Tag Archives: altc

Care (and some anger) as an energy – a few thoughts from the ALT-C Summer Summit #altc #altcSummit⤴

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In another change to the normal this year, the annual coming together of the UK learning technology community at the ALT (f2f) conference, was postponed and instead last week saw the ALT Summer Summit. ALT is really evolving its online conference capabilities and ways of keep the community engaged and sharing practice. The winter online conference has been growing steadily over the past few years, this years OER event, was an amazing success given the circumstances and incredibly fast turn around from a full blown face to face conference to an online edition.

Of course participation in online conferences is slightly different.  Due to other commitments, I only managed to join the keynotes and final panel discussion live. However, that was more than enough to feel connected with the community, engaged in key issues facing everyone in education (and wider society) just now.  It was just the coming to the end of summer energy boost I needed. 

The theme of the conference, learning technology in a time of crisis, care and complexity was of course perfectly pitched.  Like many during lockdown I found the emphasis on care, for each other, for our families, our communities, our societies, was an unexpected positive aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic. At various times it gave me, hope, a sense of connection and community, and a focus on the really important parts of learning and teaching – human interactions.

Care can manifest itself in many ways, from a simple checking in on people by saying “hello, I’m here if you need me”, to designing learning experiences that take account of changing contextual circumstances.  One example of this was the decision to move to open book exams that many universities took early on in the crisis. The stress caused to students by online exam proctoring was, imho, the antithesis of care  Technology can mediate care but there are complex issues in its use.  The keynote from Bonnie Stewart and Dave Cormier foregrounded care for both students and staff. 

The zoomification of all aspects of professional and personal lives is “the” example of how technology can bring people together. Its ease of use and I guess really being in the “right” online place and price point (40 mins for free – yes, dear reader, I took that!)  at a terrible time negated the security issues that many were highlighting, particularly in March/April.  

Our need to communicate seemed a fair trade off to access to data about where, how, when and with who we were communicating with. What could anyone do with that data anyway? Even the UK government were having Cabinet meetings via Zoom – what more of a seal of approval could you need. They would have checked out all the security issues, all the implications wouldn’t they?  

Our focus on technology during the crisis has also highlighted the many, and sadly growing inequalities in our society around access to data and technology. We may all be in the COVID ocean, but we are not all in the same boats, or even in a boat at all. 

The Q&A session with Angela Saini (btw loved that format) raised many questions and discussions around race, the history and context of scientific and wider history and accountability. There was also discussion around how the current UK government seem to be in thrall of technology, without actually always fully understanding the consequences. The recent exams fiasco in both Scotland and the rest of the UK has highlighted what many in the ALT community and beyond have been saying for a long time around the bias of algorithms.

Algorithms are not neutral, they are the constructs of the many biases of the people who develop and build them.  Diversity is crucial not only in the development of algorithms but in the decision making process around how /when they are used, the interpretation and use of the results.  We need to constantly question the need for, and the use of algorithms and any form of AI.  

Charlotte Webb’s keynote addressed issues of structural inequality in relation to COVID-19 head on as well as illustrating some alternative, feminist based approaches she has been involved in developing such as redeveloping Alexa from a feminist perspective. Both sessions are really worth catch up on if didn’t get the chance to see them live. 

The final panel session  Learning Technology beyond the crisis: Policies for a sustainable future excellently chaired by Keith Smyth, was more focused on the day to day realties for many of the ALT community are facing around policy and, more importantly its implementation, or as Anne-Marie Scott said how can we start to develop policies as “permissive tools”?  Again really worth catching the session if you. 

If you are like me then your emotions will have been all over the place over the past 5 months. I sway from mild panic to almost despair around the apparent rush to get back “to normal”, despite the virus still being in circulation, despite seeing that alternative approaches can work, that “traditional” exams really are high stakes and too often don’t have a back up plan that doesn’t involve chaos, that care is slipping further down the agenda as money and profit assert themselves as the real priorities. However, from events like the summer summit,  I do also get rushes of joy, of care, of a sense that there are better ways for us to live, learn and work together and not go back to the “old normal”.    

I’m also quite angry at times. We all should be angry at lots of things just now and that was brought up in the final panel session too. We need to hold on to that anger too and use it as focus. And as Keith quoted in the session “anger is an energy”  – and angry energy can be a form of care too. 

Open leadership: legacy and succession and a farewell to my time as #altc Chair⤴

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This is my final contribution to this series of posts where I have tried to share some of what I consider to be the key aspects of leadership in my role as Chair of ALT. You can read the other posts, here, here here and here.

My tenure of Chair comes to an end at the AGM on 24th June. This is slightly earlier that I had anticipated at the beginning of this year. Normally our AGMs occur during our annual conference in September, but of course due to the current global pandemic we have had to cancel all our face to face events for the rest of this year.  Moving the AGM online and to an early date is another in a series of rapid changes ALT has had to adopt over the past few months.

