Friday, December 23, 2011

How not to use social media for customer service...

I saw this series of tweets by chance this morning...


Now, as I did... I'm sure you can see that a quick response was needed.  It would have been the right thing to do.  It would have been the humane thing to do.  You only have to read the tweets to see how urgent things were... to find out more... following a link or two would have given you a deeper glimpse of the story behind it.  A wife with her husband (and father of her two small children) dying in hospital just before Christmas.

You know what the response was from Vodafone?  Silence.  When pushed by another person... what was their response?

This:


'We answer our tweets in a chronological order'

And it took them 6 hours to make that response.  The same generic response they gave to someone else in their very next tweet.  They still haven't responded to @rachelacj as of 8 hours after her original tweets.  An opportunity to do the right thing and offer true customer service at a time where it would have made a big difference?  Missed completely. 

The lessons from this:

1.  Be a human being if you're providing a human service on Twitter
2.  Prioritise using whatever method you want... but be flexible when appropriate
3.  Remember the world is watching
4.  Make a difference where it matters.

Sad, sad bit of customer service on the day before Christmas Eve.

Thoughts are with rachelacj.  For some reason, though I brushed up against these tweets by chance this morning they've lodged themselves in my head.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reflecting on JISC Innovating e-Learning 2011

Thought it was about time to write up some general notes from the JISC Innovating e-Learning 2011 online conference.

These are my personal summary points for me to reflect on for the future... so here goes...

1.  Online conferencing can be a really satisfying experience in terms of the way you can engage with the speakers' presentations with others.  The flow of text chat is excellent and you can dip in and dip out as you fancy, influenced by the direction of the presentation leading to lots of interesting ideas and possibly less turgid questions at the end?  That last bit is my own theory, but I think that at traditional conferences you so often see the same old people asking questions of the same type that it's refreshing to see a range of questions being picked up from multiple sources.

2. I attend these things for my staff development but also to see what others across the sector are thinking.  Sometimes I feel trapped in a time-warp.  The same old conversations are going on.  The same ideas are being dredged up.  The same tale of 'pilot does well... but how did it translate into a tangible change in practice?' remains without answer.  How can we escape the hamster wheel of discussion and rhetoric?  Small scale change isn't enough any more.  Just because you are doing interesting things in your classroom or nicely contained project doesn't mean that we can't and shouldn't be striving to go bigger and more inclusive where innovation is concerned.

3.  eLearning bingo is alive and well.  Edupunk, anarchogogy and 'changing student expectations' would all have been good to have on your bingo card this time around.  There was some debate about the need to change the use of jargon to gain real ground in understanding, particularly where open practice is concerned - however, this was another of those deja vu moments where I wonder what can actively be done to make this change - when all the while we invent and proudly wear our new jargon like this season's latest fashions at each of these events.

4.  Education and learning are still being used in an interchangeable fashion.  They are *not* the same thing.  The sooner we realise this, the better.  The ludicrous idea that in some way a PhD is evidence of 'lifelong learning' is as meaningless as the suggestion that a great educational experience for a primary school aged child would set them up for the journey of a lifelong learner is nonsense.  Both are about the educational system.  Moments where that works well - then yes, perhaps you can say that true, deep learning exists.  But devoid of any educational system at all... people have always been learning for life.  It's in our nature.  It's what makes us human.  It's how we cope with a changing, complex environment.  It's how we adapt to our various life stages.  The arrogance that education is the tool which facilitates lifelong learning is laughable.  They need decoupling in order for us to get our heads around what makes for good learning experiences rather than what makes for pretty educational systems.  The talk of how people acquired their digital literacy skills was a case in point - most participants (71% of attendees polled during the Digital Literacy panel session) hadn't attended a course or studied it, but had learned about it and gained their knowledge through experience.  Yet, there we were discussing how to educate others in the ways of digital literacy.  An odd situation.

5.  Open is on the agenda.  Open practice.  Collaboration.  Sharing.  Learning from and with each other.  There was a clear direction away from closed, inward-looking practice to a more shared, open outlook.  What that actually means, however, wasn't clear.  Was it the small-scale culture of sharing which already exists in departments?  Is it the large scaled massive open online courses (MOOCs) which were flagged as gaining ground linguistically?  And what is it that we're sharing exactly?  I'm not clear that we're at the stage where we're doing much more than batting around buzzwords - though 'open by default, closed by exception', would tend to be the way I would describe my working practices.  I also wondered how the culture of open and collaboration will sit with an increasingly financially strapped, competitive higher education sector?

6.  Tweetable presentations make you sit up and take notice.  Increasingly I think that people's presentation styles will have to change to accommodate the fact that you may no longer be talking to the audience (virtual or physical) in front of you in the room.  If you can give people some strong concise statements, some facts, some structure to hang a comment on - then these are likely to go out beyond the room.  If you simply describe a project or a process which you've gone through, this tends to be passively received and I noticed that the number of #jiscel11 tweets fell considerably during presentations of this type.  Whether or not that's a good or bad thing, I'm not sure.  But if you want to work in an open manner, then working out how to open up the various elements of your practice will be the thing that makes a difference both personally and professionally.

7.  I really liked the idea of having a 'thinking space' as a kind of reverse plenary on the morning of each new conference day.  The thinking space summarised the main themes of the previous day's presentations in a visual form - they had an illustrator put together some great visualisations which weren't necessarily without controversy (the visual representation of education and employment being islands separated by water, but connected by a bridge was a little disturbing yet representative of the disconnect between the artificial nature of education and the workplace possibly?), but which certainly put you in a good frame of mind for reflecting and connecting ideas.  Really liked the idea and would like to think of ways to carry that forward.

8.  If you're attending an online conference you still need to demark your time so that you can participate properly - whether that's closing a door, finding a separate space to sit etc you have to work extra hard to say 'I'm busy', some how!  People don't seem to readily accept that if you're physically present in work that you can virtually need to be present elsewhere.  You have to take a fairly disciplined approach to your own attendance to maximise the benefit of an online conference.  If that means working from home to properly take part, then it's worth doing this.  In the week of 'pre-conference activities' I was so tied up with meetings / ad hoc discussions / other work that I didn't get to participate at all, it was only when I physically removed myself from the office that I could really engage with it.  

Think those are my main points - plenty of links shared too and I'll try to pull those together into a separate blog posting.

