared on the OER19 Conference website earlier this week and I’m cross-posting it here for International Women’s Day.  Frances and I first started discussing the idea of a femedtech Open Space when OER19 launched their call for proposals, and right from the off we knew we wanted to create a space that was as open and inclusive as possible, one that would allow those who were unable to attend the conference to participate, and one that would live on after it.  I was keen to explore the use of the TRU Writer SPLOT template, having previously had a lot of fun with other SPLOT templates through our work at the University of Edinburgh.  Out of these vague ideals, lots of late night e-mail and twitter conversations, and with the generous help of the people acknowledged below, the femedtech Open Space was born. Find out more about this initiative and please consider contributing your voice to our community. 

One of the real strengths of the OER Conferences is that in recent years they have increasingly facilitated an ongoing critical discourse that seeks to question and renegotiate what openness means to educators, teachers and learners within different contexts and perspectives.  This discourse ripples out from the physical and temporal boundaries of the conferences in the form of blogs posts, twitter conversations, research papers and discussions that enable us to trace the evolution of narratives of open from year to year.  OER17 The Politics of Open explored the challenges current political movements posed for Open Education and how they might further or hinder values of inclusivity, sharing, connectedness, equity, voice, agency, and openness. OER18 Open For All sparked discussions around power and marginality, inclusivity, diversity, identity, decolonisation and respect, and these themes will be explored further during OER19.  When Co-Chair Catherine Cronin introduced the themes of OER19 Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives at the end of OER18 in Bristol she stressed the imperative of moving beyond hero narratives and including marginalised voices.

These themes and values align strongly with those of femedtech, an open, inclusive and voluntary network of education technology practitioners informed by feminist principles.  femedtech is committed to creating inclusive online spaces where marginalised voices can speak and be heard. We acknowledge that this is an ongoing work in progress and a learning experience for all of us.

With this in mind, the femedtech network will be facilitating an inclusive Open Space session around OER19 to explore themes and conversations that have emerged from previous OER conferences around power, marginality, equality, diversity and inclusion.  We’ll be seeking to question dominant narratives of “open”, explore whose voices are included and whose are excluded from our open spaces and open practices, whose voices we choose to amplify and whose are silenced. 

Questions we hope to consider before, during and after the OER19 session include;

  • How do we balance privacy, openness and personal ethics?
  • How do we mediate our place in the open community, aspects of which might conflict with our personal ethics?
  • Is openness an act of conformance and / or defiance? And are there performative aspects to openness?
  • Do we feel pressured to be more open than we are comfortable with, or do our boundaries constrain us?
  • How do we manage sustainable spaces for exploring challenging issues around open?

In order to facilitate these discussions and to ensure the widest participation from the community, we are building an online femedtech Open Space, http://femedtech.net/, to gather stories, thoughts, reflections, responses and reactions, in the form of written content, images, audio, and media.  We welcome reflections on all aspects and experiences of openness from feminist perspectives and we encourage participants to raise their own questions and tell their own stories.  We acknowledge that our understanding of openness is highly personal and contextualised, and appreciate that there is no standard definition of openness to which we must comply.  In order to ensure that engaging with the #femedtech Open Space will be as widely accessible and inclusive as possible, participants are able to contribute to these conversations anonymously if they choose.   

Through the femedtech Open Space, we also aim to explore how we build our communities and practices here and elsewhere in the #femedtech network, and evaluate whether this is a sustainable model for growing the #femedtech community and network. Inspired by Dignazio & Klein (2018), we will develop our inclusive values statement iteratively in conjunction with activities on the Open Space and across the femedtech community. 

During the conference session, we will briefly introduce the Open Space for those who haven’t seen it before, and invite delegates and virtual participants to contribute and discuss their own ideas and reflections. We’ll summarise progress to date, invite feedback from session participants, outline future plans, and encourage participants to engage with others’ contributions after the conference. We also hope to encourage remote participation in the conference session.

We invite you to visit the femedtech Open Space to contribute your thoughts, reflections, comments, stories and ideas: http://femedtech.net/

Acknowledgements

This is an extra-institutional project taking place within the broad venture of the femedtech network. 

Thanks to Maren Deepwell and Sheila MacNeill who have contributed to shaping this initiative and will be helping to facilitate our OER19 conference session. 

The femedtech Open Space is generously hosted by Reclaim Hosting.  Reclaim Hosting provides educators and institutions with an easy way to offer their students domains and web hosting that they own and control.   The site uses the open source TRU Writer SPLOT WordPress theme developed by Alan Levine and available on Github. 

