Working from Home: Adjusting to the new normal

It’s been nothing short of inspiring to see the heroic efforts of learning technologists all over the country to help their colleagues move their teaching online over the last week.  Special shout out to my colleagues in LTW who have calmly and patiently trained over six hundred academic staff to use our core tools and move their teaching online under difficult and stressful circumstances.

Thanks also to Martin Weller and the fabulously talented Bryan Mathers for this hilarious and slightly disturbing image.

 

And of course learning technologists have been doing all this while trying to rapidly adjust to radically different working conditions and the prospect of working from home being the new normal for the foreseeable future.  I’ve worked remotely most of my career, often as part of a widely distributed team, and once you get used to it, it’s easy to forget how difficult and disruptive it can be for those who have little or no experience of home working.  Luckily there are lots of great tips and resources for remote workers available online, some of which I’ve linked below, and more remote workers are sharing their experience every day.  Wikimedia UK’s Scotland Programme Coordinator and experienced home worker, Sara Thomas, has written an excellent blog post that I would highly recommend to anyone who is new to home working: Remote working the Wikimedia UK way.  Here’s a few additional suggestions based on my experience of remote working.

The new normal isn’t normal

The first thing to be aware of is that this is not a normal home working scenario. Everyone is trying to adapt very quickly to a uniquely stressful and uncertain situation. We’re all trying to cope with caring for loved ones, covering childcare and home schooling, dealing with shortages, while being mindful of our own mental health and wellbeing.  Bearing that in mind, some of the advice I would normally recommend for remote working just doesn’t apply right now.  Usually I would stress that it’s important to communicate to your family, children, housemates, that when you’re working from home, you are actually working, and you shouldn’t be interrupted.  I don’t think that applies right now.  If your kid wants to show you their drawing in the middle of a conference call that’s fine, share it with your colleagues too! Or your partner just wants to sit down and talk to you for a few minutes, make time for them. Being there for each other is the most important thing we can do right now.

Routine is good

Do try to get into a routine and to keep normal working hours as much as possible, but don’t get too stressed if you need to take time out to take a breather.  When we work in an office we benefit from all kinds of little social interactions that we may not really be aware of.  Working from home, it’s easy to worry that we’re not doing enough, or that we’re wasting time if we browse social media, read the news for a few minutes, or clear up the dishes.  However, it’s almost impossible to stay focused for hours on end without social interaction so I try to see these small breaks as being equivalent to all the little interactions you would normally have when you’re working with others.

Set up your workspace

Tempting as it may be to work from the couch, I would highly recommend setting up a dedicated workspace, even if it’s just a corner of the kitchen table.  This will help you to get into the right frame of mind for working and it also means that it’s easier for you to “leave work” at the end of the day.  

Knowing when to stop

After over a decade of remote working, one thing I still struggle with is stopping at the end of the day.  It’s very easy to let your working day stretch on way beyond your contracted work hours when you’re working from home.  Sometimes it takes discipline to shut your laptop and step away from work.

Get out!

Bearing in mind the current social distancing restrictions, do try to get out of the house at least once a day.  If you’ve got a park nearby, make the most of it. On days I work from home I always go for a walk round the park before sitting down to start working.

Online meetings are tiring

Online meetings are much more exhausting that face to face meetings, even when the technology works.  I don’t know why, they just are.  So try to be realistic about how much time you can expect your colleagues to spend in remote meetings.  Don’t let a Teams meeting drag on for an hour if you can get it over and done with in half that time. 

Virtual presence

Virtual presence is a good thing.  It’s a great way to let your colleagues know you’re there, and it can help you feel connected to your team. There are lots of different ways to manage remote presence, I tend to use twitter, but it can be as simple as setting your online status at the beginning of the day.  Turning off virtual presence at the end of the day is also a good way to remind everyone, yourself included, that you are no longer working.  Remember that you don’t have to be available 24/7. 

Social media

Social media really comes into its own when you’re working remotely. It’s a great way to stay connected to colleagues at an informal social level.  I’ve used twitter as my main work social media channel for over a decade now, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I’d be lost without the fabulous community of learning technologists and open educators who hang out there.  Having said that, I would never pressure anyone to use social media tools that they are not comfortable with.  Twitter is great if you’ve got a community of friends and colleagues there, but it can also be hostile and stressful for many people.  Let folk use what ever channels they are most comfortable with and always remember to respect people’s boundaries.