Definitely worth attending.  Really enjoyed it.  Didn't miss the rubbish catering or stands flogging ed tech products I'm not interested in.  And I've got enough stress balls and free pens to last me... so virtual worked well!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

JISC Innovating e-Learning 2011 - Bill Rammell


Notes from 'Tensions in collaboration in a changing landscape'. Really didn’t enjoy this presentation.  It smacked of the sort of talk you hear VCs give up and down the country.  There were nods to ‘student expectations’, the ‘changing educational landscape’, ‘cross sector collaboration’, but really nothing terribly concrete.  It felt like lots of soundbites glued together in many ways. The presenter was Bill Rammell, currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Plymouth responsible for the 'student experience' (a mysterious phrase if ever there was one) and internationalisation.

Rammell started with an ice breaker, where he asked what was the key source of innovative ideas - students, colleagues, JISC publications or another university.  Most people said ‘colleagues’ which doesn’t really come as a surprise since most practice is grounded in the shared day-to-day experience of lecturers.  He then went on to talk about cross-sector collaboration and highlighted it as one of the challenges for consideration, what to do about it and how could we facilitate collaboration.  I do wonder, however, that if the reality is that shared experiences with colleagues, grounded in their own discipline and practice is where people are comfortable, what benefit would they / could they see from something much broader than that?

After that followed mention of the UK Government White Paper ‘Students at the Heart of the System’ and he said that the funding reform was the most radical change in a generation.  The argument then followed - as is typical - that student expectations would increase with the increasing fees.  I always wonder however, whether this reflects correlation rather than causation?  It also saddens me that the only thing that seems to have shaken some out of complacency about the ‘student experience’ is the thought that students are now paying customers and *that’s* what drives their expectations, rather than the commitment to a high quality education.

The real turning point in my engagement with Rammell’s talk came when he shared the promo video for Plymouth University.  It encouraged students to think of their university education as ‘less than the weekly cost of their cinema ticket’.  I found this profoundly depressing.  Reducing what is and should be a life changing, mind opening experience of university to being something which is ‘less than the cost of your weekly cinema ticket’ seems to trivialise it to the level of just another consumer good.  And not even any consumer good, but a form of entertainment.  Something which doesn’t even figure in most people’s lives due to cost, the fact that it is a luxury good and often an extremely lightweight, passive means of spending time.

At this point, the response to the talk seemed to change.  People seemed uncomfortable with the terminology being used (judging by the reaction on Twitter) and points were made in response about fear of debt, students as customers / partners etc - and very little mention of their learning.  Rammell also suggested that things like ‘comparethemarket.com’ might be an appropriate means for selection of HE provider for students - and the commodification of learning made for extremely uncomfortable listening.  His examples of students sharing information about university was also lightweight and again, rather uncomfortable.

Rammell moved on to talking about the potential for shared service and highlighted the guidance available from JISC on this as being a cost-effective and powerful possibility - JANET being a prime example, though increasing cost for these shared services also needs consideration.  He also talked about the importance of digital literacy and asked whether any institutions had a digital literacy strategy.  Only 6% of people responded that they had - however, I’m not sure to what extent this even matter.  Not everything that’s working is that way because of a strategy.  Not every strategy even makes an impact.  

His conclusions were that we face significant challenges in terms of in terms of funding, student numbers, distribution (types of students), increased expectations (from funding) - nothing unsurprising there, but little to do with collaboration.  Rammell’s idea of good news seemed to be that with 40% of cuts to the teaching budget in Higher Education, this was better than in other parts of the public sector.

Thoroughly depressing stuff.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

JISC Innovating e-Learning 2011 - David Puttnam's keynote


Some notes (made up from my tweets during the talk) from the opening keynote of JISC Innovating e-Learning 2011. Held online, the lack of conference freebies was made up for by sheer convenience and ability to participate!

So... the keynote. Delivered by Lord David Puttnam and entitled 'Towards a Digital Pedagogy'. It was a good talk although, as someone observed, he didn’t actually touch on much pedagogy throughout his presentation.  However... definitely worth listening to.

He opened with some extremely interesting contextual material - the notion that we have perceived creativity as a Western phenomenon, for example, means that we have taken our eye off the ball in terms of what’s going on in countries like China.  There has also been a distinct lack of political wisdom in the West and this is problematic when we start to look at education.  Not least because we are complacent in terms of what we can do compared to what others can do.  Again, the point goes back to our perception of China as a producer of cheap products, but the reality is that their impact on creativity (primarily discipline-based creativity and innovation as opposed to free-form originality) has been huge.  Puttnam said that ‘the idea that China will never be creative is our own personal fantasy... we have been looking West when we should have been looking East’.  In essence, as a country we have been complacent and our investment in the future of education - and the investment in ICT in education - has been falling in the EU, despite it representing a dividend.

He then went on to talk about the level of skills within education.  An interesting comparison he made was between medicine and education.  He said that if you took a surgeon from 1911 and dropped them in the 21st Century they would be able to do nothing as their skills would have become obviated by all the advances which have occurred in the past century.  If you took a teacher from 1911, with their ability to stand in front of a board and talk at pupil... and put them in the 21st Century, they’d just about survive.  What does this say about education?  What does it say about pedagogy?  Puttnam concluded that we haven’t moved on in terms of educational development, despite all of the developments in aligned fields such as psychology etc.  He went on to say that we’re losing the trust of learners because of this disconnect.  In order to win back their trust we need to engage far more with their world and also engage with it as they do.

The point is that ‘you will never successfully influence anyone if they don’t believe you to be authentic’ (Puttnam, 2011) and I think this doesn’t just relate to school-based education, or even student - tutor education - it also relates to our role as professional developers.  We are disconnected from the world in which our academic colleagues are working and our guidance is inauthentic and therefore dismissible.  

In terms of how the modern learning space should look, Puttnam suggested that students should become the moderators of their own learning, helping each other to learn.  Where this puts traditional forms of teaching such as the lecture or the ‘chalk and talk’ work which is so typically found in education, it wasn’t clear.  It appeared that an entirely fresh look at education was needed.  A useful analogy was that simply digitising existing teaching materials was like telling the man who used to walk in front of cars with a red flag, to jog.  He then asked what an entirely digital pedagogy could achieve?  An interesting question - and there isn’t an answer to this yet.

There were some interesting points made about the role or potential role for voice recognition in education.  The process of ordering your thoughts to make them coherent for a third party is about oracy and about organisation - key skills for the future.  Though the technology is in the early stages of mainstream use, with Google, Apple (Siri) and Amazon involved, change will inevitably quicken.  It may not be an educational issue now, but Puttnam suggests strongly that it’s an area to keep an eye on.

