Tag Archives: london

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.

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 #17 – 28th June 2019

Paddington

It was another Monday and another day travelling to London. I was interviewing a candidate for a job. Preparation and post-processing (?) always takes longer than you think it will.

On Tuesday I spent some time preparing for the a knowledge call on presentation skills that I am leading on.

These two blog posts were very influential on my presentation style

Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic

Learning from Bill Gates & Steve Jobs

Back in 2010 I was invited to deliver a 15 minute keynote, which was then shortened to 12 minutes as other presenters had over run. I always think it’s just selfish of other presenters to run over their time slot, it’s unfair to the other presenters and the audience. A good chair will ensure that this doesn’t happen, and should cut presentations short if needed.

I always plan for the time allocated so I don’t run over. Now the accepted model for powerpoint presentations is 2-5 minutes per slide, so if I was presenting according to the accepted model I would have had no more than six slides.

So how many slides did you have?

I used ninety six slides.

Did you really?

Yes I did.

96 slides in 12 minutes – Presentation Styles

I am also going to use this link about a presentation on presentations at a recent Jisc TEDx event A duck goes quack…

Some final thoughts on presentations

  • When presenting read your slides out.
  • Make sure you fill with slides with as much text as possible, just so you can ask people at the back can they read them.
  • Ensure graphs and diagrams are taken from a document so that the details are unreadable even from the front row.
  • Cover your presentation with organisational branding, so that everyone knows where you are from and can be distracted from the actual content.

Okay…

  • Seriously do think about your presentation. Think of the session as a story.
  • Don’t read your slides out, use the slides to inform and talk to the audience about the stuff you did or are doing. The slides should inform this not be all the talk written down. Despite everyone saying don’t read your slides, people still do it.
  • Less is more, sometimes more is better. So don’t cover your slides in lots of text. One slide with six bullet points has less impact then six slides with a single piece of information. Use less words (or even just a single word) and expand this when you present.
    Images can be very powerful and can replace words.
  • Don’t use clipart though, go somewhere like Pixabay or Unsplash and find some decent photographic images.
  • When using graphs and diagrams, don’t just copy them from your report or Excel spreadsheet, simplify them. Do they add to the story you are telling?

Wednesday I was in the Bristol office. It was nice to meet people, as I haven’t been in the Bristol office for a while now.

Thursday I was back in London for the Jisc Horizons meeting on assessment. The aim of the meeting is to explore the future of assessment in universities and colleges and how technology could be used to help address some of the problems or opportunities we face. My main role for the day is to act as a scribe noting down the comments and ideas from the participants.

It was an exhausting day, but I do feel that we delved deep into the assessment space and identifying some of the challenges and problems universities and colleges face. We also identified some of the opportunities that are out there as well. What can Jisc do in this space, well we’ll discover that later this year.

I also wrote a blog post reminiscing about the Jisc Pedagogy Experts meeting I had attended back in 2007, twelve years ago.

On Friday I was back to the Bristol office, twice in a week. I had various back to back meetings.

In the afternoon we had the knowledge call on presentation skills. Though attendance was low the format appeared to work well. I used a tweetchat format, but used Teams as the platform.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Weeknote #16 – 21st June 2019

London

It was Monday, so as well as having a few online meetings, responding to e-mails, I was also writing stuff too. There was an interesting discussion on the Twitter about the term blended learning. Started off by this tweet from Peter Bryant.

I do agree with the sentiment of Peter’s tweet that the assumption blended is somehow better than other kinds of learning is flawed.

Reflecting on this more I thought about it, I realised that we’ve always had “blended” learning.

I posted my response to his tweet.

There are many ways to deliver learning (is that even a thing, can you even deliver learning) and ways for people to learn. My experience is that people like to learn in different ways and in different contexts depending on what they are learning, how they are learning, with whom they are learning, the topic, the subject and even the outcome of that learning and how it will be assessed. Don’t fall into the trap of learning styles, thinking that each individual has an individual way of learning, as the way in which people learn varies all the time and what works one day, may not work for them the following day. Sometimes your don’t even have a choice about certain aspects, as in I have to attend that compulsory lecture regardless of how I actually feel about it and the subject.

I think technological advances have allowed people a much wider choice of ways to learn. I expanded this in another tweet.

Since writing that tweet, I realise that the control aspect is both enhanced and diminished by the advances in technology.

We want to “measure” learning by using tools such as the VLE, whilst students can subvert that control by using tools such as WhatsApp or historically Facebook groups (are Facebook groups still a thing these days?).

So what do you think? Is blended learning new or has it always been here?

Tuesday I was back in London, it was warm and sunny and we had blue skies, alas as the day went on it started to rain. I was in London for an event by London Higher on research they had undertaken on commuting students, and the impact of commuting on student outcomes and wellbeing.

I made a sketch note of the event.

These sketch notes are mainly for my benefit, as they collate and coalesce my thoughts from the event.

The event took place at the BT Tower and I did initially think we would be at the top of the tower, alas it wasn’t meant to be, the event took place in a room on the ground floor. I was close, but not close enough.

In between meetings I went to a new coffee place and enjoyed a flat white as I caught up with my correspondence.

In the afternoon I was off to the RVC for a meeting with an old friend to discuss learning and teaching in higher education and her thoughts about what Jisc can do in this space.

The end of the week saw me once more off to London, this time for a meeting with officials from the DfE. It was really nice and sunny compared to Tuesday.

