All posts by James Clay

Fifty six million articles – Weeknote #98 – 15th January 2021

No travelling for me this week, well that’s no different to any other week these days… Last year around this time on one week I was in London two days and went to Cheltenham as well. It doesn’t look like I will be travelling anywhere for work for months, even for the rest of the year!

Had a number of meetings about ideas for consultancy offers with various institutions, which were interesting.

writing
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Continued to work on the strategy, which is now looking good. It’s not a huge shift from what we had before, but it takes on board the lessons from Jisc’s Learning and Teaching Reimagined programme. It will also lead into some work we are doing on thought leadership. I have to say I am not a fan of the term thought leader, it’s up there with the term social media guru, as something you call yourself, but no one would ever describe you by that term. However the concept of future thinking is something that I think we should do, if people want to call that thought leadership, fine.

Reflecting and thinking about where you see higher education could go in the future, as well as thinking about where they are now can be useful. Sharing those thoughts with others, is more useful. I see these pieces are starting discussions, inspiring people or even making them reflect on their own thinking.

With all the media talk on digital poverty this week, I was reminded that fifteen years ago I wrote an abstract for a conference, the session was called: Mobile Learning on a VLE?

Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs.
comic strip

Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs.

Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.

I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning. Could you format learning activities for the PSP, an iPod, even the humble DVD player?

I even found a video of the presentation, which I have uploaded to the YouTube.

Nothing new really, as the Open University had been sending out VHS cassettes for many years before this.

Wikipedia was twenty years old this week. The first time I wrote about Wikipedia on this blog was back in 2007, when they published their two millionth article. They now have fifty-six million articles. I met Jimmy Wales at Learning without Frontiers ten years ago this week.

I managed to have a few words with Jimmy and wished I could have had a few more, seemed like a really nice and genuine guy.

My colleague Lawrie had a post published on the Advance HE blog Leadership through a digital lens where he reflects on what we have learnt over the past year from having technology front and centre of HE, asking how we ensure that we do not adopt a techno-solutionist approach but look at our goals through a digital lens.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Locked Down – Weeknote #97 – 8th January 2021

mask
Image by pisauikan from Pixabay

This was the first week of the third national lockdown and the week that the President of the United States attempted to subvert democracy through violence.

Well after two weeks on leave it was back to work. Due to covid restrictions and a growing number of cases I wasn’t about to head off to the office as I would have done in previous years. It was back to working from home. Two of my children were also at home, undertaking remote learning.

I didn’t anticipate too many e-mails in my inbox as virtually everyone else had been on leave for most of the two week as well, however was slightly surprised to find 95 in there.

Of course, going through them I found most of them were from mailing lists and spam, so it wasn’t long before I was down to just three.

discarded mask
Image by Roksana Helscher from Pixabay

Monday evening saw an announcement from the Prime Minister that England was going to again go into a national lockdown, there were similar announcements from the devolved administrations.

Schools and colleges were to close to all students except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Unlike the first lockdown where universities across the UK initially unilaterally closed their campuses and sent students home, this time, as they did in November, the Government has provided guidance to universities on what they should be doing.

Unlike in March, universities were able to continue to deliver in-person teaching for specific groups, however other students were expected to remain at home.

Those students who are undertaking training and study for the following courses should return to face to face learning as planned and be tested twice, upon arrival or self-isolate for ten days:

  • Medicine & dentistry
  • Subjects allied to medicine/health
  • Veterinary science
  • Education (initial teacher training)
  • Socialwork
  • Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled (your university will notify you if this applies to you).

Students who do not study these courses should remain where they are wherever possible, and start their term online, as facilitated by their university until at least Mid-February. This includes students on other practical courses not on the list above.

We have previously published ​guidance to universities and students on how students can return safely to higher education in the spring term​. This guidance sets out how we will support higher education providers to enable students that need to return to do so as safely as possible following the winter break.

If you live at university, you should not move back and forward between your permanent home and student home during term time.

For those students who are eligible for face to face teaching, you can meet in groups of more than your household as part of your formal education or training, where necessary. Students should expect to follow the guidance and restrictions. You should socially distance from anyone you do not live with wherever possible.