Our Code of Conduct is adapted with permission from  PressED Conference run by Natalie Lafferty and Pat Lockley. It incorporates elements from ukmedchat and FOAMed and is intended to be interpreted according to feminist principles.

2018 – It All Adds Up⤴

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A recap of 2018 in numbers…..

3 Keynotes

I was honoured to be invited to present 3 open education keynotes this at the beginning of this year at OER18, the FLOSS UK Spring Conference and CELT18 at NUI Galway.  Each keynote presented different challenges and learning opportunities, particularly FLOSS UK where I had to get up on stage and talk to an all male conference (there were only 3 women in the room including me) about structural discrimination in the open domain. It was pretty terrifying and I couldn’t have done it without the support of the #femedtech community.  Indeed the #femedtech network has been one of of my main influences and inspirations this year and it’s been a real joy to see if go from strength to strength.  My OER18 keynote also resulted in my most impactful tweet ever with 16,592 impressions to date.  Predictably it wasn’t about open eduction, it was about shoes :}

Bessie Watson

To coincide with the centenary of women’s suffrage on the 6th February, I wrote a Wikipedia article about Bessie Watson the 9 year old suffragette from Edinburgh.  Bessie’s story really seemed to capture the imagination and it was great to be able to bring her amazing life to wider notice.

11 Days of Industrial Action

The USS Pension strike had a huge impact on the whole Higher Education sector early in the year.  I was grateful that I was in a position to be able to support the strike, which I know was much more difficult for many, many colleagues across the sector employed on part time and precarious contracts.  Although the strike was nominally about a single issue it really did galvanise action around a whole host of deeply problematic issues including workloads, pay, conditions, equality, precarity and the commercialisation of higher education.  It was a real inspiration to see so many staff and students getting behind the strike and to be able to join the strike rally in George Square in Glasgow.

USS Strike Rally, George Square, Glasgow, CC BY, Lorna M.Campbell

Repeal the 8th Campaign

Once again I was hugely inspired by the people of Ireland and the way they came together to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, to recognise womens’ right to bodily autonomy and to amend abortion legislation.

AO3 an Inspiration in Open Source

In June I was delighted to listen online to Casey Fiesler’s amazing Open Repositories keynote Growing Their Own: Building an Archive and a Community for Fanfiction.  I’ve long been a fan of AO3 and have been endlessly frustrated, though not surprised, that this phenomenally successful open source initiative run on feminist principles isn’t more widely recognised and celebrated in the domain of open knowledge.  Casey’s brilliant keynote showed us how much we can potentially learn from AO3.

Wikimedia UK Partnership of the Year

In July the University of Edinburgh won Wikimedia UK’s Partnership of the Year Award for the 2nd time, for embedding Wikipedia in teaching and learning and for advocating for the role of Wikimedians in Residence in Higher Education.  None of this would be possible of course without the support of our own tireless Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew.

Left to right: Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, Open Education Resources; Lorna Campbell, OER Service; Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence; Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Director of Learnng, Teaching & Web Services. CC BY, University of Edinburgh.

50!

The other significant event in July was my 50th birthday :}  The day itself was lovely, lazy and lowkey and I spent most of the month catching up with friends from all over the world online and in person.  It was wonderful.  My partner bought me glider lessons as a gift but sadly I haven’t taken them yet as I haven’t been able to get to the air field since….

RIP Magic Bus

After 13 fabulous, and admittedly often frustrating, years our VW T25 camper van died a death, though not before taking us on one last holiday to Galloway and then home to the Hebrides where I finally got to visit Traigh Mheilein beach in North Harris.  Traigh Mheilein is often described as the most beautiful beach in the Hebrides and boy does it live up to that reputation.

Traigh Mheilein, Isle of Harris, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

ALTC 25th Anniversary

In September I was back in Manchester for the 25th ALT Annual Conference.  As an organisation that truly embodies its core principles of collaboration, participation, independence and openness, ALT continues to be an inspiration right across the sector and I’m honoured to be able to play a small role in supporting the organisation through the ALT Board and the ALTC social media team.  The 25th conference was one of the best yet and my own personal highlights included thought provoking keynotes by Maren Deepwell and Amber Thomas, Melissa Highton‘s unflinchingly honest talk about developing and implementing a lecture recording policy at the height of the USS strikes, and Catherine Cronin and Frances Bell’s personal feminist retrospective of learning technology.  Catherine and Frances’ session also inspired me to take a step back and reflect on my own career as a learning technologist.

