Tag Archives: General

holobox “thrilling” students . . . I have a bad feeling about this . . .⤴

from

That clip from Star Wars

I am old enough to be young when the first Star Wars was released. I still remember the excitment of seeing the glitchy hologram images of Princess Leia, then the thrill of seeing her whole message. Wow, in a galaxy far away they knew how to communicate.

And now, as no doubt many of you will have seen in this Guardian article earlier this week, the dream of 3-D has is becoming reality in a university not so far away from me. The holobox technology developed by LA based start up Proto has been making inroads with its holographic box technology for the last couple of years. From the quick search I’ve done, it does look quite impressive and the box idea is a great way to create shadows to increase the 3-D effect. Of course this technology is going to revolutionise “everything”. It’s another future education moment, providing the future of online education, allowing “teachers to connect with unlimited students around the world.”

I think I may have heard this line before, but at least they’re not saying yet this will mean the death of the university. This future is not going to let the lecture die, the future is one to many, mass distribution. We’ll work out the cost, the access to tech/networks later . . .and not bother with that in our promos.

screen grab on image with text "future of onliline learning"

But wait, not only that, the “expert beaming” this box offers also increases engagement. Apparently “the engagement and interaction our holographic display achieves is unprecedented

screen shot of web page with words "expert beaming means more attention"

I couldn’t find any stats to back up how this unprecedented engagement is measured, and I will caveat that with the fact that I didn’t look that hard! But I did pick up that the system uses tech that can distinguish viewers based on age and sex, which as they point out is really handy for personalised advertising, bringing you the “stuff” that’s appropriate to your demographic. So that’s alright then, because there’s no problem with bias in algorithms used in facial recognition. Just pop that into the education offering with a bit of eye tracking and bingo – engagement stats.

The technology can also bring people back from the dead. The Guardian article includes this:

“David Nussbaum, who founded Proto four years ago after working on dead-celebrity holograms, said his company could soon bring some of the 20th century’s greatest thinkers back from the dead.

He said: “Proto has the technology to project an image of Stephen Hawking, or anybody, and make it look like he’s really there. We can hook it up to books, lectures, social media – anything he was attached to, any question, any interaction with him. An AI Stephen Hawking would look like him, sound like him and interact like it was him.

But who controls the interaction? Who is responsible for the curation, the fact checking? How do we teach using this technology allowing students to make sense of the mass of information and make critical judgements? This point was raised in the article too and I was pleased to see this quote included:

Gary Burnett, a professor of digital creativity at Loughborough University, said: “Different immersive technologies and AI are the new forms of literacy. Students need to understand what it means to use those, to be in those worlds, to experience them, to interact … and these are all things they’re going to need for their future careers.”

But the headline was all about the ‘thrill’ that students were experiencing with the box. I do wonder about that ‘thrill’ – and how long it will last. Just now it might be more thrilling to have a guest lecturer appear 3-d like on a box on the wall than a 2-D version on a big screen. But how long will that thrill last? What meaningful engagement will result from the lecture?

Now, I don’t want to knock this technology completely. I can see the potential for 3-d holographic images in education, we’ve been working with developing technology around simulations and improved real time communication for decades now. I can also see the potential for us all to have our own Princess Leia hologram moment. But the hologram technology itself is not our only hope. Like any technology we need to work with educators and students to understand how to use this technology most effectively for learning and to increase our understanding of what effective engagement in education is, and what data really matters to our understanding of that.

In theory it’s great that “experts” can appear (almost) like they are are in the room, anywhere in the world, but who has access to a room that has that technology? What language is being used? Do students know what data the system is accessing from/about them? We need to be mindful of equity, accessibility and the cost of this type of technology. And until the headline lines messages and actual evidence of companies like Proto include more about this I will always have a bad feeling about anything claiming to be the future of education.