Silly gifs and cat pics

It’s really important to encourage informal social interaction, otherwise people can begin to feel stressed and isolated.  Never underestimate the therapeutic value of stupid gifs and cat pics.  One day into remote working and we already had an impromptu #ISGpets tag on twitter to share pictures of our four-legged co-workers.  It’s still going strong and it’s been a joy to get acquainted with colleagues’ talented cats, dogs, guinea pigs and …um… robots.

There are lots of ways to encourage social interaction across remote teams. Post a picture of your work space, your favourite coffee mug, your pet, the view from your window.  Set up a shared playlist on Spotify or youtube.   I’ve known some teams to have dress up days where everyone wears a specific colour or item of clothing and then shares a picture.  Get creative and don’t afraid to be a bit silly.  A word of caution though, some people will be more comfortable with the silliness that others, so don’t expect everyone to engage in the same way.  If you’re already stressed, being pushed out of your comfort zone to participate in daft activities isn’t going to help. 

Ultimately the most important thing to bear in mind at this point in time is that we need to be kind, patient and caring.  That’s really all that matters right now. 

ETA….

Resources

Remote Working the Wikimedia Way.  Sound advice from Wikimedia UK’s Sara Thomas.

Ramblings of a Remote Worker Marieke Guys, ex UKOLN and Open Knowledge Foundation, maintained this blog about remote working until 2015, and it’s still one of the best around. 

Virtual Teams The Association for Learning Technology operates as an entirely distributed organisation. CEO Maren Deepwell and Chief Innovation, Community and Technology Officer Martin Hawksey have shared their experience of managing remote teams. 

Homeworking – a guide for employers and employees. Guidance from ACAS. 

What comes next

Today marks the end of the current round of UCU strike action and it’s been an unsettling few weeks in more ways than one. I didn’t join the strike until half way through the first week as I had already agreed to present a keynote at the Wikimedia in Education summit at Coventry University before the strike dates were announced. This is the second time I’ve broken a strike to participate in an event of this kind and in both instances it wasn’t a decision I took lightly. However as the event, and my keynote, had a strong focus on equity and social justice, and addressed some of the issues that the UCU strike has been highlighting, I took the decision to go ahead.

Since then I’ve withdrawn my labour from my university and have done what I can to support the strike. I haven’t been picketing because I can’t afford the travel costs on top of the eye watering loss of wages, but I’ve been trying my best to observe the digital picket, by not tweeting anything directly related to my work at the University of Edinburgh. Although I’ve continued tweeting information related to the strike, and sharing posts on #femedtech, withdrawing from the open education community on twitter has been quite an isolating experience.

Because I work part time for my university, I also contribute my labour to several other oganisations on a voluntary basis, so I’ve continued to participate in some events and activities in a personal capacity, however it’s been a constant struggle to decide where to draw the line. So, for example, although we didn’t plan any Open.Ed activities for Open Education Week, which fell in the middle of the strike, I did participate, as a member of the #femedtech network, in an asynchronous event Open Policy – Who cares? organised by the ALT Open Ed SIG.  Was that the right thing to do? I have no idea. I also participated in two VConnecting Missed Conversations that explored some of the themes we discussed at the ALT / Wikimedia DE Open for a Cause event in Berlin in December, wrote a blog post about “women’s work” and the femedtech quilt, and an article about the labour of care in Higher Education for WonkHE.

Care was one theme that emerged repeatedly during the strike. Care for ourselves, care for our students, care for our colleagues, care for our profession. And now that diligence of care is going to take on a whole new dimension as we do our best to care for each other in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Going back to work next week in these exceptional circumstances is going to be difficult and challenging for everyone so I hope we can hold onto that ethic of care over the coming months.

Sharing the Labour of Care

This article was originally posted on WonkHE under the title We need to recognise where the burden of care falls in higher education.