Wiki Loves Monuments

September means Wiki Loves Monuments and this year the competition was even more fun than last year, which I wouldn’t have thought possible!  Huge thanks to everyone who participated and who made the competition so much fun, particularly our Wikimedians in Scotland – Ewan, Sara and Delphine.  I uploaded 383 pictures and came 15th overall in the UK.  Most of these pictures were taken during our summer holiday so I really have to thank my parter and daughter for their patience :}

Naval History

I haven’t been writing much Naval History recently and indeed I’ll be stepping down from the Society of Nautical Research‘s Publications & Membership next year after 5 years in the chair.  However my colleague Heather and I did publish one short paper in The Trafalgar Chronicle, the journal of The 1805 Club, which this year focused on the lives of women and families at sea and on shore.  Our paper “I shall be anxious to know…”: Lives of the Indefatigable women, shone a spotlight on the personal lives of some of the women we encountered while researching our book Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates.

Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile

In October I built my 1st ever SPLOT!  As part of the roll out of the University of Edinburgh’s new academic blogging service I was tasked with developing a digital skills training workshop on professional blogging and what better way to do that than by practicing what we preach and building a blog!  Anne-Marie Scott set up the SPLOT template for me and it was all plain sailing from there.  The Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile workshop has already proved to be very popular and all the resources have been shared under Creative Commons licence so they can be reused and adapted. It was great working with LTW colleagues on this project, particularly Karen Howie, who a good friend from early CETIS days and an awesome person to work with.

#QueerArt20

In late November Gary Needham, senior lecturer in film and media at the University of Liverpool tagged me in the #QueerArt20 twitter challenge; one image a day, any medium, no credits or titles.  I’ve loved seeing the images other people have been posting and it really was a challenge to choose just 20 of my own to post. It was also a timely opportunity to reconnect with queer culture.  And talking of which…

120 Beats Per Minute

I didn’t see many memorable films this year but one that I did see, and which will stay with me for a long time was 120 Beats Per Minute a deeply moving and viscerally powerful film about queer activism set against the background of the AIDS crisis in Paris in the late 1980’s /  early 1990’s.  It’s a beautiful, painful and necessary film and I would urge you all to see it.

CETIS – The End of an Era

At the beginning of December I stepped down as a partner of CETIS LLP ending a 17 year association with the organisation in all its various incarnations.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without CETIS and I wish all the partners the very best for the future

….and the lows

Brexit has cast a noxious cloud of reckless xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance over us all, with the only glimmers of hope being a 2nd referendum and the more distant promise of Indy Ref 2.

It’s been equally been horrifying to watch the rise of right wing populist movements across the world.  Fascism might have a new acceptable ALT-Right face but it’s still fucking fascism.

I was heart broken by the death of Scott Hutchison in May.  He was a phenomenally talented writer and his songs uniquely captured the struggles so many face with alienation, depression, isolation and addiction.  Scott faced all these demons in true Scottish style; with scathing wit, self-effacing humour and heartbreaking poetry.  Just a few months before his death, I was packed into the Academy with hundreds of others for 10th anniversary tour of The Midnight Organ Fight.  It’s a night I won’t forget.

Frightened Rabbit, Barrowlands Ballroom, December 2016. CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

On an open education note, one of my frustrations this year is that, due to lack of time and focussing efforts elsewhere,  I had to neglect Open Scotland.  I really hope I’ll have an opportunity to revitalise the initiative next year as we still have a lot of work to do to persuade the Scottish Government of the benefits of open education.  This might seem like a trivial exercise when Scot Gov is facing the catastrophic challenge of Brexit, but surely we need open and equitable access to education and educational resources now more than ever.

I think I’ve exhausted my numbers now and they all add up to quite a year (sorry, that’s terrible) it just remains for me to wish you all the very best for 2019.

Circuitous Routes – A personal reflection for #ALTC⤴

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I was really inspired by the blog posts Catherine Cronin and Frances Bell wrote reflecting on their personal feminist histories of working in education and technology in advance of their ALTC session A personal, feminist and critical retrospective of Learning (and) Technology, 1994-2018.  Catherine and Frances invited others to contribute their own personal reflection, so here’s mine. I confess this is rather hastily written, and I’m posting it at the eleventh hour, the night before the conference, but I hope it will add something to the debate.

