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I have moved to a self hosted WP blog here  Please come over and chat with me.  🙂

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Capitalism and Freire


sheep Indeed, the interests of the oppressors lie in “changing the consciousness of the oppressed,  not the situation which oppresses them”; for the more the oppressed can be led to adapt to that situation, the more easily they can be dominated. (Simone de Beauvoir, in Freire).1


Scene_from_Factory_BoyI picked up Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed this morning to reread chapter 2 for #moocmooc and, as I read it  was struck by how much it resonated with my feelings about our awful, bullying conservative government and the edits of the eejits like Gove and the rest of them, trying to turn all of our children into obedient little drones to service the capitalist empire that they and their cronies own.

I came into work this morning ready to rant about capitalism and oppression in this blog post and found that Maha wrote a blog post yesterday about how Freire chimed with her in the context of the Jan 25th revolution in Egypt (and see Michael Weller‘s comment on the post), so I’m not the only one making connections to my own perceptions of our modern society.

Cameron recent attitude towards data encryption comes from a concern, I would argue, that the masses revolt against his government’s oppressive austerity.   Another world is possible.  (I found the link to this book by googling, keep meaning to read it.

1. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p.74

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HEA STEM conference 2014

A couple of weeks ago I attended the HEA STEM conference in Edinburgh.  I was a bit out of my comfort zone for a couple of reasons – first because I’m a philosopher, and STEM scares me a bit, and second because the presentations (I was doing two) were all in a Pecha Kucha format.  Apart from the fact that nobody seems to know how to pronounce these (and thanks to @niall_barr for sourcing this inspirational video for me):

I was also slightly nervous about having to talk in strict time for the first time to slides we’d written such eons ago (the deadline for the slides was about 2 months before the conference – why?) I will say that, as a conference delagate, I’m not hostile to the pecha kucha format.  It does force presenters to kep to their alloted time and to allow for questions and I approve of that (too many folk overrun and I think this is slapdash at best and arrogant at worst).  It’s really not hard to talk for exactly the time one has, no more, no less, and nobody’s words are so precious that they can’t be cut down.  But I do think the conference organisers could have, well, organised things better:

  1. Having to send the final slides so far in advance meant, in effect, that we submitted a fairly bland set of slides.  In the case of both of my presentations, my co-presenters and I were talking about very recent/ongoing experiences.  We didn’t have our conclusions ready at the time of submission, so we had to guess what we were going to want to say.  Sure, we could have limited ourselves to writing a “safe” presentation, but we don’t work like that (who does?).
  2. One of the conference organisers justified using this format to put the emphasis on the performance, not the content.  No, just no.  While I like a slick performance a) that didn’t happen and b) content IS important.
  3. The requirement was for either 20 slides of 20 seconds or 10 slides of 40 seconds. This was fine for us but I heard others wanting a mix of timings to the same overall length.

In the event I only presented once, Sue opted to fly solo for hers as she felt happier not having to fit timings around anyone else.  It wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it would be, as our sides were general enough and Shazia and I decided not to worry if we were out of sync with them.  Interestingly, though, while Sue hated the format and thought she was awful, Niall and I appreciated the fact thatg she had to keep to her script for once, so there’s that.

So, there’s a part of me that really, really likes other people having to present ina pecha kucha format as it keeps them to time and possibly toscript.  However, I think you need to have a good idea about the final content before writing the slides, and that often is not possibl, or desirable.

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#ocTEL week 0: Big and Little Questions

Another day, another MOOC, this time ocTEL 2014, the MOOC run by ALT.  As ever, I’m just signing up to see what it’s like, and actually wondering whether these low level activities are good for me or whether (probably) I’d be better off going away and doing some independent reading and writing.  However, I’ll spend a few minutes now thinking about the course.

We’re asked to reflect on “big and little questions”:

Q: Can you identify the most important question about TEL that matters to you?

Q: Or alternatively do you have a cluster of issues? Or perhaps you’re ‘just browsing’?

A: I’m just browsing. I’m interested in learning communities, though – always looking for evidence of those.  I’m more interested in what makes good learning than in any particular technology.  I work as a learning technologist, but that’s a job title, not who I am.  I don’t think that using technology should be hard, either for staff or for students, and I’m a little bit interested in why there are barriers to adoption of specific technologies, I guess.