Most of us work in higher education because we care; we care about our students, our colleagues, our subject specialisms, we care about learning, and we care about sharing knowledge.  Many of us even care about our institutions, even if that care is increasingly unreciprocated.  Our profession is distinguished by emotional commitment, compassion, and a strong ethic of care, but this burden of care is unevenly distributed across the academy.  This critical and largely invisible labour routinely falls to those who are already marginalised in the system; women, people of colour, early career researchers, those employed on precarious and part time contracts, those on lower pay grades.  Caring has always been regarded as women’s work, and as a result, the labour of caring is habitually devalued and taken for granted.  There is an assumption that caring is low skilled work, that anyone can do it, but of course that is far from true.  Despite the toll taken by the exploitation of this invisible labour, we all continue to do our best, to go the extra mile, to pick up the pieces for our students and our colleagues, which inevitably leads to stress, anxiety and burnout. In a timely twitter thread about the current round of UCU strikes, Máiréad Enright pointed out that

“There is emotional labour involved in knowing and being reminded that others will have to face the everyday crisis, because you aren’t there. It’s important that we recognise that this emotional labour is part of what’s distinctive about the neoliberal university. We govern ourselves and each other through emotion. Disunity, competition and compulsory individualism in the university ensure that.”

The reason many of us are striking, to protest universities’ failure to protect our pensions, and adequately address the gender pay gap, unrealistic workloads, and increasing casualisation, is not because we don’t care about our students and those who rely on our emotional labour, it’s because we care too much. And I am fully aware of the irony that I am writing this article while allegedly on strike. Withdrawing our emotional labour is a hard thing to do.

As with many other aspects of our employment and our practice, much of this burden of emotional labour has become mediated through and exacerbated by technology.  Whether it’s spending weekends answering e-mails from distraught students, peer reviewing journal papers and conference submissions, writing blog posts, taking part in twitter conversations, contributing to hashtags, writing Wikipedia articles, or keeping up with social media.  In a provocation recorded as part of Open Education Week, Leo Havemann argues that there is a lack of appreciation for the kind of labour and expertise involved in digital practice.  All too often digital labour is unrecognised and unrewarded invisible labour.  Of course there is a gendered aspect to digital labour in higher education too, which is largely unacknowledged and under researched. A notable exception is research undertaken by the Association for Learning Technology to analyse the results of their sector wide ALT Annual Survey through the lense of gender.  ALT’s research has provided some evidence of different priorities for men and women particularly with regard to dedicated time and recognition for career development.

While much of our invisible labour may be undervalued by our institutions, grass roots initiatives have sprung up to acknowledge, celebrate and support the contribution our digital and emotional labour makes to education.  One such initiative is femedtech, a reflexive emergent network of people learning, researching and practising in educational technology. The femedtech network is informal, unfunded, and cross sector and our resources are our passion, kindness, knowledge, enthusiasm and volunteer commitment. Our name, femedtech (feminist education technology), aligns us with a critical perspective on education and technology. We are alive to the specific ways that technology and education are gendered, and to how injustices and inequalities play out in these spaces.

Despite the burden of care that we carry, there is strength and solidarity to be gained from shared labour and a sense of community and belonging that traditionally derives from women’s work.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in the femedtech Quilt for Care and Justice in Open Education project.  Created by Frances Bell in collaboration with members of the femedtech network, this craft activism project takes its inspiration from the themes of the 2020 OER Conference; The Care in Openness.  Women and men, from all over world have contributed quilt squares representing personal reflections on care, openness and social justice. You can find out more about the femedtech quilt project here https://quilt.femedtech.net/

#femedtch quilt, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

References

Association for Learning Technology, https://www.alt.ac.uk/

Enright, M., (2020), #UCUstrikes twitter thread, https://twitter.com/maireadenright/status/1234456632681168896?s=20

Femedtech, http://femedtech.net/

Femedtech Quilt for Care and Justice in Open Education, https://quilt.femedtech.net/

Havemann, L., (2020), The need for supportive policy environments, https://flipgrid.com/f61bc14c

Hawksey, M., (2019), #ThinkUHI #BalanceforBetter look at enablers/drivers for the use of Learning Technology (#femedtech), https://mashe.hawksey.info/2019/03/balanceforbetter-look-at-enablers-drivers-for-the-use-of-learning-technology-femedtech/

OER20 Conference: The Care in Openness, https://oer20.oerconf.org/

University and College Union HE Action, https://www.ucu.org.uk/heaction

Openness, Precarity and Equity

As part of Open Education Week, the ALT Open Education SIG and Femedtech facilitated an asynchronous event Open Policy – Who cares?  The organisers invited provocations from members of the open education community in the form of Flipgrid videos and writings on femedtech.net. This is my contribution. 


