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When the tin of TEF was first opened a few days ago with all the shiny gold, silver and bronze foil-wrapped toffees, chocolates and what nots, it was entertaining and galling in measures to see who got what and what my own gaff got. Although I had been given a steer away from expecting gold, as an Educational Developer at a teaching focussed university with a heritage of teaching development initiatives, I kind of think we should have got gold. Or it is to some small extent down to me if we didn’t? Or, who knows? Maybe without me and my colleagues we would be scraping bronze?

So when I take the lid off the TEF tin a few days later it is all smelling like fudge. Grant Chapman Clarke (@elgranto) got me thinking when he pointed out who was shouting about results and who wasn’t. One could almost be forgiven for thinking that the only criterion applied to awarding the foil was how to keep the “shouting” to the very minimum possible.

And to achieve this the evaluators must have had to apply a lot of fine judgement.

QAA Quality Enhancement Network 12/11/2015

Fiona Handley from University of Brighton uses the term “Graduate Attribute” for digital literacy, where blended learning is the starting point. Focus on the learning and then ask about the technology that “suits me”.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that at an event devoted to digital literacies, the connection to the internet is unreliable, there is no power supply to the tables and the format is all Powerpoint.

Brighton digital literacy framework links to UK PSF. Full roll out to the university.

Fiona Harvey, Southampton using PathBright open source eportfolio tool, badges to support and scaffold learning. Open badge factory for the iChamp badge, Suggests Open Badge Academy.

Benefit is in enthusiasm, confidence

Towards a new education?

I asked Richard Murphy a question on Twitter after reading his post, “It’s not just a new politics we need: we need a new economics too.”
“And a new education?”
He replied “Almost certainly”.

This “new education” has to lie in what Murphy calls “collective” or shared narratives: “… where the individual seeks to achieve their purpose within the constraints that the planet now so very obviously imposes upon us… because achieving purpose is about substituting meaning for material consumption.” Narratives make meaning. Narrative must replace material consumption. As Max Tegmark (2014: 256) puts it, “… nature contains many types of entities that are almost begging to be named.”

I am leaning on Murphy and Tegmark here because both come from disciplines that value mathematical descriptions of the world above what Tegmark calls “baggage” or words. And both reveal the uncertainty at the base of measure, or to put it another way, they explore the measure problem. How you define constraints, if there are any?

And that I suggest is as ever: new or old education is about making meaning. Making meaning gets us very quickly into measures: pictures, categories, ranges, constraints; about how many lions are there over there? Meaning without baggage? Or is it all always baggage? Pragmatically, at what point do our useful approximations break down into mere baggage?

I spent much of Thursday and Friday last week immersed in dimensions of digital leadership in higher education, represented diagramatically. I started writing about this here. The base for this diagrammatic thinking was the range between “Visitor” and “Resident” in or to or in respect of/with reference to the digital. This model was constructed by Dave While and Alison leCornu several years ago in response to the “Native/Immigrant” model proposed by Presnky. There are other typologies, such as the “voyeur/flaneur” of dana boyd (2011) but the Jisc Co-designers find the visitor-resident one productive and useful.

To get the workshop talking and thinking together, the workshop facilitators laid another axis at 90 degrees to the visitor-resident x-axis. They labelled the upper end of the range “Personal” and the lower end “Institutional”. And this was the end of my messy thinking in my last post.

Tools as spaces as practises

Tools as spaces as practises

The next day we started again with a slightly rephrased map, where the top element was changed: “Individual” replaced “Personal” and rather than our own “digital capability” we were asked to map our institution’s.

Figure 1

Figure 1

It immediately struck my colleague, Richard Francis, that a small circle in the centre might represent the “disengaged learner” and that more “pressure” outward along any axis could be construed as a transformation of some sort.

