International Women’s Day – thanks!

I was chuffed and honoured to be name checked today as part of International Women’s Day by several colleagues who I respect and admire greatly.  Thank you so much :}

And last but not least…

Here’s to many more fearless years!

International Women’s Day 2017

Spare Rib, https://journalarchives.jisc.ac.uk/britishlibrary/sparerib

I’ve been so fortunate to work with a huge number of amazing women throughout my career in Education Technology that I’m always a bit spoilt for choice when International Women’s Way and Ada Lovelace Day come around.  In fact my first appreciation post, written for Ada Lovelace Day way back in 2009, was simply a list of the women I’d worked with in Ed Tech.

All the women I work with are amazing in their own unique ways, so it seems a bit unfair to single some out over others, but I would just like to highlight those who have been particularly supportive, influential and inspirational to me over the last year.

Javiera Atenas, OKFNEdu; Helen Beetham, helenbeetham.com; Frances Bell, francesbell.com; Lucy Crompton-Reid, Wikimedia UK CEO; Catherine Cronin, National University of Ireland, Galway; Maren Deepwell, ALT CEO ; Charlie Farley, Open Education Resources Advisor, UoE; Josie Fraser, OER17 Co-Chair & Wikimedia Board; Gill Hamilton, National Library of Scotland; Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services & Assistant Principal Online Learning, University of Edinburgh; Morna Simpson; Geek Girl Scotland; Jo Spiller, Educational Design and Engagement, UoE.

And on the Maritime History side… Joanne Begiato, Oxford Brookes University; Cathryn Pearce, University of Greenwich Maritime Centre; Heather Noel-Smith, my Indefatigable co-author.

And last but not least, an honourable mention to Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, UoE, who has worked so hard to help redress the gender imbalance and improve the representation of women on Wikipedia.

It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with you all.

Open Archaeology and the Digital Cultural Commons

When I joined the Board of Wikimedia UK earlier this year I was asked if I’d like to write a blog post for the Wikimedia UK Blog, this is the result….

Eilean Dhomhnaill,  Loch Olabhat by Richard Law, CC BB SA 2.0

Eilean Dhomhnaill, Loch Olabhat by Richard Law, CC BB SA 2.0

Although I’ve worked in open education technology for almost twenty years now, my original background is actually in archaeology.  I studied archaeology at the University of Glasgow in the late 1980s and later worked there as material sciences technician for a number of years. Along the way I worked on some amazing fieldwork projects including excavating Iron Age brochs in Orkney and the Outer Hebrides, Bronze Age wetland sites at Flag Fen, a rare Neolithic settlement at Loch Olabhat in North Uist, the Roman fort of Trimontium at Newstead in the Scottish Borders and prehistoric, Nabatean and Roman sites in the South Hauran desert in Jordan.  I still have a strong interest in both history and archaeology and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m a passionate advocate of opening access to our shared cultural heritage.

Archaeological field work and post excavation analysis generates an enormous volume of data including photographs, plans, notebooks and journals, topographic data, terrain maps, archaeometric data, artefact collections, soil samples, osteoarchaeology data, archaeobotanical data, zooarchaeological data, radio carbon data, etc, etc, etc.  The majority of this data ends up in university, museum and county archives around the country or in specialist archives such as Historic Environment Scotland’s Canmore archive and the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) at the University of York.  And while there is no question that the majority of this data is being carefully curated and archived for posterity, much of it remains largely inaccessible as it is either un-digitised, or released under restrictive or ambiguous licenses.

Cadbury Castle Post Ex c. 1992

Cadbury Castle Post Ex c. 1992

This is hardly surprising for older archives which are composed primarily of analogue data.  I worked on the reanalysis of the Cadbury Castle archive in the early 1990’s and can still remember trawling through hundreds of dusty boxes and files of plans, context sheets, finds records, correspondence, notebooks, etc. That reanalysis did result in the publication of an English Heritage monograph which is now freely available from the ADS but, as far as I’m aware, little if any, of the archive has been digitised.

Digitising the archives of historic excavations may be prohibitively expensive and of debatable value, however much of the data generated by fieldwork now is born digital. Archives such as Canmore and the ADS do an invaluable job of curating this data and making it freely available online for research and educational purposes.  Which is great, but it’s not really open.  Both archives use custom licenses rather than the more widely used Creative Commons licences.  It feels a bit uncharitable to be overly critical of these services because they are at least providing free access to curated archaeological data online.  Other services restrict access to public cultural heritage archives with subscriptions and paywalls.

