Weeknote #23 – 9th August 2019

Doctor Johnson's House
Doctor Johnson’s House in Gough Square

Monday was another trip to London, I had been expecting to participate in a workshop, but this was cancelled late last week, and I already had train tickets and another meeting in the diary so decided to head up anyhow. The weather was changeable, raining whilst on the train, but this cleared up by the time I arrived in London.

I saw this link in my news feed and it did make me think more about how we could use AI to support learning, but also reflect on some of the real challenges in making this happen. Also do we want this to happen!

China has started a grand experiment in AI education. It could reshape how the world learns. – MIT Technology Review

I wrote a blog post about some thoughts I had on this.

Is this the future of “teaching”?

In the afternoon in the office we were discussing Education 4.0 and how we are going to move this forward in terms of expert thinking and messages.

Tuesday was a busy day, first a meeting in the Bristol office, before heading up to Cheltenham for a meeting the HESA office.

CrossCountry train at Cheltenham Spa Railway Station
CrossCountry train at Cheltenham Spa Railway Station

I haven’t been on a CrossCountry train for a while now, so travelling to Cheltenham Spa from Bristol Temple Meads I was interested to see how the 3G connectivity issues I’ve always had on that route would be like, especially as I now have 4G with Three. Well same old problems, dipping in and out from 4G to 3G as well as periods of No Service. I would like to blame the train, but the reality is that there is poor phone signal connectivity on that route. As there is no incentive for mobile network providers to improve connectivity.

If I do go to Cheltenham again, I think I will take a book!

We were discussed the Data Matters 2020 Conference, which is now in my portfolio. Still a work in progress and the proposal needs to be signed off by key stakeholders.

Pub in Cheltenham
The Vine Pub in Cheltenham

Whilst I was in Cheltenham I bumped into my old colleague Deborah from Gloucestershire College and we had a chat about stuff. What was nice to hear was the number of my team and colleagues in that team that had started there in learning technology and were now doing new and more exciting jobs at universities across the UK.

Wednesday there was rain. I spent today preparing for a meeting in the afternoon and tidying up my inbox. Though I did find time for a coffee.

Flat White
Flat White from Hart’s Bakery

Thanks to Lawrie for the link, I read this report on the iPASS system, which uses data and analytics to identify students at risk.

The three institutions increased the emphasis on providing timely support, boosted their use of advising technologies, and used administrative and communication strategies to increase student contact with advisers.

This report shows that the enhancements generally produced only a modestly different experience for students in the program group compared with students in the control group, although at one college, the enhancements did substantially increase the number of students who had contact with an adviser. Consequently, it is not surprising that the enhancements have so far had no discernible positive effects on students’ academic performance.

Looks like that it didn’t have the impact that they thought it might.

In a couple of weeks I am recording a podcast and met with the organiser today to discuss content and format. Without giving too much away, we will be covering the importance of people in any digital transformation programme and ensuring that they are part of the process, consultation and are given appropriate training in the wider context of their overall skills and capabilities. You can’t just give people new digital systems and expect them to be able to use them from day one or with specific training. Familiarity with digital in its wider context is often critical, but is equally often forgotten.

Whilst writing a blog post about online learning I wrote the following

Conversations are really hard to follow in e-mail, mainly as people don’t respond in a linear manner, they add their comment to the top of their reply.

When I first started using e-mail in 1997, well actually I first started using e-mail in 1987, but then got flamed by the e-mail administrator at Brunel University, so stopped using it for ten years….

When I re-started using e-mail in 1997, there was an expectation when replying to e-mail that you would respond by writing your reply underneath the original e-mail, bottom posting, which really was something that I got from using usenet newsgroups. This from RFC 1855.

If you are sending a reply to a message or a posting be sure you summarize the original at the top of the message, or include just enough text of the original to give a context. This will make sure readers understand when they start to read your response. Since NetNews, especially, is proliferated by distributing the postings from one host to another, it is possible to see a response to a message before seeing the original. Giving context helps everyone. But do not include the entire original!