However, this move could actually set another precedent for the AGM as it might actually make more sense to keep it decoupled from any conference/event, and run it online. We are hoping that it might actually be easier for more of our members to join online. And of course the AGM is open to all – not just our members.

When Martin Weller ( current President) and I wrote this blog post as part of the recruitment for the new Chair, we could never have anticipated the enormous changes the world has gone through in the last few months. However, as I say in our annual report which will formally be presented at the AGM,  ALT has managed to negotiate these unprecedented times in, what I consider, a positive and agile way.  I would love to say that this was all down to me and my leadership – but of course it’s not just down to me 😉  Our CEO Maren and our CIO Martin as well as all the core ALT staff have risen to the challenge of almost completely rewriting work plans and adapting core business in response the changing times.

One, if not the, key reasons they were able to do that successfully was due to the changes the organisation has gone through over the past three years. When I took over as Chair, ALT was in the process of changing its charitable status, its governance structure ( I am the first Chair to serve a 3 year, as opposed to 1 year term), and crucially becoming an independent, virtual, distributed organisation.   ALT staff didn’t have to pivot to online – they were already there.  No zoom revolution needed.  The speed of decision making over the past three months has been rapid to say the least.  

Our governance structures have allowed us to react in a timely, yet considered manner. Ensuring that the interests of our community are continued to be served and our finances are still in a positive position.  That is no mean feat. The commitment of all our Trustees who have attended extra meetings in the midst of their own challenging and changing contexts has allowed us to ensure the stability of the Association and support our core staff. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to lead and work with all the Trustees during my time as Chair.

It has also been a pleasure and a privilege to work with all the ALT core staff – not just over the past three years but over the six years I have been on the Board.  Maren and Martin are of course the faces most members know (and love), but they are supported by Jane, Fiona, Debbie, Emma Jane and Jane (currently on maternity leave). They really are a great team.  One of the things I was really keen to during my time as Chair was to connect the Board and the staff more, so there wasn’t a such a gulf between “the Board” and “the staff”. As I see it, we are all part of the core team and I have particularly enjoyed joining team meetings.  Once again I want to thank all the ALT staff I have worked with over the past three years.

It’s hard, actually almost impossible, to pick  highlights from the past three years, there have been so many. But the 2018 Annual conference which marked the 25th anniversary of the Association was special as I was one of the co-chairs and we took the opportunity to focus in on ALT itself a bit more. However, every ALT conference is special each one holds a special place for me.  I remember going to my first ALT conference (a long, long time ago now);  it never crossed my mind that I would ever be on a stage as a co-chair of an ALT  conference or indeed be the Chair of the  Association – just shows you kids – dreams can come true!  Over the past few years, being able to present new CMALT holders with their certificates at the conference has also been a highlight. It’s great to see so many people taking the time to get professional recognition for their work and of course, become part of the CMALT community as well as the wider ALT community too. 

The ALT values are very dear to me, particularly community. ALT is, and always has, been more than the sum of its parts. If I leave any legacy I would like it to be that clear focus community. Without our community we are nothing. If it’s not clear how what we do serves our community we shouldn’t be doing it.  Of course sustaining and growing a community is a constant challenge – particularly when you have a such a diverse membership as we do in  ALT.  

However, our steadily growing membership over the past 3 years is testament to our focus on supporting the needs of our community by the work of our core ALT team, and of course all voluntary work the members who run and contribute to our range of special interest groups ALT supports.  

Over the past 3 years I believe our communication about what we do continues to  improve.  The launch of the 2017 – 2020  Impact Report earlier this year was a particularly highlight for me as I believe it so clearly illustrated the huge range of work ALT has supported over the past 3 years, and the robustness of our last strategy. I hope this is the first of many such reports.

Although we have a diverse community in the sense of the range of job descriptions our members hold, we of course can do much more to support wider diversity and equality. We are making inroads, but there is a still  a way to go.  I am acutely aware of how our membership reflects the imbalance of ethnicity and gender that is prevalent across the UK eduction sector – particularly HE. I believe that ALT community is an inclusive one, and has a place for everyone involved in promoting the use and impact of learning technology. I also know that it is easy for me to say that from my position of white privilege. That said,  I do believe that the work ALT does to support open education, research and reflective professional development does provide multiple platforms for our community to critically reflect on its context and, help to promote and support increasing diversity and inclusion. If there is more we can do or a different way we can do things, then there is an open door to anyone with ideas.

So as I end my time as Chair, I am very optimistic about the future of ALT. The sense of community has shone through over the past few months, with so many resources and so much advice being shared openly. We were able to rapidly provide spaces for much needed community support in a time of confusion and crisis for all.