Several key thinkers in the field of digital humanities have warned of the dangers of enclosing our cultural heritage commons and have stressed the need for digital archives to be open, accessible and reusable.

The Journal of Open Archaeology Data is one admirable example of an Open Access scholarly journal that makes all its papers and data sets freely and openly available under Creative Commons licenses, while endorsing the Panton Principles and using open, non-proprietary standards for all of its content. Internet Archaeology is another Open Access journal that publishes all its content under Creative Commons Attribution licences.  However it’s still just a drop in the ocean when one considers the vast quantity of archaeological data generated each year.  Archaeological data is an important component of our cultural commons and if even a small portion of this material was deposited into Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata, Wikipedia etc., it would help to significantly increase the sum of open knowledge.

Wikimedia UK is already taking positive steps to engage with the Culture sector through a wide range of projects and initiatives such as residencies, editathons, and the Wiki Loves Monuments competition, an annual event that encourages both amateur and professional photographers to capture images of the world’s historic monuments.  By engaging with archaeologists and cultural heritage agencies directly, and encouraging them to contribute to our cultural commons, Wikimedia UK can play a key role in helping to ensure that our digital cultural heritage is freely and openly available to all.

This post originally appeared on the Wikimedia UK Blog

23 Things: Thing 5 Diversity

“A lot of communication online is now via the mode of emoji/emoticon images. Traditionally these have been displayed as a yellow standard, but recent releases of more diverse emoji choices have raised a number of conversations. Read the two articles on reactions to the Apple and Facebook release of diverse emoji/emoticons in 2015 and 2016. Now consider the emoji alternative Bitmoji
Thing 5 

To be honest I’m not big on avatars and emjois.  I used the same twitter avatar (a rather fetching picture of the back of my head) for nine years and only got round to changing it a couple of months ago :}  I also don’t use emojis very often so I’ve never really given much thought to who they may or may not represent.  Now I stop and think about it though, that lack of regard is a clear reflection of my own position of privilege.  I may not use emojis, but if I ever wanted to, it wouldn’t be difficult to find plenty that would broadly represent me.  So the article about the furore surrounding Apple’s multicultural icons certainly gave me pause for thought.  It also made me think of the recent news articles about Rayouf Alhumedhi, a Saudi teenager living in Germany who has submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium’s emoji subcommittee for the inclusion of hijab and keffiyeh wearing emojis. Motherboard Alhumedhi as saying

“Emojis can seem like a trivial topic but people use emojis to represent themselves and their lives. When the different couples and different skin tone emojis were added there was a huge buzz, and this was because people finally felt represented and acknowledged, which is the same case with the headscarf emoji.”

Rayouf Alhumedhi

Rayouf Alhumedhi

There are several things I find really inspiring about this story. Firstly it’s about choice and empowerment.  Here is a young woman who felt she lacked representation online and took it upon herself to change that.  And secondly it’s about diversity and engagement with standards bodies.  The way that Alhumedhi went about creating an icon that represented herself was by submitting a proposal directly to the formal standards body that governs unicode emojis.  That takes some doing.  I worked with technology standards bodies for many years, though admittedly not the Unicode Consortium, and to say that women are underrepresented in these bodies would be something of an understatement. I got so used to being the only woman in the room that I stopped even noticing and I don’t think I ever encountered a woman of colour in any of the standards working groups I was involved with over a period of about fifteen years.  So more power to Alhumedhi for taking her campaign for representation straight to the body that governs the standard.  If we had more people like Alhumedhi involved in the the development of standards and software perhaps the web would be a more diverse and inclusive place and companies like Apple wouldn’t find themselves in such a mess when it comes to dealing with issues of race, representation and diversity.

Links
The Hijab Emoji Project
The Unicode Consortium
Unicode Emoji Subcommittee

 

Threats, intimidation and #femfog

I follow a lot of historians on twitter and earlier in the week I stumbled across the #femfog tag at the International Medieval Congress #IMC2016.  Femfog is a term coined by the retired Mediaeval historian Allen J. Frantzen who apparently had “strong views” about his female colleagues.  In a now deleted personal blog post Frentzen wrote

“Let’s call it the femfog for short, the sour mix of victimization and privilege that makes up modern feminism and that feminists use to intimidate and exploit men … I refer to men who are shrouded in this fog as FUMs, fogged up men. I think they are also fucked up, but let’s settle for the more analytical term.”