By the early 2000s lots more people were using e-mail and most of the time they were replying at the start of the e-mail, top-posting. There were quite a few people in my circles who continued to bottom post their replies, which made sense when reading a threaded conversation, but confused the hell out of people who didn’t understand why someone replied to a conversation, and from what they could see, hadn’t written anything!

Today top-posting appears to be the norm and I can’t recall when I last saw someone responding to an e-mail by replying at the end of the quoted reply.

Here is the blog post I wrote, about how online learning doesn’t just happen.

Online learning doesn’t just happen

Friday was about planning, planning and even some forward planning. One thing that has puzzled me for a long time was the difference between forward planning and planning. Thanks to Google I have a better idea now.

Forward planning is being pro-active, predicting the future and then planning to achieve that prediction.

The opposite is backward planning, which is more reactive, you wait until you get a request or management decision then create a plan to achieve it.

So what is plain and simple planning then?

Wikipedia says that planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to achieve a desired goal.

So some of what I am doing in my planning is responding to both requested goals and planning for some predicted goals.

We had our weekly meeting about the Technical Career Pathways we are developing at Jisc. I am responsible for the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Online learning doesn’t just happen

student on a laptop
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

When it comes to the delivery of online learning, the assumption is made that it will just happen. Assumptions are made that academics who are experts already in delivering learning will be able to easily transfer their skills to an online environment. Even if they are provided with some training, what they will require will be minimal. The training will usually be about the mechanics of online learning, as these academics are already experts in learning, so why would you even “insult” them with training about learning!

What can often happen is that the processes and methods that people use in the physical space will be translates verbatim to an online space. It will not taken into account the challenges of an online environment, or recognise the affordances of said environments. This also ignores the potential and affordances that online environments can bring to learning.

  • Lectures will become webinars.
  • Presentations will become PowerPoint slide decks.
  • Handouts will be Word documents to be downloaded.
  • Verbal communication will be done by e-mail.

The online environment will become a repository of materials that will be forgotten and ignored. The end result will be a lack of engagement by students and a deluge of complaints about this whole online learning experiment.

Writing in a notebook
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

The overall experience is expected to be the same, but merely re-creating the physical experience online is often disappointing for both students and academics. Many of the nuances of face to face learning can be lost when moving to online. Part of the issue is that physical learning activities don’t necessarily translate readily into an online environment, the nuances of what makes the face to face so valuable can be lost in translation, similarly the possibilities and affordances of the online space can be lost.

A lecture is more than just someone at the front talking to an audience. There is something about bringing together in a single place, the physicality of that “performance” adds to the whole experience. Though the oral nature of the delivery can be captured, the non-verbal aspects will often not be noticed, but are equally important as the verbal ones.Students will share a common experience, and they will have a similar experience to others in the room.

As webinar can be used as an online lecture, but you won’t have the non-verbal cues, even when using a webcam. The academic will miss out on the whole group experience and their non-verbal language in response to the lecture.

Using webinar technology can allow for a complex and fluid conversation to happen at the same time as the lecture. Using the chat functionality can enhance and enrich the experience. In my experience it helps to have someone else in the webinar space to manage the chat area, to respond, to provide links and content and to summarise at appropriate times to the academic delivering the webinar feedback from the group. It’s really hard for one person to do all that and deliver an engaging lecture. Another aspect that is often forgotten that online delivery (be it audio or video) appears flatter than when seeing it for “real” so one thing I do is up my performance a notch or two. Take it too far and you will become Alan Partridge, but it will make for better delivery if you brighten and enhance your delivery.

Of course webinars don’t have to be a lecture, they could be a group discussion. Why replace the lecture with a webinar, when you could replace it with a podcast of various experts discussing the topic of the lecture. Of course online means you can bring in experts from across the country (if not the world) to discuss the topic and record it for future listening by students.One of the affordances of online is that it doesn’t have to be live, it can be recorded and then watched by the student at a time and place to suit them. Suddenly this opens up a wide range of opportunities, why just record yourself in a lecture theatre, why not take to the road and turn your lecture into a radio programme. Why not create a film about what you want to talk about? Of course this takes time and effort, but sharing and collaboration (much easier to do these days online) means you could share the load with others in your field.