I’ve worked in the domain of open education for over ten years now and I passionately believe that publicly funded educational resources should be freely and openly available to the public.  In fact this is one of the founding principles of the Scottish Open Education Declaration.  When we talk about open policy the focus tends to be on “open” and “free”, however I think what is critical here is “funding”, because as we all know, open does not mean free. If we want to support the creation of open knowledge and publicly funded open education resources, then the education sector has to be supported by adequate funding and, perhaps more importantly, by equitable working conditions.  And this is where problems start to arise; at a time when casualisation is endemic in the UK higher education sector, too many colleagues are employed on exploitative precarious contracts.  This is why we are currently in the middle of a period of sustained industrial action that is protesting universities’ failure to make significant improvements on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads.  If you are a teaching assistant employed on a fixed hourly rate that doesn’t even begin to cover the preparation time for creating your teaching resources and lecturing materials, it’s hard to make the case, ethically and morally, that you should release your resources under open license, because you’re effectively giving your labour away for free, and very few marginalised workers have the privilege to be able to do that. So while I still believe that we do need more policy around open education, and that we have an ethical responsibility to make publicly funded educational resources available to all, we also need equitable working conditions that will enable us all to contribute to the shared knowledge commons.

A Common Purpose: Wikimedia, Open Education and Knowledge Equity for all

At the end of February I was honoured to be invited to present the closing keynote at the Wikimedia in Education Summit at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab at Coventry University.  This is the transcript of my talk. 


Introduction

Although I’m originally an archaeologist by background, I’ve worked in the domain of learning technology for over twenty years and for the last ten years I’ve focused primarily on supporting the uptake of open education technology, resources, policy and practice, and it’s through open education that I came to join the Wikimedia community.  I think the first Wikimedia event I ever took part in was OER De a cross-sector open education conference, hosted by Wikimedia Deutschland in Berlin in 2014. I remember being really impressed by the wide range of innovative projects and initiatives from across all sectors of education and it really opened my eyes to the potential of Wikimedia to support the development of digital literacy skills, while enhancing the student experience and enriching our shared knowledge commons. And I think we’ve seen plenty of inspiring examples today of that potential being realised in education institutions around the UK.

So what I want to do this afternoon is to explore the relationship between the open education and Wikimedia domains and the common purpose they share; to widen access to open knowledge, remove barriers to inclusive and equitable education, and work towards knowledge equity for all. I also want to turn our attention to some of the structural barriers and systemic inequalities that prevent equitable participation in and access to this open knowledge landscape. We’ll begin by taking a brief look at some of the recent global policy initiatives in this area, before coming back closer to home to explore how the University of Edinburgh’s support for both open education and Wikimedia in the curriculum forms part of the institution’s strategic commitment to creating and sharing open knowledge.

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Threads That Connect Us

In my post about my Open World femedtech quilt square I explained why I chose to make my square out of Harris Tweed, a protected fabric that is only made in the Outer Hebrides where I was born and brought up. In many ways the fabric is emblematic of both the islands and the islanders; the wool is shorn from the local black face sheep, the colours, traditionally from natural dyes, reflect the colours of the landscape, and the cloth is woven by hand to produce a fabric that is unique, beautiful and hard wearing.  As with many traditional fabrics, tweed production was originally a communal activity, and much of the work was undertaken by women; from dyeing and spinning the wool, to weaving the tweed, to waulking and finishing the cloth.  Waulking involved soaking and beating the tweed to remove dirt and impurities, and soften and shrink the cloth. Before tweed mills were built in the islands to process the hand-woven cloth, finishing a tweed was a social activity as much as a collective task.

This following account of the importance of waulking as a women’s social activity, comes from a Gaelic radio programme called Tigh Mo Sheanair (My Grandfather’s House) which was recorded in the early 1970s and the speaker is my grandmother, Anne Campbell, who was born in 1909 and lived in Harris all her life.  Her words were translated from the Gaelic by her daughter, my aunt.