Some universities went further, UCL told their students not to return to campus, whilst the LSE said all compulsory teaching would move online.

video chat
Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash

The news was full of stories about lack of laptops and connectivity this week, but I do think the issue is wider than that. My household has digital privilege, we have a 1Gb/s fibre connection and both my school age children have devices to access online learning.

However we did have an issue this week with a 300MB presentation uploaded to Google Classroom. We were unable to download the file (as that was restricted), we couldn’t preview the file (as it was too big) and Google Slides couldn’t open it.

We struggled, I did think that a student on a 3G connection with a bandwidth limit would also struggle with accessing the file.

Is the solution providing devices and bandwidth? Well in this case no the design here was a problem. Maybe we need to start thinking about low bandwidth and asynchronous curriculum design, which puts the learner first.

Did a lot of thinking about digital poverty this week, but I think that my colleague Lawrie sums it up best with this tweet.

microphone
Image by goranmx from Pixabay

In the same week that universities were defending the fees being charged for delivering their courses online, I had an e-mail from one university stating that they did not think they should pay for an online conference, though they would pay to attend a physical conference. There is something here about recognising the value of something despite the platform (physical or virtual) that it is being delivered on.

I had a blog post published on the Jisc website this week on data.

One thing that has become more apparent this year is the importance of data in supporting both student and staff experiences. However, sometimes making wish lists for the future is the easy part; what is often harder is figuring out that vision and the steps required to get there.

clouds
Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

Prior to the pandemic, one of the key challenges that higher education was thinking about was the climate emergency and how they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and move to a carbon net zero position. Despite the pandemic this is still an issue and I was involved in a meeting where we discussed some of the challenges and issues and potential solutions. What is different now is that the pandemic and the lockdown has changed the thinking of many higher education institutions about the design of their campuses and their curriculum.

The third lockdown has got many institutions thinking about their curriculum design, also what they need to do to embed practice for the future. How do we move from models of translation to ones that are transformative.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Locked down again

discarded mask
Image by Roksana Helscher from Pixabay

Monday evening saw an announcement from the Prime Minister that England was going to again go into a national lockdown, there were similar announcements from the devolved administrations.

Schools and colleges were to close to all students except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.

Unlike the first lockdown where universities across the UK initially unilaterally closed their campuses and sent students home, this time, as they did in November, the Government has provided guidance to universities on what they should be doing.

Unlike in March, in November universities were able to continue to deliver in-person teaching for specific groups.

This time however, though some students are able to return for in-person face to face teaching, other students were expected to remain at home.

Those students who are undertaking training and study for the following courses should return to face to face learning as planned and be tested twice, upon arrival or self-isolate for ten days:

        • Medicine & dentistry
        • Subjects allied to medicine/health
        • Veterinary science
        • Education (initial teacher training)
        • Socialwork
        • Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled (your university will notify you if this applies to you).

Students who do not study these courses should remain where they are wherever possible, and start their term online, as facilitated by their university until at least Mid-February. This includes students on other practical courses not on the list above.

We have previously published ​guidance to universities and students on how students can return safely to higher education in the spring term​. This guidance sets out how we will support higher education providers to enable students that need to return to do so as safely as possible following the winter break.

If you live at university, you should not move back and forward between your permanent home and student home during term time.

For those students who are eligible for face to face teaching, you can meet in groups of more than your household as part of your formal education or training, where necessary. Students should expect to follow the guidance and restrictions. You should socially distance from anyone you do not live with wherever possible.

This third national lockdown isn’t entirely unexpected with the increase in case numbers and hospital admissions, however it does mean that universities will need to move to a remote teaching model as they did back in March.

girl with mask
Photo by Thomas de LUZE on Unsplash

Will it be easier this time around?

As there was a phased return of students to campus, I suspect a lot of universities will have had their plans in place already. A few extra weeks will need to be added, but there is time (and hopefully the experience) to quickly switch from in-person to online. Staff will have the necessary technical skills now, gained through hard experience the first time Some staff will need to be on campus for in-person teaching and that creates new challenges as well.