It is easy to upload files to an online environment, but in isolation what is the context. If you create great PowerPoint slide decks for your lectures, do they work without the lecture? Personally my slides are usually just images or single words, that look nice, but really without the talk tell you nothing I was talking about! There are tools and processes out there that can turn simple PowerPoint files into online videos through recording an audio track as they are presented. You could do this live (using webinar technology) or pre-record using the built-in tools. Something to recognise that these files can be quite large, will your students have the connectivity and the bandwidth outside campus to access them? Will you need to provide alternatives?

Though for many PowerPoint is a familiar tool, there are other tools in the toolbox that can create engaging online content. Some even allow you to add interactive elements. How you create good online content isn’t just about the technical aspects of using said tools, but also recognising the pedagogical principles that need to be followed when designing online learning content. If you start to add quizzes or questions, there is a whole new raft of skills that may need developing.

reading a Kindle
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Though it might be thought uploading Word documents to the online environment, is one way to get content to students, there are so many other resources out there to create an effective online learning experience. The subject of e-resources could fill a book and often does. Understanding what is possible with resources is one thing, understanding the wealth of resources out there is something else.

We know that everyone loves e-mail, and it is often the default online communication method for many. However using a single tool for all types and formats of communication is not effective or efficient. Who really wants their sacred inbox to be filled with numerous conversations and questions that are getting in the way of other “important” work e-mails. If you have more than one cohort, then it becomes even more difficult. Conversations are really hard to follow in e-mail, mainly as people don’t respond in a linear manner, they add their comment to the top of their reply. For conversations and discussion, e-mail is a really bad online tool, especially when there are so many better alternatives out there for doing this kind of thing.

I find e-mail is best for the one-to-one messaging (and occasional) conversation and for the broadcast style one-to-many messages (though even then I think there are better alternatives out there for even that kind of message). Using appropriate platforms for online conversations opens up a range of learning possibilities that could not happen in the offline world as well as re-creating the conversations students and academics have.

Overall there is more to online learning then learning the mechanics of online learning. That equally applies to students as well as academics. Don’t assume people can do online learning, there are skills, techniques and possibilities that need to be thought about and taken onboard. As well as the mechanics of using the system, there is the how of online learning, the process of learning that also needs to be considered. Really it should be considered first and then deliver the technical training.

So how are you approaching the subject of online learning with your academics? What works? What challenges have you come across and how did you overcome them?

Is this the future of “teaching”?

learning
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Today I saw this link in my news feed and it did make me think about how we could use AI to support learning, but also some of the real challenges in making this happen.

China has started a grand experiment in AI education. It could reshape how the world learns. – MIT Technology Review

An interesting read on how China is using it’s technological might (and economies of scale) to utilise AI to respond to demand for tutoring to catch up and for the college entrance exam, the gaokao.

The article says that three factors have driven AI education, firstly supported by tax breaks, a $1bn investment. Second intense demand for tutoring and people (read parents) willing to pay for it. Thirdly masses of data to refine algorithms and a population not as concerned about data privacy as we are in the West.

This AI teaching model is gaining traction in China, could the UK do something similar? Well we certainly couldn’t match the investment, people don’t like paying for stuff and we have big ethical concerns about data and privacy.

Could we learn from China?

Well one aspect of the tutoring system is how it adapts to the needs of the learner and as a result personalises the learning that is made available to the learner. Could we use a similar system to support learners in their learning journey? Not necessarily fulfilling the entire learning journey, but aspects and parts of the journey.

Well the system doesn’t necessarily remove the human function within learning and teaching, in the same way that books didn’t and in reality neither did the VLE. What it does do is free up time for teachers to focus on those aspects of learning which technology and AI can’t do well or not at all.