Anne Campbell & Sybil McInnes

“The entertainment whilst waulking the tweed was better than a wedding, for us anyway when we were young, especially if the waulking took place in the evening.  If the waulking was in the morning we had to come home afterwards and stay in in the evening.  Waulking was sometimes our only entertainment.  We were always delighted when we got news that someone in the village was about to complete a tweed.  In those days it was the women who wove the tweed on the “little loom”.  A tweed would take three weeks to complete – today a tweed is completed in one day using an automatic loom.

To waulk the tweed a long table was set out with seating for four women on each side.  There was a tub at either end of the table. The tweed was cut into two pieces and a piece dropped in each tub.  One side worked left the right and the other right to left.

For a bit of fun the loose coloured threads at the end of the tweed were cut and each woman would put her thread outside the door. If your thread was the first one then the first man who came to the house had to see you home that evening.  It did not matter if you had a steady boyfriend, it was who ever found your thread that had to take you home.  There was often good-natured bantering outside the house especially if your own boyfriend turned up expecting to walk you home. We didn’t think anything of being up all night if there was a waulking.”

Although my granny wasn’t a weaver, she did spin and dye her own wool, which she used to knit socks, jerseys and other garments.  When I was a child, there was a huge cast iron cauldron wedged in the rocks outside the house, which had been used for dying wool before modern conveniences came along.  The remains are still there today.

This communal aspect of fabric production, sewing, embroidering, and quilting has always been important.  It provides women with a space where, to some extent, they are in control of their own labour. A space where they can come together to share their skill, pass on their craft, tell their stories, and enjoy each other’s company.  These spaces sometimes seem to stand outside the strictures and expectations of “normal” society, and provide women with a space where they set their own rules.   To my mind this has been the most powerful aspect of the femedtech quilt project, which has given so many women from all over the world, a space to collaborate, to share their skills, their stories, their inspiration and their creativity.

I’m writing this post with Frances and Suzanne in mind who will be coming together this weekend to sew the femedtechquilt, and although all those of us who sent in squares won’t be able to join them in person, I hope they’ll feel the strength of the threads that bind this amazing community together.

Open World for #femedtechquilt

At the end of last week I sent off my contributions for the #femedtechquilt project, and I’m not going to lie, it was hard to part with them.  As soon as Frances Bell raised the idea for this amazing project I knew that I wanted to make something out of Harris Tweed, a protected, handmade fabric that is only made in the Outer Hebrides where I’m from, and which is woven into the identity of both the islands and the islanders.  I decided to try and make a representation of the header image of this blog, not only because Open World is where I share my open practice, but also because that header image is my own picture of one of my favourite places in the whole world, Traigh na Berie beach in Uig, on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis.  I’ve visited this beach almost every year of my life since I was a small child, I did my higher geography project on the flora of the beach, my Masters dissertation was on the anthropomorphic landforms of the surrounding area, I worked on archaeological excavations there, and I use another picture of the beach as my twitter header.  I’ve also returned there frequently with my own daughter.  It’s a place that I have a deep attachment to, which has always inspired me, and still does.

I already had some beautiful left-over tweed from a length I bought to make curtains for our VW camper van, and I bought a bundle of off-cuts when I was home in Stornoway in the summer.  It wasn’t difficult to make a rough representation of the beach, as the colours of the tweed naturally echo the colours of the Hebridean landscape.  Sewing it was more of a challenge.  My mother taught me to sew when I was a kid, but it’s not something I do regularly, other than altering clothes.  In order to sew my square, I had to get my mother’s sewing machine, which I inherited when she passed away a few years ago, repaired and reconditioned.  Using it seemed fitting, as she was a talented seamstress who used that machine to make beautiful tweed coats and jackets for my sister and I when we were young.  I was really pleased with the way the square turned out, it looked much better than I could have hoped.  One thing that really surprised me when I was making the square was just how evocative the smell of pressed tweed is. It immediately took me right back to the islands and my childhood. For me, this square represents hope, inspiration, and the unbreakable threads that connect us to the people and places we hold dear.