Not crossing the streams (and more random reflections for the year ahead)⤴

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Hello reader, it’s been a while I know. Last year my blogging output reduced substantially and once habits (and blogging was once a better habit for me) start to slip it is harder to get back into the groove. In the many half written posts in my head or in a draft somewhere, I have tried to articulate what has happened. Hopefully this post will get finished and I will hit the “publish” button and you can read it.

Probably the simplest explanation is that I have found it increasingly hard to write. Partly this is due to my work, being freelance there are large chunks of time where I am working but there’s not really anything that I feel is at at stage for sharing. This does sharply contrast with when I had a full time lecturing position. It felt a bit easier, and more appropriate to share challenges small and large. I could, and wanted to openly question my practice a bit more then. Over the past few years as I have been working independently I have been developing my sharing habit for my art practice where I am far more regular at sharing a different kind of reflection.

But also, and I think probably more relevant to this continuation of this blog and my blogging practice, is that it was just so hard to write last year. In so many ways the world just seemed to ratch up the crazy, mis-guided, right wing, destructive, self obsessed levels just that bit more.

Like so many others, I finally left Twitter. The changes brought about by the new “management” made it too toxic to be there anymore. Although I had probably passed my “peak tweet” period, removing myself from the platform was quite sad. Again there are several draft posts about that loss, the benefits that I got from that space, the importance of developing and maintaining PDN connections, wondering how new academics/educators can build and benefit from community connections now. Like everyone else I’m on mastadon, threads, bluesky. But honestly, it does feel like such a lot of work to try and keep a presence across all of them. I count myself lucky in that I have a strong professional network and I can still have some connections with like minded people.

Over the holidays the original Ghostbusters movie was on TV and that line about “not crossing the streams” did resonate. There was such a lot of (positive) power when you could cross social media streams easily, now it seems more fragmented and connections diluted. Maybe that’s a reflection of my more fragment life now too . . .

via GIPHY

Then of course there’s been the whole GenAI thang. I’m still at the stage where I need to read and research what other far more critical and attuned have to say about that. Big shout out to Helen Beetham for her ongoing (far from ) imperfect offerings series.

So in 2024, I do hope that I can find my blogging mojo again. I know I have lots of “stuff” that I will (and already am) working on that are really quite exciting, relevant and hopefully worthy of sharing here.

Where is the wisdom in AI?⤴

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Hello dear reader, it’s been a while.  Over the past year I have been finding it harder to write  as regularly as I used to for this blog.  Or perhaps it’s actually that I am finding it hard to focus on what to write, and so half formed ideas in my head never quite make it to the draft then “publish on the blog” stage. 

It’s not that I am not writing. I am writing lots of different “things” for work.  Like everyone else I’ve been experimenting with ChatGPT as a writing aide.  I’ve found it slightly discombulating watching “the beast” devour my text almost instantaneously represent it.  To be honest, what it has given back has been ok, more than OK in some cases. The results have also caused a few wry smiles, as I suddenly see all too clearly  the homogeneity of language it perpetuates.

This post isn’t about the using GenAI.  Thankfully there are many far more qualified people doing that. I rely on them to help my understanding of the challenges and opportunities GenAI is creating.  I have to give a special mention to Helen Beetham’s amazing Imperfect Offerings substack (I aspire to that level of imperfection in my writing! ).

But to the point of this post.  I was listening to Elif Shafak talking about story telling on the Great Women Artists podcast the other day.  Shafak is a very wise woman, that’s what makes her writing so good.  During the interview the conversation got around to information, knowledge and wisdom.  She was reflecting on how there was a presumption that with “t’internet” (my word, not hers!) there was a presumption that we would all have access to information, and so knowledge would be more fairly distributed and democracy would spread and develop. As we all know that hasn’t happened.  But access to information is still critical. The neo-liberal politics of silicon valley are still driven by the control of access to information.

GenAI provides a way to access information in an apparently efficient and most importantly speedy way. No need for anyone to write anyone, because ChatGPT and its ilk can do that for us now.  It will “help” us produce the information and by default the knowledge the world needs. But, and this was the bit that really struck me in the interview, what about wisdom? There doesn’t seem to be time now to value the time that it takes to develop wisdom. To understand, critique, ponder information and create our own personal corpus of knowledge which we can share. 