The last section of his presentation concerned skills development - of teachers - and of the socio-economic value of education.  No educational system, Puttnam said, was better than the quality of its teachers and it was essential to commit to teacher training and ongoing skills development (and allow this to be two-way).  Further, there needs to be global acceptance of the importance of educating women.  Plus, recognition of the impact quality education has on many other areas such as health - investment in education is a win-win situation.  

This could be the ‘Gettysburg Address’ moment for education (Cathy Davidson, 2011 - http://www.cathydavidson.com/2011/11/why-this-is-a-gettysburg-address-moment-for-higher-education/) and it’s worth a read as a provocative and thought-provoking piece of writing which looks at these debates.  The issues currently faced by students are those faced by society more widely, it’s just that they’re hitting students with particular force.  

The TES community - with approx 2 million (off the top of my head that was the figure quoted!) users was cited as being an exciting development.  Bringing together teachers who were discussing and developing themselves.  This feeds into the creativity in learning which he touched on earlier.  Another interesting suggestion he made was that the learning environment should become a ‘copyright-free zone’, where teachers could teach with whatever they laid their hands on.  There would and should be a responsibility for them to teach respect for copyright, but that within the classroom, there should be far greater freedom.  Issues surrounding copyright and fear of infringement are a real barrier to creativity and reuse - which is currently hampering the type of learning which students can experience.

Three themes were summarised as:
1. Use technology creatively as a means to an end not an end in itself (nothing new here and something I strongly support!)
2.  Voice recognition and the importance of oracy plus its value to learners.  It is a big issue... what role will it play?
3.  This is the ‘Gettysburg Address moment’ for Higher Education - what lessons might we also learn from the student protests of the 1960s?

Moving on to talk about employability, Puttnam said that it was a crime that any young person should be unemployable when they leave school - but asked how this could be meshed with parents so that they understood its importance.  He also said that change in education was difficult but used the example of the Open University to illustrate this.  It had been with great resistance by all of the cabinet that the OU had been started - and as Wilson’s ‘pet project’ it was allowed to go ahead.  When Heath came along, he wanted it closed down as he didn’t see the value - but Thatcher prevented that from happening.  The Open University smashed through as a vision. As educators, Puttnam said, we have to take the same risks and get past the obstructions presented to us - even by the leaders of the day.  You need guts to get things through (very very true!).  Technophobia has no place in education.

A final word about the Russell Group and the divisiveness currently going on in Higher Education.  Although it isn’t being explicitly said, Puttnam says that some universities will close as a result of the financial changes being imposed.  Students as customers also not that helpful - they have a different set of criteria to students.  Imagining that the Russell Group will be able to move the UK into the 21st Century was a mistake.  Puttnam cuttingly said that they were a ‘cartel moving fowards on its own terms’ and ‘a disaster’.  Educators needed to work together to deliver a compelling learning experience for every student.  If we slice away at the edges, as the Russell Group are doing, this makes us failures as educators.  A real challenge to those of us who work for Russell Group institutions!

Thought-provoking and challenging.  A good keynote and great start to JISC Innovating e-Learning 2011.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Facebook and the little stuff

What's that?  The sound of Facebook listening to its users?  Good grief!

So, rather than having some hideous automated random content generator sort the newsfeed, users can now change back to 'Recent Stories First'... which is a good thing.  Not least because the immediacy of Facebook and being able to react to what other people are doing is part of the reason that it made sense.  It was simple, it was easy to understand and sorting things by how recently they'd appeared made sense.

No, this isn't exactly earth shattering news, but it does show how important the little stuff can be when it comes to usability and people's interactions with technology.  And how important it is to respond (in a timely fashion) when you're being told by your user group that something just isn't working for them.

Those are the lessons worth learning.  Regardless of whether or not Facebook features in your life.  Getting the little stuff right is always important.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The problem with...

... going paperless... is that there's nothing like a good scribble on a piece of paper to get your thoughts together.

Actually, that's far too simplistic, but I have been trying my hardest for the past couple of months to go paperless.  The 'going paperless' tools I've been using are as follows:
1.  PC
2.  MacBook Pro
3.  iPad
4.  iPhone
5. HTC Desire

Now, as I said above, I do love a good scribble on paper.  And I'm also one of those people who write 'in hieroglyphics' (as other people tend to describe it!).  In other words, I can do shorthand.  As a result, the gap between an idea or a comment entering my ears and onto paper is very very small.  I'm also a bit of a soft systems person too.  Present me with a complex problem and within minutes you'll be laughing at my stick people (who always have bobbly feet), lines, arrows, thought bubbles as I get to grips with trying to understand what I see in front of me.  I can spray diagram my way out of most situations quicker than you can say 'the exit's over there you can stop doing a spray diagram now...'

Going without paper was tough.

Very tough.

The first few weeks of not using pens and paper I physically had to stop myself from taking a notepad around with me.  Instead, I diligently noted everything down in Evernote which, after a lapse of a couple of years where I didn't use it, I've been enjoying rediscovering its loveliness.  From pictures to audio to text and more, it sat happily on my PC, MacBook, iPad, iPhone etc... waiting for notes to head its way.  And it's been great.  However, the funny thing is that note taking on an iPad, for example, requires a different level of concentration to just taking shorthand notes.  With shorthand I don't have to think about how I'm recording what's being said.  It's the difference between listening to words being spoken and hearing the letters read out of a word you have to piece back together.  You just listen.  With the iPad I found that part of my brain became disengaged as I struggled to touch type with no physical keyboard.

Eventually, this worked okay - my spelling became atrocious, I hated the shift key and its location next to the letter 'a' and auto-correct produced plenty of on-screen comedy for me to sort out later.  But it worked.  But I still wasn't listening in the way I'd listened before.

I could spray diagram, but instead of drawing, scribbling, adjusting and annotating as before, I had to glue spray diagrams together.  The bubbles wouldn't behave themselves, moving about the screen with a steely determination to thwart my order.  Eventually, they would look pretty and presentable - but you know what?  I could have done that before.  Sketching things out roughly using my pen and pad, and then putting the next draft into whichever mind mapping tool did most of the things I wanted.  The software inhibited my thinking by conforming it to the order *it* imagined I was after.  What was quick and dynamic became laboured and laborious.

