Salty and fanCCy – My autobiography according to twitter

Earlier this week Laura Czerniewicz posed an interesting and entertaining question on twitter…

I’ve written on this blog before about the difficulty of explaining what my job as a learning technologist involves, (What do you do? Starting out on CMALT), so I was completely stumped by Laura’s question.  When in doubt, the best course of action is always to ask twitter, and the results, which were clever, enlightening and funny, did not disappoint. Come to think of it, clever, enlightening and funny is also a pretty good description of the learning technology community on twitter 🙂

John’s suggestion refers to the fact that I have the rare honour of being immortalised in the IMS Question And Test Interoperability (QTI) specification.  Somewhere, buried in the voluminous spec documents, is an example of a multiple choice question along the lines of “Lorna is flying home, which airport is closest to her home town?” 

And then there’s Anne-Marie…

OER19 – Stories of Hope

It always takes me a while to write my post OER Conference reflection because I invariably come back brimming with so many thoughts, ideas, emotions and new perspectives that it’s hard to know where to start. When Catherine Cronin introduced the themes of OER19 Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives at the end of OER18 in Bristol she stressed the imperative of moving beyond hero narratives and including marginalised voices, and the conference certainly met that challenge.  Rarely have I had the privilege to be part of such a diverse, inclusive, respectful and supportive community.  It was a humbling and empowering experience. 

Hope, Labour and Care

If I was to pick one overarching theme from the conference it would be hope. Kate Bowles set the tone of the conference with her profoundly moving and thoughtful opening keynote A quilt of stars: time, work and open pedagogy.  Along the way, Kate acknowledged and paid her respects to those who have shaped and supported her learning journey, from the traditional owners of the land on which she works, the Wadi Wadi Nation, though pioneering Irish astronomers, American solar quilters, friends and colleagues.  And Kate also gave us a moment of silence to re-member those who had helped us on our own open journeys and who were not able to be with us in Galway.

Kate spoke about the importance of our labour of care, and how we absorb that labour into our own open practice, but she also highlighted the risk that without a system wide ethic of care, open practice becomes another caring labour.  And we know that such labour usually falls to women and those who lack power and privilege. (This is a something that is very close to my own heart and the heart of the femedtech network.) But it was Kate’s closing note that really resonated with me throughout the conference.  Quoting Henry Giroux “Hope must be tempered by the complex reality of our times” Kate reminded us that although hope must be realistic about the environment we work in, change is possible, and that  

“Hope is not a pipe dream, it is the most important resource we have. It is the heartbeat of our politics.”

Hope was also the theme of the closing address of the conference, with co-chairs Catherine and Laura separately and independently both choosing the same quote from Rebecca Solnit’s Hope In The Dark

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”

Telling Tales

It seems fitting somehow that Galway was a place to tell stories. Kate began by quoting Jerome Bruner in her keynote “any story one may tell about anything, is better understood by considering other ways in which it can be told.” I heard many stories told in many different voices. Su-Ming Khoo told the Haida story of The Raven and the First Men and the opening of the world.  Johanna Funk shared her story of Learning on Country in the coastal homelands of Galiwin’ku with Dr Kathy Guthadjaka.  Lori Hargreave told her own deeply personal Tale of Resilience. When the audio technology failed us, Frances Bell stepped in and  gave voice to Suzan Koseoglu’s moving found poem reflecting the voices of Turkish womens’ stories of open and distance learning, which led to a powerful conversation about women’s anger when they are denied the right to education. (Huge appreciation to Tom Farrelly for chairing a technically challenged session with such sensitivity, ensuring that all these women got to tell their stories.)  But perhaps the story that spoke to my own heart was Sara Thomas’ Once Upon an Open, a story about rescuing two Scottish women, Marie Lamont and Lady Catherine Bruce of Clackmannan, from the forest of history, a story of orcs, and trolls and damn rebel bitches, a story of who gets to tell stories.

Values and Pictures

We were also telling stories in our University of Edinburgh workshop, Positioning the values and practices of open education at the core of University business, when Stuart Nicol, Anne-Marie Scott and I challenged participants to share stories of how openness could be centred and have impact in their institutions.  To provide inspiration we shared some of the amazing open licensed images curated by the University’s Centre for Research Collections and the results were as inspiring as they were creative.  We filmed the stories people told and as soon as we’ve got them online, we’ll share them on Open.Ed.