So whilst I’m obviously a bit sad about leaving the role which has been such a large part of my life for the past 3 years I do feel it is a good time for me to hand over to someone else.  I have no doubt that the incoming Chair, Helen O’Sullivan will be able to lead the Association and bring so much of her experience and knowledge to the role as ALT implements its new new strategy.  I know Helen is committed to our community and all of our core values, and will be supported by a very able Board.

A key part of leadership is knowing when to move on, and feeling confident about doing that – which I do. Of course I won’t be disappearing completely, I will still be an active member of the ALT community – particularly,  as part of the ALT Scotland team, and as a CMALT assessor.  

I have always felt a huge sense of privilege and gratitude to the ALT community, firstly for voting me onto the Board and then for supporting my nomination as Chair. I hope over the last three years, that trust in me and my leadership has been fulfilled. It’s been an amazing experience. To paraphrase the words of Benny and Bjorn; I’m nothing special, but leading ALT has been one of the most special and rewarding experiences of my professional life. So thank you for the music ALT, and so, so much more. 


My #OER20 bowl of soup⤴

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One of the main visual icons for the OER20 conference was a can of soup. It’s a really clever visual metaphor which encapsulates the theme of the conference – care in openness.

What could be more caring than a  lovingly made bowl of warming soup? Chicken soup for the soul etc.  However, the image of a can of soup also brings connotations of industrial scale production, commodification, mass consumption, our (global North)  throw away everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame, disposable culture.  As conference co-chair Mia Zamora highlighted, the image of the can of soup neatly encapsulates many of the challenges around open education, and in particular care in education, research and related practice.

Now, I have to say I hadn’t really thought of soup in this way before.  To be honest, I’m not that keen on soup. This is in part due to a mini act of rebellion on my part when I was a child. My parents owned a farm and there was always a pot of soup (typically vegetable broth) on the Aga. The soup, along with countless other dishes, was regularly made with care by my Mum to feed the myriad of people that were working on the farm at various times or who just happened to pop in  – we had a very open kitchen policy!

Everyone loved that soup. So, I think that mini me must have decided that at some point that  just to be different I would not.  I don’t like what I call “bit soup” – so any soup that I can see the bits of veggies or whatever, is generally a no go area for me.  Lucky me to have had the privilege of having access to enough food to be a fussy eater. 

I did however, like one kind of soup – the No. 57 variety that came out of a can. To this day It’s still my favourite soup.  The conference has made me reflect on why that is. Why did I prefer a mass prepared, out of a can experience to the craft, homemade kind? A child’s craving for artificial flavours aside,  I realise it really didn’t have anything to do with the soup, but it had everything to do with care.

 I only ever really got “my soup” when I wasn’t well, when I really couldn’t or wouldn’t eat anything. Quite often it came with with a buttered soft, white roll alongside it. It was “made” with care by my Mum. A visible yet invisible act of love for a sick child, that never failed to bring comfort and in its own way, nourishment.  I still associate a can of tomato soup with a warm hug, with safe places, healing and comfort. There were a number of times when I was really quite ill as a child and tomato soup was always a signal of recovery. 

This seems to echo some of the conversations and experiences around open education, and indeed education in general.  It’s how we show care that really matters. It’s so easy just to “throw a can of soup” at someone, rather than open it (even show people how to open it), heat it up, put in a bowl, garnish, remix, extend and share and most importantly create a safe space to help people to do the same, to share their favourite soup too and, where needed allow people create their alternative to soup.

Over the past 2 days at the OER20 conference I have experienced that same feeling of a warm hug, that soup always brings to mind, many times over.  We are all living in a vary strange time with the COVID crisis. Moving the conference online was a risky, but necessary step which has exceeded all expectations. 

Over 1,000 registered for the event. All the live sessions were packed with people. The emotional connections were palpable. Watching videos like France’s Bells story of the making of the FemEdTech quilt of care and justice reduced everyone in the session to tears. Similarly, during sava saheli singh’s keynote collectively watching Frames made everyone reflect on surveillance, the current impact of social and physical distancing in ways that extended the original premise of the script in totally unforeseen ways.

The KaraOERoke was emotional too – but possibly at the other end of the scale. A great example of having fun whilst physically distancing but really socially connecting and having fun. We so need to ensure that we have fun – that’s a huge part of caring too.

I’m still digesting all my experiences of the conference, and I’m so glad there is an even richer set of OER resources to go back to. For now tho’, I think I am going to find a tin of tomato soup and be thankful for that open hug everyone in involved in the conference from the Co-Chairs and conference committee, to the presenters, the participants, and of course the amazing ALT core staff team who managed the online transition so smoothly, have given me. 

2019: Inspiration and Hope⤴

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2019 was a difficult year by any standards, what with Brexit looming, the disastrous general election, the strike, and other issues rather closer to home. However I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, instead I want to focus on the people and events that inspired me and gave me hope over the course of the year.

