This is not a blog post…#lwf11

Earlier today while listening to the livefeed of Learning Without Frontiers #lwf11 I had the misfortune to hear Katharine Birbalsingh presenting. Not since a recent Alt-C keynote have I seen such a vitriolic twitter backchannel. And in my opinion it was justified. Several people in my twitter feed missed the presentation but picked up on the backchannel and asked me to blog a summary of the talk. We’ll I’ve written a short summary but I’ve decided not to post it because that would just be providing publicity for opinions that I actually find quite objectionable. So if you want the summary let me know and I’ll send it to you. I don’t really want such nonsense on my blog.

Dan Stucke has blogged a short sumamry of the presentation on his blog here.

Education institutions, the music industry and the church at #cetis10

Two interesting tangential conversations kicked off on Twitter this morning during Anya Kamanetz keynote at the CETIS Conference. One on the validity of comparing the challenges currently facing Higher Education to changes in the music industry and the other on the role of the church in founding education institutions and the effect of the Reformation on the church. So for those who missed these fascinating (yes really!) discussions on twitter, here they are again…

Comparison with the music industry

Anya made that point that although recording industry sales have slumped people are now spending more and more money on downloads and ticket sales to attend live performances. So although artists may receive less income from sales of recorded music they gain more income from live performances. Paul Walk of UKOLN felt comparing education to the music industry was unhelpful and David Kernohan argued about the validity of Anya’s assertion within the music industry itself. However Mike Ellis of Eduserv argued that this is indeed a reasonable model for comparison.

paulwalk Paul Walk
oh…. another comparison with the music industry :-(

dkernohan David Kernohan
musicians don’t mind about not selling music as they make money from live performance!! Not many musicians agree.

paulwalk Paul Walk
can we have a rule: no bogus comparisons to (mostly speculative) points about music industry business models?

m1ke_ellis Mike Ellis
@paulwalk don’t see it as that bogus – question is about openness, where the value is in the chain, how to cope

paulwalk Paul Walk
@m1ke_ellis music industry is pretty much passive entertainment. Hope HE hasn’t reached that sorry state yet…

m1ke_ellis Mike Ellis
@paulwalk you’re being too specific, surely? The point was surely not about the mode of use but the env in which the content lives

paulwalk Paul Walk
@m1ke_ellis I think the mode of use is crucial to figure out appropriate business models though

The Church, the Reformation and Educational Institutions

Early in her keynote Anya made the point that our current educational paradigm has changed little from the 11th century when educational institutions were founded by the church. I forget the details but somehow this kicked off a discussion on twitter about the impact of the reformation on the church and the role of the church in the formation of educational institutions.

KavuBob JohnRobertson
AK: “the cathedral of rationality”, sage on stage pointed to 1088ad illustration of origins; scarcity of knowledge

dkernohan David Kernohan
of course, churches *founded* universities to meet their needs as employers. (sound familiar?)

KavuBob JohnRobertson
@dkernohan yes, but (in Scotland post-reformation) there was an intent to educate whole populous->v. high literacy rates from 15thC

dkernohan David Kernohan
– comparing HE reform to the Reformation. Not sure the Reformation worked that well for the church, all told?

sheilmcn Sheila MacNeill
@dkernohan was thinking much the same thing

KavuBob JohnRobertson
Reformation just got hijacked to become the right to sit at home and watch football on Sundays #innerchurchhistoriancringe

philbarker Phil Barker
@dkernohan well, reformation certainly lead to *more* churches

KavuBob JohnRobertson
@dkernohan @sheilmcn i’d argue that- led to fresh thinking & renewed spirituality on both sides of the Ref split & more critical engagement

KavuBob JohnRobertson
@dkernohan @sheilmcn though perhaps no one has a neutral stance on that question :)

dkernohan David Kernohan
@KavuBob @sheilmcn aye, but also to several bloody wars, insurrections, torture…

sheilmcn Sheila MacNeill
@dkernohan @KavuBob I’m off to watch tv

Women in Tech: a different experience

A tweet from @FindingAda this week brought my attention to a blog post by Cate Sevilla of WITsend asking “Are Women in Tech Their Own Worst Enemy?” Cate summarises the lot of women in technology neatly and with some accuracy before going on to bemoan:

….another little ingredient to add to the recipe of female-tech-doom: petty, ridiculous cattiness amongst other women in tech.

She then goes on to ask:

Have each of us done all we can (within reason) to help and encourage our female peers in tech? Or are we fiercely and unnecessarily competitive? If there’s a younger women that’s asking for what tech events you go to to meet new contacts, do you tell her? Bring her along? Or at least point her in the right direction?

@FindingAda described the post as being:

….fabulous, and brave, …. something I’ve seen too much of myself.

While I can identify with being:

….a woman standing in a sea of men at a tech conference….

I can genuinely say that in the domain of educational technology and interoperability standards I have never experienced the kind of attitudes from female colleagues described by Cate and @FindingAda. I have certainly had plenty of arguments and differences of opinion with lots of colleagues regardless of gender, however I really and truly and never experienced this kind of bitchiness.