Decolonisation

Decolonisation, dispossession and the need to foreground indigenous knowledge were other themes that ran throughout the conference.  In her challenging and thought provoking keynote, Openings – Bounded (in) equities; entangled lives, Su-Ming Khoo noted that while we would like to think of Higher Education as a zone of freedom, that freedom is bound up in our entanglements with power, capitalism, and the colonial present. She challenged us to unmask the colonial wound and use these open wounds to be the place where healing and suturing can take place, reminding us that there is honour and value in the art of repair, kintsugi.

“We need to address the psychological and emotional legacy of colonialism and the needs of both the oppressor and oppressed in order to overcome and transform.”

Su-Ming’s keynote made me think of my own people and their history of being both oppressed and oppressor; the Gaels who were cleared from their homelands to the ‘New World’ only to re-enact their own dispossession on the people they found there.

femedtech

femedtech had a powerful presence at the conference.  Sharon Flynn gave a huge shoutout to the importance of the community in her welcoming address and we were overwhelmed by the positive response to the femedtech Open Space, femedtech.net, both in terms of the writing that’s been shared and the people who came to our open space session, where it was standing room only.

In their presentation on the open distributed network and shared curation model that is @femedtech on twitter, Frances Bell, Louise Drumm and Lou Mycroft explained that femedtech’s resources are passion, kindness, enthusiasm and volunteer time, all of which were present at OER19 in abundance.  If any one image sums up the femedtech community, it’s this: 

It is such an honour and a privilege to be part of this amazing community.

Regrets

If I have one regret from the conference, it’s that because I took part in so many sessions and was also on chairing duties, I missed dozens of talks that I really wanted to hear.  I had to duck out of Taskeen Adam, Caroline Khun and Judith Pete’s open praxis keynote panel so I’m immensely grateful for the recording of this and other sessions provided by ALT and OER’s amazing media team of Martin Hawksey and Harry Lamb.  Huge thanks to Martin and Harry for making sure these critical and necessary voices can be heard by all.

That Guy(TM)

There’s one last point I want to reflect on before I round off this post…Not once over the course of the four days I spent in Galway, did I find myself stuck listening to That Guy(TM).  You know the one, I’m sure you’ve met him at many conferences, the guy (though they’re not always guys) who hogs the conversation and is tone deaf to the voices of those who lack his privilege.  I heard many, many diverse voices at OER19, but not once did I hear That Guy(TM).  So I’d like to thank Catherine, Laura, Maren, Martin and everyone who made OER19 such an empowering and inclusive conference, and ensuring that marginalised voices were listened to and heard.  It fills me with hope.

Other Voices

This piece was originally posted on femedtech.net

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this post, tbh I’m not even sure what it is I’m trying to say, but I have a gut feeling that something needs to be said about the historiography of the open movement. Who is it that writes that history? Whose voices do we choose to amplify? Whose contributions do we remember and celebrate? Whose are forgotten and silenced? How do we acknowledge the contribution of individuals whose personal ethics and politics are often at odds with our open feminist practice? I’m talking about the saints and messiahs, the ideologues and homesteaders, the founding fathers and benevolent dictators. Men who have played an undeniable role in shaping concepts of openness in the domain of technology, but whose personal ethics may be wildly out of tune with many of the values we hold dear in the open education community; equality, diversity, inclusion, social justice.

As a sometime-historian, this is a dilemma, and I realise that even by writing this post I’m perpetuating the narrative that certain individuals are central to any understanding and history of open. I also realise that much more thoughtful writers than me have examined the history of openness and technology through a nuanced and critical lens. Audrey Watters has written extensively about our collective amnesia when it comes to the history of ed tech, and Mar Hicks has published widely about how women suffered the double ignominy of first being discarded by the UK computer industry and then being written out of its history all together.

Of course it’s possible to acknowledge the importance of ideas, while purposefully “forgetting” where they came from, to retain the ideas, but write their authors out of history. But I’m really uneasy about separating the message from the messenger like this, because I think our beliefs are, to a greater or lesser degree, codified in our ideas. Our ideas are shaped by who we are, by our personal ethics and belief systems, by our view of the world around us.   If we purposefully forget where some of the ideas that have shaped our concepts of openness have come from, and how they have been formed, we run the risk of sleep walking into a future where open education is for the few not the many, and where openness simply reinforces real world injustices and inequalities.

Following the lead of writers like Audrey and Mar we need to construct our own diverse and inclusive narrative and historiography of openness. We need to understand how people’s views are reflected in their work and we need to approach them critically and reflectively. We can’t write people out of history, and nor should we attempt to do so, but we can choose whose voices we amplify, whose we listen to, whose we hear. And we also need to learn to listen to the silences, to identify whose voices have been elided and excluded from narratives of open.   We need to be thoughtful and critical and open minded. We need to listen to other voices.