OER19

The OER conferences are always inspirational but this year that inspiration was particularly necessary and timely. The theme of OER19 was Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives and the conference gave a much-needed platform to many of the diverse voices that are often marginalized in the open knowledge domain. More than anything else though, the conference was about hope. From Kate Bowles uplifting opening keynote, to co-chairs Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz quoting Rebecca Solnit in their closing address, OER19 provided a much needed beacon of hope.

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark.

OER19, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

ALT and Wikimedia UK

I was honoured to be re-elected to the boards of both ALT and Wikimedia UK for a second term in 2019. I can’t speak highly enough of my fellow board members, board chairs and the CEOs of both organisations. Their commitment to supporting their members and communities for the greater good of all is endlessly inspiring. It’s a privilege to be able to make a small contribution to both organisations.

Wikimedia UK Board 2019. By Josie Fraser.

Society for Nautical Research

I stepped down as a board member of the Society for Nautical Research, after five years as chair of the SNR’s Publications and Membership Committee. It was an experience that was equal parts rewarding and frustrating, particularly when I was often the only female voice in the room. However I’m very grateful to my colleagues on Pubs Comm who supported me throughout, and I was pleased and surprised to be made a Fellow of the Society when I stepped down in July.

Femedtech

I’ve been peripherally involved in Femedtech since it’s inception but last year was the first time I sat down and really made a contribution with the femedtech Open Space, femedtech.net, which Frances Bell and I built for OER19, with the generous support of Alan Levine and Reclaim Hosting. I was overjoyed by the response to the Open Space and I’m delighted to see it living on to host subsequent femedtech projects and initiatives.

Frances Bell, Life Member of ALT

Although I’ve known Frances and admired her work for many years, so it was a joy to work with her to build the femedtech Open Space. It was a real privilege to be able to learn from her experience, commitment and empathy. So I was over the moon to see Frances’ contribution to the ed tech community and beyond acknowledged by ALT when she was awarded Life Membership of ALT at the ALT Conference in September. Being invited by ALT CEO Maren Deepwell to present the award to Frances was, without doubt, one of my personal highlights of the year.

Frances Bell, Honorary Life Member or ALT, CC BY NC, Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

Wikimedia for Peace in Vienna

In June I took time out from work to go to the Wikipedia for Peace editathon, which took place in Vienna to coincide with Europride 2019. It was amazing to be able to meet and work with a group of inspiring editors, all of whom are deeply committed to upholding the rights of marginalized individuals and communities through knowledge equity. I’m very grateful to Wikimedia UK and Josie Fraser for supporting my participation in this event.

Wikipedia for Peace editathon, CC BY SA 4.0, Mardetanha, on Wikimedia Commons.

Dunfermline College on Wikipedia

I didn’t manage to do as much Wikipedia editing this year as I would have liked, but one thing I was able to do was to edit the rather sparse page for Dunfermline College of Physical Education. I was inspired to do this by the University of Edinburgh’s Body Language exhibition and the fact that my mother had been a student of the college in the 1950’s. I inherited my mother’s college photograph album when she passed away several years ago and many of her photographs are now illustrating the college’s shiny new Wikipedia page. Many thanks to Michael Maggs for guiding me through the OTRS process.

ICEPOPS

The ICEPOPS Conference came to Edinburgh in July and I was delighted to be able to go along, not just because I’m a big admirer of Jane Secker and Chris Morrison’s work, but also because my OER Service colleague Charlie Farley was presenting one of the keynotes. Charlie is a joy and an inspiration to work with it was wonderful to hear her presenting her first keynote.

Stephanie (Charlie) Farley and Jane Secker, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

Once Upon An Open

I first heard Sara Thomas’ moving story Once Upon An Open when she uploaded it to the femedtech Open Space during OER19 and it moved me to tears.  I missed Sara telling the story live at the conference, but I heard her perform this piece again at the Wikimedia AGM in Bristol.  Since then, I’ve listened to it countless times and urged everyone I know to listen to it too, it’s worth five minutes of anyone’s time. 

Open For a Cause

In early December ALT and Wikimedia DE invited me to Berlin, where I had the privilege of participating in Open For a Cause: Fostering participation in society and education. It was a humbling experience to sit alongside a group inspirational thinkers, including Laura Czerniewicz, Audrey Watters, Martin Hawksey,  Maren Deepwell and Christian Friedrich, all of whom have had a huge impact on my own understanding of the open knowledge domain. It was also lovely to spend time in Berlin, a city I’m very fond off, with such good friends.

Maren Deepwell, Audrey Watters, and me. CC BY Martin Hawksey

UCU Strike

The UCU strike was difficult this year, I’m not going to deny it. It was long and hard and came at a difficult time of the year with Brexit and the general election looming. It had to be done though and I’m immensely proud of colleagues across the UK who joined the strike, and stood up for the rights of all those working in Higher Education today.