Personal Reflection

My academic career started out not in technology but in archaeology, a subject I stumbled into accidentally and quickly fell in love with.  I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Glasgow in 1990 and was accepted to do a PhD on anthropomorphic landforms and newly emerging remote sensing technologies, but sadly I was unable to get funding so I had to turn down the place.  I was pretty devastated at the time, but decided to continue working in the field in the hope of securing funding at a later date.  I worked first as a field archaeologist and then as material sciences technician at the university.  Although I met and worked with a lot of amazing women in the field, the senior lecturers and professors who ran the research projects and excavations I worked on were invariably male.  There was only one female lecturer in the university at the time, the inimitable Dr Elizabeth Slater who went on to the University of Liverpool where she become one of the few female professors of archaeology in the UK.  I’m proud to say that last year I published a Wikipedia page for Professor Slater as part of Ada Lovelace Day.

It was through archaeology that I was introduced to critical theory, and in 1991 I was involved in setting up an interdisciplinary discussion group with like-minded postgrads and colleagues from architecture, archaeology, politics, literature, and philosophy.  It was through this group, that I came across French critical theory, and ideas I could directly relate to in the writings of Deleuze and Guaratti, Bataille, Blanchot and others.  It was these writings that took me out of the domain of archaeology and into the realms of gender and sexuality, a field that deeply fascinated me. In 1992 I presented a paper called Anteros and Intensity at the University of Warwick which was later published in Deleuze and the Transcendental Unconsciousness, a special issue of the Warwick Journal of Philosophy.  It was through Warwick that I also came across Sadie Plant’s book Zeros and Ones, which raised all sorts of questions in my mind regarding women and their relation the technology and the emergent web.

My relation to feminism at this time was more problematic. In 1994 I attended a women only feminist discussion forum at the National Bisexual Conference, where the particular brand of feminism being espoused appeared to me to be rigid and exclusionary (and indeed there had been bitter arguments about excluding trans women from the conference’s women only spaces.) During the discussion I commented that I didn’t necessarily identify with the type of Capital F feminist that some of the speakers advocated. In response, one participant said she could no longer be in the same room as someone like me and walked out.

The early 90s were also the era of the AIDS crisis, Section 28, the Criminal Justice Bill and Operation Spanner all of which had a profound impact on my personal identity and my understanding of homophobia and discrimination.

In 1994 I applied to do a part time staff PhD in sociology on perceptions of pornography and eroticism in the bisexual community but was turned down by the committee that governed technicians’ roles in the university on the grounds that the research wasn’t relevant to my job which, to be fair, it wasn’t.

At that stage I decided to cut my losses and leave archaeology while I still had some love for the subject. In 1996 I worked briefly for the first multimedia company in Scotland, set up by the Herald news group, building corporate websites and putting the newspaper online every morning. I can’t say I enjoyed the experience of working in the commercial media sector, but it did teach me valuable web skills.

In 1997 I came took those skills back into higher education when I got a job working on an early learning technology project, at the University of Strathclyde, funded by the Scottish Funding Council’s Use of the MANs Initiative.  I worked on a succession of innovative learning technology projects until 2002 when took up a post as Assistant Director of the Jisc Centre for Education Technology and Interoperability Standards (CETIS).  Still based in Strathclyde, I worked for CETIS for 13 years, representing UK F/HE on various international standard bodies and supporting a wide range of national learning technology development programmes. Most of my work was around technology and standards for the management and dissemination of educational resources. In 2009 I began working with Jisc to scope a new HEFCE pilot programme which went on to become UKOER, a programme I helped to support for four years.  It was UKOER that first introduced me to the concepts of open education and OER, which I now have a deep personal commitment to.

For most of my career as a learning technologist I was employed on precarious short-term contracts and securing funding to keep both myself, and the colleagues I line managed, in employment was a continuous struggle.  In 2006, still employed on rolling fixed term contracts I took time out to have my daughter and had to fight the university tooth and nail to secure maternity leave.

Between 2013 and 2015 as a result of widespread funding cuts across the UK education sector I was made compulsorily redundant.  This was a bruising experience made all the more difficult by the fact that my childcare responsibilities limited the jobs I was able to apply for and my ability to travel and network. I’ve experienced first-hand how precarity, redundancy and lack of adequate child care takes a disproportionate toll on women working in higher education and I am more than willing to take industrial action to fight for better conditions for all those working in the sector.