Some comments on this blog post from twitter:

Open Practice and Invisible Labour

This piece was originally posted on femedtech.net.

Something has been niggling at me for ages now. Something about digital labour and open education. I’ve been struggling to figure out how to frame this and what I’m trying to say, but Martin Weller’s thoughtful blog post on gatherer calories and invisible artefacts and Frances Bell’s subsequent comment gave me a starting point.

On the blogging calories front, there have been 6 guest OER19 posts so far, with 11 authors, all women

Catherine Cronin has eloquently reminded us that openness is a continually negotiated space, a constantly negotiated practice. We all experience openness differently, from different perspectives and different positions of privilege and discrimination. For some of us, open education is part of our job, for some it’s our research, our field of study, for some it’s a philosophy, an ethos, a personal commitment, for some it’s political. For many it’s all of the above.

I am privileged to be able to work in the area of open education and I also regard myself as an open education practitioner. My open practice is expressed in different ways; I read, I write, I comment, I blog, I participate in the femedtech network, I contribute to Wikipedia. It’s a practice that extends far beyond the bounds of my job and I have no complaint with that, quite the opposite in fact, I appreciate this blurring of my institutional role with my personal commitment to openness. That’s part of my privileged experience of openness. However the blurring of these boundaries also raises issues of digital labour.

We all have a deep personal commitment to our practice, to equity and openness, we all want to be good citizens of the open community, making a positive contribution to the commons, but when do the hours that we willingly devote to open education start to become unacknowledged, invisible digital labour? And as both Frances and Martin have pointed out, so often those that go the extra mile are those who are marginalised in some way, women, people of colour, early career researchers, those employed on precarious contracts. At what point does personal commitment become unwitting exploitation of labour?

These are problems that exist right across academia of course and open education is far from immune. How much does the open community rely on invisible digital labour? How far does it exclude those who are unable or unwilling to contribute their labour for free? And how do we mitigate this?

This thread from @HEreflections1 caught my attention on twitter last week:

One of the most pernicious aspects of stress, anxiety and burnout in education is that it often starts with individuals who work longer hours through enjoyment and an ethic of care. But at some point the organisation captures this as core work which has to be done.

As a result the enjoyment, the agency is lost and the stress begins to grow, leading eventually to hate and/or exhaustion in some cases. And it creeps up on people so that they blame themselves. This is the failure of the system, and any discussion of well-being or

expert groups focusing on happiness misses the point completely. What starts with dignity and vocation is smashed by performativity, by human as resource, and by an inability to see education as a community.

The point that particularly struck me was this:

What starts with dignity and vocation is smashed by performativity

And this was echoed by Laura Czerniewicz during this week’s OER19 preview webinar when she cautioned that

“Good intentions can undermine themselves with unintended consequences.”

When so much of our open practice is mediated through social networks there is sometimes a pressure to always be “on”, to always be commenting and contributing, to always to be seen to be doing. And it was this that prompted me to ask this question in our femedtech OER19 Open Space

If there a performative aspect to openness, what does it achieve and how?

I don’t have an answer to this question, and I’m not even sure I know where I’m going with this yet, but I do think we do need to be able to balance our agency as open practitioners and citizens of the global open education community with cognisance that it is our digital labour that sustains that community at both the personal and institutional level.

Inspiring students, pioneering women and virtual dragons

February and March are always busy months for Open Education and this year was no exception, with the University’s Festival of Creative Learning, Open Education Week and International Women’s Day all coming back to back.

Niko is unimpressed…, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

The fun and games kicked off with Festival of Creative Learning in mid February.  My OER Service colleague Charlie ran a really fun and thought provoking 23 Things for Digital Confidence workshop.  The workshop challenged us to explore how we engage with technology in creative ways and we also got to play with some really cool augmented reality toys.  Oh, and there were dragons!  I took them home but I don’t think my cat was very impressed :}

Later in the week I helped to run a Get Blogging! workshop with Karen, Lila and Mark from DLAM, which guided students through the process of setting up a blog on Reclaim Hosting and provided them with some pointers on the benefits of blogging and topics they could write about.  I don’t usually get to work directly with undergraduate students so it was a really rewarding experience.  Their enthusiasm was infectious and it was great to see how proud and excited they were to leave at the end of the day with their very own brand new blog.  The fabulous feedback the students left was just the icing on the cake.  My slides from the day are here: Why Blog?