What else went paperless?  Well, my 'to do' lists also went electronic.  My habit of sitting down first thing and creating the day's to do list in my notepad disappeared and instead, I added tasks as I went to my Google Tasks.  Actually, this has been a goodie in lots of ways.  I can link things to my Google Calendar... can create tasks from emails within Gmail.  Yup.  It's worked nicely.  Especially since Google Apps landed at both of the institutions where I work.  But there's something about physically creating a list and physically crossing things out which a little click doesn't capture.  Isn't that sad?  The 'all ticked off'  satisfying flourish of a pen across the list as another item disappeared.  Sanitised *clicks* as my 'to do's' became 'to done' wasn't quite the same.

I did, on the other hand, love Dropbox even more than before as my notepad... sorry... iPad... moved from being simply the here and now (and a few scribbles before), to being all of that and my entire filing system and document store as well.  Plus, syncing between multiple devices was easy.  And the joy of not having to lug a stack load of meeting papers across the campus was something to treasure!

So... where am I now with paperless?  I have to admit (and given that the image above was me diagramming a problem just yesterday!), that I'm in 'compromise land'.

Going paperless is perfectly possible.  Going paperless is great.

Going 'almost paperless'.. well... that works much better for me. That said, shorthand seems to be a dying art and diagramming will become much easier as software becomes increasingly fluid and user-centred.  I can see a (nearly) paperless future.  Even for me.  My petty issues, such as they were, will be non-issues in the future.

Yet... there's nothing like a good scribble.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

On bullet points...

Most people who know me will have heard me give them the 'I hate bullet points' monologue when triggered.  Those who've worked on a presentation with me, may have had the experience of me un-bullet-pointing a presentation we'll be delivering together.  Brutally.  Not in a mean way - but it would take a *lot* to persuade me that a presentation should have bullet points in it at all.  And if they are there, they should be minimal and contain only the key points expressed succinctly enough that they could be written on the back of stamp.

What's wrong with bullet points, I hear you cry (well, possibly you're not bothered either... but if you are, here's the problem with them) - they make you read out what's on the slide.  That sounds a weak argument, doesn't it?  But the moment you start reading from the slide, you should sit yourself down, distribute the handouts and invite your audience to peruse those instead.  It's a presentation, not a book group.

I've seen people turn their back to the audience and read directly *to* the bullet points in front of them.  I've attended presentations where the entirety has been someone reading the thing out... bullet point by boring bullet point.  Or, one of the worst I attended where someone managed to cram 28 separate bullet points on the same slide... and helpfully said 'I doubt you can read these' as they then read every single one out.  Not good.

The other thing that bullet points do is that they restrict your flow.  Instead of the presentation flowing from start to finish, it becomes a race with hurdles which you must jump to progress to the next slide.  Miss out a bullet point and people wonder what happened.  Even if you don't specifically mention the bullet point, you feel obliged to say 'I'm skipping that one' or a variation on the same.  But what if as you're presenting you realise that your audience needs more or less of what you're saying?  The bullet point hurdles sit, obstinately on screen... refusing to budge... and force you to clamber over each and every one.  They don't let the presentation breathe or respond.

So, my manifesto for presentations...

1.  Remember you are presenting - the audience is there to hear and see you.
2.  Your slides are in the background.  They are not the presenter.  You are.
3.  Think of slides as visual punctuation.  They accent points.  They highlight specific elements.  However, like all punctuation, they are not there to provide the substance, they are there for structure.
4.  If you find yourself reading out your slides, you've got it wrong.  Watch out for these moments and make a mental note to yourself to sort it out.  If your audience has to wade through reading them, then they aren't listening to you.
5.  If you're going to use images, really use them.  Don't be too literal.  Don't distract.  Don't go for cheap laughs (unless that's what you're after!).  Think about what you want the audience to feel.  Think about how visuals might help you emphasise your point.  Think about where they're placed.  And when.  And what size.
6.  Less is more.
7.  This doesn't necessarily mean less slides though.  Two or three words per slide to make specific points can be flipped through very quickly as you speak - which might well mean more slides than normal.  This is okay - think of it as a process of animation.  Lots of frames to make one moment of animation.  If I'm displaying data, I may have several slides to build up the chart so that each element I want to focus on has space.
8.  If you're starting to prepare a presentation don't start in PowerPoint.  Get the framework planned first before you go near something that might force you into thinking in bullet points.
9.  If you really want bullet points, put them in the notes section of your presentation.  They're for *your* benefit.  And if other people want to have access to them, share the presentation with them afterwards.
10.  You don't need bullet points if you know what you're talking about.  A good presentation takes time.  And practice.  And thought.  But all the thought that went into it, means you don't need all those bullet points.  They're a safety net which prevents you from really talking with your audience.

Oh, and the irony of me presenting the above as a numbered bulleted list doesn't escape me.  But this is okay - you're reading this.  You're *meant* to be reading it.  If I were presenting it, you'd probably get about 10 slides with images and me making each of the points in a range of ways!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Getting going with CMALT

Since I've just written up some advice about starting CMALT for another audience... I thought I might be lazy and turn it into a blog posting too. Here goes...


If you're trying to make a start on your CMALT portfolio then there are a few basic hurdles to jump first. 


Hurdle 1. Making up your mind to do it!
I first looked at CMALT several years before I did anything about applying. Why, I don't know - but it sat in the background for a very long time and it was only once I actually made up my mind that I was going to do it... and gave myself a time frame to complete it by... that I made a start.  


Hurdle 2. Deciding how you're going to present your portfolio.
What portfolio will you use? Now, while it really is a free choice for you (and if you have something you'd rather use, provided it can be accessed by the assessor, then whatever would be fine), if you want a quick start then the Google Sites template I created a while back should kick start things. There's a YouTube video on how to use it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KI324MW3dgk and once you've done that, you can use Google Sites - either from your own Google account or from within Google Apps if that's available at your institution - to create the basic outline, complete with instructions on each of the the requirements. 


Hurdle 3. Starting to write it once the framework is in place
I found that completing the basic stuff got me going... then I put a single sentence for each section which captured the essence of what I might cover just as a place marker and to get me thinking about what might be needed for my description / reflection. Even if I didn't end up writing about the thing I first thought I would, this really helped me move forwards with the process of getting it completed. 


Hurdle 4. Gathering evidence
Now, some of this is made easier by the 'right' choice of description. Don't write about stuff from 5+ years ago because a) the relevance would be questionable unless included for a very specific reason (i.e. a qualification) and b) getting the evidence after that gap is very hard! Make smart choices with step 3, and step 4 is easier. 


