Category Archives: weeknotes

I have a cold – Weeknote #50 – 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 #50 – 21st February 2020

Asssessing – Weeknote #49 – 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 #48 – 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 #48 – 7th February 2020

Data issues – Weeknote #47 – 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.

Some things change – Weeknote #46 – 24th January 2020

King's College Chapel, Cambridge
King’s College Chapel, Cambridge

At the weekend I read this article on facial recognition.

The European Commission has revealed it is considering a ban on the use of facial recognition in public areas for up to five years. Regulators want time to work out how to prevent the technology being abused.

This does have implications for those universities and colleges who are thinking about using facial recognition technologies as part of any initiative (say intelligent campus) in the next five years. Of course after five years the EU may ban such technologies, what that means for the UK, well we will have to wait and see.

Monday I was writing, preparing and designing a presentation for a keynote I am giving next week in London. I am using only images.

microphone
Image by Florian Pircher from Pixabay

Continue reading Some things change – Weeknote #46 – 24th January 2020

You’ve got mail – Weeknote #45 – 17th January 2020

Harris and Hoole
Harris and Hoole in London

Monday I was off to London for a discussion about the Education 4.0 Roadmap I have been working on. I am having meetings with colleagues from various universities about their thoughts and feedback on the roadmap. Initial feedback has been positive and that the initial concept is on the right lines and could be useful for the sector.

After that meeting I headed off to our London office for some ad hoc meetings and working on the programme for Data Matters 2020.

On the train home I read this article from Wired Magazine, How Slack ruined work.

It was heralded as the product that would kill internal email chains. Instead, it’s changed how we behave while in the office

This does article does echo some of the feelings I have about IM style platforms (not just Slack, but also Teams and other platforms), that they can be a distraction if used badly. Slack doesn’t solve the problem of “doing e-mail” versus “work” as it is merely a platform and can replace e-mail, but doesn’t solve the problem of distraction of e-mail.

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay
Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

There were a couple of articles on grade inflation that caught my eye this week:

Grade inflation: new survey looks at degree algorithms

Universities UK (UUK) is asking higher education providers to take part in an online survey about their use of degree algorithms in an attempt to reduce the number of top-class degrees.The new survey will shed light on how degree classifications are decided. It is the latest stage in a sector-wide initiative led by UUK to tackle grade inflation and the perception that degrees are ‘dumbing down’.

and

‘Grade inflation’ in top degree grades stopping

The sharp increase in university students in the UK getting top degree grades seems to have stalled, according to annual official figures. It follows warnings from ministers of the need to prevent “grade inflation” devaluing degrees.

During the same period they asked universities to improve the quality of their teaching and learning which may have resulted in “higher” grades across the board. Many of the “unexplained” increased in grades were when some universities decided to align themselves with how other universities were grading their degrees.

It can be challenging to balance the need to improve the quality of education, and not to be seen to be dumbing down in the same breath.

Next week is Bett in London. My first Bett Conference was in 2000 and then I didn’t go again until 2007

Ten years ago I blogged that I wasn’t going to Bett in 2010.

I’m not going to BETT

I have been to BETT twice in my life and that was two times too many!

I had good reasons for not going.

The reason why I won’t be going is that the focus of BETT is too much on the technology rather than what people do with it. It is much more an event based on educational technology suppliers than educators using technology. It is this reason that I won’t be going.

Since then, though the focus is still on educational technology, there was more about how people were using technology.

I was kind of forced to go in 2013, partly against my will, but did see some interesting stuff. With a change in role I did go again in 2014 and saw a lovely VW Bus.

VW Bus at Bett 2014
VW Bus at Bett 2014

I know I went again in 2015, but then missed 2016, but did go in 2017, mainly for a team meeting, but due to train issues saw very little of the show itself!

I actually presented at BETT in 2018 on the Intelligent Campus, which was fun, but a little bit of a logistical nightmare, as I was in Leicester at the time running the Digital Leaders Programme, so I had to leave Leicester at lunchtime, catch a train to London, make my way across to the Excel Centre, before heading home, by way of Leicester again to collect my car.

BETT 2018

Thursday I was travelling to Cheltenham for a meeting with a colleague. We recently merged with part of HESA and so we now have an office in Cheltenham where the former HESA, now Jisc, staff work. I worked in this area for seven years when I worked for Gloucestershire College, which had a campus in Cheltenham. Well though I was regularly in Cheltenham, two to three times a week, the campus was in the suburbs of Cheltenham (close to GCHQ) so I rarely if ever went into the heart of Cheltenham. So though familiar, it wasn’t that familiar.