Q: Write down your reflections on this, privately or publicly:

A: Why do I browse?  I guess that, since #rhizo14, I keep looking around to see what makes for successful courses/communities – without expecting to find the answer.  I’m learning what works for me, and that’s a start, at least!

Q: Try and hold these reflections in your mind in the weeks to come – to direct the choices you make about which options to pursue, or as something to revise or refine it in the light of what you learn.

A:  Well, as my students say, obv.  😛

I’ll stick around for a bit – there’s a few familiar faces and that might make up for hating having to read to find out how to engage with the platform.



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BlendKit2014 week 1

I’ve just realised that I@ve sugned up for another MOOC, this one called: Blendkit2014, becoming a blended designer.  I’m not sure how much time I’ll give to this, it’s not gripping me so far, but here goes…

For the first week we’re set some reading (sigh) but at least it begins with a list of questions for us to think about:

  1. Is it most helpful to think of blended learning as an online enhancement to a face-to-face learning environment, a face-to-face enhancement to an online learning environment, or as something else entirely?
  2. In what ways can blended learning courses be considered the “best of both worlds” (i.e., face-to-face and online)? What could make blended learning the “worst of both worlds?”
  3. As you consider designing a blended learning course, what course components are you open to implementing differently than you have in the past? How will you decide which components will occur online and which will take place face-to-face? How will you manage the relationship between these two modalities?
  4. How often will you meet with students face-to-face? How many hours per week will students be engaged online, and how many hours per week will students meet face-to-face? Is the amount of student time commitment consistent with the total time commitment of comparable courses taught in other modalities (e.g., face-to-face)?

I’m sure, if I engage with this class, that I’ll start to think about this more deeply, but coincidentally I gave a workshop about classroom flipping yesterday, so I have some thoughts.

  1. I think it’s something else entirely.  I very much like Eric Mazur’s comment that our first question to ourselves should be about how  we teach, rather than just what we teach.  I don’t think that trying to bolt on “enhancements” to existing courses is the way forward, I think one needs to sit down with a blank sheet and think about what the desired outcomes are before starting to add content.
  2. I think blended learning could be the best of both worlds if it manages to meet the needs of all groups of users, the worst of all possible worlds when it is badly thought out and different groups (say F2F and distance learners) end up being isolated from each other.  One unusual experience I had of this was when I taught for U Aberdeen.  Normally the tutor would be in a class with most of the tutees, and a few isolated students would join in via VOIP.  Because I lived in Glasgow, I also taught via VOIP.  This led to most of those in the classroom feeling left out as we could not hear them over the phone. Hmmm!
  3. We’re looking at our online and distance provision here at the moment.  I expect to be involved in some way, and I definitely have opinions!
  4. I have no idea/it will depend.

As I was about to publish this I got distracted by social media and saw that Maha has already blogged about this.  More from me later, and no doubt I will also be tweeting with the hashtag #BlendKit2014


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Lecture notes

I gave a workshop today about Flipping Classrooms which I’ll blog about on my other blog.  At one point I paraphrased Eric Mazur saying something like this:

College is a place where a professor’s lecture notes go straight to the students’ lecture notes, without passing through the brains of either.

Well, if you follow that link above you’ll see it’s sometimes attributed to Mark Twain, but it’s probably not by him.  I like it anyway 🙂

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rhizo14My name is Sarah and I am a MOOCaholic

Only joking, well sort of.

This post has been brewing for a while and it’s been sparked off again by some discussions in our #rhizo14 Facebook group.  I posted a link to one of Martin Weller’s blog posts and the comment that one of his graphs:

shows that if you get to 12+ weeks it’s probably just some bloke in a shack in Arkansas left

This amused me greatly, as we’re just going in to week 12 of this crazy roller coaster experience, and we’re still carrying on.  Anyway, it’s got a few of us thinking about why we sign up for MOOCs and why we drop out from some and there’ll probably be some messy* writing about it at some point.

So – why do I sign up for MOOCs?  Well, initially it was to find out about them and see how they were going to affect HE, and also to sneak a peek at the various platforms that were being used.  I’d sign up, sniff around and probably not interact at all.  And then suddenly, bang!  I got hooked.  I know who to blame.  It’s that Dave and the gang.  I’m loving being part of such an exuberant community, never knowing what we’ll be talking about next but knowing it will engage me.