Figure 2

Figure 2

I then observed that just maybe there were limits outward in some directions. It struck me that a person who was increasingly a visitor to one’s own individuality might lack self awareness (top left. And, in the same way travel too far lower right and a person might be in danger of becomming fully institutionalised.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Both these outer areas might break the “Identity and Wellbeing” circle suggested by the Jisc’s model of Digital Capability

6 Elements

6 Elements of Digital Capability

The last move in this opening development was to observe that the boundaries were at least elastic: that pressures towards self awareness might press inward while counterveiling pressures might push outward. And that these spaces might be characterised in various ways. Richard Francis proposed that being a visitor to one’s self from time to time might be construed as reflection rather than a tendency towards solipciism.

Figure 4

Figure 4

At this point in the morning the facilitators asked us to consider “openness” and “authenticity”. Richard Francis asked if perhaps the visitor-resident continuum might be relabelled “consumer-producer”? It struck me that an urge towards production and self-actualising transformation seemed to produce something like a wave or flow of force through the model, rupturing the membranes inward from the left to outward on the right. We realised that there was a relatively narrow band on either side of each of the main axes. We called the horozontal band the “Mean of engagement”: more or less individual and more or less institutional. We called the vertical band the “Mode of action”: more or less visitor and more or less resident. We also noticed an impact axis punching in another dimensionfrom lower left towards upper right. It appeard that the far left might be characterised by a lack of authenticity:. As one approached outer limits various pejorative warnings began to attach themselves to the image: at the outer and upper left solipcism and maybe hyper-capitalism dwelt, while at the upper right fully resident in individualism lurked the bully and the narcissist, with no self-control. There was a sweet spot for us upward and rightward from the centre where we put terms like open engagement, community, access and authority, while authoritarian by way of contrast fell out somewhere lower right.

Ruptured matrix

Ruptured matrix

We began to see institutional functions appear: assessment and the VLE seemed to occupy a backwater and the digital impact criteria of attention and presence firmly resided within the mean of engagement.

So all this was very satisfying as a means of understanding our world, but now the challenge is to turn it into action.



danah boyd. (2011). Dear Voyeur, Meet Flâneur… Sincerely, Social Media.” Surveillance and Society 8(4), 505-507

Tealab? TEL me about it

Reviving Tealab: Tealab is explicitly a Teaching Laboratory and discussion “space”. There are a number of excellent initiatives across the university that lap over the territory. When Tealab was set up it was intended to replace the Learning and Teaching  Forum (LTF),  with a focus on people (possibly “younger” whatever that might mean) interested in new or innovative teaching practices. These practices did not need to make use of learning technologies, but given the zeitgeist and interests of the proponents of Tealab there was a strong learning technology focus.

The institutional learning and teaching focus is currently on the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Framework with its participatory underpinning. The aim of the framework is expressed in four domains: Learning, Identity, Community and Place and is intended to enable the creative appropriation of tools, transformative academic practice, inclusive communities and safe spaces for learning.

Now, the Technology Experimentation Group (TEG), has a clear learning technologies focus and the Minerva Seminar Series is focused on teaching excellence.

Tealab can do two things.

One is serve as a clearing house and notice board of all the extra and co-curricular learning opportunities for teachers at Brookes, pulling from many sources: OBIS training, Library training courses, Digital Services training and various Guides, and OCSLD teaching courses.

And second Tealab can serve as a forum for collaborative discussion and development of the aspirations of the TEL framework. With this in mind, I am planning a series of Lunch-time sessions (and I know that time is troublesome so forgive me if these sessions are not accessible for you; we will simulcast and record for later review). I am proposing three this semester:

  • Monday 19 October 1200-1330 – Participation in learning, aspirations for teaching: introducing the TEL Framework
  • Monday 09 November 1200-1330 – Creative appropriation and appropriate technology for teaching
  • Monday 30 November 1200-1330 – Academic Identity today

And three next semester (dates to be announced)

  • Learning Communities
  • Holding space
  • Frameworks for learning and teaching