There is a lot of noise in society in general about the ethics involved in AI, but again the “need for speed” to get products “out there” wins over taking time to think how wise these early releases  with their biases are.  The men at the top (and sadly it still pretty much is men) who share their “profound” statements about AI doing everything for us, are in my mind, not wise. The do not have wisdom. They do not value wisdom. They don’t have the time for that. They want to provide seemingly simple and speedy answers to “everything”.

Where is the space for wisdom around AI in education?  The sector is reacting incredibly quickly in terms of policies particularly around assessment.  There is a lot of collective wisdom around how to avoid students “just getting ChatGPT to write their essays” and using GenAI in more considered ways.  But what about the AI learning design tools that are popping up?  Are they wise? Where are they getting their ideas and information from? Where is the wisdom in increasing homogeneity of courses?  Or does the economic “wisdom” of cutting back on expensive human resource (aka teachers) take precedent?

Education should always evolve in  parallel with society.  But if information is so readily available now, shouldn’t we be thinking more of how we develop and value wisdom? Could we (re)develop society so that people can once again have informed, rational discussion and debate, where we understand and appreciate the ambiguities of society, where polarisation of opinion isn’t used as a tool for personal, political and monetary gain?

Who knows, maybe I should try one of those AI learning design tools to develop course around wisdom . . .

Did a (cc) search on google images for “wisdom” . . . lot to ponder there too. . .

Celebration the publication Higher Education for Good⤴

from

It’s not often that the two sides of my working life come together, but this week I am delighted to share an amazing collision of education and art. Early this week “Higher Education for Good: Teaching and Learning Futures” was published. An open access, free download version of this incredible edited collection is available here .

Thank you to the editors Laura and Catherine for asking me to contribute to this project. Here is my text to accompany my piece ” Little Me”.

“This work is based on a work which I created as part of a collaborative project for the NPA Lab 2021 Collaborative Online Exhibition. Our project was titled “Copped Out” and used the COP26 Climate Change Conference as its central theme.

Living in Glasgow, I was intensely aware of the impacts of the conference — both at local and global levels. One of the most profound experiences for me was a night time march with Little Amal, the 2m puppet who has walked from Syria to Europe. Watching and following Little Amal as part of a torch lit parade was an intensely emotional experience. Hearing small children ask questions about the why and how of her reminded me of the importance of education and sharing lived experiences of the impact of our actions.

The puppet has an almost hyper real presence, embodying struggle, fear, resistance, hope but most importantly, humanity.

Education is the key to all our futures, signifiers such as Little Amal bring the plight and stories of real people to those who are currently protected from the ravages of human cruelty and climate change. Her presence creates new empathy, understanding and new narratives, providing hope. I hope that this image provides some synergies with the narratives of hope being shared in this book.”

Waiting to be myself again⤴

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Hello dear reader, it’s been a while. I don’t know if you are still “with me” or if you, like me have found yourself a bit lost over the past few months. I saw this quote from Georgia O’Keeffe in an Instagram post last week and it seemed to sum up how I have been feeling, particularly around writing.

“I have done nothing this summer but wait to be myself again”

Of course I haven’t actually been doing nothing, but I have felt that I am waiting, or perhaps more accurately wanting, to be able to find the “right” words, and the “right” platform to say it on.

I managed to catch Eamon Costello (DCU) talk about kindness in education, and a project around storytelling kindness in teacher education. In his talk he walked through various definitions and examples of kindness, mostly these related to people doing something. But he did say something that stuck with me. I’m going to paraphrase here, it went something like this. “I’m a writer, so maybe if I show kindness to the words, the words will be kind to me and help me write.” I’m hoping that will work for me too!