Tweed on the machair

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My other square was much more low effort, but it still has meaning to me. It’s a tracing of the Open Scotland logo drawn in fabric pen on cotton cut from one of my daughter’s old school shirts, and it represents the hope that one day all publicly funded educational resources in Scotland will be freely and openly available to all.   Open Scotland was an initiative that I founded, along with Joe Wilson, Sheila MacNeil, Phil Barker and others, back in 2013 and I’ve poured a lot of time energy and commitment into it, so I wanted to commemorate it in the quilt.  I also love the idea that my daughter has made a small contribution to the quilt too.

Tracing the logo

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Reflections on @Femedtech Curation

Despite the overwhelming gloom of Brexit, I got the year off to a positive start by curating the @femedtech twitter account for the first two weeks of January. I’ve been involved with femedtech in one way or another since its inception, and I often tweet using the hashtag, but this was the first time I’d actually taken a curation slot and it was a real honour to be the first curator of the New Year.  An obvious theme for my curation would have been New Years Resolutions, but to be honest, I’ve never been much of a fan of those.  I know they work for some people, but all too often they tend to become an additional source of guilt and pressure, which doesn’t strike me as a very good way to start a new year.

So instead I decided to focus on a theme of Inspiration. I had intended to tweet one source of inspiration every day, but I wasn’t quite able to do that. I did manage to tweet from the femedtech account several times every day, though this was a bit of a challenge once I was back at work.  It wasn’t hard to choose my first inspiration, Audrey Watters phenomenal roundup of 100 Worst Ed -Tech Debacles of the Decade

Audrey has been described as the Cassandra of ed tech, and indeed she is, but she is also our Mnemosyne, our collective memory.  Audrey reminds us of all the failures that the ed tech industry would prefer us to forget, but if we don’t remember, how can we possibly learn from out mistakes and move forward?

Other inspirations I shared over the course of the fortnight were…

Annual reflection posts shared by friends and colleagues

ALT

Wiki Loves Monuments Winners

Hong Kong Protest Artists

The #femedtechquilt project

My final inspiration was a twitter thread about Archive Of Our Own, which provides a salutary contrast to Audrey’s 100 Ed Tech Debacles, and which I’m posting in its entirety below. 

It’s an Open Source repository initiative, launched in 2009, which has over 2 million registered users, and over 5 million items. In had 281 million page views in the first week of January this year alone, and 1.12 billion in the month of December. It’s *huge*.  The repository is not for profit, has no foundation funding, no sponsorship, no advertising revenue. It supports anonymity and pseudonimity and it doesn’t collect or sell user data. It also has a hybrid tagging system maintained entirely by volunteers, which is a thing of wonder.  It’s based on inclusive feminist design principals and built and maintained almost entirely by women, many of whom are young, queer and nonbinary. Last year it won a prestigious international award in recognition of its achievements.  Some of you will already know what I’m talking about, others might be wondering why they’ve never heard of this astonishing initiative before.  It is of course Archive of our Own, the archive of fanfiction managed by the Organization for Transformative Works. It’s an incredible achievement that’s been almost completely ignored by the majority of the tech sector for the last decade. I’ll leave you to decide why. I started my curation with @audreywatters sobering “100 Worst Ed Tech Debacles of the Decade”, and I can’t help reflecting on what AO3s has achieved in the same period.  At a time when concerns are growing about identity, surveillance, data ownership, & ethics, AO3 shows us that there is another way to be, that another kind of internet is possible. If ed tech opened its eyes, it could learn a lot from AO3 *and* the women who built & maintain it.  To learn more about this incredible collaborative achievement I can highly recommend this 2018 Open Repositories Conference keynote by Casey Fiesler, @cfiesler,  And you can follow @ao3org and @OTWnews here.  I’ve also written a blog post AO3 – The mad woman in the open source attic?

That thread got quite a response when it was retweeted by AO3, and I was very grateful when Frances also drew attention to it at the start of her own curation, however I’m still not sure that many ed tech people sat up and took notice. 

Although I use the #femedtech hashtag frequently I felt a much greater sense of responsibility when tweeting from the account. I was very careful about what I shared, reading every blog post, paper or news article from start to finish before tweeting it from the account. In the process I discovered several voices I would not have come across otherwise, including Marianne Thamm, whose powerful article In Defence of South African Hope, was brought to my attention by Laura Czerniewicz.