Victim of the system

I am very frustrated by not having access to our VLE/LMS today. The system, which is externally hosted by ULCC is “down”. It is Thursday 2 weeks after assignments were due. I and the team have 60+ papers to mark and/or moderate and upload grades. I am committed to my students to getting this done by tomorrow. There is precious little slack in any diary. I can’t just shift everything. I cannot do tomorrow’s stuff today because I have appointments tomorrow. This must be one of the biggest marking weeks in UK higher education. I am a champion of online assignment handling and marking. But 10 days ago I had to give all my students an extra day to hand work in because TurnItIn was down on the actual due-day. These incidents have to be factored into any risk assessment of online assignment handling and feedback systems that might be adopted.

Reasons to be cheerful

I am starting to experiment with Ben Werdmuller’s new creation, Known. Ben is well known around UK higher education as the co-author of Elgg.

I use several platforms: 2 WordPress sites, Twitter, Facebook and very occasionally Google+. In the old days – oh, about 2 or 3 years ago I used Posterous and Tweetdeck to manage my random collection of thoughts across several platforms  But Twitter killed both these lovely applications. I also use Oxford Brookes University’s learning environment: Moodle and another Moodle running on I am wondering if Known and Known for Education might help pull all this together. I buy what Ben says about multiple audiences and the blurring of boundaries between social media platforms. Some people are on Twitter only. Many more on Facebook only. But some people are in several places at once. And these people may be different audiences: work colleagues, friend friends, political activists, poets, family. If I only post to Facebook, I get some of these. G+ tried to make this work through “circles” but the asymmetry was too much for my poor brain. So let’s see what I can make happen, here, with Known.

Reposted from Reasons to be cheerful, posted in Known

Lasting change?

I have been at the SEDA conference and will be contributing to Helen Beetham’s “flipped keynote” today.

Helen has asked me to consider what lasting changes technology enhanced learning have left on me. Helen has suggested that the digital in education (and culturally, more widely) can be characterised by porosity and a persistent simultaneity. That is, once an utterance goes digital we are no longer completely in control of where it is used, who might see it and so on: our digital utterances and digital “spaces” are “leaky” or porous. And, as well as leaking beyond their original or intended audiences our utterances leave traces that persist and which might be recalled at any moment.

Now, I am not sure if these are unique to the digital. Certainly more people leave more traces that are persistently visible to more people than they have been. Is this merely quantitative or has the volume produced a shift in quality too? My suspicion is that it has, and this suspicion that there has been a qualitative change is how I read Helen’s illumination of the “post digital”.

So, for me, I will mention two lasting changes: one has to do with identity and the other has to do with language.

One lasting change for me is that traces of my life are leaky and persistent. This goes beyond the sphere of formal learning and reaches into my domestic and social spheres.

Was I a “late early adopters” or “e-pioneer” or “early majority” user of the internet? I had a Compuserve account in about ’94 or ’95 and remember my first dial-up modem and the exciting US Robotics Sportster “smart modem” that ran at a blinding 14.4 kbps. I ran IRC chatrooms for professional education in the energy industry in 1998 or thereabouts. Stuff like that. But what was significant was that I and many others thought that BBS and IRC and email would usher in an era of identity play and available anonymity. On the Internet no one knew you were a dog. A child could pretend to be an adult and an adult a child with all (apparent) innocence. I thought my life could be compartmentalised. If I embarrassed myself in one sphere the others could remain unaffected. There was the professional me, the political me, the poetical me and the domestic me and these four spheres of identity, I believed, were separate and the Internet facilitated this separation.

Clearly I no longer believe this. While there are other factors in play beyond the Internet, the development of the internet as we know it now has facilitated (or forced) the collapse of boundaries between parts of my identity. Nothing is private online. Deal with it. But let’s not underestimate the scale. This has become a huge power issue with Facebook, Google, GCHQ, NSA, Wikileaks and the subsequent projects to TIA. Cyber-security and Cyber-war and Cyber-colonialism and imperialism are very real phenomena and we do not need to wear tin-foil hats to appreciate this. (Ref Code Red and the Software sorted society links to come).