At the beginning of March we celebrated Open Education Week, I’ve already written a post about the activities we planned over the course of the week, and they all went really well.  We curated eight blog posts from staff, students and graduates on the Open.Ed blog over the course of the week, each bringing a unique perspective on engaging with open education. You can read a round-up of of these posts here.  I particularly like this quote from Martin Tasker, our very first Open Content Curation Intern, who is now building a career as a software engineer.

“In an age where where the world is both more connected and less trusting than ever, the onus is on institutions such as universities to use their reputations and resources to promote open education. As well as benefiting the public, it benefits the institutions themselves – there’s little better in the way of marketing than having potential applicants having already experienced some learning at your institution.” 

I’ve often quoted Martin’s Open Content Curation blog posts when I talk, and I’m sure I’ll be quoting his Open Education Week blog post, Reflecting on the Importance of Open Education, too.  

My daughter’s contribution to International Women’s Day, CC BY SA, RJ McCartney

International Women’s Day fell at the end of Open Education Week and Information Services marked the event by hosting a Women of Edinburgh Wikipedia Editathon and naming the Board Room in Argyle House after Brenda Moon, the first woman to head up a research university library in the 1980s, and who played a major role in bringing the University into the digital age. I spent part of the day updating the Wikipedia entry I’d previously written about Mary Susan McIntosh to include information about her work as a Women’s Rights Advocate campaigning for legal and financial rights for married and co-habiting women, defending the right to sexual expression, and arguing against censorship of pornography.  

The following week I was off down to UCL for their Open Education Symposium.  It was a privilege to be invited to share the University of Edinburgh’s strategic approach to Open Education, and it was great to hear about some of ways that openness is supported across UCL.  I particularly enjoyed hearing a group of Arts and Sciences BASc students reflecting on their positive experience of engaging with Wikibooks.  Their comments reflected those of our Edinburgh student who have participated in Wikipedia assignments and editathons. 

Somehow, in amongst all that, there was also several ALTC submissions, the launch of femedtech.net, and my daughter’s 13th birthday.  How the hell did that happen?! 

Introducing the femedtech Open Space

This blog post, by Frances Bell and I, originally appeared on the OER19 Conference website earlier this week and I’m cross-posting it here for International Women’s Day.  Frances and I first started discussing the idea of a femedtech Open Space when OER19 launched their call for proposals, and right from the off we knew we wanted to create a space that was as open and inclusive as possible, one that would allow those who were unable to attend the conference to participate, and one that would live on after it.  I was keen to explore the use of the TRU Writer SPLOT template, having previously had a lot of fun with other SPLOT templates through our work at the University of Edinburgh.  Out of these vague ideals, lots of late night e-mail and twitter conversations, and with the generous help of the people acknowledged below, the femedtech Open Space was born. Find out more about this initiative and please consider contributing your voice to our community. 

One of the real strengths of the OER Conferences is that in recent years they have increasingly facilitated an ongoing critical discourse that seeks to question and renegotiate what openness means to educators, teachers and learners within different contexts and perspectives.  This discourse ripples out from the physical and temporal boundaries of the conferences in the form of blogs posts, twitter conversations, research papers and discussions that enable us to trace the evolution of narratives of open from year to year.  OER17 The Politics of Open explored the challenges current political movements posed for Open Education and how they might further or hinder values of inclusivity, sharing, connectedness, equity, voice, agency, and openness. OER18 Open For All sparked discussions around power and marginality, inclusivity, diversity, identity, decolonisation and respect, and these themes will be explored further during OER19.  When Co-Chair Catherine Cronin introduced the themes of OER19 Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives at the end of OER18 in Bristol she stressed the imperative of moving beyond hero narratives and including marginalised voices.

These themes and values align strongly with those of femedtech, an open, inclusive and voluntary network of education technology practitioners informed by feminist principles.  femedtech is committed to creating inclusive online spaces where marginalised voices can speak and be heard. We acknowledge that this is an ongoing work in progress and a learning experience for all of us.

With this in mind, the femedtech network will be facilitating an inclusive Open Space session around OER19 to explore themes and conversations that have emerged from previous OER conferences around power, marginality, equality, diversity and inclusion.  We’ll be seeking to question dominant narratives of “open”, explore whose voices are included and whose are excluded from our open spaces and open practices, whose voices we choose to amplify and whose are silenced. 

Questions we hope to consider before, during and after the OER19 session include;

  • How do we balance privacy, openness and personal ethics?
  • How do we mediate our place in the open community, aspects of which might conflict with our personal ethics?
  • Is openness an act of conformance and / or defiance? And are there performative aspects to openness?
  • Do we feel pressured to be more open than we are comfortable with, or do our boundaries constrain us?
  • How do we manage sustainable spaces for exploring challenging issues around open?