Group working
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

I don’t see AI systems replacing teachers, in the same way that text books, workbooks, don’t replace teachers. What I can see is how such systems could enhance the learning journey. Rather than a blanket list of resources and links, more focused and personalised approach to meeting the learner needs.

I can see a system also working intelligently to understand the context the learner is learning in. Are they travelling or on campus, or at home? What is their connectivity like? Are they on their own, with peers from their cohort? What assessments do they have coming up? Have they been working for a while, do they need a break?

Before we get to that, there is a lot of work to be done on how we measure these aspects of learner context. Importantly we also need to consider the ethical aspects of any such system.

Weeknote #22 – 2nd August 2019

The Maughan Library
The Maughan Library on Fetter Lane

On Monday I was off to London. I was originally planning to be in a workshop, but that didn’t work out, so I made the most of my trip to touch base with some key people in our London office. I spent some time planning a training and development session on presentations. This follows a talk I gave at an internal TEDx event.

A duck goes quack…

The talk was about designing powerpoint slides and presenting information.

For the training and development session on presentations I will expand this into an interactive session that will cover presenting and presentations in more depth. The participants will need to design and deliver a five minute presentation as part of the session.

I will be helping them to understand what makes an effective presentation, some important aspects to consider when trying to communicate a message, how to focus on and reinforce key aspects of that messaging, as well as how to manage a Q&A session after presenting. I will be mentioning fonts and images. I will attempt to not mention clip-art!

Blackfriars Bridge
Blackfriars Bridge

Tuesday was another trip to London to meet with some consultants be part of a workshop to discuss and plan our messages for current and future public affairs. In order to get to the meeting I caught the tube to Blackfriars and crossed the Thames to Southwark. I have not been to that part of London before so was curious to see what was around as I walked to the meeting. The railway bridge over the Thames had a huge crest not quite attached to it which I found quite fascinating.

London, Chatham and Dover Railway
London, Chatham and Dover Railway Crest

The bridge was once part of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway network. This rail company was formed in 1859 and the crest is dated five years later 1864. It formed a union with the South Eastern Railway and though not formally merged they operated as the South Eastern and Chatham Railway. In 1923 it was merged with other rail companies to form Southern Railway. The line became part of British Railways following nationalisation in 1948. It remained part of British Railways (and from 1965 when it traded as British Rail) until re-privatisation in 1992. Services are now operated by Thameslink.

I used the phrase “not quite attached to it” as the original structure of the original Blackfriars Railway Bridge deteriorated until it was unsound. In 1961, two tracks were removed from the bridge to ease its load. The bridge was eventually removed in 1985. The current “bridge” is in fact Blackfriars Station now.  The crest, which was restored in 1990, and the abutments are a listed building.

Wednesday I was in the office in Bristol for my end of year review, which I feel went well, despite it being an odd year with a role change mid-year. The office was packed and there were lots of people I hadn’t seen in a while, so it was good to catch up.

I spent quite some time reviewing operational plans in the context of the higher education strategy that we have which was an interesting exercise.

I have been given the task of leading on an Education 4.0 roadmap and it has been challenging to find suitable time in people’s diaries during the summer, as a lot of people are taking holiday.

Queen Mary, University of London
Queen Mary, University of London

Thursday I was off to London again, third time this week, an earlier train as I was travelling over to Queen Mary, University of London in East London. This was another part of London I had not been to before. It was a bit of a trek on the underground from Paddington to Mile End, but at least I didn’t have to change tubes.

London Underground Train
London Underground Train

We were having a round table discussion on how Jisc supports TNE for Jisc members. I gave a short presentation on how Jisc works in the HE learning and teaching space. We did though branch out into a wider educational technology discussion and I spent some time discussing the concept of the Intelligent Library. This I have spoken about before at various events across the UK.

An aspect of the discussion was use cases that could then drive how such a concept could be implemented. One we discussed was providing assessment information to libraries in a way that would support them in their provision of the library service.

I spent the afternoon working in our office in Fetter Lane.