UCU Strike Rally, CC BY SA, Lorna M. Campbell on Wikimedia Commons

Open Scotland

In my end of year reflection last year, I noted that one of my frustrations had been that I had neglected Open Scotland due to lack of time and headspace. I’m pleased to say that at the end of 2019 Joe Wilson and I made an effort to resurrect the initiative. Open Scotland has now moved to a shared curation model inspired by femedtech and I’d like to thank all those who volunteered for enough curation spots to see us through into the New Year.

Return of the Magic Bus

Another woe from last year was the sad demise of our faithful old VW T25 camper van. After months of swithering we finally decided to bite the bullet and shell out for a new engine and by mid summer the magic bus was back on the road and heading for the Outer Hebrides where we spent a fabulous week visiting family and touring the length of the islands.

Scurrival Campsite, Barra. CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

Friends

And last, but by no means least, friends. Friends and colleagues have been an endless inspiration and support this year and I am grateful to every one of them. It was a particular pleasure to reconnect with the old Strathclyde crew, Allison, Sheila, Sarah and Karen, and to be able to revisit our favourite old haunt Café Gandolfi. Good times. Here’s hoping there will be many more of them.

ALTC Personal Highlights⤴

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I’ve already written an overview and some thoughts on the ALTC keynotes, this post is an additional reflection on some of my personal highlights of the conference. 

I was involved in three sessions this year; Wikipedia belongs in education with Wikimedia UK CEO Lucy Crompton-Reid and UoE Wikimedian in Residence Ewan McAndrew, Influential voices – developing a blogging service based on trust and openness with DLAM’s Karen Howie, and Supporting Creative Engagement and Open Education at the University of Edinburgh with LTW colleagues Charlie Farley and Stewart Cromar.  All three sessions went really well, with lots of questions and engagement from the audience.  

It’s always great to see that lightbulb moment when people start to understand the potential of using Wikipedia in the classroom to develop critical digital and information literacy skills.    There was a lot of interest in (and a little envy of) UoE’s Academic Blogging Service and centrally supported WordPress platform, blogs.ed.ac.uk, so it was great to be able to share some of the open resources we’ve created along the way including policies, digital skills resources, podcasts, blog posts, open source code and the blogs themselves.  And of course there was a lot of love for our creative engagement approaches and open resources including Board Game Jam and the lovely We have great stuff colouring book.  

Stewart Cromar also did a gasta talk and poster on the colouring book and at one point I passed a delegate standing alone in the hallway quietly colouring in the poster.  As I passed, I mentioned that she could take one of the colouring books and home with her.  She nodded and smiled and carried on colouring.  A lovely quite moment in a busy conference.

It was great to hear Charlie talking about the enduringly popular and infinitely adaptable 23 Things course, and what made it doubly special was that she was co-presenting with my old Cetis colleague R. John Robertson, who is now using the course with his students at Seattle Pacific University.   I’ve been very lucky to work with both Charlie and John, and it’s lovely to see them collaborating like this.

Our Witchfinder General intern Emma Carroll presented a brilliant gasta talk on using Wikidata to geographically locate and visualise the different locations recorded within the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database.  It’s an incredible piece of work and several delegates commented on how confidently Emma presented her project.  You can see the outputs of Emma’s internship here https://witches.is.ed.ac.uk/about

Emma Carroll, CC BY NC 2.0, Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

I really loved Kate Lindsay’s thoughtful presentation on KARE, a kind, accessible, respectful, ethical scaffolding system to support online education at University College of Estate Management.  And I loved her Rosa Parks shirt. 

Kate Lindsay, CC BY NC, Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

I also really enjoyed Claudia Cox’s engaging and entertaining talk Here be Dragons: Dispelling Myths around BYOD Digital Examinations.  Claudia surely wins the prize for best closing comment…

Sheila MacNeill and Keith Smyth gave a great talk on their conceptual framework for reimagining the digital university which aims to challenge neoliberalism through discursive, reflective digital pedagogy.  We need this now more than ever.

Keith Smyth, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

Sadly I missed Helen Beetham’s session Learning technology: a feminist space? but I heard it was really inspiring.  I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to hear Helen talk, we always seem to be programmed in the same slot!  I also had to miss Laura Czerniewicz’s Online learning during university shut downs, so I’m very glad it was recorded. I’m looking forward to catching up with is as soon as I can.

The Learning Technologist of the Year Awards were truly inspiring as always. Lizzie Seymour, Learning Technology Officer, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland at Edinburgh Zoo was a very well deserved winner of the individual award, and I was really proud to see the University of Edinburgh’s Lecture Recording Team win the team award.  So many people across the University were involved in this project so it was great to see their hard work recognised.