Oh had more coffee as well…

My top tweet this week was this one.

Weeknote #14 – 7th June 2019

Lighthouse at Dungeness
Lighthouse at Dungeness

After a lovely week off in Sussex, it was straight back into work with three days in London. I am expecting a few issues as it would appear a certain American President is also visiting London during the same three days!

Though I have been off work for a week (well four days if you exclude the bank holiday) and having cleared my inbox before I went away, I did think 110 new emails wasn’t too bad. I suspect a fair few are automated notifications. There were no direct messages in Slack, but Teams was quite busy as was Yammer.

The big story of the week when I was away was the Augar report, I spent some time reading various articles on the report.

Tuesday was a blast from the past as I attended the Jisc Digital Futures Quarterly meeting in London. This was a regular meeting I participated in when I worked in the Futures directorate. In my new role I am in a different directorate. Myself and Zoe had been invited to speak about the Technical Career Pathways. After our session and a working lunch, we sat down and we spoke about mapping the relevant sections of the SIFA framework to the Learning and Research Technical Career Pathway. Using the SIFA framework is going to enable us to provide consistency across the different Technical Career Pathways within Jisc.

Pasean restaurant

Wednesday another day in London, this time I was speaking to the Jisc e-textbook publisher strategy group meeting about the Jisc HE Learning and Teaching strategy.

It was an interesting conversation about not just the future of learning and teaching, but also some of the current projects Jisc is working on,

I didn’t see much of the Presidential visit except the huge number of helicopters flying overhead, so when I got home I was pleased to see the back of them. So you can guess I wasn’t too amused by the number of Royal Navy helicopters flying over my house on maneuverers on Thursday. Weston-super-Mare is home to the Helicopter Museum and the armed forces often fly their helicopters to that location and then back home.

I spent the end of the week going through the e-mails I had built up over the week (and the week I was off on leave).

My top tweet this week was this one.

Weeknote #04 – 29th March 2019

After a busy week last week with three days in London, this week is nearly as busy with another three days in the big smoke. On monday I attended an ideas workshop in London. There were two identical sessions looking at two grand challenges. I enjoyed both sessions and felt that I both learnt stuff and contributed stuff.

The following day I was preparing for my presentation on Thursday and the slidedeck I prepared was just images. I like to do that now and again. Back in 2006, which for me feels like last week, but was some time ago, I remember a senior manager commenting on the amount of text I had on my slides I gave for a presentation. I realised that despite having initially a minimalist approach, I had started to have “text creep”and my slides were filling with text.  I usually try and keep the number of words on my slide to a minimum, but now and again I miss words out completely and go just for images. So from then on I tried to do as little text as possible.

This blog post from 2005 (and the follow up post from 2007) were very influential in my presentation style and slidedeck design.

One meeting I was in was about Jisc’s student partners. I have always thought that the student voice is important and should inform your planning and development. Having students participate is really informative and useful, but as we do, consider what the student gets out of the experience as well.

Another meeting was discussing a development session we are running for staff towards the end of April on implementing agile. This was originally something I said I would do in my previous role, but am happy to do

Wednesday I was back in London for a workshop on looking at how Jisc can influence the influencers. This was an interesting day and again it reminded me how much I enjoy working in the London office. This was followed by a management meeting. A later finish and an earlier start the next day meant I was staying over in London. Gave me a chance to walk around the area near the hotel (close to BBC Broadcasting House) and have a nice meal at Wahaca.

Chargrilled Crown Prince squash grown for us by Riverford Organic, served with kale & cashew nut mole

On Thursday Waking up earlier than planned gave me a chance to have an early morning walk around Regent’s Park, there are some lovely green spaces in London and if I have the chance (and the time) I do like to explore some of them now and then.

Regent's Park

I was presenting on Thursday the keynote I prepared earlier in the week for the Association of Colleges and The Education and Training Foundation Data Science Conference. My session entitled What is required of us as educators for the futurewas an insight into fourth industrial revolution, Education 4.0 and what FE Colleges might need to consider to meet these exciting challenges and opportunities.

I also showed the Jisc Education 4.0 video.

The rest of the day was stimulating and informative. The hands on workshop run by my Jisc colleagues sparked a lot of interest from delegates.

Friday was a chance to update my colleagues on Jisc the state of play of the sector strategies that we have in place and are developing. I lead on the HE and student experience sector strategy and this was an chance to discuss progress on the existing strategy and where we may be heading in the future. You won’t be surprised to hear that Education 4.0 is on that horizon. I spent part of the day clearing out my inbox of e-mails, making sure I was up to date and planning for the next couple of weeks as well.

My top tweet this week was this one.

Valuing CPD

Victoria Street, London

I’ve recently (been) signed up for a one day event in that London town.

The event cost is £325 and the train ticket is over a hundred pounds.

That isn’t cheap!

I think it will be an useful event and (probably) value for money.

However when you consider the costs of the JISC Innovating e-Learning Online Conference at just £50 and what you get for that, you might want to consider attending.

As one delegate from last year said:

“I think it is a brilliant return for the investment and consider this to be a major part of my CPD each year.”

There is a packed programme and in addition to the usual week of presentations and discussions, there is the activity week, a chance to have a go at stuff.

For £50 you aren’t probably going to find something of similar value anywhere else in the UK.

Of course also as it’s online there are no travel costs either.