In order to facilitate these discussions and to ensure the widest participation from the community, we are building an online femedtech Open Space, http://femedtech.net/, to gather stories, thoughts, reflections, responses and reactions, in the form of written content, images, audio, and media.  We welcome reflections on all aspects and experiences of openness from feminist perspectives and we encourage participants to raise their own questions and tell their own stories.  We acknowledge that our understanding of openness is highly personal and contextualised, and appreciate that there is no standard definition of openness to which we must comply.  In order to ensure that engaging with the #femedtech Open Space will be as widely accessible and inclusive as possible, participants are able to contribute to these conversations anonymously if they choose.   

Through the femedtech Open Space, we also aim to explore how we build our communities and practices here and elsewhere in the #femedtech network, and evaluate whether this is a sustainable model for growing the #femedtech community and network. Inspired by Dignazio & Klein (2018), we will develop our inclusive values statement iteratively in conjunction with activities on the Open Space and across the femedtech community. 

During the conference session, we will briefly introduce the Open Space for those who haven’t seen it before, and invite delegates and virtual participants to contribute and discuss their own ideas and reflections. We’ll summarise progress to date, invite feedback from session participants, outline future plans, and encourage participants to engage with others’ contributions after the conference. We also hope to encourage remote participation in the conference session.

We invite you to visit the femedtech Open Space to contribute your thoughts, reflections, comments, stories and ideas: http://femedtech.net/

Acknowledgements

This is an extra-institutional project taking place within the broad venture of the femedtech network. 

Thanks to Maren Deepwell and Sheila MacNeill who have contributed to shaping this initiative and will be helping to facilitate our OER19 conference session. 

The femedtech Open Space is generously hosted by Reclaim Hosting.  Reclaim Hosting provides educators and institutions with an easy way to offer their students domains and web hosting that they own and control.   The site uses the open source TRU Writer SPLOT WordPress theme developed by Alan Levine and available on Github. 

Our Code of Conduct is adapted with permission from  PressED Conference run by Natalie Lafferty and Pat Lockley. It incorporates elements from ukmedchat and FOAMed and is intended to be interpreted according to feminist principles.

2018 – It All Adds Up

A recap of 2018 in numbers…..

3 Keynotes

I was honoured to be invited to present 3 open education keynotes this at the beginning of this year at OER18, the FLOSS UK Spring Conference and CELT18 at NUI Galway.  Each keynote presented different challenges and learning opportunities, particularly FLOSS UK where I had to get up on stage and talk to an all male conference (there were only 3 women in the room including me) about structural discrimination in the open domain. It was pretty terrifying and I couldn’t have done it without the support of the #femedtech community.  Indeed the #femedtech network has been one of of my main influences and inspirations this year and it’s been a real joy to see if go from strength to strength.  My OER18 keynote also resulted in my most impactful tweet ever with 16,592 impressions to date.  Predictably it wasn’t about open eduction, it was about shoes :}

Bessie Watson

To coincide with the centenary of women’s suffrage on the 6th February, I wrote a Wikipedia article about Bessie Watson the 9 year old suffragette from Edinburgh.  Bessie’s story really seemed to capture the imagination and it was great to be able to bring her amazing life to wider notice.

11 Days of Industrial Action

The USS Pension strike had a huge impact on the whole Higher Education sector early in the year.  I was grateful that I was in a position to be able to support the strike, which I know was much more difficult for many, many colleagues across the sector employed on part time and precarious contracts.  Although the strike was nominally about a single issue it really did galvanise action around a whole host of deeply problematic issues including workloads, pay, conditions, equality, precarity and the commercialisation of higher education.  It was a real inspiration to see so many staff and students getting behind the strike and to be able to join the strike rally in George Square in Glasgow.

USS Strike Rally, George Square, Glasgow, CC BY, Lorna M.Campbell

Repeal the 8th Campaign

Once again I was hugely inspired by the people of Ireland and the way they came together to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, to recognise womens’ right to bodily autonomy and to amend abortion legislation.

AO3 an Inspiration in Open Source

In June I was delighted to listen online to Casey Fiesler’s amazing Open Repositories keynote Growing Their Own: Building an Archive and a Community for Fanfiction.  I’ve long been a fan of AO3 and have been endlessly frustrated, though not surprised, that this phenomenally successful open source initiative run on feminist principles isn’t more widely recognised and celebrated in the domain of open knowledge.  Casey’s brilliant keynote showed us how much we can potentially learn from AO3.