Hurdle 5. Getting feedback.
I didn't have anyone else at my previous university who'd done CMALT so had no opportunity for feedback at all* - but I really would have appreciated it. To get around that, I gave some friends from other institutions the address of my portfolio and asked (begged!) them to take a look for me. This gave me confidence and helped me make the tweaks before I submitted it. Alternatively, sharing the address of your portfolio with colleagues internally would also be helpful, as would 'buddying up' with someone to work on it together. The more visible your portfolio is, the more obliged you feel to get something done! If it can be hidden and forgotten... it is hidden and forgotten! 


Hope those give you a bit of a help with getting started! Oh, and if you want to see an example of a complete CMALT portfolio, then mine is online at http://sites.google.com/site/sarahhorriganportfolio/. It's not the best, it's not the worst - but it did pass, so for what it's worth... it's open and shared!


* There is a CrowdVine CMALT site which you can access once you register for CMALT, but since a lot of people get started before they're registered, feedback can still be tricky!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

ALT-C 2011 - Wordled...

Being a curious soul, I decided to Wordle the tweets I'd done during ALT-C 2011 to see what key themes or words emerged.  Interestingly, tech balanced evenly with learning... and noticing the prominence of my 'elearningbingo' tag* in there - it's clear that there's still a fair bit of jargon kicking around.  What is good though is that there isn't tons of mention of particular tools - things that stand out are education, change, need, listening, interesting, teaching, students, good, talk - and these are far more important than the technical specifics.

Possibly that's what my ear is listening out for!  But, a lot of going to these things is filtering to get to the heart of what will get you thinking and moving forwards.  Making connections between ideas and having that moment of pause which is so important.

Anyway, off for a mull (and a sleep!).  These things sure are tiring!

* I play a game with myself when I go to events - listen out for the jargon / buzzword / phrase of the moment and play bingo with it.  The main culprit at this conference was 'doing more with less' - which is a nonsense statement.  Less what?  Enthusiasm?  Interest?  Joy?  Engagement?  Of course not.  Tarting up 'budgets have been cut and you have to deal with it' is fine... but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we're still in this to improve and expand the learning opportunities of others (and ourselves).  Rant... out.  :o)

So... about ALT-C 2011...

Not long now until ALT-C is done for another year. This year has involve schlepping up to the University of Leeds... a city which has fully delivered (in terms of the weather!) on the promise of it being grim up North. Three days of rain and gales but as ever some thought provoking stuff to take away... some slightly depressing stuff to take away... and some stuff which fell neatly into the 'well, that was odd category'. But all good in many ways.
 So... let's tootle through the good, the bad and the weird.

Good
Hearing about the one laptop per child (OLPC) project in Uruguay from Miguel Brechner was a little dose of inspiration to start the conference. It was clear from the presentation that the impact of technology when it breaks free and into the community is powerful and exciting. It was also clear that the dogmatic insistence on 'traditional teaching and practice' which appears to be the current governmental message in this country would never have helped achieve the 100% laptops for state school children in Uruguay... or given them the freedom to try and take risks... and to invest where needed. I was taken aback when someone from the audience asked Miguel, 'what can we in the UK do to help with the project?' and the thought that they need to learn from us when it is they who are making such a dramatic change to communities and lives is odd to say the least. I get where the spirit of the question was coming from... but the opportunity to learn and grow together across boundaries didn't seem to be the message there.

Other good stuff? As ever... meeting up with old faces, new faces, even faces dressed like a cowgirl (waves at AmberThomas) and share practice, ideas and experiences. Things I've learned about learning technologists? They like wearing checked shirts. They drink *lots* of coffee. They're either implementing new VLEs or in the process of doing so*. They're regularly the subject of structural change wherever they're based. Okay, so I knew most of this stuff beforehand... but the checked shirts thing is good to have confirmed. :o)


Bad
Some really dreadful presentations. Again. I say this every year but... stop with all the bloomin' bullet points. Please!!! If I come to hear you talk... I come to hear *you* talk. Not read your boring, Arial font, bulletpointy, over-full slides whilst trying to keep up with what you're saying. I really wanted to go to some of the petcha kucha sessions with their visual, short, snappy brief - but couldn't due to clashing commitments but it's definitely a format I'm keen to try in the future.

Other bad stuff? Some, and I'm sorry to say it, not great workshops. Not all weren't great, but too many had no plenary... no sense of purpose... and weren't always related to their theme.

Also not good - sponsor sessions disguised as invited speaker sessions. I was seriously irritated by the Blackboard Collaborate session which showed glossy American promo vids and promoted the main benefits of online working with two thirds about cost savings / income generation. Talk to me about the pedagogy. Talk to me about the process. Talk to me about real things Don't flog me your system unless I want to hear about it.


Odd stuff
Several rooms which bordered on the sports hall school of surreal - now, this sounds petty but as someone with tinnitus I have a real problem with echoey venues and this echoed with the best of them. Especially on the morning where a high pitched squeal accompanied the space. Also, rooms which didn't fit the number of participants. There has to be a better room allocation system even though I'm aware that this is a lesson in complexity and then some! Also, vegetarian catering. One option for veggies which had 'had an accident' so we ended up with lettuce and coleslaw! Nice work people!

Ermm... That's it for now. Will write up more specific stuff later. Another talk beckons...

PS  It's always a gargantuan effort to get these events off the ground and that's always appreciated and firmly on the 'good' list!

* this one should be on the bad list.  When implementing a new technology prevents you from having the time to look at any other learning and teaching practice / innovation / technology then something's amiss.  VLEs are a huge time sink for learning technologists and I hope that this starts to change in the next few years...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Help me develop my online course...

I was chatting to someone earlier today about the sorts of things involved in producing an online course and in sharing our experience it seems there are 10 common areas which crop up when you're involved in projects like this.