So that’s why I do MOOCs. I do them because I love finding out new things and meeting new people, and MOOCS are a great way of doing that.  It’s more about the Twitter hashtags and Facebook/G+ conversations for me than the courses themselves, but I’ve finished one other MOOC (FutureEd) since starting #rhizo14 so it is the content as well, to some extent.

Talk to you soon. 🙂

* “messy” is not a derogatory term in #rhizo14

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On Creativity

This week in #rhizo14 we’re meant to be thinking about creativity.  Some people are running with this and going and doing lots of lovely creative things, like this image on this, others are engaging with #ds106. I’ve been really busy catching up after a week off work, so I’ve limited myself to posting a few links to the Facebook group such as this one (love number 9) and this by Poincare.

I’d started thinking about creativity a few months ago, and gave a talk to our Research and Scholarship group called Collaboration in the Arts and Humanities:

In case you can’t be bothered to read it all, or it doesn’t make sense without the words I spoke, I talked about originality, creativity and plagiarism and suggested that there was a tension between the need to assess arts and humanities students and award them individual marks for assignments; and the fact that (imo) many of our social and academic practices are inherently collaborative – as Ken Bruffee writes:


I’m sure that Deleuze somewhere makes a similar point, but I have no idea where it might be … anyway, you get the point, I hope.   Originality and creativity are not particularly easy to assess in a formal academic environment.

A related point to what I am trying to say is that we are not cartesian ghosts in machines, we are what Heidegger calls Dasein (this is a brilliant wee video, btw, and I highly recommend it):

We are beings in the world – we are thrown into our embodied existence and we are naturally social beings (and I really should be hyphenating all of this).

This is all fairly rough and messy, and I have no idea how I will ever write it up into something that will satisfy formal academic standards, but I am starting to make connections between philosophers who have inspired me, at least.

Sapere Aude, as they say 😉

Posted in #rhizo14, Academia, D&G, Philosophy, Wedding, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

On Lurking

juve lurkThis week we’re talking about lurking: what it is and what we think about it. I’ve been doing a fair bit of lurking myself, as I’m recovering from a wee exploratory op at the weekend and finding that I’m too sore to sit at my desk and type, so I’ve been spending more time than usual passively watching conversations and not always participating.

There’s been  a lot of conversation in our Facebook group this week about what lurking is, and an undercurrent of feeling (I think) about whether this is an appropriate word to use.  This is something I wonder about from time to time, without really coming to any conclusions about what I think. In her book E-Moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online Gilly Salmon writes about “browsers, lurkers or vicarious learners” (p.42), and (a couple of pages before this) suggests that “browsing” might be a better word.  It might.  However, what “browser” misses, for me, is the sense that lurkers are hovering, waiting, watching – they are actively involved in some sense.

There’s a lot of discussion about whether lurking is socially acceptable.  Maybe this stems from thinking about behaviour in face to face learning, and maybe that’s a mistake.  If I daydream in class and rely on my classmates to help me to a good result, that does seem like cheating, but lurking happens outwith the context of formal education with high stakes assessment.  If you lurk on the side of rhizo14 then that is your right – our discussions are happening in open (ish) forums and I know before I type that my words may be read by many who will remain invisible.  That is my choice, and it is one I can make freely.

As some of us have said, to an extent we are all lurkers, anyway.  Sometimes we have other priorities, and are too busy to post; sometimes others know more than we do, and we sit and watch the conversation; sometimes we are too shy, or do not have the words to join in.  I usually begin by lurking in any new forum to get a sense of the tone before I begin to post, and I suspect many others are like me in this.

One thing I have not addressed.  Scott asked why we needed lurkers.  I don’t know how to begin to address that question.

The picture is of our cat, Juve.  Last year I spent a few days in bed.  Juve lurked.

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Demob happy

So it’s week 9 of #rhizo14, but I have still not got around to saying anything about week 8 so here goes.  The topic, set by Simon, was Demobbing Soldiers.  Of course, being demobbed was meant to be a happy experience, but it can also be an unsettling one – how do we help our learners to continue to learn once we have left the room?  How do we ourselves keep up the momentum to continue our rhizomatic journey?  Somehow I don’t think it’s going to be a problem any more.  I’m still talking to the funniest, most talented, full of beans folk that I’ve ever met and I feel like Alice in Through the Looking Glass:

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!

Allons-y 😉

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