Category Archives: weeknotes

Merged – Weeknote #57 – 3rd April 2020

Roads

So it would appear after discussions last week that I am going to be leading a taskforce.

I have spent a fair amount of week looking at how universities are dealing with assessment it’s a varied world out there.

I also spent much of the week in calls and conversations.

The previous week I had five such calls in my calendar, though I know I did more than that. This week I had nineteen in addition to ad hoc conversations with people.

Normally in a weeknote I would discuss the different places I had been and what I was doing each day. In this locked down environment I am finding the days are merging into one blur of activity. My weeknotes may start to reflect that.

Great cartoon from XKCD on Covid-19.

Pathogen Resistance

I was saddened to hear of the death of Jack Schofield, one the real greats of tech journalisim.

This is so true and reminded me of those heady days not just in the 1990s but also in the early days of social media.

I have been reminded today of this blog post I write some time ago.

Starting with solutions is not necessarily the best place to start.

Dig a little deeper to identify the real problem.

It was this blog post from Chris Thomson on innovation reminded me of this.

The pressure is there to find innovative solutions to the various problems this presents us with. Because we are in a crisis and the stakes are high there must be a temptation to go for the low hanging fruit, to innovate in ways where we can tackle fix the symptoms instead of addressing the conditions that brought them about in the first place.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Lockdown – Weeknote #56 – 27th March 2020

Dunes
Over the weekend we went to Brean Sands, won’t be going back for a while….

The office was still closed and Jisc had asked all staff to not to travel for work. It certainly felt like all the days were merging into a muddle of days. Even though I work from home a lot compared to others, I still had quite a bit of structure to my week, being out and about at least once a week if not more.

Last week I was supposed to be in London three times for example…. The week before I was in London for one day and Birmingham for two. This week, all at home….

This was also the day that all the schools were closed and as might be expected, school online learning services such as Doddle and Hegarty are not really coping with the demand for their services. Creating extra stress during these stressful times. We also need alternatives.

There was considerable strain on these services, which meant that I suspect a lot of children gave up and may not even try again.

I had a meeting discussing the Education 4.0 roadmap that I have been working on, this meeting was booked weeks ago, I was going to to Manchester to do this face to face, but of course now it was done online via Teams. Continue reading Lockdown – Weeknote #56 – 27th March 2020

The week when everything changed – Weeknote #55 – 20th March 2020

This was a week when everything changed…

Over the weekend I scared myself silly by watching Contagion again.

This was a film about a much more lethal virus with a shorter incubation period than coronavirus.

So in the interests of accuracy I checked the trivia and goofs sections of IMDB only to read this section in the goofs.

The disease in the film is highly lethal, affects a very large number of people and has a short incubation period. In reality an infectious disease must have a long incubation period and less lethality than in the film to facilitate a sustained transmission. The real case makes tracking much more difficult, which is a central part of the film, therefore the filmmakers had to bend the facts a bit.

Oh…

Monday I was supposed to be off to London, but due the cancellation of the meeting I was attending, I decided not to go and in hindsight this was probably the right decision.

I spent some time following up the cancellation of Data Matters and what we would do and what needed to be done.

Continue reading The week when everything changed – Weeknote #55 – 20th March 2020

Digifesting – Weeknote #54 – 13th March 2020

Monday I was making some final preparations for the Jisc Digifest conference this week, where I am charing a panel on Smart Cities.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was off to Birmingham for Jisc’s annual Digifest event.

There were some worries about if it would go ahead because of the coronavirus, but in the end it did go ahead

We had a good session “How can smart city technologies impact education of the future?”

This panel will explore how smart education can be a key ingredient to smart city development, uncovering what roles universities and community colleges, e-learning infrastructure and innovation in education technologies could play in defining a smart city.

It will look at what the university and college role may look like to improve cities for the people who live, work and visit there and as the need for lifelong learning increases, how can smart learning environments be equipped to meet people’s demands?

Alas one of the panellists had dropped out, but even so we had a good discussion and lots of questions from the floor.

Thursday I was in London for a meeting with London Higher about a mental health and wellbeing project. This was going to be the last face to face meeting I think I will be having in a while and even at the meeting a key individual was taken outside to attend a coronavirus meeting.

I wasn’t sure if London was quieter than normal, as my earlier meeting had been cancelled so I had arrived later in the day.

I published a post over on my productivity and technology blog about some thoughts on working from home.

I do a fair amount of remote working and location-independent working and am quite happy about doing this, I have working from home on a regular basis for about the last twenty years. Even so with the possibilities of forced home working to reduce the risk of transmission, this is going to be a different experience to what I am use to. For those who don’t do this often  or rarely, they may find it challenging.

It was some thoughts I had been thinking about in response to lots of tweets and e-mails about working from home.

Friday I was at home, and working from home, and the coronavirus situation was worsening. We started to see a lot more universities start to close for teaching.

We also made the decision to cancel Data Matters.