It was during this difficult transitional period that I also became more committed to open education and founded the Open Scotland initiative.  I was able to engage with a broad international community of open education practitioners online and build a new independent professional identity.   By various circuitous routes it was my work in open education that brought me to the University of Edinburgh.  After working briefly with EDINA, I moved to Learning Teaching and Web Services where I worked as OER Liaison and co-chaired the OER16 conference with LTW’s inspirational director Melissa Highton. I now help to manage the university’s OER Service, providing advice and guidance to staff and students on the creation and use of OER.

It’s almost impossible to work in open education without becoming politically engaged and over the years I’ve found my professional commitments and my personal politics and ethics have increasingly converged.  I’ve written and spoken a number of times about why my commitment to open education is so important to me and why I believe that open education has to be founded on equality and inclusivity and why we have to fight to remove systemic barriers and structural inequalities to enable everyone to participate in education equitably, and on their own terms.

My engagement with ALT has fluctuated throughout the years that I’ve worked as a learning technologist.  I first presented at the ALT Conference in Manchester in 2000, and have attended numerous conferences since then. For a number of reasons, my engagement with ALT waned and I stopped attending the conference between 2006 and 2011. Although I wasn’t able to attend the conference in 2014, it was meeting ALT’s new CEO Maren Deepwell, and listening to Catherine Cronin and Audrey Waters keynotes online, that reengaged me with the conference and I was honoured when ALT invited me to joint their social media team to live tweet the conference keynotes from 2015 onwards.   ALT have played an increasingly important role in shaping and supporting my career over the last few years; in 2016 I was honoured to become a Trustee of ALT and in 2017 I was delighted to be awarded CMALT.

As political, ideological and financial pressures on the education sector, have increased, I believe the role of organisations like ALT, which are truly independent and able to represent the interests of their members, are going to be critically important.  ALT have made a significant contribution to shaping the learning technology sector in the UK over the last 25 years and I feel sure that they will have an increasingly important role to play in years to come.

Mary Susan McIntosh and the Women in Red⤴

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I was chuffed to discover today that English Wikipedia’s main page features a link to sociologist, feminist, and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights Mary Susan McIntosh.  It’s always great to see women featured on Wikipedia’s main page, which is viewed by around 4 million people, but I confess to being doubly pleased because I created the article on Mary at a recent editathon to mark International Women’s Day here at the University of Edinburgh.  This editathon was facilitated by Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence here at the University, and Ewan was also instrumental in nominating Mary to appear on the main page.

Wikipedia 11 May 2017

Only last week I had been complaining on twitter about the lack of gender balance on English Wikipedia’s main page which happened to feature 18 named men but only 4 named women that particular day. The main page changes on a daily basis but you can see the edition from 4th May on archive.org here.

WikiProject Women in Read

Of course this is not particularly surprising; Wikipedia has a well known problem with gender imbalance, only 16% of biographical entries on the English Wikipedia are of women, and the main page is a pretty accurate reflection of this imbalance.  The Wikimedia Foundation and the various Wikimedia chapters around the world, including Wikimedia UK, are well aware of this problem and are attempting to address it through a range of projects and initiatives.  WikiProject Women in Red raises awareness of this issue and aims to turn red links blue, by creating new biographical articles about women who are referenced on Wikipedia but who do not have their own pages. And here at the University of Edinburgh, one of the objectives of our Wikimedian in Residence is to encourage more women to get involved with editing Wikimedia.  Ewan regularly runs editathons focused on addressing the coverage of articles about women in general and Scottish women in particular.

Before I went along to the International Women’s Day editathon, I confess knew nothing about Mary Susan McIntosh, I picked her name at random from a list of “Women in Red” because she sounded interesting.  It didn’t take me long to realise what a hugely significant and influential woman Mary was.  In addition to being one of the early members of the UK Gay Liberation Front, and sitting on the committee that lowered the homosexual age of consent in the UK from 21 to 18, Mary published important research arguing that homosexuality should be regarded as a social construct, rather than a psychiatric or clinical pathology.  Mary’s paper The Homosexual Role helped to shape the concept of social constructionism, later developed by Michel Foucault.  Mary’s contribution to shaping this important philosophical construct has of course been largely overlooked.  My Wikipedia article barely scrapes the surface of Mary’s life and academic career and her important contribution to social theory and political activism.  I hope to do a bit more work on Mary’s Wikipedia page sometime in the future but it would be great if there are any philosophers, sociologists or critical theorists out there that could help with editing to ensure that Mary gets the recognition she deserves.