The other lasting change for me has been a widening of my understanding of modes of communication. I did my MA in Education at the Open University between 1997 and 2001. As a part of the degree I took “H802” Which had a title like “Application of the Internet to Open and Distance Learning”. While I had used Compuserve BBS and IRC I had never been invited to consider these as being genres of language. Through H802 I came to understand that digital literacy had many forms and some of these were new. There was moral outrage abroad at txt speak. H802 valorised this as just one new mode. I learned that forums were not chat, were not essays, and no more or less than any of these things, just different. And these genres and registers of communication refracted power and identity differently than letters, journalism or academic essays.

So for me the porosity and simultaneity do not have to do with my daily digital practices or the tools I use at any moment. They are deeper and broader than Diigo or Posterous. They embrace a domain of one’s own and BYOD.


The Values Argument for Educational Development in Higher Education

This summarises a paper I will be giving for the Oxford Brookes University, School of Education Research series this semester.

As well as providing locations of learning and teaching, higher education is an important focus of much political debate. Aldridge has set out the terms of the debate here (Aldridge 2014).

The pressing educational debates of the moment tend not, in fact, to be debates about the most effective way to achieve a particular outcome (although they are often portrayed that way), so much as debates between competing understandings of what we are trying to achieve through the educational endeavour.

In educational improvement initiatives in higher education, as an educational developer, I find myself facing a conundrum. Why, when I believe I know what good learning is and, arguably, how to create curricula, courses and events which are designed for good learning, do I continue to experience ambiguity and anxiety in myself, colleagues and society about not only individual roles, institutions and curricula but the purpose of higher education?

The paper sets out to problematise an underpinning framework for good educational development practice and offers places where the evidence might test (prove?) these underpinnings.

I suggest it may be a human universal that we come with ‘frameworks’ (Popper 1996): call them contexts or identities and communities as you will; we come with a need to be useful, even if only to ourselves. And, we co-construct our frameworks, our contexts, our ‘learning environments’: in both physical and abstract spaces with other people.

The conclusions I reach are that means and ends cannot be uncoupled; that the coupling of means and ends must be through the question of purpose; and that purpose is value laden. Therefore the values argument must remain in the light and proxy arguments, illuminated.


The full paper cites and is synthesised from the following

Aldridge, David. 2014. “What Is Education For?” Zu Den Sachen.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.

Bauman, Zygmunt. 2002. Society under Siege. Cambridge: Polity.

Bhabha, Homi. 2004. The Location of Culture. Routledge Classics. Abingdon: Routledge.

Chickering, A., and Zelda Gamson. 1987. “The Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.” American Association for HE Bulletin, no. March 1987 (and frequently reprinted): 3–7.

Dewey. 1916. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: Macmillan.

Draper, S. W. (2011, January 25). Peer Assisted Learning. Retrieved May 9, 2012, from

Engeström, Yrjö. 2001. “Expansive Learning at Work: Toward an Activity Theoretical Reconceptualization.” Journal of Education and Work 14 (1): 133–56.

Fairclough, Norman. 2001. Language and Power, Second Edition. Vol. 2. Harlow: Pearson.

Foucault, Michel. 1984. “Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias.” accessed 13/04/2014

Francis, Richard, and John Raftery. 2005. “Blended Learning Landscapes.”Brookes Electronic Journal of Learning and Teaching (BeJLT) 1 (3). accessed 13/04/2014

Francis, Richard, and George Roberts. 2014. “Where Is the New Blended Learning? Whispering Corners of the Forum.” Brookes Electronic Journal of Learning and Teaching (BeJLT) 6 (1).

Guasch, Tresa. 2014. “Unravelling the Feedback Process on Collaborative Writing in Online Learning Environments.” In Giving Feedback to Writers Online. International and Virtual Conference. Oxford: Oxford Brookes University.