Wikimedia UK Partnership of the Year

In July the University of Edinburgh won Wikimedia UK’s Partnership of the Year Award for the 2nd time, for embedding Wikipedia in teaching and learning and for advocating for the role of Wikimedians in Residence in Higher Education.  None of this would be possible of course without the support of our own tireless Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew.

Left to right: Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, Open Education Resources; Lorna Campbell, OER Service; Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence; Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Director of Learnng, Teaching & Web Services. CC BY, University of Edinburgh.

50!

The other significant event in July was my 50th birthday :}  The day itself was lovely, lazy and lowkey and I spent most of the month catching up with friends from all over the world online and in person.  It was wonderful.  My partner bought me glider lessons as a gift but sadly I haven’t taken them yet as I haven’t been able to get to the air field since….

RIP Magic Bus

After 13 fabulous, and admittedly often frustrating, years our VW T25 camper van died a death, though not before taking us on one last holiday to Galloway and then home to the Hebrides where I finally got to visit Traigh Mheilein beach in North Harris.  Traigh Mheilein is often described as the most beautiful beach in the Hebrides and boy does it live up to that reputation.

Traigh Mheilein, Isle of Harris, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

ALTC 25th Anniversary

In September I was back in Manchester for the 25th ALT Annual Conference.  As an organisation that truly embodies its core principles of collaboration, participation, independence and openness, ALT continues to be an inspiration right across the sector and I’m honoured to be able to play a small role in supporting the organisation through the ALT Board and the ALTC social media team.  The 25th conference was one of the best yet and my own personal highlights included thought provoking keynotes by Maren Deepwell and Amber Thomas, Melissa Highton‘s unflinchingly honest talk about developing and implementing a lecture recording policy at the height of the USS strikes, and Catherine Cronin and Frances Bell’s personal feminist retrospective of learning technology.  Catherine and Frances’ session also inspired me to take a step back and reflect on my own career as a learning technologist.

Wiki Loves Monuments

September means Wiki Loves Monuments and this year the competition was even more fun than last year, which I wouldn’t have thought possible!  Huge thanks to everyone who participated and who made the competition so much fun, particularly our Wikimedians in Scotland – Ewan, Sara and Delphine.  I uploaded 383 pictures and came 15th overall in the UK.  Most of these pictures were taken during our summer holiday so I really have to thank my parter and daughter for their patience :}

Naval History

I haven’t been writing much Naval History recently and indeed I’ll be stepping down from the Society of Nautical Research‘s Publications & Membership next year after 5 years in the chair.  However my colleague Heather and I did publish one short paper in The Trafalgar Chronicle, the journal of The 1805 Club, which this year focused on the lives of women and families at sea and on shore.  Our paper “I shall be anxious to know…”: Lives of the Indefatigable women, shone a spotlight on the personal lives of some of the women we encountered while researching our book Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates.

Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile

In October I built my 1st ever SPLOT!  As part of the roll out of the University of Edinburgh’s new academic blogging service I was tasked with developing a digital skills training workshop on professional blogging and what better way to do that than by practicing what we preach and building a blog!  Anne-Marie Scott set up the SPLOT template for me and it was all plain sailing from there.  The Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile workshop has already proved to be very popular and all the resources have been shared under Creative Commons licence so they can be reused and adapted. It was great working with LTW colleagues on this project, particularly Karen Howie, who a good friend from early CETIS days and an awesome person to work with.

#QueerArt20

In late November Gary Needham, senior lecturer in film and media at the University of Liverpool tagged me in the #QueerArt20 twitter challenge; one image a day, any medium, no credits or titles.  I’ve loved seeing the images other people have been posting and it really was a challenge to choose just 20 of my own to post. It was also a timely opportunity to reconnect with queer culture.  And talking of which…

120 Beats Per Minute

I didn’t see many memorable films this year but one that I did see, and which will stay with me for a long time was 120 Beats Per Minute a deeply moving and viscerally powerful film about queer activism set against the background of the AIDS crisis in Paris in the late 1980’s /  early 1990’s.  It’s a beautiful, painful and necessary film and I would urge you all to see it.

CETIS – The End of an Era

At the beginning of December I stepped down as a partner of CETIS LLP ending a 17 year association with the organisation in all its various incarnations.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without CETIS and I wish all the partners the very best for the future

….and the lows

Brexit has cast a noxious cloud of reckless xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance over us all, with the only glimmers of hope being a 2nd referendum and the more distant promise of Indy Ref 2.