If you want to read the whole sorry history of femfog I can highly recommend reading this post by Jo Livingston Snakes and Ladders On Allen Frantzen, misogyny, and the problem with tenure.

The #femfog session covered a wide range of issues relating to women in academia in general and in humanities in particular, including lack of diversity, misogyny, racial and sexual discrimination even “dig culture” and harassment on archaeological excavations*.  I was only able to follow snippets of the conversation as I was in the process of writing this blog post NewDLHE – personal reflections on measuring success, which ironically touched on some of the issues being discussed. You can revisit the #femfog discussions on this storify #FemFog at IMC 2016.

One tweet that did catch my eye though was this one:

I retweeted it and added

It’s true. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told I’m “intimidating”.  I’m genuinely bemused by this.  I mean I’m barely over five feet tall and I’m the kind of person who actively avoids conflict and aggressive behaviour so why do colleagues find me intimidating? Of course I’ve always had my suspicions that the kind of behaviour people find “intimidating” coming from me would be regarded as perfectly normal among older, male colleagues. For example I don’t hesitate to speak up in meetings and if I have something to contribute to the debate I’ll say it (waiting my turn first of course). I also often chair meetings, committees and events which sometimes necessitates stopping some people from monopolising the conversation in order to ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak.  Is that really such “intimidating” behaviour? Or am I missing something?

Anyway, my reblog seems to have struck a chord as several colleagues retweeted it and added their own comments.

Three days later and this thread is still going strong on twitter. Seems like we’re an intimidating bunch…

* I should add, despite working on archaeological excavations for many years, I never personally experienced any harassment though I was well aware it existed and I was certainly familiar with dig culture.

NewDLHE – personal reflections on measuring success

Earlier this week I followed the Wonkhe and HESA conference on the future of the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey on twitter and on the excellent Wonkhe liveblog. Anyone who follows this blog will know that this isn’t my normal territory however I’ve had an increasing interest in HE data since being involved in the development of the New Subject Coding Scheme as part of the HEDIIP programme in 2014/15. And like it or not, how data is gathered and processed across the higher education sector is of increasingly important to all HE institutions.

I want to pick up on three points that got me thinking about my own career and wondering whether or not I would be regarded as a “successful graduate”.

You too could become an accountant!

One theme that panellists returned to repeatedly was that UK graduates are more likely to find employment in fields that are unrelated to their degree. Stephen Isherwood commented

“the UK labour market is completely different to many other countries. Companies are far more likely to employ graduates who did subjects not connected to their occupation, such as recruiting historians into accountancy.”

Proof that I started life as an archaeologist

Proof that I started life as an archaeologist

I have a Master’s degree in Archaeology, and only once sought careers advice while I was an undergraduate. I’ll never forget the careers advisor cheerfully telling me “You could always get a job as an accountant you know!” I never went back. And I never got a job as an accountant, I got a job as an archaeologist and I worked as an archaeologist for the next five years. Of course I did eventually leave archaeology and found my way into web development and then into learning technology. One of the things I’ve always really appreciated about working in learning technology is the wide range of academic backgrounds colleagues have, and the breadth of experience and different perspectives they bring to the domain. So although the careers advice I received was spectacularly unhelpful at the time I do believe it’s a very good thing that people carry the expertise they develop as undergraduates into a wide range of sectors. Domain knowledge is invaluable for academic careers but there’s no doubt that transferrable skills broaden employability prospects.

Measures of success

One presentation and subsequent discussion that particularly interested me was Liz Bromley of Goldsmiths on Capturing the full range of graduate success. Liz questioned what we regard as success and, using the example of Mercury and Turner Prize winning Goldsmiths’ alumni, asked if the six month DLHE would capture them as “successful graduates”. She also suggested that the data should capture what students are doing outside work to give a more rounded picture of what is regarded as “success” and noted

“Salary is immaterial. The highest value jobs do not necessarily pay the best salaries”.

These themes were picked up in the subsequent discussion, particularly with regard to how success can be measured in the creative industries, which may provide significant personal and creative growth and social and cultural capital, but which may also be insecure and lowpaid. The WonkHE liveblog expressed this as

“the challenging ‘cognitive dissonance’ of measuring employment in the creative industries which is both precarious and fulfilling.”