I do think,  will they have adjusted their models of delivery to avoid just translating their curriculum, and will ensure that the curriculum takes advantage of the affordances of online delivery. Hopefully discussions would have taken place about what worked well last time and what needed to be improved. Students may also be in a better place, less of a shock this time. There are still issues with digital poverty, do all the students have the right devices and connectivity to learn online>

As with the first lockdown, this isn’t about switching some of the course online, as everything has to be delivered online, no blended learning here for most students. No doing what works well online and doing other parts of the course in-person. In addition we have the stress and pressures of a lockdown as well with social distancing, self-isolation, increased risk of infection from the variant virus, as well as home schooling and a stay at home policy.

Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

In the first lockdown one of the things I noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version. As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I had been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students. So I decided to write a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery, which proved useful and popular with people.

See the list of blog posts on transforming and translation.

e-Learning Stuff: Top Ten Blog Posts 2020

This year I have written 94 blog posts. In 2019 I had written 52 blog posts which was up from 2018 when I only wrote 17 blog posts.

laptop
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

I decided when I got my new role in March 2019 that I would publish a weekly blog post about my week. I did this all across 2020 as well which added to the number of posts. I did once get asked if these week notes were popular, not really, but they are much more for me than for others.

Well 2020 was an unexpected and interesting year, this did have an impact on what blog posts were popular and those that people read. I certainly didn’t think back in January 2020 we would have the pandemic and subsequent lockdown that hit the UK. Due to the impact of the lockdown on higher education this influenced what I was writing about in 2020. Unlike in previous top ten, half of the posts that were popular this year were published in 2020.

So the blog post at number ten in the top ten is a post on assessment and ethical issues that I wrote this year.

Consider the ethical issues first!

The lockdown meant that many universities had to consider how to undertake assessment, and in many ways this was complicated by the requirements of external professional bodies. My opinion piece suggested that universities should consider the ethical issues before implementing a technological solution.

The ninth place was was Frame Magic – iPhone App of the Week, which dropped four places from fifth last year. Still don’t know why this one is so popular!

Frame Magic – iPhone App of the Week

At number eight was one of the three Lost in Translation posts that are in the top ten.

One of the things I noticed as the education sector moved rapidly to remote delivery was the different models that people used. However what we did see was many people were translating their usual practice to an online version. As part of my work in looking at the challenges in delivering teaching remotely during this crisis period I had been reflecting on how teaching staff can translate their existing practice into new models of delivery that could result in better learning, but also have less of detrimental impact on staff an students. So I decided to write a series of blog posts about translating existing teaching practices into online models of delivery.

The post at number eight was from 2020 and was about mapping your teaching and was derived from a post that I had written in 2016.

I did start to think if mapping could be useful in helping staff plan their future course and curriculum design.

Lost in translation: mapping your teaching

The seventh most popular post was on embracing technology, dropping three places from last year.

I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean?

Back in 2015 I asked I can do that… What does “embrace technology” mean? in relation to the Area Review process and this post was a reflection piece on that.

Sticking at number six was a post from 2008 about full resolution video on the PSP.

Full Resolution Video on the PSP

Still surprised by how popular Full Resolution Video on the PSP was even though I am pretty sure that no one is still using PSPs. 

Dropping from last year’s number one spot to number five is a post again from 2008 on downloading movie trailers to show in a classroom.

Can I legally download a movie trailer?

One of the many copyright articles that I posted some years back, this one was in 2008. Things have changed since then, one of which is better connectivity which would allow you to stream content direct into a classroom, as for the legal issues well that’s something I am a little behind on the times though in that space.

New at number four is a post from 2020, …and the Russians used a pencil

…and the Russians used a pencil

There is an apocryphal story that has no basis in fact, about how the US space agency, NASA spent millions of dollars developing an ‘astronaut pen’ that would work in outer space, while the Russians fixed the problem much more cheaply and quickly by using pencils. What the story reminds us that sometimes the low tech solution can be a better choice than trying to utilise a high tech solution. I then reflected on what this might mean for emergency remote teaching and learning.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The third most popular post in 2020 is one of the all time popular posts, The iPad Pedagogy Wheel. Published in 2013, this was number one for many years, number two last year and this year drops another place to number three.

The iPad Pedagogy Wheel

I re-posted the iPad Pedagogy Wheel as I was getting asked a fair bit, “how can I use this nice shiny iPad that you have given me to support teaching and learning?”.