After careful consideration and because of the ongoing and unpredictable developments around coronavirus (COVID-19), this year’s Data Matters will not go ahead.  It was a difficult decision to cancel but the health and wellbeing of our members, staff, exhibitors and suppliers is our top priority. We also want to ensure we play our part in containing and delaying the spread of the virus. For delegates who have already paid for their ticket, we will fully refund all conference fees.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Making preparations – Weeknote #53 – 6th March 2020

Most students get a big pay-off from going to university – but some would be better off financially if they hadn’t done a degree according to this article.

While about 80% of students are likely to gain financially from attending university, we estimate that one in five students – or about 70,000 every year – would actually have been better off financially had they not gone to university.

Wednesday I was in London for a drop in session on our Technical Career Pathways. The session demonstrated the challenges we face as an organisation due to the wide range of positions and jobs people hold in Jisc. I also had a meeting about international issues and the challenges our universities face in TNE.

I had a discussion call about the panel session I am chairing at Digifest next week. The session is entitled “How can smart city technologies impact education of the future?”

This panel will explore how smart education can be a key ingredient to smart city development, uncovering what roles universities and community colleges, e-learning infrastructure and innovation in education technologies could play in defining a smart city.

It will look at what the university and college role may look like to improve cities for the people who live, work and visit there and as the need for lifelong learning increases, how can smart learning environments be equipped to meet people’s demands?

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

I did some thinking about preparations that universities may be considering if the coronavirus situation worsens.

Technical solutions are only one aspect that universities and colleges need to consider when moving to virtual platforms and solutions.

Many people will know running an online meeting is very different to running a face to face meeting. There are tactics and nuances that need to be considered when

It’s a similar story with differences in how one delivers a lecture and how one delivers an online presentation.

There are affordances and advantages (as well as challenges) in moving from a physical model to a virtual model.

Once more on Friday I was off to the big smoke, as I had a couple of meetings in London.

I found this article on the BBC News interesting.

University applications ‘dictated by train fares’

This is peak season for university open days, when tens of thousands of teenagers and their families are criss-crossing the country viewing places where they might study.

A return trip by train from north to south can cost £200 or even £300. And even with railcard discounts, when there might be four or five universities to visit, the open-day season can soon become an unaffordable closed door.

For those driving, there are still fuel costs. And longer journeys by coach can mean having to pay for an overnight stay.

But these costs seem to have slipped below the radar – even though they might be directly limiting the choices of disadvantaged students.

I wrote a blog post on building communities.

Building a community

My top tweet this week was this one.

Watch out – Weeknote #52 – 28th February 2020

Monday was a wet and windy day, as it has been over the last few weeks. I was on leave on Friday, so as it happens I spent Monday clearing out my inbox.

Tuesday I was in our Bristol office attending our own Metamorphosis event. This is our version of TEDx without the TED branding.

There was some lovely talks and I did my own on a piece of family history. Continue reading Watch out – Weeknote #52 – 28th February 2020

I have a cold – Weeknote #51 – 21st February 2020

It’s half-term, which means I try and get out of the house as much as possible, as it can be a bit unfair to everyone else if I am working from home. However the weather and the fact I had a cold most of the week meant that in the end I worked form home. AS well as having a cold, I also took some leave as it was half-term.

AT the end of last week, Michelle Donelan named universities minister and the science part of the post was split off.

There have been quite a few universities ministers now over the last couple of years. Something the sector could probably do with is some consistency in this post. The news was not met with much enthusiasm from the university sector. Universities fear loss of policy focus as ministerial roles split.

Diana Beech, head of government affairs at the University of Warwick, and a former adviser to Mr Skidmore, warned that a stand-alone science minister might not be so “aware of the interdependency of science and HE” and might be less alert to the “importance of cross-subsidies in teaching and research”. This could have “profound implications on the way policy is made”, she said.

I quite enjoyed watching BBC’s Panorama on the rise of Amazon.

In a quarter of a century, Amazon has propelled Jeff Bezos from online bookseller to tech titan. He’s the richest man on the planet, and the company he founded is one of the most powerful. Panorama investigates Amazon’s rise to corporate superpower and asks whether there is a dark side to our love affair with the company. Former high-level insiders describe Amazon’s huge, obsessive data-gathering operation, which enables the company to use what it knows about us to shape not only the future of retail but the workplace and technology too. On both sides of the Atlantic, politicians and regulators are beginning to question Amazon’s power and to explore ways to rein it in. But some of Amazon’s most senior executives say the company is a force for good, inventing new ways to serve customers and maintain their trust.

Yes in places it was quite sensational, well it was a piece for television. I thought that trying to talk about the data and metrics side of Amazon was a different story (though related) to the use of voice assistants in the Amazon Alexa device. Certainly voice will be the future of interaction with technology, but I thought they should have kept the focus on the data they collect about us and others. My own thoughts were on how far behind the education sector is in their use of data to support teaching, learning and assessment in comparison to Amazon. Then I look at the recommendations I get on Amazon and maybe I am not so sure.

Continue reading I have a cold – Weeknote #51 – 21st February 2020

Asssessing – Weeknote #50 – 14th February 2020

Monday I was off to Bristol, for a late afternoon meeting. It was nice to be back in the office and see the changes and improvements since I was last there a week or so back. It is a nice place to work.

Monday saw the publication of Jisc’s report on assessment.