Fetter Lane
Fetter Lane

Friday was a time to participate in a meeting about the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway I am developing at Jisc. I have made some progress, but still have some way to go to. I also took the time to undertake some planning.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Weeknote #21 – 26th July 2019

Valentine Bridge in Bristol
The view from Mead Reach Bridge looking towards Valentine Bridge in Bristol.

This week, we melted, we had a new Prime Minister, we had a new government and I didn’t go to London.

Monday I was back into the office to do what I initially thought was going to be a demonstration of Jira and Confluence, but in the end turned more into a discussion on how people are using the tools across Jisc.

Had to make a phone call on Monday, something which in work I don’t actually do that often. I make lots of audio conferences and skype calls, but I don’t use the phone as much as I have in other roles. I am part of a telephony project at Jisc and as a result I am now using Teams for making and receiving calls. It was a seamless experience, and it was nice making a call using a sound cancelling headset with microphone, rather than holding a handset or mobile phone to my head! I did feel that it was somewhat odd to use my laptop to dial the number rather than a number pad. A few years back I was looking a telephony and I remember thinking back then that there was a real culture shift needed by organisations moving from traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system to a modern telephony system used through Teams. Even now I think there is still need for a culture shift that isn’t easy for some people to just get and then move on.

This week, eleven years ago I wrote a blog post about the CherryPal mini PC which cost $249.

CherryPal launches $249 cloudy mini PC

CherryPal launches $249 cloudy mini PC

It was funded by advertising…

Today you can buy a better specified Raspberry Pi for under £35 and no advertising.

How things change….

Decided that I would become a Thought Leader and luckily for me, and thank you to Lawrie Phipps for the link, there is a course to do this on LinkedIn Learning…

I’ll let you know how I get on.

I wrote a blog post in response to a tweet I had seen earlier this year about using facial and emotion recognition with gauge the degree of student engagement in a lecture.

This week ten years ago I saw this video from Steve Boneham about something called micro-blogging…

Wonder if it ever caught on….

Crowd
Image by Brian Merrill from Pixabay

Talking about data, read this Guardian article, ‘Anonymised’ data can never be totally anonymous, says study.

“Anonymised” data lies at the core of everything from modern medical research to personalised recommendations and modern AI techniques. Unfortunately, according to a paper, successfully anonymising data is practically impossible for any complex dataset.

The article discusses the how data which has been anonymised data can in a number of methods be deanonymised to identify real people.

This has implications for universities and colleges, who are looking at using deanonymized data for intelligence and informed decision making.

If you think of anonymised data tracking students movement across campus, using wifi, this could be easily deanonymized using attendance data, swipe card data, PC logins, library card data.

Something to think about. The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Thursday, I was going to go to London for a meeting with colleagues from the DfE. However due to the heat we decided to have the meeting virtually. Though there are advantages in meeting face to face, the fact we now have the technology to make meetings virtual means that we don’t need to cancel or re-schedule meetings. There are also affordances with virtual meetings, I like using the chat to post relevant links rather than interrupt the flow of the meeting. The fact the links are “live” and saved, means people don’t a) need to copy them down or b) wait until the links are e-mailed to them after the meeting.

microphone
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

I spent some time working on abstracts and proposals for various conferences I am attending in September. Working for an organisation like Jisc, I obviously need to talk about stuff we’re doing at Jisc. I kind of miss the keynotes I was doing ten years ago, when I had a lot more freedom on the topics and subjects I was presenting on. Back then I spent a lot of time talking about the future of learning, which the main thrust was that change is going to happen, but the important part of that journey was people, academics and students. The technology facilitates and provides affordances, but in the end it’s people who will want to change the way they do things and people will need to demonstrate leadership if they want change to happen. For the conferences in September I will mainly be talking about Education 4.0.

Friday I was back in the office in Bristol working on my preparation  for my end of year review. This year has been interesting as I changed roles in March so did not complete my previous objectives and inherited a number of new objectives.