It’s a really simple nice graphic that explores the different apps available and where they fit within Bloom’s Taxonomy. What I like about it is that you can start where you like, if you have an iPad app you like you can see how it fits into the pedagogy. Or you can work out which iPads apps fit into a pedagogical problem.

The second most popular blog post in 2020 was published in 2020 and was one from my Lost in Translation blogs, Lost in translation: the seminar.

Lost in translation: the seminar

Merely translating that one hour seminar into a one hour Teams or Zoom discussion probably works fine for many in isolation. However it’s not just an hour, students may also be involved in other online seminars, Zoom lectures, live video streams and more online content. The blog post looked at ways in transforming the live in-person seminar into an online experience.

My top blog post was written in April 2020.

This was the first of the Lost in Translation articles and was on the lecture.

Lost in translation: the lecture

Before having 4-5 hours in a lecture theatre or a classroom was certainly possible and done by many institutions. However merely translating that into 4 hours of Zoom video presentations and discussions is exhausting for those taking part, but also we need to remember that in this time there are huge number of other negative factors impacting on people’s wellbeing, energy and motivation.

This post explored the options and possibilities that could be undertaken instead of merely translating a one hour lecture into a one hour Zoom presentation.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

So there we have it, the top ten posts 2020.

No festive meals this week – Weeknote #94 – 18th December 2020

Mud Dock Cafe

My last week in the office. In so called normal times this would be a week of festive meals, socialising and last minute Christmas shopping. I spent most of the week sitting at my desk in my home office working.

It was also a time to start finishing things off and avoiding starting anything new. A lot of people seem to use this week to clear their desk and as a result you end up with a lot to do. I both try and avoid doing that to other people and try to ensure it doesn’t happen to me. I think as I get to the end of the week I was quite successful in doing that. Despite doing all that as a result of a meeting on Friday last week I spent the best part of this week working on a blended learning proposal.

Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay
Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay

We did a briefing for the Jisc Account Managers on the new consultancy service that I am co-developing at Jisc. Positive feedback about the service which was then followed up by a few calls as well.

I also with our external consultant finalised the themes for the new higher education strategy for Jisc. This should be published in early 2021.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Strewth, that’s early – Weeknote #93 – 11th December 2020

clock
Image by Monoar Rahman Rony from Pixabay

I had a meeting at 6pm, well 6pm in Australia, for me it was a 7am meeting on Monday morning, which though sounds horrendous, I am normally up at that time making packed lunches for my children. I was up a bit earlier so I could get those done before attending the meeting. It was bringing together colleagues from UK universities and Australian universities to compare and share about how they responded to the pandemic, but also wrapping it with what we had learnt from Learning and Teaching Reimagined. I was more of an observer in this meeting, making notes and seeking insights. One of the key insights for me was how some institutions which were set up for online learning still struggled in the lockdown and the early stages of the pandemic. It reinforces the view that the lockdown caused an emergency response to remote teaching and was not about planned online learning. The issues that arose were around staffing, who were now working remotely, as well as similar issues to in-person universities with assessment, as well as planned residentials.

Later that day we discussed the meeting and also other ways of working internationally with Learning and Teaching Reimagined.

BBC published a guide for students on how to survive online uni.

Read The Zoom Gaze by Autumn Caines.

Since the pandemic began, the seemingly mundane protocols of Zoom have become a significant part of many people’s daily lives: finding the right link, setting up the peripherals, managing the glitches and slippages in this supposedly “synchronous” form of communication. At first, of course, video conferencing was a godsend — a way that things could continue to go on with some semblance of normal. But it quickly became clear that video conferencing is not simply a substitute for face-to-face encounters. It incurs effects of its own.

This post was also discussed at the end of the week at Lawrie and Paul’s EdTech Coffee session.

I have noticed elsewhere that much of the discussion about Zoom is about how you need to do about your Zoom (or Teams) calls, maintaining eye contact, etc…

It did occur to me that actually the issue is less about how you appear on Zoom, but more about how you view others on Zoom. We need to remember that, with the diversity of setups, and even the simple fact that most people will be looking at the Zoom window and not the camera, that means virtually everyone will look distracted. I have been conscious about this, pretty much since the beginning of the pandemic (and well before) so I don’t worry about what others are doing on their cameras, whether they are on or off. Let’s focus on the important things, the reasons why we are having a Zoom call and less about bookcases and looking into cameras.