Since Musk took over Twitter I have steadily moved away from it. I still have an account – mainly for work reasons. I do still share news, reposts and occasionally get and send DM s to people, but X certainly does not mark the spot for me. It’s just not a place I want to be associated with, or really be in anymore.

So like everyone else I have tried to find something that felt as connected and comfortable. Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky – I’m trying them all. But it feels fractured, even though I probably follow largely the same people on each of them. My current digital desire paths are more like small circles returning to my starting position at my desk. I haven’t had the energy, or the will, to find a way to easily cross post across the services. I can’t be everything everywhere, all at once, and to be honest I don’t want to be. But I do want to stay connected, to share, to learn, to “be”.

Martin Weller has written about the digital diaspora in relation to Twitter which outlines most the challenges and the inevitability of this fracturing of audiences. We do need to find new ways/practices to use all these platforms in ways that are useful to us.

When I went freelance I created a deliberate fracture in my use of Instagram – it is now about my art practice – not what I am eating! On the other side of my working life, I am finding LinkedIn much more useful now though. I really like the fact that it is so work centred. No need to post pictures of coffee/dogs/your “perfect” life – just tell share proper work “stuff”. Maybe having a clear purpose is a good thing after all! After all no-one really ever knew what Twitter was actually for, we just made it useful until too many people tried to monetise it. When I signed up for it (way back in the before times), I didn’t really know what Linkedin was for either. But others were there, wanting to connect so I did. I’ve had a bit of an up and down or perhaps more accurately on and off relationship with it since. But it’s definitely more “on” now.

Substack seems to be an interesting place to be. I am just a visitor right now but I am really enjoying following the “imperfect offerings” of Helen Beetham on AI and education. It has been my essential summer reading and I do share those posts “everywhere.”

Should I move my writing from here to there? I don’t know, there is still something comforting about having a domain of my own.

Anyway I have been doing quite a bit of interesting ‘stuff’ which I will be sharing more about, now I written (and hopefully posted) this. Most importantly the second phase of work (with Helen Beetham and Sarah Knight at Jisc) around curriculum and learning design. And I’ll keep trying to “find myself” and hopefully all of you on a variety of other platforms.

My short and long “must reads” around ChatGPT and LLM⤴

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Undoubtedly LLM (large language models), and in particular ChatGPT, is the hot topic in education right now. David Hopkins has helpfully started and shared a flipgrid where he is sharing articles around generative AI, and I know many others are doing the same. Amongst the hype there are thankfully a growing body of people who are writing informed critiques. In this post I just want to quickly highlight a couple of publications that I think are a must read.

Firstly the UNESCO Quick Start Guide to ChatGPT and Artificial Intelligence. This is provides a really good overview of issues including a useful flow chart to help decisions around using ChatGPT, applications for education and some of the current issues. I suspect this will become a “go to” resource. It’s something that all educators should read.

And once they’ve done that then I have to recommend 2 longer pieces by Helen Beetham. Firstly, “on language, language models and writing“. In this essay, Helen really gets to grips with a key issue that is missing in many of the articles about LLM and ChatGPT, that is what is the purpose of writing? Why do we do it? It’s not just about structuring of text, personal reading. I think most people (well at least you, dear reader) does now understand that these language models work on prediction, and have no sense of context. So although the text may read well, it will often lack purpose and understanding. As Helen points out ” Writing by human writers is not only about the world, it is of the world and accountable in it.”

She goes on to explore some of the potential benefits of using systems such as ChatGPT. Can they be seen as writing partners? We supply the prompts, they supply the text . . ? I was struck by this.

The illusion that these are more than tools or interfaces – that they are our partners in language, our interlocutors. We already spend large parts of our lives engaged in vivid graphical and sensory illusions. We should count the costs and benefits before rushing into a life of dialogue with illusory others

And this

Students see writing as a diverse, messy, inexact, variously motivated practice they are developing for themselves. Then perhaps they can aspire to be a writer among writers, and not a human version of ChatGPT.