I was reminded of the problems heat can cause this week with this photograph from seven years ago in 2012, my Google Nexus One got so hot I had to put it in the fridge….

my Google Nexus One got so hot I had to put it in the fridge....

My top tweet this week was this one.

 

Understanding your audience

puppets
Photo by Umut YILMAN on Unsplash

Back in February I saw this tweet on the Twitter

I started writing a blog post about this and then never finished it, so then I found the draft and decided to reflect on this technological development.

Imagine if such a technology existed and was in use. A lecturer using an Augmented Reality headset, which uses facial and emotional recognition gauges student engagement.

Now there is a huge question mark over whether we could even develop such a technology and create the unbiased algorithms  that would be required to both define student engagement and how using facial and emotional recognition would actually be able to measure that engagement.

Just because someone said they were engaged in a session doesn’t mean always they were.

One of the other key questions for me that needs to be answered is, what does a lecturer do if using such a system, found their audience disengaged. Do they continue despite knowing this, stop and send people home, or do they launch into a song and dance routine or even a puppet show?

What do lecturers do now when they believe that their students are disengaged?

Weeknote #20 – 19th July 2019

Extinction Rebellion in Bristol
Extinction Rebellion in Bristol

Monday I was off to our Bristol office. There was quite a bit of disruption across the city with Extinction Rebellion demonstrating across the centre.

I was into the office to deliver some training on Jira for personal use. Though Jira and Confluence make great tools for projects I have been using it myself over the last few years to manage my work and individual projects.

As the main focus was on productivity, we did discuss manging e-mail and tasks. I use an Inbox Zero approach that I discovered back in 2007 when listening to a podcast.

I recently wrote two blog posts on Inbox Zero on my tech stuff blog, the first I discuss how I deal with e-mail.

Do you do the Inbox Zero?


In the second post I expand on that with more detail and some further thoughts.

Not quite Inbox Zero


I found the Atlassian documentation really easy to follow and provides a good starting point for users of both Jira and Confluence.

Confluence is a wiki platform for creating documentation and some companies even use it for their actual website. Jira is an issue tracking system. You can embed macros in Confluence that can show details about your Jira issues.

I did manage to get out of the office and get a coffee at a new coffee place that has opened this year.

Spiller & Cole Coffee Shop
Spiller & Cole Coffee Shop

This week on my technology stuff blog I published a post about a QR Code which failed to work ten years ago with a specialised QR Code reader on my iPhone 3GS, but worked fine with the in-built QR Code reader in the iPhone 8 camera.

Ten years later, it works….

In the next few weeks I have a fair few meetings in London, so I have been booking travel and hopefully it will be slightly cooler than recently, as travelling in this heat is a real nightmare.

Last week I followed my colleague, Lawrie, on Twitter as he attended an event on Microsoft Teams.

He published a blog post about the event.

Thinking in the open about Microsoft Teams

I could argue various points, but these are my early thoughts. I’m remaining engaged with Microsoft Teams, I’m looking to see if this can be a “Digital Ecosystem” as we envisaged during the Co-design work. 

I have always seen the VLE as a concept more than an individual product and I do like the term “Digital Ecosystem” as it kind of describes that viewpoint. If you say VLE or LMS then people think of products such as Blackboard, Canvas or Moodle. For me the VLE was something more than an individual product, it was a series of ways of working online using a range of online tools and services that were inter-connected. Teams is one such tool that can be connected into such a VLE concept.

The view from St Phillips Bridge
The view from St Phillips Bridge

Facial recognition was again in the news, this time the The House of Commons Science and Technology committee expressed their concerns on the technology.

MPs call for halt to police’s use of live facial recognition – BBC News

The police and other authorities should suspend use of automatic facial recognition technologies, according to an influential group of MPs. The House of Commons Science and Technology committee added there should be no further trials of the tech until relevant regulations were in place. It raised accuracy and bias concerns.