Spent much of the week on the reimagining of the HE strategy. We are ensuring that the lessons from  Learning and Teaching Reimagined inform the strategy and they are aligned.

I have been having a few meetings with our content colleagues in Jisc about their work on content for teaching and learning. We know that content isn’t teaching, however it can be an important aspect of learning and teaching.

Had an operational meeting about Data Matters, the content programme is complete, now we need to get people to sign up to the event.

Good news was that the mass testing of students has shown very few cases.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Returning – Weeknote #92 – 4th December 2020

lecture theatre
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

I have been thinking about the use of space for teaching and learning once we move beyond Covid-19. There are similar discussions thinking about the future of the office. I found this Wired article interesting – The Covid-19 vaccines will usher the dawn of the true hybrid office.

The promising vaccine news is making bosses think about the return to work. But when it does happen, the office won’t ever be the same again.

I had a good discussion on Tuesday about the future university campus. I have worked on an intelligent campus project in the past, back then we had a vision. However the current landscape has changed and will continue to change. This has implications for campus planning and usage.

Wednesday saw the publication by the Government of guidance for universities on students returning in the spring.

I did read this article from Wonkhe responding to  – DfE publishes staggering advice for universities on students return in 2021. Jim Dickinson and David Kernohan unpick the implications.

Thursday I was on leave…

Friday was a full day of meetings and events. I actually have very few days where I spend most of the day in Zoom and Teams meetings, but today I had nearly six hours of online meetings. The key for me was to move away from the computer when I can.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Note that the original NY Post tweet this was referring to has now been deleted. It talked about the UK Christmas covid-19 planning with a picture of Paris.

However someone managed to get a screengrab before it was deleted.

Data does matter

…but then again, so does privacy and ethics.

laptop
Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

Last year I was responsible for bringing the programme of Data Matters 2020 together. The event was going to be held in May 2020 in central London. However, no surprise that we decided to cancel the event. We did consider running it online, however due to the timing, the pressure that our prospective audience was under and translating an in-person conference to an online event quickly, we decided that we would reschedule the event to January 2021.

We did think by July that we might even be able to hold the event in-person, but the realities of the world hit back. So the decision was made to still hold the conference in January 2021, but build it as a holding event and run it online.

The existing theme was very much about putting in the (data) foundations to deliver the vision of Education 4.0 that Jisc was promoting. We could have run with that theme again, but the landscape had changed so much that we created a new more general theme on the uncertain future.

archives
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Data Matters is jointly run by Jisc, HESA and QAA, who are the UK’s higher education digital, data and quality experts. This partnership brings these three perspectives together in a two-day conference to discuss the topical issues around data and its use in shaping the future of higher education.

This year’s theme will focus on ‘enabling data certainty’.

The UK education sector is moving towards an uncertain future. The sector needs to transform to meet the requirements of industry 4.0 and student expectations. With COVID-19 having such a huge impact on the operation of the higher education sector now and in the foreseeable future, the entire student experience has been and will be disrupted by the restrictions in place to mitigate the risks of the virus. This has impacted on the use of formal and informal learning spaces, as well as an increasing reliance on online platforms and digital content.

It has also impacted on student recruitment, domestic as well as international. Universities have a responsibility to support all students to thrive and achieve, and it is increasingly recognised that students’ experiences are very different depending on a large number of factors, including background and personal circumstances, type and subject of their course. The mental health and wellbeing of students is an increasing concern for universities and sector bodies.

The role of data, analytics, data modelling, predictive analytics and visualisation will be a core aspect of this uncertain future, but the uncertainty will bring new challenges for the sector in how they utilise the potential of data. Public scepticism about algorithms and data use is creating new ethical and legal challenges in the gathering, processing and interpretation of data.

CCTV
Image by Stafford GREEN from Pixabay

So if you have an interest in data then Data Matters will be the place to be in January.

Book your place now.