As evidence of this I’d like to point you to some of the posts that have appeared online to commemorate Rachel Heery.

Sarah Currier commented in response to my own blog post:

I always looked forward to seeing Rachel at meetings. You always knew you had an ally- not an ally in the back-room handshake sense, but in the cut-the-crap, ‘let’s work out what’s best’ sense. She was fun and funny and an excellent role model for younger women coming through.

To which Lorcan Dempsey responded:

….(Rachel) was also very conscious of being a woman in a male-dominated, often techie, environment. I think she would have been very pleased by Sarah Currier’s remark on Lorna Campbell’s blog entry.

This has been my over whelming experience of working with other women in educational technology and other related domains. They may not give you any easy breaks but they are endlessly supportive and encouraging, even while questioning your opinions and picking your argument to pieces!

More on #jiscbids

My colleague Sarah Holyfield has already flagged up today’s twitter discussion on advice for JISC bidders which was sparked by a tweet from Grainne Conole, however I can’t resist mentioning it again. The advice came from a wide range of twitterers including JISC Programme managers, JISC service staff and private consultants. The one thing all these people have in common is that they all mark JISC calls so potential bidders would do well to take note. Such was the frenzy of advice that at one point #jiscbids achieve twitter trend status, (so it must be important!)

Advice ranged from the obvious:

Make sure you read the call. sounds obvious, but you would be amazed at how many bidders don’t!

We’ve all done it – it’s simply not fun, and risky, sending proposal on deadline day. Get into mindset of deadline is week before.

Provide *all* info asked for – such a shame to mark down a bid because it didn’t include risk assessment for example

10 page limit means 10 page limit. Do not put your budget on page 11.

Read the circular. Then read it again. Then do what it asks.

To the astute:

Don’t underbid to be competitive if this means your project will run out of money before the end.

Your background/intro section is too long. Ditch half of it and write a really good use case scenario instead.

Make it clear what funding your proposal would do for the wider community.

To the obscure:

A project with an acronym that alludes to bodily functions or sexual practises will (almost) always remain an unfunded project.

To see all those tweets in their full glory go to

With thanks to @lastkaled, @morageyrie, @dkernohan, @Joe_Librarian, @hwillimason and many more.

Open Educational Resources Programme Briefing Day

A rather belated summary of last week’s HEFCE / Academy / JISC Open Educational Resources Community Briefing* meeting. This meeting pretty much did what it said on the tin – it provided the community with additional information on the OER Programme call and an opportunity to put questions to JISC and HEA representatives.

Malcolm Read and of the JISC and David Sadler of the Academy opened the meeting with a general introduction to the aims and objectives of the call – to link together a corpus of open educational resources at national level and to promote cultural change at institutional level.

David Kernohan then went on to discuss the pilot programme in a little more detail before introducing the JISC and Academy representatives with responsibility for each of the three programme strands:

  • Subject strand – David Sadler and Joanne Masterson, Academy
  • Institutional Strand – Heather Williamson, JISC
  • Individual Strand – Sharon Waller & Ellie Spilman, Academy

David stressed the ground breaking nature of this pilot project which, if it’s successful, will help to increase the range and quality of educational resources available in the public domain, facilitate re-use, build capacity and expertise across the sector adn act as a catalyst for institutional change. All projects are encouraged to include a range of content and to attempt to embed the practice of opening access to educational resources within their institutions beyond funded phase of the programme. Sustainability is key.

Next it was over to Amber Thomas to outline the technical requirements of the programme, which I’ll cover in a separate post, followed by an excellent presentation from Liam Earney of the CASPER Project on the realities of addressing legal considerations based on the experiences of the RePRODUCE Programme. Liam stressed that “open” means the ability to download and modify resources, not just to read them, but added that many institutions have contradictory policies on what can be done with educational materials. The main lesson projects must learn is to allow lots and lots of time for rights clearance and to allocate sufficient resources and budget to this task.

Unsurprisingly Liam’s presentation on legal issues set the tone for much of the following discussion with many of the questions relating to the practicalities of rights clearance across project consortia. Many of the other questions focused on the logistics of constructing bids, the practicalities of putting together consortia agreements, and what constitutes match funding. A somewhat opportunistic question that surfaced more than once was given that educational content represents a valuable asset from the institutional perspective can JISC funding be used to effectively buy out this content? Malcolm Read quickly pointed out that HEFCE are not offering money to “buy” content and that the commitment they are looking for from institutions is sustainability.

For a fuller record of the day’s discussions, and in particular the question and answer session see However to my utter, utter, shame I used the programme tag #ukoer rather than the briefing day tag #oerday for the earlier part of the day so see also

Presentations from the day are available at

* I was told that JISC no longer use the term town meeting but no one was able to tell me why!