I would argue that this cognitive dissonance isn’t unique to the creative industries; it’s increasingly common in higher education too. I’ve worked in Higher Education for twenty-five years and for the majority of that time I’ve been employed on short term contracts, most lasting 12 months. A lot has been written recently about the stresses associated with working in academia, the casualisation of contacts and the erosion of employment rights; I’m not going to go over those points here, but it does make me wonder whether or not I could be regarded as a “successful graduate”. On the one hand, failing to secure a tenured post after working in academia for over two decades does not look very successful at all, however, barring two short periods of redundancy, during which I worked as a consultant, I have built a reasonable reputation and managed to stay almost permanently employed in a field that is notoriously insecure and changes rapidly. So, how do we measure “success” in a context such as this? I don’t have any answers, but I think this highlights that we need to think carefully about how we identify success and be absolutely explicit about how we evaluate it.

(I also think the issue of how we identify success potentially has implications for how we use learning analytics, particularly with regard to identifying struggling and “failing students”.)

Not in front of the children

Another theme that came up, which I have strong feelings about but which I tend to avoid writing about, is the impact of motherhood on career success.

Unfortunately this theme didn’t come across strongly on twitter. (Were people not tweeting about it? Did they think it was uninteresting, unimportant or didn’t relate to themselves? Impossible to know without being there.) Again it made me think of my own experience. There is no doubt that having children had a massive impact on my “success”. At the time I had my daughter I did a lot of travel and had a wide network of colleagues in the international standards community around the world. When I was no longer able to travel internationally owing to childcare responsibilities it had a significant impact on my professional network and my employment prospects; I discovered this the hard way when I was made redundant in 2013. I once raised this issue at a workshop for senior managers and was told dismissively by a professor of chemistry that she had forged a successful international career while raising her family. Her advice was to leave your children with family while you travel. That may work for some people of course, but it’s hardly a practical option for all. Another respected colleague simply advised me to hire a nanny. I’d never actually met anyone in real life with a nanny before! Anyway, the point of all this is that I had to find different ways of working and connecting to my peer network, and I did. I was fortunate that social networking took off round about this time enabling me to connect to a global network of open educational technologists through twitter and Skype. My limited ability to travel can still be frustrating but it doesn’t seem like such an insurmountable problem anymore. So once again I think it’s important to consider how we identify and reward success in this context.

I have a lot more thoughts about all of the above, but I’m going a bit off piste here so I had better stop now :}

OER16: Open Culture – that was the conference that was.

So, the OER16 Open Culture Conference has been and gone and what an experience it was!  Co-chairing OER16 with my inspiring colleague Melissa Highton has been an enormously rewarding experience and I owe a huge debt of thanks to everyone who volunteered their time, effort and creativity to make the conference such a success. In particular I’d like to thank our keynotes, Catherine Cronin, Emma Smith, John Scally, Jim Groom and Melissa Highton for their inspiring and thought provoking talks and, of course, the ALT team for supporting the conference and ensuring everything ran like clockwork.  I can highly recommend charing an ALT conference if you’re ever thinking about it!

oer16_jim_penny

It’s too soon after the event for me to gather my thoughts and attempt to provide any kind of coherent overview so here’s a round up of the conference outputs and some of my personal highlights in lieu of something more considered.

ada_me_oer16

Me & Ada LEGO Lovelace by Stuart Cromar

And of course, my personal twitter highlight of the conference…

oer16_me_josie

 

Taxi Chic OER16 Co-Chairs Melissa Highton & Lorna Campbell by Catherine Cronin, CC BY SA

Taxi Chic
OER16 Co-Chairs Melissa Highton & Lorna Campbell
by Catherine Cronin, CC BY SA

So now it’s time to pass the torch over to the fabulous Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski, two of my favourite people working in open education today, who’ll be co-chairing OER17: The Politics of Open.  It’ll be awesome!

 

 

International Women’s Day – Acknowledging the role of Women in OER

IWD-logo-portaitjpgI was surprised and delighted to be included in a blog post from the Open Educational Practices in Scotland project today marking International Women’s DayWomen in OER.  The post celebrates some of the women the project has worked with and I’m honoured to be named alongside such influential open education practitioners as Laura Czerniewicz, Josie Fraser and my old colleague Allison Littlejohn.

The post acknowledges the potential of open education to

“…widen access to education for women and girls, enabling them to access global thought leaders and subjects that might not be available to them locally. It also provides a platform by which women and girls can share their own knowledge and experiences.

There is a role for open education to contribute to closing the gender gap now, to ensure that all genders are treated equally, to facilitate women and girls achieving their ambitions, to challenge discrimination and bias in all forms, to promote gender balanced leadership, to value contributions equally, and to create inclusive and flexible cultures.”