This report is the result of an experts meeting exploring assessment in universities and colleges and how technology could be used to help address some of the problems and opportunities.

This report was widely reported in the press across the UK.

Assessment is a challenge for many institutions, often resulting in attempts to fix it, but sometimes I think we need to dig deeper and re-imagine assessment as a whole.

Having discussed the coronavirus in last week’s weeknote, the situation has been escalated and the Department of Health has described the coronavirus as a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.

It comes as the government announced new powers to keep people in quarantine to stop the spread of the virus.

In order to do this the Department of Health has described the coronavirus as a “serious and imminent threat” to public health.

The overall risk level to the UK remains “moderate”.

Wednesday I was at the 18th Jisc Learning Analytics Community Event at Newman University in Birmingham. There were various talks and discussions and overall it was an interesting day.

I published a blog post about the ALT Learning Spaces SIG that happened last month.

Could we build a treehouse?

The post was liked by people.

Thursday I was in our Bristol office working on a document with colleagues. I had quite a few conversations about the Education 4.0 roadmap I am working on and how the sector needs to start thinking and preparing for both the challenges, but also the opportunities that there is with this potential view of the future.

Friday I was on leave for my son’s graduation.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Million to one chances – Weeknote #49 – 7th February 2020

St James's Park
St James’s Park

Monday I was off to London once more for various meetings including my mid-year review. These weeknotes were an useful tool to recall what I have been doing and what I had done, especially for those things outside my core objectives.

Photo by Nabeel Syed on Unsplash
Photo by Nabeel Syed on Unsplash

This was an intriguing story about how you could “fake” traffic jams merely by walking down a street (with a hundred mobile phones in a cart).

Artist Simon Weckert walked the streets of Berlin tugging a red wagon behind him. Wherever he went, Google Maps showed a congested traffic jam. People using Google Maps would see a thick red line indicating congestion on the road, even when there was no traffic at all. Each and every one of those 99 phones had Google Maps open, giving the virtual illusion that the roads were jam packed.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

An article by me was published online, having been in print first – New vision in a time of great promise: James Clay explores the impact of Education 4.0 and Industry 4.0 on the copyright and licensing sector on cla.co.uk

As we approach 2020, there is little doubt that digital technology is core to the UK’s Higher Education (HE) sector. It enhances teaching and learning and has the potential to create efficiencies across all aspects of the student experience, supporting staff in delivering excellence. As the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) continues to influence education and research, there will be implications for copyright and licensing too. Continue reading Million to one chances – Weeknote #49 – 7th February 2020

Data issues – Weeknote #48 – 31st January 2020

Paddngton Station in London

Monday I was off to London once more. On Tuesday I am presenting a keynote at an Inside Government event. The event takes place in the City of London, which can be challenging to get to for a 9:30am start, so I went up on Monday to stay overnight. I popped into our London office for a quick meeting before heading off to my hotel. I was intending to walk from the office to the hotel, but it was pouring with rain so I caught the tube.

Tuesday was the Inside Government event and my presentation was called Education 4.0 – Key Trends in the Current Digital Landscape

My presentation covered stuff I have talked about before.

  • Reflecting on what we understand by Education 4.0 and the potential impact on universities?
  • Discussing how universities should harness the power of their data and use analytics to tackle some of the big strategic challenges within the organisation
  • Asking the key questions: How will teaching be transformed? What does personalised adaptive learning look like? Could we re-imagine assessment? How do we build an intelligent campus?
  • Designing a strategy that will enable organisations to start laying the foundations for the future that is Education 4.0

Compared to other Inside Government events I have attended, I thought attendance was quite low. However I got some positive feedback and some interesting questions.

I think we are also starting to see more resistance and wariness of the use of data and analytics for learning and teaching. The ethical and secure use of data is critical, but even so, there are still concerns that need to be addressed, and might never be addressed.

The BBC reported on a recent fine imposed on UEA for a data breach.

University students whose personal details were emailed to hundreds of their classmates have been paid more than £140,000 in compensation.

A spreadsheet containing student health problems, bereavements and personal issues was sent to 298 people at the University of East Anglia in June 2017.

Insurers have since paid out £142,512 to affected students from UEA, which said it had reviewed data practices.

Talking to colleagues, there use to be rectification notices for these kinds of breaches, now we are seeing the ICO making decisions like this one.

These kinds of news stories demonstrate challenges with data and the use of data by universities and colleges, as well as possible data literacy issues amongst staff.

Central Hall, Westminster, London

Thursday I was back to London for a meeting with the Department for Education. Jisc meets regularly with our funders across the United Kingdom.

The Parsnip in Weston-super-Mare

Friday I didn’t have far to travel, as I went to Weston College, for a Microsoft Teams event. This event, part of a roadshow run by Microsoft demonstrated some of the key functions of the tool and how some academics were using it. I did feel that I had heard many of these conversations before, with other tools such as Virtual Campus, Moodle, Slack, even the Twitter. I think what was missing is the strategic approach to the embedding use of these tools across the whole of the organisation. How do you get everyone to use the tools you provide effectively.

My top tweet this week was this one.