It’s been equally been horrifying to watch the rise of right wing populist movements across the world.  Fascism might have a new acceptable ALT-Right face but it’s still fucking fascism.

I was heart broken by the death of Scott Hutchison in May.  He was a phenomenally talented writer and his songs uniquely captured the struggles so many face with alienation, depression, isolation and addiction.  Scott faced all these demons in true Scottish style; with scathing wit, self-effacing humour and heartbreaking poetry.  Just a few months before his death, I was packed into the Academy with hundreds of others for 10th anniversary tour of The Midnight Organ Fight.  It’s a night I won’t forget.

Frightened Rabbit, Barrowlands Ballroom, December 2016. CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

On an open education note, one of my frustrations this year is that, due to lack of time and focussing efforts elsewhere,  I had to neglect Open Scotland.  I really hope I’ll have an opportunity to revitalise the initiative next year as we still have a lot of work to do to persuade the Scottish Government of the benefits of open education.  This might seem like a trivial exercise when Scot Gov is facing the catastrophic challenge of Brexit, but surely we need open and equitable access to education and educational resources now more than ever.

I think I’ve exhausted my numbers now and they all add up to quite a year (sorry, that’s terrible) it just remains for me to wish you all the very best for 2019.

Ada Lovelace, Exmoor ponies and the trouble with sources

Madeleine Shepherd and Anne-Marie Scott, ALD18, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

I didn’t manage to post a blog post on Ada Lovelace Day this year because I spent most of my spare time in the run up to the event looking for sources for the twenty contemporary Women in STEM nominated for Wikipedia article creation as part of the University of Edinburgh’s Ada Lovelace Day Editathon. The event itself is always one of the highlights of the year and this year was no exception. We had a really inspiring series of talks in the morning from the University’s Women in STEM and Physics Societies and the student WellComm Kings initiative. Mathematician and maker Madeleine Shepherd of Knot Unknot also came along and showed us her amazing knitted portraits of Ada Lovelace and Mary Somerville, which she created on a hacked knitting machine. We had a range of activities including DIY Filmschool and cake decorating followed by Wikipedia and Wikidata editing in the afternoon.

Back to those sources though…

Finding good quality secondary sources for contemporary academics can be tricky and it’s doubly difficult for female academics whose work is less visible and less widely reported. Wikipedia relies on independent secondary sources; it’s not sufficient for an academic to have published extensively, to be regarded as notable, it’s necessary to show that they have had a significant impact in their field. This can be problematic for female academics, and particularly for women in STEM, who routinely face discrimination on account of their gender.

There was much outrage in the press recently when it was reported that Donna Strickland did not have a Wikipedia entry until she received the Nobel Prize for Physics, with some news reports throwing up their hands in horror at Wikipedia’s gender bias. This isn’t news to anyone who has engaged with or edited Wikipedia of course. We are all well aware of Wikipedia’s gender bias, there’s even a Wikipedia article about it, and we’re working hard to fix it through our Wikimedia chapters, editathons and projects such as Wiki Women in Red. Also as Alex Hinojo pointed out:

In an article titled Wikipedia is a mirror of the world’s gender biases, Wikimedia Foundation’s Executive Director Katherine Maher, noted that it’s somewhat disingenuous for the press to complain about Strickland’s lack of Wikipedia entry when the achievements of women scientists are routinely under reported. We need more reports and independent secondary sources so we can improve the coverage of women on the encyclopaedia.

Wikipedia is built on the shoulders of giants. We’re generalists who learn from the expertise of specialists, and summarize it for the world to share. If journalists, editors, researchers, curators, academics, grantmakers, and prize-awarding committees don’t apply their expertise to identifying, recognizing, and elevating more diverse talent, then our editors have no shoulders upon which to stand. It’s time for these other knowledge-generating institutions to join us in the pursuit of knowledge equity. Wikipedia alone can’t change how society values women, but together we can change how they are seen.

A case in point is Mary Etherington, one of the women nominated for our Ada Lovelace Day editahon. The person who nominated Mary wrote

Mary Etherington was integral to the protection of the Exmoor pony breed after the war. She saw the importance of protecting the breed which was nearly extinct after the ponies had been used as a meat source during rationing and as target practise for the armies on Exmoor.

Whilst she is well known within the Exmoor pony breed, I believe she may be lost to time due to her rural links and the general lack of representation for rural matters on Wikipedia as well as her being a woman.

I really struggled to find many good sources about Mary online, but one of our editathon participants, Vicki Madden, was captivated by her story and determined to create an article about her. After some creative research and round about thinking, Vicki and Anne-Marie were able to find a whole range of independent sources and Mary Etherington now has her own shiny new Wikipedia entry.