  1. Project management skills aren't necessarily the ones possessed in academia!  You'll need these to get it from conception to completion.
  2. The gap between design, reality and delivery can be huge - someone needs to take on the job of helping to close this!  It's probably going to be you.
  3. Going from face-to-face teaching to online teaching can be scary - it's important to cut people some slack and find multiple ways to support them in developing skills and confidence
  4. Don't wait until the course goes live for teaching staff to acquire online teaching skills - developing an online course isn't just about content.
  5. Be clear about the objective and get it communicated clearly too - establish what it is you're after early on as being pulled off course by new additions / other agendas / misplaced priorities can be fatal.
  6. The moment someone says 'we'll just put the PowerPoints online' should set off alarm bells in your head.  Establish your definition of what counts as online learning early and allow these conversations to air sooner rather than later.
  7. Give yourself enough time - it isn't quick, it isn't easy, it isn't cheap.  Counter the myths and be realistic - or you'll spend the month before the course is due to be delivered going grey.
  8. Inactive content is dull.  If people need help with activity design, alignment and active learning... support them to get there because it'll be worth it.
  9. Aim big if you want, but start small - testing a small sample of content on a willing group of students and taking on board their feedback is much better than hiding away and developing the whole lot... then discovering it's rubbish.
  10. Establish a visual style guide at the outset - templates, models, examples etc help those new to online course creation - and enables you to produce a consistent look and feel to the materials.  For fully online courses, the online content *is* the University!
So... how to do it?  Well... there's lots of stuff out there, but some places to kick-start your thinking might include:
  • Professional Development Framework for e-Learning to help give you an idea of some of the skills needed as well as checklists etc for the production of online learning content
  • Some nice design ideas from Articulate especially if you're after some 'fancy bits' to tart up a text-heavy course
  • The ADDIE design approach is also useful in establishing key tasks in producing an online course and this is explained in a simple-to-get manner by Intulogy.
  • The Design Studio from JISC is jam-packed full of resources and ideas and the curriculum lifecycle is especially helpful when you're starting out.
  • JISC Infokit on Project Management is a good place to help you with the Project Management side of things and the checklists are dandy!
  • Open University Learning Design Initiative is one to watch as the  resources and links to Cloudworks are great for activity design 
Oh, and the other thing to realise when someone asks you to 'help me develop my online course' is that as much as this seems to *just* be about something academic and / or technological... it's about people and communication.  Don't fall into the trap of thinking it isn't!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

All that caught my eye... 08/24/2011

  • TheInterviewr is a new mashup that makes it super, super simple to record telephone interviews online using your existing telephone. It is a dream come true and for now at least - it's free.

    The system uses APIs from Twilio and Box.net to let users schedule interviews with contacts, enter notes for the interviews and upload associated files to a central place. Then, when it comes time to do the interview, both parties are sent an SMS to remind them it's about to begin. The person performing the interview clicks a button on TheInterviewr website and both peoples' phones are called automatically. Have a conversation, refer to your notes and documents, then click the same button to end the call. A recording will be available to listen back to immediately. It's like magic.

    tags: education eLearning onlinelearning free telephone record interviews research tool edtech online

  • Over the past decade or so, the Internet has become a huge source of information and education, especially for those who might be short on time, money or other resources.

    And it’s not just crowdsourced data collections like Wikipedia or single-topic blogs that encourage individual learning; huge corporations and nonprofits are making online education and virtual classrooms a very formal affair these days.

    From the first online classes (which were conducted by the University of Phoenix in 1989) to the present day, when online education is a $34 billion industry, more and more students are finding new life and career education opportunities online.

    tags: education onlinelearning technology infographic eLearning visualization infographics Mashable online edtech

  • What makes some technology so compelling and transformational that it thrives in a school setting and others languish? We've all heard stories of computers gathering dust in storage rooms while students and teachers everywhere have taken to photocopiers, calculators and, of course, cell phones.

    One of my most surprising moments upon entering a very basic primary school in rural Ayenhyah, Ghana - a room with no electricity or running water - was being told that the school had a no cell-phone policy. Students have such a hunger for communication that they get their hands on a mobile phone by any means necessary. They keep them charged using the full power of their creativity, hooking them up to the small solar cell powering the community's medical clinic or latching them onto a motorcycle battery. Kids from Botswana to the U.S. to Zambia love to text.

    tags: educational technology technology developing world edtech elearning online education

  • Futurist and author Kevin Kelly posits that in 10 years time, each of us will carry 2 computing devices on us: "one general purpose combination device, and one specialized device (per your major interests and style)." He also predicts that we will wear on average 10 computing things: "We'll have devices built into belts, wristbands, necklaces, clothes, or more immediately into glasses or worn on our ears, etc."

    tags: elearning learning technology online devices predictions

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

To my 17 year old self...

So, yesterday was A-level results day. Though my own results are years ago, working in a university you can't escape the significance of the day for so many students who are itching to find out what their future holds when their exam results come through. I was thinking to myself what would I want to say to my 17 year old self 19 years after I got the results which meant I hadn't done well enough to get to my first choice university?

First, I'd want to say - let's be honest, you knew that you would get those results - the reason you feel bad is because you feel sad that others are disappointed in you. I know you feel scared about the change and the future that lies ahead. The truth is though, none of this will matter in the long run. You'll end up in a place in life that's just as fine as the 'perfect results' version of your life would have been. The bit you don't realise, is that the university you're going to go to now won't be the end of the story. The degree you're about to take won't make you happy. And, to be honest, you'll loathe just about every bit of your studies. But it's okay. Again, it'll just be one of those things which you'll emerge from at the other end and realise that that didn't really matter either.

Then I'd want to tell me that those results which seem so important. The results that your Head of Sixth Form has asked you if they're enough and you've said 'no', and the conversation has ended there and then. Those results won't even get a mention on your CV in the adult version of your life. You'll vaguely refer to '3 A-level passes' and wince when people mention A-level Maths. But, it still won't really matter.

The thing which you'll realise is that life is a jigsaw puzzle made up of thousands and thousands of pieces with an ever changing picture. And that's exciting. And that's what makes life interesting. And that's why, despite the fact that you think that you'll be done with education when you finish that degree you'll go on to take (and hate). You'll discover that you've only just started learning. And when you've grown up a bit, you'll do another degree. And light a fire of love of learning inside you that you just can't put out. And do another degree. And another. And want to take that passion for learning with you wherever you go.

And you'll know that no matter what, you have it inside you to survive and find a way to find the interesting things in life.

The thing I'd tell my 17 year old me is that this is a blip. A speck. A moment.

And then I'd give myself a jolly big hug.

PS And by the way, 17 year old version of me...
PPS ... I wouldn't change a thing.

[originally posted to my photo journal on 18th August 2011]

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Sharing images on Twitter

If you've logged on to Twitter today or in the next few weeks, you'll probably see this 'Share an image on Twitter'.

They say:

"Uploading and sharing images on Twitter.com is easy! Below you’ll find a brief how-to and some answers to common questions about uploading images on Twitter - right from your Tweet box!"