Also this week everyone was talking about FaceApp with lots of different news outlets reporting on the app and concerns people had about it. There was concerns about the biased algorithim that the app used to make people “hot” was in fact racist. There was worry over privacy and security over the use of images and even if there was Russian collusion! Of course some people thought it was all a bit of fun!

My top tweet this week was this one.

Weeknote #19 – 12th July 2019

St Nicholas Market stall
St Nicholas Market stall

Monday I was off to Lumen House, location of the Jisc offices in Harwell. This was for me, my first meeting of the Jisc Group Senior Leadership Team. In my new role I am now part of GSLT. We are going to be discussing strategy.

During a break I did read this article from BBC News.

Reminded me of last week’s weeknote, in which I said about the Guardian article on the same subject, Police face calls to end use of facial recognition software.

…independent analysis found matches were only correct in a fifth of cases and the system was likely to break human rights laws.

Relying on new technology for some stuff can be excused, but using unproven technology that could result in negative impacts on people’s lives is inexcusable. Actually relying on technology without a human element is also inexcusable. The number of times we hear the phrase “well the computer says…”.  We need to remember that computers and software are designed by people and people can be wrong, biased and will make mistakes.

Temple Way in Bristol
Temple Way in Bristol

Tuesday I was back in our Bristol office and had a few meetings across the day on various subjects from our student partner programme to the Twitter.

The meeting about the Twitter was interesting as it reminded me of the many blog posts I have written about using Twitter. My overall perspective after using the Twitter for over twelve years now is that I still don’t know how to use the Twitter and saying “the Twitter” really annoys people.

Wednesday with no meetings in the diary, I decided to work from home. The office when busy can be noisy and distracting. Sometimes that is a positive thing, and sometimes distractions allow you to interact and engage with people, sometimes though you just need to crack on and get the writing done.

One of the main things I have been working on this week is mapping the Learning and Research TCP to the SIFA Framework. This will allow us to have consistency across all the TCPs in Jisc. However one area which the SIFA is lacking in is the research side, so further work will need to be done in that space.

Despite having left the project six months ago, I still get the odd e-mail about the Intelligent Campus project, having been linked to the project for so long I am not surprised. It’s an area which still interests me and I do like to keep on top of what is happening in this space not just in the HE sector, but also wider as with Smart City developments.

The University of Bristol tweeted out this week

They have been awarded £100million by Research England to research and develop cutting-edge tech, which will benefit society and change the world, at the new Bristol Digital Futures Institute, which will be in Bristol’s new Temple Quarter development.

Lots of discussion about the recent announcement that Alexa will start offering NHS Health Advice.

People will be able to get expert health advice using Amazon Alexa devices, under a partnership with the NHS, the government has announced.

Certainly the use of voice assistants has been growing in recent years, but also concerns about privacy, and this will only add fuel to that fire.

On Thursday I followed my colleague, Lawrie, on Twitter as he attended an event on Microsoft Teams.

It certainly sounded an interesting event and from what I hear Teams is gaining traction with the sector.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Weeknote #18 – 5th July 2019

The beach at Sand Bay
The beach at Sand Bay

A busy and confusing week for me with various non-work activities taking place, resulting in a more agile and flexible way of working.

On Monday, that Amazon Photos reminded me that on the 1st July in 2007 I was taking photographs of our brand new library at the new Gloucestershire College campus on the quays.

Gloucestershire College Library

What really impressed me back then was that my library team came in over the weekend to unpack everything and ensure that the library was ready to open. They didn’t tell me they were going to do that, as they wanted to surprise me (and everyone else as it happens). The library was welcomed by staff and students. It would take a little time to embed the use of the library across the student body, but within a year or two we were there.

At Gloucestershire College I was responsible for TEL, the libraries and learning resources from 2006 until 2013. Ofsted at our March 2013 inspection. Ofsted said “Teachers and learners use learning technologies extensively and creatively inside and outside the classroom. Most courses provide a good range of materials for learners through the college’s VLE. Outside lessons, many learners make constructive use of the college’s libraries and resources.” This was achieved by working with curriculum teams and students on show how the library and technology could be used to support learners and enhance the learning experience. I was very proud that all the work myself and my team had put into the use of learning technologies, the VLE and the library was recognised.