UoE Lecture Recording Team, CC BY NC, Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

Without doubt though the highlight of the conference for me was Frances Bell‘s award of Honorary Life Membership of the Association for Learning Technology.  Frances is a dear friend and an inspirational colleague who really embodies ALT’s core values of participation, openness, collaboration and independence, so it was a huge honour to be invited to present her with the award.  Frances’ nomination was led by Catherine Cronin, who wasn’t able to be at the conference, so it gave me great pleasure to read out her words.

“What a joy to see Frances Bell – who exemplifies active, engaged and generous scholarship combined with an ethic of care –being recognised with this Honorary Life Membership Award by ALT.

As evidenced in her lifetime of work, Frances has combined her disciplinary expertise in Information Systems with historical and social justice perspectives to unflinchingly consider issues of equity in both higher education and wider society.

Uniquely, Frances sustains connections with people across higher education, local communities and creative networks in ways which help to bridge differences without ignoring them, and thus to enable understanding.

Within and beyond ALT, we all have much to thank her for.” 

I confess I couldn’t look at Frances while I was reading Catherine’s words as it was such an emotional moment.   I’m immensely proud of ALT for recognising Frances’ contribution to the community and for honouring her in this way.

Frances Bell, Honorary Life Member or ALT, CC BY NC, Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

And finally, huge thanks to Maren, Martin and the rest of the ALT team for organising another successful, warm and welcoming conference. 

ALTC Keynotes: Data, Dialogue and Doing⤴

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Social Media Dream Team, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

Last week the ALT Conference took place in the magnificent McEwan Hall at the University of Edinburgh.  Chaired by Melissa Highton, Keith Smyth and Louise Jones, the conference was a huge success, thanks in no small part to the ALT Team, and a large number of volunteers from across the ALT community.   As Martin Weller pointed out in his blog post, The Meticulous Informality of ALTC, it takes a lot of hard work and expertise to make running such a big conference appear so effortless.  And as always, it was a real pleasure to be able to contribute to the conference as part of the ALTC Social Media Dream Team.  I even got a badge this year!

I’ve written before about my experience of livetweeting the ALTC keynotes, and how it differs from tweeting from my own personal account.  When I’m providing formal social media coverage I also have a different experience of actually participating in the conference, and listening to the keynotes in particular.  I tend to be so focused on listening, summarising and typing, that I often get to the end of the keynote and realise that I can barely remember even half of what the speaker has said! So it’s really useful to me to be able to look back over the livestreams and the tweets and to read all the post-conference blog posts to fill in the gaps.

One of the things that really struck me this year was how closely all three keynotes focused on the key conference themes of Data, Dialogue and Doing. 

Revisiting the affordances and implications of interconnectedness and socially mediated publicness

– Sue Beckingham, Sheffield Hallam University

Sue set the scene with a wide ranging opening keynote covering the long history of the myriad technologies that collect and process our data in various ways, shapes and forms; from the panopticon to the Echo Dot, via keystroke tracking, store cards, VLEs, facebook and the invisible algorithms of the web.  Sue asked how many of us read the terms of service of the websites and apps we sign up to? How many of us know how our data is being used?

Sue also highlighted the pros and cons of engaging with social media. Twitter can be toxic, filled with disinformation, misinformation and fake news, but it can also be invaluable for promoting research, disseminating crisis communications, highlighting achievements, and building community.  Sue stressed that it’s no good banning social media, we need to have meaningful conversations with students about how their data is being used. And we also need to ensure that those who are marginalised from our education communities are accepted, wanted and drawn in.  Sue quoted Fosslien and West Duffy who define “diversity as having a seat at the table, inclusion as having a voice, and belonging as having that voice be heard”. Social media can enable diverse voices to be included and heard but we need to be cognisant of how our data is being used by these platforms.

Sue Beckingham, ALTC keynote

Sue Beckingham, CC BY NC 2.0, Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

Watch Sue’s keynote https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2019/sessions/altc-keynote-sue-beckingham/

Critcal Pedagaogy, Civil Disobedience and Edtech

– Jessie Stommel, University of Mary Washington

Jessie picked up on many of the themes Sue introduced.  Within a framework of critical pedagogy and digital agency he explored the interfaces between agency, data and technology, and how the tools we use as educators influence our relationship with our students.  Jessie urged us to ask hard questions of vendors and to engage students in this critical evaluation.  What assumptions about learning and teaching does a tool make? What data does it collect? Who has access to it? Is it accessible? To visually impaired, to introverts, to extroverts? 