At the same time that I was curating @femedtech, I was also tweeting from my own personal account and curating the University of Edinburgh’s OER Service account, @openededinburgh.  All three accounts require different approaches and voices and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the boundaries sometimes got a little blurred on occasion. I didn’t consciously try to mute my own voice while curating @femedtech, but I was always very conscious of the accountability of my words.  So it was really interesting after the end of my curation when Maha opened a conversation about the diversity of curators voices on femedtech.

All in all I found curating @femedtech to be a really positive and empowering experience and a great way to start the New Year.  I’m already wondering when I can sign up for my next slot! 

Diminished

It’s hard to know what to feel about today, but there’s a lot of emotion there, just below the surface; disbelief, anger, fear, disappointment, betrayal, gut wrenching sadness. It’s prickling behind my eyes, rising in my throat. I haven’t been able to watch the clips of the MEPs singing Auld Lang Syne in the Parliament, or listen to Molly Scott Cato’s final speech. Just scrolling past them on my twitter feed has me blinking furiously.

And that’s another emotion that’s there. Fury. Sheer blind fury that specious, self-serving men have dragged us out of the European Union against the will of a significant majority of the people of Scotland. And much as I feel for all my friends and colleagues in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and fuck knows I do, there is a special fury and indignation reserved for Scotland and the lies we were told six years ago. The fake Vows and false promises that swore the only way Scotland could guarantee its place in the European Union was to vote no and remain part of the UK. Well look where that got us. But to make this just about Scotland depreciates the enormity of what is happening today. The UK’s withdrawal from the EU diminishes us all; every one of us, every country in the UK, every country in Europe will be lesser tomorrow than we are today.

By triggering the Brexit referendum four years ago, Cameron truly opened Pandora’s box, releasing all the evils of xenophobia, racism, bigotry and isolationism. They were all there already of course, make no mistake. Many people have faced, and continue to face, these evils every day of their lives, but there’s no doubt that Brexit has given the racists, the bigots and the xenophobes a legitimacy that surely even they could scarcely have dreamed of.

And like Pandora, all that’s left to us now is hope; hope that another generation can fix this mess we’ve made, hope that another referendum can bring us back together, hope that Europe will not turn its back on us and will keep that light burning.

“Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a’ that,)
That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That Man to Man, the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.” 

2019: Inspiration and Hope

2019 was a difficult year by any standards, what with Brexit looming, the disastrous general election, the strike, and other issues rather closer to home. However I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, instead I want to focus on the people and events that inspired me and gave me hope over the course of the year.

OER19

The OER conferences are always inspirational but this year that inspiration was particularly necessary and timely. The theme of OER19 was Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives and the conference gave a much-needed platform to many of the diverse voices that are often marginalized in the open knowledge domain. More than anything else though, the conference was about hope. From Kate Bowles uplifting opening keynote, to co-chairs Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz quoting Rebecca Solnit in their closing address, OER19 provided a much needed beacon of hope.

“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.”

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark.

OER19, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

ALT and Wikimedia UK

I was honoured to be re-elected to the boards of both ALT and Wikimedia UK for a second term in 2019. I can’t speak highly enough of my fellow board members, board chairs and the CEOs of both organisations. Their commitment to supporting their members and communities for the greater good of all is endlessly inspiring. It’s a privilege to be able to make a small contribution to both organisations.

Wikimedia UK Board 2019. By Josie Fraser.

Society for Nautical Research

I stepped down as a board member of the Society for Nautical Research, after five years as chair of the SNR’s Publications and Membership Committee. It was an experience that was equal parts rewarding and frustrating, particularly when I was often the only female voice in the room. However I’m very grateful to my colleagues on Pubs Comm who supported me throughout, and I was pleased and surprised to be made a Fellow of the Society when I stepped down in July.

Femedtech

I’ve been peripherally involved in Femedtech since it’s inception but last year was the first time I sat down and really made a contribution with the femedtech Open Space, femedtech.net, which Frances Bell and I built for OER19, with the generous support of Alan Levine and Reclaim Hosting. I was overjoyed by the response to the Open Space and I’m delighted to see it living on to host subsequent femedtech projects and initiatives.