If I can make even a small contribution towards furthering these aims I will be very proud indeed.

OER16 Open Culture Conference – Open as in Open

In keeping with the ethos of open education, the OER conferences have always made an effort to be as diverse, inclusive and, well, open as possible and OER16 Open Culture is no exception.

The draft conference programme has recently been announced and we’re delighted to have accepted 101 papers and panels from 29 different countries.

oer16_diversity

OER16 presenters will come from 29 countries around the world

Bearing the recent #allmalepanels meme in mind, we’re also aware of issues relating to gender balance and diversity and we’re very pleased to have almost 50/50 representation. Of over a hundred lead authors who recorded their gender along with their submission, 49% are female and 51 % male, and our keynotes are similarly balanced.

Although the University of Edinburgh is clearly a popular destination for delegates, not all of our presenters and participants are able to travel to Scotland for a wide range of reasons, so we are happy to facilitate remote presentation. One OER16 presenter Maha Bali, associate professor of practice at the Center for Learning and Teaching at the American University in Cairo, has previously written in the Chronicle of Higher Education about her own experiences as a remote conference presenter

“I am finding more and more conferences willing to accommodate me as a virtual presenter. This is probably happening more to me than other people because of my travel restrictions (mom of a young child living halfway across the world from most conferences I want to attend and where most of my collaborators reside), coupled with my refusal to ignore the potential social capital I can gain from presenting internationally, that is different from everyday online interactions. There are many reasons why a conference might want to welcome virtual presenters (diversity and equity being two)”

Hospitality for Virtual Presenters by Maha Bali
Chronicle of Higher Education, January 26, 2016

In relation to OER16, Maha also commented:

“Presenting virtually at conferences allows me to have a voice in the field. How often do people in ed tech get to hear the perspective of Arab Muslim women who live in the Arab World? Presenting coupled with virtually connecting conversations allows me to feel more of an equal to my Western peers with whom I collaborate year-round.”

In order to ensure that OER16 is inclusive and accessible, we have aimed to keep the conference fee as low as possible for full delegates. However if cost is a genuine barrier, ALT have a small amount of limited funding available to subsidise registrations for presenters who are students, school teachers, who work in small FE institutions, adult or community education or are members of the public with a special interest in OER. Subsidised places have already been offered to fourteen presenters and applications of funding close on the 6th March.

OER16 also offers many opportunities for remote participation, the majority of which are completely open and free of charge. All five keynotes by Catherine Cronin, Jim Groom, Melissa Highton, John Scally and Emma Smith will be streamed live on ALT’s dedicated youtube channel, and will also be available to view after the conference. There will be a wide range of social media channels including twitter feeds, blogs, hang outs and internet radio broadcasts, facilitated by the ALT Open Education SIG, Radio EDUtalk, Virtually Connecting and others, which will enable remote participants to engage with and contribute to the conference. Remote participants will only be required to register their details if they wish to comment on the main conference platform hosted by ALT, although registration will be required, this facility is still free of charge, all other remote participation channels are both free and open, and yes, that really is open as in open.

Wikimedia opportunities and events at the University of Edinburgh

[Cross posted from Open Scotland]

edinburghThe University of Edinburgh recently became the first Higher Education institution in Scotland to advertise for a Wikimedian in Residence.  The post will be based within Information Services where the successful candidate will work alongside learning technologists, archivists, librarians and information literacy teams to help establish a network of Wikimedians on campus and to embed digital skills and open knowledge activities in learning and teaching across the University.  Applications for the post, which is part-time and fixed term, are open until the 29th October 2015.

The University of Edinburgh already has a strong tradition of engaging with the Wikimedia Foundation through Wikimedians in Residence at the National Library of Scotland and National Museums Scotland.  A number of editathons have already taken place at the University focused on raising the profile of women in science and Scottish history.  The hugely successful Edinburgh Seven editathon, focused on the first women to be admitted on a degree programme at any British university. The achievements of the Edinburgh Seven were also recognised when a commemorative plaque was unveiled by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, at a ceremony in the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum in September.

ADA_Blog

Another Women, Science and Scottish History editathon will be taking place at the University on Tuesday 13th October to coincide with Ada Lovelace Day, the international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).  In addition to the editathon, the event will feature speakers on Lovelace, research using LEGO, programming and games, and sessions on composing music with algorithms, and building Raspberry Pi enclosures with LEGO.

Links