... and the instructions they provide are nice an' straightforward!  No mention of copyright or licensing though...  which is a bit an omission.  Images up to 3MB, hosted by Photobucket, galleries to come... that all sounds good, even so.

... video next, maybe?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Can I tell you a secret?

Source: Sarah Horrigan, 2011
I don't get Google+

Well, I get it in that I know approximately how to use it as well as some quick tips to help life on Google+ along.  But, shall I tell you what I really don't get about it so far?  It's like social networking with your mum in charge.

Firstly, the whole identity crisis thing at the moment.  No pseudonyms.  What?  Why?  There is a long tradition of writing being done using a pseudonym going back hundreds of years.  From famous authors to performers on stage or those needing / wanting to protect their identity - not using your 'real' name is perfectly acceptable.  Only recently I had an experience which made me think again about my decision to use my own name for the various bits of material I share online.  I've always tried not to name individuals (though I do mention my children occasionally) unless I have their consent or am writing about something they've publicly created.  But you are still liable to things you've written being interpreted in a way you never intended - and that having professional consequences for you in the long term.  The temptation to carry on writing but to use a pseudonym instead was strong.  In the end, I opted for 'being me'.  Despite the knowledge that the things I write could be perceived in a negative light should someone decide to do so, I know that I attempt to write in a personal, reflective and constructive style and I would be happy to discuss with anyone the views and viewpoints I share.  'Me' is still my preference.

But to decree that those who have chosen to use a pseudonym - and especially for those who've built up an online identity which is as 'real' as any other - cannot use a service such as Google+ is bizarre.  It's as if someone has just switched on their computer to discover a world beyond the physical and is shocked that the communication paradigms by which they operate no longer need a 'this is my given name' standpoint to function.  And function well.  Your identity is about the sum of the parts.  Your online identity even more so.  Using a 'real' name no more guarantees anything about the user than anonymity shields it.

Source: Sarah Horrigan, 2011
So, identity with Google+ is a sticking point.  Here's another.  Circles.  Like a conversational lasso they at once include those within and exclude those around them.  Yet, social networks are powerful because of the connections they facilitate and the connections they encourage between people who have yet to 'meet'.  I don't necessarily know who will read this blog post.  Or share it.  Or comment on it.  And I don't much care.  That's not to say I don't care about those three elements - just to say that the journey something can take you by sharing it online is all the more interesting for the uncontrolled nature of releasing something into a myriad of potential connections.  When I tweet something, it can either disappear into a stream of other messages or will float and be noticed.  There is no emotional consequence attached to it being 'ignored' because it isn't being ignored, it was just 'there'.  Google+ on the other hand encourages you, like a child in show-and-tell, to go up to the front of the class and share your work with others.  You select the circle.  You present to the circle.  The circle comments.  Or the circle is quiet.  Additionally, if your stream isn't flowing with shared items, then the silence is eerie.

If I were using Google+ in a slightly more formal setting, for example as part of a personalised learning environment with Google Apps during some kind of learning activity... well, that level of control could be very handy indeed.  But I'm not.  And it feels, just as with most formal spaces, somewhat artificial and abstracted from 'real' life.

Perhaps, as I was with Twitter, I'm not being fair.  Not giving it enough time.  But this isn't 2007 when I
 blasted the concept of microblogging.  And then spent the next few years repeatedly going 'okay, *now* I get it'.  Especially when I realise that critical mass and numbers are everything.  With 25 million plus users already, Google+ has 'success' scrawled all over it.  Rapid growth.  Mainstream adoption.  A familiar concept.  Integration of other services.  The power of Google harnessed and bulging at the seams.

It's just not doing it for me.

Google+ stop trying to get me to tidy my room into pretty circular piles and behave 'nicely' with my nice little name tag on.

Both the real and online versions of me are kinda irritated right now.

PS  Promise you won't tell anyone my little secret?  'kay?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Faced with...

... fees of £9000 a year...

... I don't know if I would have had the guts to take on that level of debt
... I don't know that if I'd left the decision until I was more sure of myself, that I could have taken the hit on my earnings
... I don't know whether it would have paid off in the long run
... I don't know whether the pressure to 'get value' would have trumped the need to grow as a person
... I don't know whether I would have felt the freedom to continue exploring my learning after university
... I don't know whether I would have done a postgraduate qualification
... I don't know that it would have been worth it.

I just don't know.

I do know that fees of £5000 a year from the Open University would have put my employer off sponsoring me.  Which would have closed the door to the tutoring I started the year after my first course with them (I already had a degree from another university).  Which would have closed the door to progression in a career that really did suit me.  Which would have meant that I wouldn't have been able to take the higher degrees I needed for the profession I'm in.  Which would have meant I wouldn't be working in Higher Education now.

Debt.  Value.  Money.  Fees.

Learning?  Changing lives?  Those factors are apparently, are now secondary to everything else.  We talk about improving 'employability' - and I get that.  Now.  To an extent.  But, I don't know that my 17 year old self would have understood it.  I don't know that I understood terribly much at that age.  When I graduated, aged 20, I don't think that I'd made that link either.  I think I probably thought the degree itself was the thing which got me the job.  It didn't.  But I wonder if it would have been better had I carried with me the panic that this was a once-only 'investment in my future' and, on finding myself on a degree which I couldn't really cope with... well... what would I have done with that?  I can't see that version as better.  I also don't like the version which says 'explain better to 17 year olds what they're taking on and the responsibility of their choices will be more solidly based'.  Because the 17 year old version of me is nothing like the 36 year old version.  And to be tied to the choices I made then for good?  Well... that is a scary proposition.

If life long learning is about flexibility and growth... how does shackling people with debt and the pressure of high-stakes choices encourage that?

Faced with fees of £9000 a year, I'd question the worth of Higher Education.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Google + blundering in the dark equals...

... a few quick tips.