I quite enjoyed the tweets this week from Microsoft celebrating the 1985 initial release of Windows.

My first experience of Windows was some time later with Windows 3.0 and remembering the big advance that Windows 3.1 brought to computing. It was probably Windows 3.1 that really made me appreciate the affordances that technology could bring to teaching.

I remember the huge fanfare that was Windows 95 and what a step change it was from 3.1. We even had video now on Windows, though it was quite small.

I never really moved to Windows 98 and moved straight to Windows 2000 when I started a new job in 2001. Well the laptop I was provided with did use Windows Me, but I soon moved over to 2000. I liked Windows XP and thought it was a huge improvement over previous versions of Windows.

After that I was more of a Mac person and rarely used Windows. I did have to use Windows 7 for a while, but found it confusing as I hadn’t used Windows for a long time. Today I have been known to use Windows 10, but my main computing platform these days is still OS X.

David Kernohan of Wonkhe wrote an interesting blog post Visualising the national student survey 2019.

I’ve long argued that NSS by institution only isn’t helpful for prospective students or others – you include so many different student experiences l that an average doesn’t offer much help for understanding how your experience may compare.

He then goes through a range of visualisations including results that allows you to get as close to results for an individual course as the data allows.

I liked the use of Tableau to enable you to interact with the visualisations.

Another news item this week caught my eye. Police face calls to end use of facial recognition software.

…independent analysis found matches were only correct in a fifth of cases and the system was likely to break human rights laws.

Relying on new technology for some stuff can be excused, but using unproven technology that could result in negative impacts on people’s lives is inexcusable.

Actually relying on technology without a human element is also inexcusable. The number of times we hear the phrase “well the computer says…”.

We need to remember that computers and software are designed by people and people can be wrong, biased and will make mistakes.

On Thursday, that Amazon Photos once more gave me a blast from the past and reminded me that thirteen years ago in 2006 I had presented at the EU e-Learning Conference in Espoo in Finland. I was presenting on behalf of Norton Radstock College (now part of Bath College) about a joint European project they had been working on. At the time I was Director of the Western Colleges Consortium of which Norton Radstock was the lead college. I was on holiday when I got the call to see if I could attend, so it was a somewhat mad rush to sort out the travel. I started off in Bristol Airport and then there was a bit of a mad rush at Schiphol where I had to change to a flight to Helsinki. Schiphol is one huge airport…

Schiphol Airport

Having arrived at Helsinki, I needed to get to Espoo and travelled by shared taxi to the hotel. I spent part of the evening walking around the area, before ending up in the hotel restaurant.

Espoo

It was lovely and sunny, and as being so far north, the sun never really set. I also remember trying to access the BBC News website connected to the hotel wifi and being surprised by the advertising all across the BBC site. I then connected to the VPN in my office in Keynsham and all those adverts disappeared…

The conference was opened by a string quartet which I remember been something I hadn’t seen before at an e-learning conference. My presentation went down well, but the humour didn’t!

EU e-Learning Conference 2006

The conference meal was a little disappointing, I had been expecting a meal that would be full of Finnish delicacies and national dishes. What actually happened was we went to an Italian restaurant and had a buffet of Italian food.

It’s quite happenstance that I was reminded of that conference and trip, as in my new role I am now working with NREN colleagues across Europe on different projects,

Helsinki Tram

I had some time the following day before my flight to have a quick look around Helsinki. I caught a bus to the centre and back.

Helsinki

As I didn’t know any Finnish I thought I did quite well to not get lost.

Helsinki

Spent some time reviewing and planning the Data Matters 2020 conference. I presented on the Intelligent Campus at Data Matters 2019 and in my new role the responsibility for planning the next conference falls of my shoulders.

I also spent a fair amount of time working on the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway I am working on at Jisc.

My top tweet this week was this one.

news and views on e-learning, TEL and learning stuff in general…