I thank Helen for being the writer she is to have come up with that last turn of phrase. And then she goes on to point out:

But tools are not neutral. Just as language is not ‘simply’ the words we use to express our meanings to other people, tools are not ‘simply’ the means we use for exercising our personal intentions in the world. Tools carry the history of how they were designed and made. They shape practices and contexts and possible futures. . . With so many other tools we can use creatively, we must surely weigh the risks against the creative possibilities.”

In terms of education Helen also raises some really valid points for strategic leadership in universities. It does seem an awful lot of responsibility is being heaped on students, maybe we need to be asking these questions

While students are held stringently to account for their use of LLMs, how will universities account to students for their own use of these systems? Can they hold out against black-box capabilities being embedded into the platforms they have come to depend on? Who is assessing the risks, and how are those risk assessments and mitigations being shared with the people most affected? These are questions that universities should be attending to with at least as much energy as they are policing students’ use of apps.”

There is also an accompanying piece students assignments in a time of language modelling. Again this is a really thoughtful (and pragmatic) piece about why, how and when to use writing tasks in assessments.

I would thoroughly recommend reading both essays, and engaging with Helen’s writing over on substack.


The IDL Network is moving⤴

from @ The IDL Network

In order to grow the network we will be moving the website from its current home to a more resilient and reliable home over at SubStack. Current subscribers need do nothing – we will continue to send you new content when it comes along. You will notice a slightly different format in email when the … Continue reading "The IDL Network is moving"

And we’re back . . .⤴

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Apologies, dear reader, it has been far too long since my last post. I did mean to post before the end of 2022 but, well none of the dozen or so half written posts really seemed to have the need to be finished and published. The mass exodus from Twitter to Mastadon seems to have now happened. I couldn’t really think of anything else about the whole white, middle aged billionaire buys twitter and f***’* it up being a classic exemplar of everything that our neoliberal age supports that hadn’t already been said.

Whilst I and many of my peers have been lamenting the end of twitter in terms of our networking and sharing of practice, this post by @ImaniBarbarin did make me give myself a good talking too. I just lost one place of instant connection and comfort, so many disabled /chronically ill people  are facing a much great loss around connection and losing their voices.

As the new year starts, I’m looking forward to some f2f learning design workshops and continuing to work with Helen Beetham on a follow up project to the review we did of approaches to curriculum and learning design last year. There will be more to share on that in the coming months, but for now I’m just trying to ease myself back into things in this part of my life whilst balancing the other, artistic part of my life which is actually getting quite busy now.

I always appreciate, enjoy and find inspiration from Sherri Spelic’s Bending the Ark newsletter, and the one that dropped early this week was no exception. In this edition, Sherri shared how she left her laptop behind and reconnecting with friends and did “other stuff” over the holidays. I loved this phrase in particular:

I had a chance to remind myself that I am so much more than the words I put out for others to find.

https://bendingthearc.substack.com/p/bending-the-arc-january-2023

Yes, Sherri you are so much more than that. And thank you for reminding me and other that many of us are. I always have a nagging feeling in my head that over the last few years I haven’t shared as much as I used to. So I’m going to try and get more comfortable with the realities of my working life and sharing only when I have something useful to share. Not quite a new year’s resolution, maybe more of a reminder. And hopefully that won’t be too long.

A really good story . . .⤴

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Our world is full of stories. The stories we tell, and how we tell them are really important.  A story book is a wonderful thing.  I was reminded of just how wonderful “a thing” a story book can be early this week at the final project meeting of the EDTL (Enhancing Digital Teaching & Learning across Irish Universities) project.  Those of us lucky to be there in person got a physical book of stories about the project. You can read the stories (individual case studies) here.

The forward to the book by the Project Manager, Sharon Flynn,  sums up beautifully why this book came about.

” . . .we wanted to tell the stories of all the projects and activities that happened across the 7 universities, over 3 year. At first we tried to tell them ourselves. But telling our own stories is challenging, we are too close, too familiar with the detail, our writing is to academic, and we don’t have the time anyway.  So, we recruited a story teller  . . .”

In academia we are good at writing, but as Sharon pointed out – at times our writing is too academic,  it only makes ” a good story” if you can de-code and demystify the academese.   

There are some very talented people who can do just that, and can communicate very complex ideas in ways that are easily understandable.  But not everyone has the skills, or the time to do that.  The story of the EDTL project is rich, complex and complicated.  It’s been driven by human connections, of people overcoming the challenges of the mass dislocation brought about by lockdown and the subsequent colocation through digital technologies.

EDTL created shared pathways, and different ways of “doing” learning and teaching for staff and students. Its story is interwoven with students and staff working as partners. Students being given a voice, being respected and paid for their time, with true co-created outputs.  A quick skim of the resources section of the website illustrates that. The voice of the storyteller brings all that complexity together in a seemingly simple way.

EDTL was a wonderful project. Its success in no small part down to Sharon Flynn’s masterful project management. It truly was a pleasure and a privilege to play a small part in it.

But now for the ranty bit . . . I know you have been expecting it, dear reader.

The assumed narratives that surround so much of all our working lives and contexts are powerful drivers for change – or in some cases to retain the status quo. During the panel discussion at the event the inevitable questions about “what next?” came up.  I think stories need to be a key part of that.

This project has learnt so much from its student interns. It’s exemplified co-production and the power of students as change agents.  The evaluation of their experiences (research conducted by one of the interns) is really worth a read. But there are so many more stories we need to be working with students to develop and share. 

A key story (or stories) I think we need to be starting to develop, is the new story of what it means to “be” at university for students right now.  It’s not the same as it was this time in 2019, in the pre pandemic, before times.  But are we (and by we, I mean university structures) finding it easier to forget the stories, experiences and evidence of the pandemic, and just go back to what it used to be like? The stories we remember of how it used to be?  

Remember when we all had a window into our “real lives” where the mess and the realities of family life spilled over into zoom/teams when we were all working from home. Those caring responsibilities haven’t gone away, but it does seem that some of the flexibility that help some people at that time is being slowly eroded.

Everyone has been through a really traumatic couple of years, and it’s not getting any easier. There is a war in mainland Europe,  the rise of right wing politics is still on the rise, the cost of living seems to have no plans to stop increasing, the climate emergency is probably beyond fixing, but yet we are still obsessed with  sustaining gas and oil.  That’s quite a lot to deal with on top of being a student.  So many previous certainties have changed.

You can’t guarantee that you will be able to find affordable accommodation once you finish 1st year and can’t get back into halls of residence. It might be in theory easier to get a part time job, but the flexibility that was supported, and students clearly appreciated during lockdown seems to be slowly shut down as the “on campus, in person” mantra (or the old familiar story of what a “proper” university experience should be) is demanded by politicians. 

Whilst providing heat banks, ping spaces (with kettles and microwaves), free breakfasts is to be applauded. It does bring with it some questions around the how and what our physical campus spaces are being used. 

What is the story of a 2nd year undergrad, who is sofa surfing, working part time and  trying to keep up with uni work? What kinds of spaces, times and places for learning work for them. What are their real learning journeys?

I think these are the kinds stories we need to be recording and sharing right now. So as we plan and strategies at university and national levels, we really understand what changes we need to be making to provide the appropriate, flexible, accessible, inclusive learning environments for all our students and staff. We need more stories and story tellers.

IDL in Teacher Education, Part Two: Planning for IDL Through Dramatic Enquiry⤴

from @ The IDL Network

In part one of this two-part article, I exemplified how my student primary teachers critically examine CfE guidance on IDL. In this second post, I describe how I have been exploring IDL examples and implementation with students through Mantle of the Expert (MoE) – an approach to dramatic enquiry first developed by Dorothy Heathcote in … Continue reading "IDL in Teacher Education, Part Two: Planning for IDL Through Dramatic Enquiry"