Live blogging on twitter. A cautionary tale…

Following the apparent success of live blogging at last year’s CETIS conference, #cetis08, I agreed to live blog the recent CETIS EduservMaximising the effectiveness of virtual worlds in teaching and learning” meeting, otherwise known as #cevw09. I should really have set up a CoveritLive client as Andy Powell did for cetis08 however I didn’t get round to it so I opted for twitter instead.

Now clearly there are pros and cons to using twitter as a live blogging tool, one of the biggest cons being that you end up spamming all those followers who may not be interested in the particular meeting you’re covering. However the feedback I got on the day was wholly positive so I carried on tweeting, and tweeting, and tweeting until 15.30 when up popped the following message:

“Wow, that’s a lot of Twittering! You have reached your limit of updates for the hour. Try again later.”

Sheila gamely took over the live blogging until 16.00 when sure enough, I was able to post again.

I wasn’t aware that there was a maximum allowable number of tweets per hour, and nor was anyone else I spoke to, but a bit of googling turned up plenty of discussions on twitter limits. I couldn’t find a definitive list of limits at but blogger Sugree lists twitter’s limits as follows:

* 1,000 total updates per day, on any and all devices
* 250 total direct messages per day, on any and devices
* 100 API requests per hour
* Maximum number of follow attempts in a day

I’m surprised I exceeded any of these limits at #cevw09 but not at #cetis08 but I guess I must have done. Next time I’ll either have to use a different application or exercise bit more editorial control!

Twitter Fail Whale

Semantic Technology Working Group

Last Friday saw the first meeting of the new CETIS Semantic Technology Working Group. CETIS Working Groups are a little different from the Special Interest Groups you all know and love in that they have a much tighter focus, a finite lifespan and a remit to produce one or more deliverables. I was particularly interested to attend the launch of the Semantic Technologies Working Group as it is a direct offshoot of the Semantic Technologies for Teaching and Learning session that Phil and I ran at last year’s CETIS Conference. Sheila has already written a short blog post about this meeting but here’s a little more detail.

The working group has two primary aims, firstly to act as an expert working group for the new JISC SemTech project, also funded as a result of the conference session, and secondly to develop recommendations for potential future work based on the outputs of the project. The first meeting of the working group was closed to enable us to focus in detail on the scope of the SemTech project however future meetings are likely to be open to the wider JISC community and all those with an interest in the use of semantic technologies for teaching and learning.

Participants at this initial meeting included Robin Wylie of Learning and Teaching Scotland, Michael Gardner from Essex, Sue Manuel from Loughborough, Tony Linde from Leicester, Simon Buckingham Schum from the OU, Helen Beetham from JISC, Hugh Davis and Thanasis Tiropanis from Southampton and Sheila, Wilbert, Phil and I from CETIS. And not forgetting, as Wilbert tweeted at the time, “iSight, conference phone, projector, 3g modems, ipod, mobile phone herd and the odd mouse.”

Thanasis Tiropanis opened the meeting with an enthusiastic and engaging introduction to the SemTech project which is based at the University of Southampton and will run until February 2009. The aims and objectives of the project are:

  1. Survey of the relevance and use of semantic tools and services in HE/FE, informal and exploratory learning. The impact of current work on semantic enhancement of successful Web 2.0 services will be reported.
  2. A roadmap for further developments in semantic technology adoption in HE/FE, informal learning and exploratory learning.
  3. The HE/FE institutional perspective of tools, services, relevance and quantifiable benefits.

Much of the rest of the meeting was taken up by a discussion of what constitutes “semantic technology” for the purpose of the project. Unsurprisingly this discussion was not entirely conclusive but there seemed to be some agreement that there should be some level of reasoning involved at the machine level. “Inference” was another term that kept cropping up. There was also general agreement that to be relevant to the project the technology must be used with some pedagogic intent and not simply for recording or resource discovery. For example mindmapping tools may not be regarded as semantic technologies for the purpose of the project however an application such as Omnigator which consumes topic maps and merges them on the fly is very much in scope. There’s still a lot of discussion to be had on these issues and it’ll be very intriguing to see what kind of technologies Thanasis and the SemTech project turn up.

For further information on the SemTech project please visit the project website at or to learn more about the CETIS Semantic Technologies Working Group contact Sheila or I.

Baleful twitterings

I recently heard a reading of the Tang Dynesty (8th century) poet Du Fus Ballad of the Army Carts on the radio. Normally Im not a fan of radio poetry, I find it a bit trite, but this was sufficiently moving to make me stop what I was doing and listen. Its a powerful meditation on the endless futility and waste of war and it was impossible not to appreciate the poem’s continued contemporary relevance after all these years. Sadly my musings on this evocative work were rather abruptly punctured by the final line:

The new ghosts complain and the old ghosts weep, and under the grey and dripping sky the air is full of their baleful twitterings.

Somehow that just conjured up all the wrong sort of imagery¦..

Translator (David Hawkes [1967]). A Little Primer of Tu Fu. Oxford University Press. ISBN 962-7255-02-5.