Frances Bell, Life Member of ALT

Although I’ve known Frances and admired her work for many years, so it was a joy to work with her to build the femedtech Open Space. It was a real privilege to be able to learn from her experience, commitment and empathy. So I was over the moon to see Frances’ contribution to the ed tech community and beyond acknowledged by ALT when she was awarded Life Membership of ALT at the ALT Conference in September. Being invited by ALT CEO Maren Deepwell to present the award to Frances was, without doubt, one of my personal highlights of the year.

Frances Bell, Honorary Life Member or ALT, CC BY NC, Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

Wikimedia for Peace in Vienna

In June I took time out from work to go to the Wikipedia for Peace editathon, which took place in Vienna to coincide with Europride 2019. It was amazing to be able to meet and work with a group of inspiring editors, all of whom are deeply committed to upholding the rights of marginalized individuals and communities through knowledge equity. I’m very grateful to Wikimedia UK and Josie Fraser for supporting my participation in this event.

Wikipedia for Peace editathon, CC BY SA 4.0, Mardetanha, on Wikimedia Commons.

Dunfermline College on Wikipedia

I didn’t manage to do as much Wikipedia editing this year as I would have liked, but one thing I was able to do was to edit the rather sparse page for Dunfermline College of Physical Education. I was inspired to do this by the University of Edinburgh’s Body Language exhibition and the fact that my mother had been a student of the college in the 1950’s. I inherited my mother’s college photograph album when she passed away several years ago and many of her photographs are now illustrating the college’s shiny new Wikipedia page. Many thanks to Michael Maggs for guiding me through the OTRS process.

ICEPOPS

The ICEPOPS Conference came to Edinburgh in July and I was delighted to be able to go along, not just because I’m a big admirer of Jane Secker and Chris Morrison’s work, but also because my OER Service colleague Charlie Farley was presenting one of the keynotes. Charlie is a joy and an inspiration to work with it was wonderful to hear her presenting her first keynote.

Stephanie (Charlie) Farley and Jane Secker, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

Once Upon An Open

I first heard Sara Thomas’ moving story Once Upon An Open when she uploaded it to the femedtech Open Space during OER19 and it moved me to tears.  I missed Sara telling the story live at the conference, but I heard her perform this piece again at the Wikimedia AGM in Bristol.  Since then, I’ve listened to it countless times and urged everyone I know to listen to it too, it’s worth five minutes of anyone’s time. 

Open For a Cause

In early December ALT and Wikimedia DE invited me to Berlin, where I had the privilege of participating in Open For a Cause: Fostering participation in society and education. It was a humbling experience to sit alongside a group inspirational thinkers, including Laura Czerniewicz, Audrey Watters, Martin Hawksey,  Maren Deepwell and Christian Friedrich, all of whom have had a huge impact on my own understanding of the open knowledge domain. It was also lovely to spend time in Berlin, a city I’m very fond off, with such good friends.

Maren Deepwell, Audrey Watters, and me. CC BY Martin Hawksey

UCU Strike

The UCU strike was difficult this year, I’m not going to deny it. It was long and hard and came at a difficult time of the year with Brexit and the general election looming. It had to be done though and I’m immensely proud of colleagues across the UK who joined the strike, and stood up for the rights of all those working in Higher Education today.

UCU Strike Rally, CC BY SA, Lorna M. Campbell on Wikimedia Commons

Open Scotland

In my end of year reflection last year, I noted that one of my frustrations had been that I had neglected Open Scotland due to lack of time and headspace. I’m pleased to say that at the end of 2019 Joe Wilson and I made an effort to resurrect the initiative. Open Scotland has now moved to a shared curation model inspired by femedtech and I’d like to thank all those who volunteered for enough curation spots to see us through into the New Year.

Return of the Magic Bus

Another woe from last year was the sad demise of our faithful old VW T25 camper van. After months of swithering we finally decided to bite the bullet and shell out for a new engine and by mid summer the magic bus was back on the road and heading for the Outer Hebrides where we spent a fabulous week visiting family and touring the length of the islands.

Scurrival Campsite, Barra. CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

Friends

And last, but by no means least, friends. Friends and colleagues have been an endless inspiration and support this year and I am grateful to every one of them. It was a particular pleasure to reconnect with the old Strathclyde crew, Allison, Sheila, Sarah and Karen, and to be able to revisit our favourite old haunt Café Gandolfi. Good times. Here’s hoping there will be many more of them.