Meanwhile I wrote an article on Tara Spires-Jones Professor of Neurodegeneration and Deputy Director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. I don’t know Tara personally but in her nomination she was described as:

World-leading research into molecular mechanisms of dementia. Works tirelessly to promote public understanding of science through expert comment in press and public engagement activities. Lovely person and very supportive of other women.

I hope her new Wikipedia article will help to raise awareness of her work to the general public and go a little way to replaying the support she has provided to others.

Circuitous Routes – A personal reflection for #ALTC

I was really inspired by the blog posts Catherine Cronin and Frances Bell wrote reflecting on their personal feminist histories of working in education and technology in advance of their ALTC session A personal, feminist and critical retrospective of Learning (and) Technology, 1994-2018.  Catherine and Frances invited others to contribute their own personal reflection, so here’s mine. I confess this is rather hastily written, and I’m posting it at the eleventh hour, the night before the conference, but I hope it will add something to the debate.

Personal Reflection

My academic career started out not in technology but in archaeology, a subject I stumbled into accidentally and quickly fell in love with.  I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Glasgow in 1990 and was accepted to do a PhD on anthropomorphic landforms and newly emerging remote sensing technologies, but sadly I was unable to get funding so I had to turn down the place.  I was pretty devastated at the time, but decided to continue working in the field in the hope of securing funding at a later date.  I worked first as a field archaeologist and then as material sciences technician at the university.  Although I met and worked with a lot of amazing women in the field, the senior lecturers and professors who ran the research projects and excavations I worked on were invariably male.  There was only one female lecturer in the university at the time, the inimitable Dr Elizabeth Slater who went on to the University of Liverpool where she become one of the few female professors of archaeology in the UK.  I’m proud to say that last year I published a Wikipedia page for Professor Slater as part of Ada Lovelace Day.

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Looking forward to ALTC live tweeting

The ALT Conference is just one week away and I’m looking forward to reforming the ALTC Social Media Supergroup with Martin Hawksey (on live stream) Richard Goodman (on media tweets and replies), Chris Bull (on photography), Scott Farrow (on camera), and me (on keynote live tweets).  This will be the fourth year that we’ve provided social media coverage for the conference and it’s always a rather daunting, though very rewarding task.  Although I regularly live tweet any conferences and events I attend, live tweeting the ALT Conference keynotes in an official capacity is a rather different affair, as it’s important to ensure tweets are as factual, neutral and representative as possible.  It’s quite a different experience from tweeting thoughts and comments on my own account. This is something that I reflected on in my CMALT portfolio.

Sometimes it’s hard not to be a little overwhelmed by the responsibility of live tweeting ALT’s prestigious keynote speakers, all of whom have made a significant contribution to the domain of learning technology.  This year is no exception and I have to confess that I’m thrilled and just a little apprehensive about live tweeting three women who I have admired enormously for many years and who have had a significant impact on my own career as a learning technologist.

Maren Deepwell, CEO of ALT, needs no introduction; under her guidance and leadership, ALT has become an active and inclusive organisation that represents the interests of its members and truly espouses its core values of participation, collaboration, openness and independence.  As a CEO leading a national organisation, Maren is also a personal inspiration to me and to many other female colleagues, and her commitment to supporting and promoting the work of women across the sector is always to be admired.

I’ve known Amber Thomas for many years and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with her on the UKOER programme between 2009 and 2012.  Amber provided the technical vision and strategy for UKOER and we worked closely together when Cetis delivered the technical support for the programme. It’s no exaggeration to say that it was Amber’s vision of OER that shaped my own early thinking around open education.  Amber always has a clear vision of the affordances and limitations of education technology and brings a thoughtful and thought provoking approach to everything she does.

I haven’t yet had an opportunity to meet Tressie McMillan Cottom but her work has been recommended to me so often and she is spoken about so highly by so many women who I greatly admire that I’m delighted to finally be able to hear her speak in person. I really hope I can do justice to capturing her opening keynote.

This year I’ll also be live tweeting the Gasta session chaired by Tom Farrelly of ILTA and featuring contributions from Donna Lanclos, Debbie Baff and Clint Lalonde. The abstract tells me that

“Gasta means “fast, clever, quick, smart” and in that spirit this session will involve active audience participation”

I suspect keeping up with this one will be a challenge!  Say a prayer for my fingers folks :}

Maren Deepwell, Lorna M.Campbell & Rich Goodman, ALT C 2017, CC BY, Chris Bull Photographer.