In the meantime…

After twelve productive years, the University of Strathclyde’s relationship with Cetis has now “reached its conclusion”. The Cetis Memorandum of Understanding has been terminated and all Cetis staff at the university have been made redundant. This move comes a year after the closure of the Centre for Academic Practice and Learning Enhancement (CAPLE), the department that had housed Cetis since 2001. One reason given by the university for terminating the relationship is that Cetis are no longer strategically aligned with institutional policy.

I first came to the University of Strathclyde as a Research Assistant in 1997 and worked on a wide range of learning technology research projects before winning the contract to run the Cetis Educational Content Special Interest Group (EC SIG) in 2001 along with Charles Duncan at the University of Edinburgh. The following year I was appointed to the post of Cetis Assistant Director and in the ten years that followed Cetis transformed from a Jisc project, to a service-in-transition, to a Jisc Innovation Support Centre and most recently, to an independent technology advisory agency. One constant throughout these changes was the unfailing support Cetis received from CAPLE and all its staff, who provided a stimulating, friendly and supportive environment for all Cetis colleagues who came and went at Strathclyde over the years. Consequently I’d like to thank all those who made CAPLE such a great place to work and who have now moved on to brighter pastures, in particular Professors George Gordon, Ray Land and Allison Littlejohn, all our former academic colleagues and, last but absolutely by no means least, the sterling administrative staff Aileen Wilson, Susan Mitchell, