Tag Archives: personal

Into the city⤴

from @ Ruby on Wheels

For the first time in AGES I took the bus into Edinburgh. Actually, I hardly ever take the bus, but since getting my free bus pass it seems that it would be sensible to use that mode of transport. Besides, parking in Edinburgh is a real pain.

I had forgotten the sound of “tarum-bump … tarum-bump …” as we went over the joins in the Forth Road Bridge. Since the new bridge opened several years ago, that’s always been the way we cross the river. The view from the bus windows was also just that little bit different from the car window on the new bridge. I forgot that I was wearing a mask.

When I first moved out of the city to relocate in Fife, I remember that quite a few friends point blank refused to come and visit. It was too far. But I could come in to visit them, and meet up, and do “things”. It seemed a bit churlish to point out that it was exactly the same distance, and visiting me was easier for parking. However, more often than not I decided to just travel in. It was easy in the evening when we decided to go to listen to live jazz. The roads were quiet, and it took no more than 30 minutes door to door, sometimes just 20 minutes. There was always a sense of escape as we crossed back over the bridge. Although we still had a few miles to go, the crossing of the Forth symbolised escaping from the city. Was it just imagination that the air cleared as well?

Edinburgh was looking spectacular. I walked along the Gardens underneath the Castle, and even the local drunks looked as if they were enjoying the fresher air and being outdoors. I had a moment of anxiety as I climbed the stairs out of the gardens – quite a few people were walking along that bit of pavement and it looked difficult to negotiate a “social distance” safely. So I looked straight ahead and just kept going to cross the road. The idea that I looked too serious and un-friendly briefly crossed my mind, but it seemed more important to get across to the quieter pavement safely.

I met some lovely friends for coffee and we chatted about what we’d managed to achieve with venturing into the world again, and visits to family, and little outings. It was good to share the balance we’re trying to get in our lives as retirees and in the “vulnerable” group. We parted with promises to do it again very soon, and I expect we might just manage to make this a regular meetup, if we can even manage to find a time when we’re all free.

Dunfermline College of Physical Education: A personal connection⤴

from

While I was off on strike I was able to spend some time finishing a project I’ve been working on for a couple of months; editing the Wikipedia page for Dunfermline College of Physical Education.  I was inspired to update the existing page by the recent Body Language exhibition at the University of Edinburgh Library which delved into the archives of Dunfermline College and the influential dance pioneer Margaret Morris, to explore Scotland’s significant contributions to movement and dance education. And the reason I was so keen to improve this page, which was little more than a stub when I started editing, is that my mother was a student at Dunfermline College from 1953 – 1956, and when she died in 2011 my sister and I inherited her old college photograph album.  

My mother was not a typical Dunfermline student. Unlike many of her fellow students, who were privately educated and went straight to the college on leaving school, my mother was educated at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, and after leaving school she took an office job while working her way through the Civil Service exams.  She’d been working a year or so when the college came to the island to interview prospective students, and her father suggested she apply.  Her interview was successful, and she was awarded a place and a bursary to attend the college, which at that time was in Aberdeen.  Having experienced a degree of independence before going to Dunfermline, my mother chaffed at the rigid discipline of the residential college, which expected certain standards of decorum from its “girls”.  She didn’t take too kindly to the arbitrary rules, and it’s perhaps no surprise that her motto in the college year book was “Laws were made to be broken”.  She did however make many life-long friends at college and she went on to have a long and active teaching career.

My mother worked as a PE teaching on the Isle of Lewis, first as a travelling teacher working in tiny rural schools across the island, and later in the Nicolson Institute.  She passionately believed that all children should be able to enjoy physical education, regardless of aptitude or ability, and she vehemently opposed the idea that the primary role of PE teachers was to spot and nurture “talent”.  Her real interest was movement and dance and many of the children she taught in the small rural schools where convinced she was really just a big playmate who came to play with them once a week.  Sporting facilities were pretty much non-existent in rural schools in the Western Isles the 1970s. Few schools had a gyms or playing field, so she often organised games and sports days on the machair by the beaches. The first swimming pool in the islands didn’t open until the mid 1970s and prior to that she taught children to swim in the sea, on the rare occasions it was sufficiently calm and warm.  None of the schools she taught in had AV facilities of any kind and I vividly remember the little portable tape recorded that she carried around with her for music and movement lessons.  She retired from teaching in 1987, not long after the acrimonious national teachers pay dispute.  Despite being rather scunnered with the education system by the time she retired, it’s clear that the years she spent at Dunfermline played a formative role in shaping not just in her career, but also her personal relationships and her approach to teaching. Typically, she was proud to be known as the rule breaker of her “set” and I think she’d appreciate the irony of her old pictures appearing on the college Wikipedia page. 

[See image gallery at lornamcampbell.org] In order to add these images to Commons, I’m having to go through the rather baroque OTRS procedure, and I’d like to thank Michael Maggs, former Chair of Board of Wikimedia UK, for his invaluable support in guiding me through the process.  Thanks are also due to colleagues at the Centre for Research Collections, which holds the college archive, for helping me access some of the sources I’ve cited. 

One last thing….when I was producing our OER Service Autumn newsletter I made this GIF to illustrate a short news item about the Body Language exhibition. 

Garden Dance GIF

Garden Dance, CC BY, University of Edinburgh.

The gif is part of a beautiful 1950s film featuring students from Dunfermline College called Garden Dance, which was released under open licence by the Centre of Research Collections.  The film is described as “Dance set in unidentified garden grounds, possibly in Dunfermline” however when I was looking through my mother’s college album I found this picture of the very same garden, so it appears it was filmed in Aberdeen. If you click through to the film, you can clearly see the same monkey puzzle tree in the background. It was obviously something of a landmark!  I wonder if my mother is one of the dancers? 

 

ComicLife3 for Chrome⤴

from @ Alan Stewart's AT Blog

Today plasq announced the official release of Comic Life 3 for Chromebook! The app is now available in the form of a compatible Android app.

Comic Life 3 for Chromebook has all the favourite features you have come to love from the other versions. To find out more, please check out the dedicated Comic Life 3 for Chromebook site.

Comic Life 3 is available from the Google Play store and requires a relatively recent Chromebook to function. (If you’ve installed Android apps on your Chromebook you’re ready for Comic Life).

Comic Life 3 on Chromebooks is US$2.49 and can be purchased and downloaded from the Google Play Store here.

Text to Speech with ClaroRead for Chrome⤴

from @ Alan Stewart's AT Blog

Delighted to be updating this post today after returning to Claro in the first time for a couple of months. On a visit to a local secondary school today we were discussing tools for predictive text and I checked this over before referencing it. I was quite critical of the prediction offering in my original post- it simply didn’t work!! – but it does now.

If you’re needing to offer your students simple, free text to speech to support their reading of web pages or PDFs – or any other digital text for that matter – ClaroRead is a really good tool. It’s unobtrusive, and, once it’s set up for your student, it doesn’t require much attention.

You can download the extension from the Chrome Web Store and once installed this icon will show at the top of your screen.  

Clicking it will open the discreet Control Panel which allow you to configure the tool to suit yourself or your student.

e.g. If you tick the settings like this your student can simply highlight text to hear it read aloud.

CR click & play

Experiment with the settings to suit your user – e.g. switching on Click and play will change the control panel accordingly. Watch a demo video here.

Using ClaroRead text to speech to support writing.

e.g. Students can also hear what they’re writing as they type.

CR Writing

As mentioned above the prediction window is now functioning well. It’s not a full-feature predictor but it’s good for core vocabulary in everyday, general writing.

There’s also a full Help Guide to making use of the extension here.

A chance meeting, an old friend and a foray into alternative provision: Newlands Junior College⤴

from @ Cat's eyes

I was lucky yesterday to meet up with an old friend at Newlands Junior College – a unique, vocational provision for 14-16 year olds, housed in a former factory in Newlands in the south side of Glasgow.  It is an independent provision, funded, in the main by industrial entrepreneur, Jim McColl and exists to provide young people who have struggled to engage in the mainstream system with an opportunity to learn through an intensive support programme involving academic, vocational and personal development.

I’d known about the existence of Newlands for a while, and I was really pleased to find out about what was going on first hand. A few things struck me about Newlands. There was a very relaxed atmosphere in the building and a big emphasis on student responsibility for learning. The starting point for the timetable is staff availability.  The subjects taught are English, mathematics, science and ICT.   PSE runs through the curriculum and features strongly. The timetable shows when the relevant staff are available and students decide which subjects they attend. This allows them to focus on priorities as they arise (folio pieces, for example) and manage their own programmes.  Each student also has a vocational placement and supplementary training or qualifications are provided in partnership with a range of businesses, training organisations or City of Glasgow FE college. It is an entirely unique arrangement in many ways,  but is clearly responding to a significant need that the mainstream system cannot meet.

The relaxed atmosphere is balanced by an ethic of  professionalism.  Students wear uniform and staff dress smartly. Some teaching spaces are open plan. All the offices, including meeting rooms and the principal’s office have  transparent walls so that all working processes are visible to students and visitors. Students can choose how they address staff, using first name terms or standard titles, which some still choose to use. De-institutionalising can be difficult for  young people.  Classroom walls are written on and used very effectively as whiteboard spaces – this too can challenge some. There is no behaviour policy – there is no need for one. A few agreed rules – no shouting; no sarcasm, no greetin’ !, no excuses – and a clear focus on relationships do a much, much better job.  Personally, I’m more and more persuaded that there is never a need for a behaviour policy, but that’s for a different discussion.

There is no doubt that this is a very important, exciting and successful innovation. There are big questions though,  around sustainability and replicability. Neither of these have a straightforward answer. Part of its uniqueness and success has to be down to the qualities and experiences of the staff who have been selected to teach there, and from what I saw yesterday, they are a uniquely impressive group.  Also the unique nature of the circumstances – a focus on work and industry, funded by an industrialist, in a post-industrial city, obviously gives rise to certain opportunities specific to the location of the college. And the funding itself – this raises questions of both replicability and sustainability. I know that some significant work is going on in this regard to expand or extend the concept of Newlands, and I really hope that it meets with success.  Many, many young people deserve a chance like this. This is GIRFEC in action, and although it’s very difficult to replicate, there is a lot that can be learned.

So who was my old friend? Well, this was a personal highlight for me. I met up again with a student friend from teacher-training days at Jordanhill, Graham Robertson. Graham is now head of guidance, careers and business links at Newlands Junior College and we haven’t seen each other since Jordanhill. A chance meeting at the SELMAS forum allowed us to get back in touch and it was great to hear that he’s still in education, and about how his career developed over the years. We were in an elective class together for PSE which was taught by the one and only John MacBeath.  Things we both learned there have stayed with us over all those years, and influenced us both in our thinking about socialisation and relationships in education. How lucky we were to take that class -it was definitely the highlight of my postgraduate course. Looking back, though,  I don’t think we realised at the time quite what a privilege it was. Great to see you Graham, thank you so much for my visit, and I’m hoping we can develop useful links for our students and yours, in times to come.

The way we were⤴

from @ blethers

I've held off from saying much online about the latest celebrity-outing as a sexual predator, but the Harvey Weinstein furore has got me thinking about the past - my past. Interestingly enough, my first reaction was to reflect how it's always the really ugly, unattractive guys - just run over in your mind the names that surface and see if you agree. I can recall that time in the 1960s when I asked my mother how a man like Robert Boothby could attract anyone; I seem also to recall that her answer contained a reference to the aphrodisiac of power - the idea that a powerful man could always have his way with a younger partner. Clearly I was not entirely convinced of that; I do recall my 20-something self finding him utterly repulsive.

But actually that's not the whole story. The thing is, when we were young we were expected to be grateful to be fancied by ... well, by anyone. That's part of the sad truth. When I was in Primary 7 - that is, 11-12 years old - we read comics like Romeo (always had the lyrics of a current pop song on the back) and Valentine (had photo-serials instead of comic strip ones - I never liked it as much). The stories were always about a girl attracting some personable bloke by changing her hair or removing her specs, thereby looking more appealing and less brainy. There were columns devoted to pleasing a boy by allowing him to talk about himself - even down to the questions to ask him. And the girl always, always had to wait to be asked.

We joked about it too. There was a teacher in my secondary school whom we avoided as having "wandering hands". Remember that one? But then I remind myself that he was deeply unattractive. Would we have made the jokes about him if he'd been fanciable? There was the unknown man who chased me and two pals along the road, exposing himself as he did. We could hardly run for laughing - though the fact that we were encumbered with violins and (god help us) a cello didn't help. We were interviewed by a policewoman after that; one of my pals was the daughter of a high-ranking policeman. So they took it seriously - we didn't. Why was this?

Remember the cattle-market dances? Girls down one wall, boys facing? And then waiting to see if some pimply youth would ask you to dance, thereby sealing your fate? I went to about two of these: that was enough. And I was lucky. I had a very strict father who had been a secondary teacher all his life, and I'm eternally grateful for the way in which he restricted me and what I did. "Use me as an excuse if you like, he would say - you're not going." Until I was 18 and had passed all the Highers I needed for Uni, I wasn't allowed out to random parties. Imagine how much I hated him at the time, and how thankful I was each time I heard of what had happened at the parties I missed. I wasn't allowed to go hitch-hiking with my pals, nor on cheap, vaguely-planned holidays in Greece. So actually I was never assaulted on the deck of a Greek steamer in the middle of the night, nor on a hotel roof where it was cooler to sleep. And yes, these things happened.

But what of the life of a woman after she's left the protection of her family? (and I know some women aren't protected at all - I'm talking about myself, really) Someone else mentioned the oft-heard question: "Is he bothering you?" And we had to devise ways to avoid being "bothered". Remember, this can include a whole range of behaviours - the sudden hand on the thigh, the tongue down the throat when even a peck felt offensive, the lascivious wolf-whistle from some bloke down a hole in the road. And in the 60s we were never told that it was fine to tell the man what we really felt - rather the reverse. It was regarded as perverse to object to any of it. You made some excuse and wriggled out of the situation, or you let it go on and ended up raped. I was never raped, but I know people who were. They didn't call it rape; they euphemised the whole situation.

Where on earth am I going with all this? I think I'm looking at the sense of entitlement that men have had since time immemorial, and which the women of my generation hadn't climbed sufficiently out of the pit of submission that women had always lived in. So when I hear the current stories about the way famous men have been exposed for the promiscuous predators they are (and it's only famous men - the ordinary tosser in the street just goes on his ghastly way, presumably) - when I hear these, it's like hearing of people waking from a centuries'-long sleep and talking about their nightmares. But they are the nightmares on whose fringes I lived in my youth, and they feel familiar.

Even the best of men - and I'm fortunate: I know many such men - can't know this past as people women my age do. Can't know the present hell that too many women still inhabit. But it's not going to improve unless women occupy the confident upper ground that men have walked since they emerged from the slime; until all women feel the equal of any man they meet and bring up their sons to know this truth; until every girl is imbued with the powerful sense of self that circles her with the armour of confidence; until the Harvey Weinsteins of this world are slapped down the moment they show their true colours.

And until we can be sure that such men will never, ever, become the president of the most powerful nation in the world.


There and back again⤴

from

Elias Pipon’s memorial to the Droits de L’Homme, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

I’m just back from holiday and, against all the odds, our aged VW camper van made it all the way to Finistère and back without even a hiccup.  Sadly the same can’t be said for myself. I came down with a very nasty kidney infection while travelling and had to spend the first half of my holiday in hospital in France ?  Thank god for EU healthcare.  And thanks also to the medical staff aboard MV Armorique and at Centre Hospitalier de Pays de Morlaix.  Due to their exemplary care my holiday wasn’t a complete wash out and I made it to the beach before the week was out.

I also managed to visit Audierne Bay, the scene of the Droits de L’Homme engagement, the 19th century frigate action that was the starting point for our research into the 1797 crew of HMS Indefatigable and our subsequent book Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates: The young gentlemen of Pellew’s Indefatigable.  It was a beautiful day when we visited and the beach was crowded with families enjoying the sun and children playing in the sea.  It was hard to remember that so many men lost their lives in that exact spot after the Droits de L’Homme was wrecked on the shore following the engagement.  Elias Pipon, an English artillery lieutenant who was a prisoner aboard the ship at the time, wrote a harrowing account of the shipwreck and 40 years later returned to Audierne Bay to erect a monument to the event. The beach now takes it’s name from Pipon’s memorial: Plage du Menhir.

Anyway, I’m now back at my desk and facing the inevitable post holiday e-mail backlog (967) and I’m also starting a new role at the University of Edinburgh today, but that deserves a separate log post of it’s own!

Reader View – easier to see, read or hear.⤴

from @ Alan Stewart's AT Blog

Webpages can be very messy places to read from: broken or wandering text – often split at odd paces to accommodate a picture or advert, font sizes that are too small and shapes not really considerate to those with reading difficulties.

The Safari browser for Mac/iPad/iPhone has had Reader View built in for quite some time allowing users to strip the extraneous stuff out of the page leaving clean, plain text which can also be sized and have its font and background settings changed.http://www.iphonefaq.org/archives/974045

There’s an extension for Google Chrome that does, virtually, the same thing – it’s called Reader View and you can download it/install it to your Chrome browser here.

The extension looks like this when your browser is on most front/home pages that are links rather than text-based articles.reader view index

The extension icon changes when Reader View is available (text-based articles). reader view text

When the icon is clicked the page will change from a standard page to a clear, stripped down Reader View with font size, shape, and background colour/themes available down the right-hand side of the page.

This is the type of extension that should be made available for all pupils who have dyslexia, visual impairments, or any difficulty with reading that might be helped by seeing cleaner, clearer, more appropriately sized text. Using text-to-speech support software is also often easier to utilise with text that is spaced out in this way.


Filed under: Accessibility, Assistive Technology Software, Chrome, Cross curricular, ICT Support, iPad, Literacy, Personal, Teaching & Learning

Gaelic Wikimedian Opportunity – Tha sin direach sgoinneal!⤴

from

The National Library of Scotland and Wikimedia UK yesterday announce that they are recruiting a Gaelic Wikimedian to promote the Scottish Gaelic Wikipedia, Uicipeid.  The Gaelic Wikimedian will work throughout Scotland to promote the Gaelic language by training people to improve or create resources on Uicipeid.  This will include deliver training and events in the Western Isles, Highlands and central Scotland.

Uicipeid logoThe Gaelic Wikipedian will be responsible for designing and delivering a range of activities which will encourage young Gaels to improve their language skills through editing Uicipedia. They will deliver events and workshops and work with Gaelic organisations and communities to increase knowledge about Uicipedia and increase its size and usage. They will support the development of open knowledge and open licenses and prepare progress reports to assess the impact of their work on the development of Uicipeid.

~ WMUK and National Library of Scotland are hiring a Gaelic Wikipedian

As a Gael, a member of the Wikimedia UK Board and an advocate of open education this is a project that is very close to my heart.  I was born and brought up in Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides but sadly I have very little Gaelic.  I can talk fluently to sheepdogs and very small children, but that’s about it!  I am typical of a generation whose parents and grandparents thought there was little point in passing on their language to us.  My father and my granny spoke a lot of Gaelic to me until I was about five but once I started school the Gaelic stopped, and during the 1970’s and early 80’s there was very little provision for Gaelic medium education in the Hebrides. I did one year of Gaelic in secondary school but that was it.

I now have a daughter of my own and as soon as she was old enough to start nursery I decided I wanted her to have the Gaelic medium education that was not available to me.  She is now in in her sixth year at Gaelic school, fluent in the language, and loving every minute of her education.  She also rolls her eyes in embarrassment at my woeful language skills but I can live with that.

Like many school kids, whenever my daughter is doing research for her school projects, Wikipedia is her first port of call, which obviously is something I encourage. She finds the information and references she needs and then carefully translates what she has learned into Gaelic.  It’s a bonus to find an article written in Gaelic in the first place.   It goes without saying that if Uicipeid could be expanded it would be an enormously important resource for Gaelic medium education, not just for primary school children to find facts, but for older students to gain valuable digital literacy skills.

Not only is this a wonderful opportunity for a Gaelic speaker to get involved with Wikimedia and the open knowledge community, the project also promises to be of enormous value to Gaelic teachers and learners and, perhaps most importantly, the future generations of young Gaels.

You can find out more about the post from Wikimedia UK, WMUK and National Library of Scotland are hiring a Gaelic Wikipedian and Obraichean Gàidhlig, Gaelic Wikipedian.

And here’s my own little contribution to Uicipeid, a photograph of Stornoway, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and  tagged in Gaelic ?

Stornoway Harbour

Steòrnabhagh, Eilean Leòdhais