Jessie argued that while some tools can be hacked to good use, others have bad pedagogy baked in and are problematic to the core.  It was no surprise that the tool he chose to shine the spotlight of critical evaluation on was Turnitin.  It’s easy to critique Turnitin from many different perspectives, not least of which is that it effectively has a monopoly on student writing, with a staggering 98% of UK HE institutions subscribing to its services.  Jessie highlighted Turnitin’s problematic Terms of Reference but, perhaps more importantly, he also argued that Turnitin has suspicion of students baked into it and entrenches the belief that students are not to be trusted.

“We are opting in to a culture of suspicion of our students and Turnitin enables this.”

Jessie reminded us that our students are human beings not data assets.  We need to trust our students, to learn from and with them, and we need to believe what they tell us about how they learn.  Throughout his keynote Jessie returned again and again to Paulo Friere and bell hooks with their focus on learning as a space of wonder and marvel and the importance of generating excitement, joy and pleasure in education. Quoting bell hooks Jessie reminded us that 

 “If we’re not talking about joy we’re doing something wrong.”

Jessie Stommel, ALTC Keynote

Jessie Stommel, CC BY NC 2.0, Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

Watch Jessie’s keynote: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2019/sessions/altc-keynote-jesse-stommel/

Learning, Teaching and Technology

– Ollie Bray, The Lego Foundation

Ollie certainly brought excitement and joy to his keynote when he handed out packets of Lego to the entire audience and challenged everyone to make a duck in 40 seconds! We ended up with as many different ducks as delegates, but Ollie pointed out that every duck was meaningful to the person who made it. Furthermore, the activity itself was meaningful because it was actively engaging, socially interactive, iterative and joyful. These are typical characteristics of a playful experience and they are also characteristics of an excellent learning experience.

Ollie challenged us to think about how we could reimagine learning as it could be, while still working within the distinct boundaries of our education systems and social contexts.  Creative skills are highly contextual and it’s important to develop personalised skills that suit specific needs. 

Picking up on another of Jessie’s themes, Ollie noted that we hear a lot about learning from our students, but less about learning with them. If we want young learners to be creative, we need children and adults working together in co-creative learning teams.   Despite the rhetoric that AI will “solve” education, solving complex problems comes down to people, pedagogy and leadership.

Making Lego ducks at ALTC

40 second Lego duck challenge, CC BY NC 2.0, Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

Watch Ollie’s keynote: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2019/sessions/altc-keynote-ollie-bray/

One of the things I loved about Ollie’s keynote was that it rippled out beyond the bounds of the conference.  Lots of delegates took the Lego duck challenge home and posted pictures of ducks made by their families.  These are the ducks my family made.  I’m sure they’re meaningful to them somehow :}  

Lego ducks

Meaningful ducks? CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display 2019-09-04 19:03:19⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Liked Dom Pates on Twitter (Twitter)
“Key tips on mobile film making, in #DIYFimSchool Part II - consider lighting and audio, and be prepared. Plus, use apps. Hat tip to @lee_ballantyne for sharing the full resource

The linked guide looks useful and simple enough for primary school: DIY Film School

Looking forward to ALTC: Wikimedia, Academic Blogging and Creative Engagement with OER⤴

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Not content with liveblogging the ALTC keynotes, gasta sessions and AGM, I’m also going to be taking part in two presentations and one panel.  Yikes!  So if you’re interested in learning why Wikimedia belongs in education, how to develop an academic blogging service based on trust and openness, and supporting creative engagement through open education, why not come along and join us 🙂

Wikipedia belongs in education: Principles and Practice

Wikipedia belongs in educationTuesday Sep 3 2019, 2:45pm – 3:45pm, Room 2.14
Lucy Crompton-Reid, Ewan McAndrew, and Lorna Campbell

This panel session, featuring short presentations and audience Q&A, will outline the thinking and research that underpins Wikimedia UK’s education programme, present some of the work that’s been delivered as part of this programme over the past few years, and discuss opportunities for future educational partnerships. We’ll also highlight the ways that you can get involved in this work at an individual and/or institutional level, and the benefits of working with Wikimedia in education.

Read more.

Supporting Creative Engagement and Open Education at the University of Edinburgh 

Thursday Sep 5 2019, 12:15pm – 1:15pm, McEwan Hall
Lorna Campbell, Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, and Stewart Cromar

This joint presentation will introduce the University of Edinburgh’s vision and strategy for OER and playful engagement, showcase examples of some of the playful approaches we employ, demonstrate how these help to foster creative approaches to teaching, learning and engaging with our collections, and reflect critically on researching their effectiveness.  Come along and see real world examples of how supporting openness and playful engagement at the institutional level can foster creativity and innovation, and gain inspiration about how these approaches could be used in your own contexts and institution. You’ll also be able to pick up one of our free “We have great stuff” OER colouring books! 