BBC Television Centre

Friday was another trip to London for a meeting between key staff from the University of Sussex and Jisc. We discussed a range of subjects and topics including the intelligent campus and intelligent libraries.

My top tweet this week was this one.

We built a treehouse – Weeknote #44 – 10th January 2020

Image by Th G from Pixabay
Image by Th G from Pixabay

It’s a new year and a new decade.

I am still a little surprised that it’s 2020, as it appears to be so futuristic, but we seem to be living in a Children of Men or Handmaid’s Tale future rather than the utopia of the future that I imagined in my youth.

Monday I spent the day catching up with e-mail, even though most people had been off over the festive period, a lot seemed to have started back on the 2nd (when I was still off). I also took the time to get back into gear and work-ready.

I wrote a first draft of a blog post for the Data Matters 2020 conference , that is taking place on the 5th May 2020. The essence of the post is the importance of thinking about data now, in the contect of future needs of data. This isn’t just about the technical aspects of data, but importantly the people aspects as well.

I was reminded that this week ten years ago we had some of the worst snow for forty years…

Snow

Tuesday I was travelling to Leeds where I am attending the ALT Learning Spaces SIG on Wednesday. Leeds always seems a lot further away than I think it is. The ALT Learning Spaces SIG was on Wednesday and this was an interesting get together.

As well as hearing about the challenges facing universities such as Leeds and Loughborough, there was also a excellent workshop in the afternoon looking at the challenges in converting an existing formal learning space (which wasn’t working) into an informal space for learning. I started to draft a blog post on this workshop. The concept we looked at was building a treehouse.

LSSIG Meeting in Leeds
LSSIG Meeting in Leeds

Continue reading We built a treehouse – Weeknote #44 – 10th January 2020

We choose to go to the moon… – Weeknote #41 – 20th December 2019

Moon landing

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

This was the final week before the festive break. A lot of the week was spent finishing stuff off and getting things in place for January.

I had an interesting initial meeting about open content and open textbooks, and personalised adaptive learning. I have been thinking about this and have a draft blog post on the go.

Also on Monday, I remembered that on this day four years ago, I was helping that Lawrie Phipps deliver some Digital Leadership training to colleagues in Jisc at our Away Day.

Lawrie Phipps
Lawrie Phipps presenting at our away day.

This was only a couple of months after we had run the initial pilots in Bristol and before we ran the first “proper” programme in Loughborough in October 2016. The version we ran for colleagues was  a cut down version, but the essence was on mapping your digital self and and then mapping your organisation. Since then the mapping has evolved and in some instances changed quite dramatically. It was never about comparing yourself with others, but looking at your maps and thinking what do I want to do differently, what do I want to achieve.

Going for a walk around Bristol at lunchtime, I saw they were filming.

Filming in Bristol today

They were filming a new HBO series called Industry, which is a new American drama series which follows the lives of young bankers and traders trying to make their way in the world in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse.

learning
Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Sometimes I think we have moved along as a society and then I read news articles like this  and I think we’ve not moved on at all.

The gap between men and women, measured in terms of political influence, economic gain and health and education, has narrowed over the last year, but will take another century to disappear, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said.

There is more we can do, to reduce the gap and hopefully reduce the time for the gap to disappear. I am very conscious that I come from a position of privilege. As someone who is invited to talk and present keynotes I make a determined effort to avoid all-male panels and for sessions and conferences I am organising I ensure it happens. It’s actually not that difficult, as there are some great speakers and panellists out there.

I have spent a lot of this week planning and organising the Data Matters 2020 conference which will take place on the 5th May 2020 in London. It’s very much about laying the (data) foundations for the future.

Mud Dock Cafe

After a few meetings on Wednesday we had a team lunch at the Mud Dock Café which was really nice, great food and enjoyable to take time out from the hectic schedules of work to chat and relax.

Thursday I was in Cheltenham for a meeting and the main challenge was finding somewhere to park, sometimes it is easier to drive to a venue, other times catch the train!

I really enjoyed reading this blog post from Dom Pates

I was born in August 1971. By this point in time, there had been four successful crewed moon landings (Apollos 11, 12, 14 and 15). There were a further two after I was born — Apollo 16 in April 1972 and Apollo 17, in December of the same year. I can therefore stake a claim, if I wished, to be a child of the moon landings, having been born in a period when the impossible had begun to become almost normalised, when human aspiration had moved from ‘we will…’ to ‘we have…’

Myself as someone who was born before the moon landings (just) I know I have lived a time when we moved from ‘we will…’ to ‘we have…’

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

My top tweet this week was this one.