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learning: experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking University Teaching, 2nd edition. London: Routledge Falmer.

Levitas, Ruth. 1999. “Defining and Measuring Social Exclusion: A Critical Overview of Current Proposals.” Radical Statistics 71.

Marshall, George. 2014. “Breaking News: North Korea Poisoning Atmosphere to Destroy American Weather.” Climate Change Denial. accessed 06/10/2014

Messy Reality. 2014. “I Represent a Dangerous Element That’s Growing in Society: Glasgow Emcee Darren ‘Loki’ McGarvey Talks about the Referendum, Recovery and the Making of a Soon-to-Be Era Defining Album.” Messy Reality. Accessed October 6.

Meyer, Jan, and Ray Land. 2003. “Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge: Linkages to Ways of Thinking and Practising within the Disciplines”. Edinburgh: Universities of Edinburgh, Coventry and Durham. ETLreport4.pdf accessed from accessed 13/04/2014

Mezirow, Jack, 1997. “Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice.” New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, no. 74: 5.

Morrison, Marlene. 2014. “Educational Administration, Ethnography and Education Research: Countering Methodological Stagnation. Provocative Tales from an Ethnographer.” In EdD Colloquium, 28 June. Oxford: Oxford Brookes University.

Popper, Karl. 1996. The Myth of the Framework: In Defence of Science and Rationality. London: Routledge.

Roberts, George. 2014. “Something of a Synthesis.” rWorld2. Accessed October 6. .

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith.

Sharpe, Rhona, Greg Benfield, George Roberts, and Richard Francis. 2006. “The Undergraduate Experience of Blended E-Learning: A Review of    UK Literature and Practice”. Higher Education Academy. accessed 13/04/2014

Stuart-Buttle, Ros. 2014. “Online Journal Writing , Reflective Dialogue & Professional Learning.” In Giving Feedback to Writers Online. International and Virtual Conference. Oxford: Oxford Brookes University.

Wenger, Etienne. 1998. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Vygotsky, Lev. 1962. Thinking and Speaking (first Published as Thought and Language). Edited by Eugenia Hanfmann and Gertrude Vakar. Lev Vygotsky Archive transcribed by Andy Blunden. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.





Jisc is very different – or is it?

So says Martyn Harrow, CEO of Jisc. It appears to all be about power now: power to deliver solutions, power to realise vision, power to make the UK the leading … whatever. The world is even more extraordinary than it has ever been extraordinary because of its connectedness, which is enabled by our extraordinary digital stuff which can make us extraordinarily competitive in a world where we cannot afford to be less than extraordinary. No pressure, then! Who? What? Messianic, techno-optimism is becoming ever more shrill.

Big data: if you haz data you can do a lot of things with that data. Power to hurt or power to heal. But more teachers and smaller classes can do more than more data. The centre needs to relax. A benificent centre may minimise harm, but other centralising urges hide behind the benificent exterior. If you continue to measure and compete no matter how hard you try only 25% will be in the top quartile.

Resilience: Or, the dog ate my homework?

On Wednesday my laptop failed. I was teaching all afternoon and couldn’t do anything about it. Yesterday afternoon, Thursday, under warranty, following diagnosis by Brookes Help Desk and, Apple Support, it was delivered to Western Computer in Oxford for repair. Estimated time 10 working days.
I need a temporary replacement machine. I work across three campuses. I have a meeting today off site at 1115 another at 1200-1300.. I then have a Skype call booked 1400-1500.
However, I am told that the laptop loan desk is only open from 1100-1300.
There are work ’rounds until Monday. I am using a library Chromebook now. I have an iPad, but it doesn’t work with Moodle forums. Is this good enough? I really do not know. Maybe it is? However, there are people expecting stuff from me today, and a broken computer feels like the dog ate my homework.
Would it be different if I were based at a stationary desk? Would it be different if I used a Windows laptop? In 7 years this is the first time a MacBook Pro has failed on me. I feel beyond the Pale.