Read more

Influential voices – developing a blogging service based on trust and openness 

Thursday Sep 5 2019, 2:00pm – 3:00pm, Room 2.14
Karen Howie and Lorna Campbell

This presentation will reflect on the first year year of the University of Edinburgh’s new Academic Blogging Service.  We worked closely with academic colleagues, to take a broad view of the different uses of blogs, including reflective blogging, writing for public audiences, group blogging and showcasing research to develop a new academic blogging service that launched in October 2018. The service incorporates existing tools (inc. those built into our VLE and portfolio platforms), improved documentation, new digital skills workshops and materials, and a brand new centrally supported WordPress platform (blogs.ed.ac.uk) to support types of blogging that were not well catered for previously. The philosophy of our new blogging platform was to start from a position of openness and trust, allowing staff and students to develop their own voices.  Come along to learn more about our Academic Blogging Service and find out about the free and open resources we developed along the way.

Learn more. 

Look forward to seeing you at ALTC! 

Putting your best foot forward with #altc⤴

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[This post was previously posted on the ALTC website.]

What to expect from the ALT Conference’s social media channels and how to get involved.  

The ALT Conference is almost upon as and we’re looking forward to welcoming delegates to the city and University of Edinburgh.  Edinburgh is a wonderful city to visit at any time of the year, but we appreciate that traveling to attend conferences is not always practical or possible, so in order to ensure that the conference is as accessible and inclusive as possible, ALT provides a range of online channels to enable you to participate in the conference remotely.  Frances Bell has already written a really helpful post on how to participate in the conference online.

In addition to watching the ALT conference livestream, and signing up for VConnecting sessions, you can engage with the conference through ALT’s social media channels and the #altc hashtag, which is already hotting up as delegates prepare for the conference. 

The ALT Conference has always had a really lively and engaging social media presence, which draws in participants from all over the world. I’m delighted to help facilitate this as part of ALT’s social media team, along with partners in crime Rich Goodman (@bulgenen), from the University of Loughborough, and photographer Chris Bull (@chrisbull1980).  My role is to livetweet the conference keynotes from ALT’s official twitter account @A_L_T, while Rich will be tweeting Chris’ photographs, which really capture the buzz and energy of the conference.  You can see Chris’ pictures from last year’s ALT Conference on ALT’s flickr channel, and in keeping with ALT’s strategic commitment to openness, they’re all Creative Commons licensed. 

CC BY NC 2.0, Chris Bull for the Association for Learning Technology on flickr

I’ve written several blog posts over the years about my experience of live tweeting the ALT conference, and in my CMALT portfolio I reflected on the difference between tweeting for ALT in an official capacity,  and tweeting from my own personal account:

Live tweeting in an official capacity for events such as the ALT Conference requires a different approach to live tweeting from my own personal account.  When I live tweet on behalf of an event organiser I try to keep my tweets as factual, neutral and representative as possible. It’s important not to misrepresent the speaker or inadvertently tweet anything that might bring the organisation into disrepute.  If I’m tweeting personally, I tend to tweet the points that interest me, adding my own thoughts and comments along the way.

The ALT Conference has a justifiable reputation for the quality of its keynotes, and this year is no exception.  Although it can be a little daunting, it’s a real privilege to livetweet such inspirational speakers.

It’s hard to overestimate the influence Sue Beckingham (@suebecks) has had on the learning technology community in the UK, through her blog Social Media for Learning, the weekly #LTHEchat twitter chat, and the open online course Bring Your Own Device for Learning. Sue brings a nuanced and critical approach to the use of social media in teaching and learning and is generous in sharing her practice and experience with the community. 

I heard Ollie Bray (@olliebray) speaking many years ago when he was Head Teacher at Kingussie High School and I remember being really intrigued by his inspirational approaches to teaching and learning and innovative use of technology and social media, so I’m really looking forward to hearing about and livetweeting his recent work connecting play and education at the LEGO Foundation. 

I’m particularly thrilled to hear Jesse Stommel (@Jessifer), as I’ve followed him on twitter for some time and I’m a huge admirer of his work.  Just a few weeks ago I was following the Digital Pedagogy Lab, co-founded by Jesse, on twitter and though I only dipped my toe into the incredibly rich stream of tweets it was a really rewarding and thought provoking experience. 

Whether you’ll be with us in Edinburgh or joining us remotely, we’d encourage you to get involved with the ALT Conference online. You can do this by:

  • Following the official ALT twitter account @A_L_T / https://twitter.com/A_L_T 
  • Following the conference hashtag #altc
  • Tweeting your own comments, reflections and pictures on the #altc conference hashtag. 
  • Sharing your photographs online, remember to use the #altc hashtag and add an open licence!

You don’t need a twitter account to read @A_L_T’s tweets and to follow the #altc tag, but you do need an account if you want to retweet and comment. 

And of course no ALT event would be complete without the occasional #shoetweet

#altc #shoetweet, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

So put our best foot forward and join us in Edinburgh and online for #altc

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.