1.  Circles seem to breed if you're not careful.  Less is more. And less which get used in a purposeful way is even more than that!
2.  Number your circles so that they sort in the order you want.  By default, system created circles (i.e. Friends, Acquaintances, Following) sort above your numbered circles if you don't give them a number... so number those too!
3.  The only formatting you can apply to text is bold, italic and strikethrough (thanks AJ Cann for that!) - to do that, just pop a couple of asterisks around the word you want emboldened... *bold* = bold ... for italic it's... _italic_ = italic and strikethrough is... -strikethrough- = strikethrough
4.  Control your email notifications by going to Account settings > Google+ then adjust the notifications to suit.
5.  Post from Google+ to Facebook by going to their mobile site, copying your unique Upload via email address, go back to Google+ create a circle and call it something like 'Facebook update', then paste in the email address you just copied to the 'add a new person' field.  Then, when you want to send something to Facebook, just share it with your Facebook update circle.
6.  To quickly see all the people you've added to a circle, go to circles, right click and select 'View circle in tab'...
7. ... once they're in a tab, you can select the ones you want to remove or drag to another circle (or even block en masse)
8.  Only the things you +1 externally live in your +1 tab on your profile
9.  If you want to see how your profile looks to others, there's a little 'view profile as' link on your profile page where you can see what people can view from within Google+ and what everyone else sees .
10. Sparks are good!  Too lazy to sift through the 101 RSS feeds you enthusiastically subscribed to?  Just type in a search term and it'll pull up related content.  If it looks like something you want to see in the longer term, then pin the interest and you'll see it on your main Google+ page.
11.  Mute annoying posts by using the dropdown arrow next to the post and selecting mute (or block the individual if you really want to!)
12.  If you've uploaded more than one profile picture, you can toggle between pictures on your profile page, just by clicking on your picture.
13.  Don't forget to explore the privacy options - make sure you have your profile under control... reveal the information you want to reveal and no more!  Share the posts you want with the people you want... and control whether or not they can comment / reshare.  Make active choices with this stuff!

That's about it at the mo.  It's obviously a system under development.  It doesn't quite feel like a rival to Facebook to me.  Or a Twitter replacement.  Or a Skype replacement.  It doesn't really feel like any one thing as yet.  It feels like a shell for other things.  But, unlike Google Wave which was chaotic and frenetic, it has an order which feels more able to be useful.

... though I still have the nagging feeling that I'm being sucked into the big Google Machine with every click...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rigor ends in rigor mortis...

I see that Michael Gove is now pushing for 'tougher exams' and an increase in rigor in education.

Always with the quick fix.  Always with the achievement of a standard which can be measured.  It doesn't matter that people come out of education with a dislike of learning.  A lack of confidence in their own potential.  Or their ability to grow and develop.  No.  What we need is 'more rigor'.

What's so bad about that?  I mean.  Shouldn't things be more rigorous?  Isn't that better?  Well... a good place to start is to look up what 'rigor' means in the dictionary...

Rigor: 1. harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment 
(Source: Merriam-Webster)

Oh, and if you're wondering, the alternatives for it aren't much better.

Is this really what we want for children's learning?  Inflexibility in an age where to survive you need to be flexible?  Or are we considering rigor as 'a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable'?  Still not looking massively attractive.

Now, I know by treating these kind of statements literally it could be argued that I wasn't being fair.  That what he actually means is that we need to have 'better standards' for our qualifications.  But what does *that* mean either?  Qualifications don't equate to knowledge.  They don't equate to a critical understanding.  Fact retention or a test of memory in a 'rigorous' exam doesn't mean that you're more prepared to face a challenging, changing and complex world.

What I learned when I was at school was how to be invisible.  This isn't strictly true... because it wasn't always like that.  I was a curious child when I was little.  Could spend hours reading or creating things.  Loved finding out how things worked.  But then secondary school happened.  It was a vast sea of children and with its increased 'rigor' and reliance on tests, streaming and comparisons... I disappeared.  I learned instead how to avoid the teacher's radar and survive.  On paper I was one of the 'good' pupils.  I got the 'good' GCSEs I needed.  I got my A-Levels.  I did a degree.

I didn't learn a damn thing that mattered.

How could I go through 16 years of education from 4 to 20 and, 15 years later, barely remember a thing from all those years?  I have a degree in Economics - but I couldn't talk to you intelligently about Economics.  On paper I can speak French and German.  Laughable.  I have an A-Level in Maths... but an allergy to trigonometry.

Only when I was in my mid-twenties did I realise that I could have a voice.  That it was okay to be wrong.  That the qualifications I'd been led to believe were all important and that I *had* to have weren't the door opener they were made out to be.  That being 'good at school' wasn't the same as being good at learning.  Only in my mid-twenties did I realise what I was interested in and had the intrinsic motivation to take myself to other more interesting places.  I walked out of University aged 20 thinking 'I'm done with education'.  Well, in many ways that's still right.  The difference is that I have a further three degrees now... and I'm only just started with learning.

Rigor in education?  On the list of important things about learning it is very, very low down the list.  Apparently though, Gove would also like to see the influence of business as well as rigor...
Gove would welcome school heads taking a lesson from business: "We now have great headteachers who will become educational entrepreneurs. They will build a brand and create chains."
(Source: The Guardian, 18 June 2011)

Build a brand and create chains.

Build a brand.  Create chains.

This almost leaves me speechless.  Instead, I think that an author whose work I rather like can express some of my feelings better than me...



Learning.  What is so wrong with learning?  Messy, creative, exciting, enjoyable, fun, stimulating, puzzling... learning?  You don't need a factory-like educational experience to learn.  In fact, I wouldn't want an experience like that.

Yet here we are again.  Governmental calls for rigor.

Real learning looks like it's about to enter a state of rigor mortis...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Universities are...

Loved this quote in the article 'An unofficially brilliant way to celebrate Universities Week'

"universities are made up of people – strange, passionate and playful people who are humbly curious about the world – and that's what makes them so much fun."

... and that's why, no matter how insane they are to try to get your head round. No matter how difficult it might be to make change. No matter how complex and frustrating. Universities are exciting places to work.

And being around people who have the courage to be passionate about something is addictive.

Now... about how to spread that a little wider than academia...

You can't knock my ambition, right? :o)

Friday, June 3, 2011

RIP older browsers, Google ain't playing any more...

BBC News - Google to abandon older browsers: "Google is phasing out support for older browsers from 1 August.

Those using IE7, Safari 3, Firefox 3.5 and their predecessors to view Gmail, Google Calendar, Talk, Docs and Sites will then lose some functions.

Eventually, it warned, these web services will stop working for those sticking with older browsers.

The move is part of a trend to stop the use of ageing browsers which can be insecure and not sophisticated enough to handle the latest web technologies."

Bye, bye browsers. When the biggest boy decides it's not going to play with you, you might as well go home...

Mind you, the figures at the end of the article - that 34% of Chinese users are on IE6 suggests that size of audience doesn't matter so much as the direction the dominant player has decided to head in.

Google takes over the world. Again.
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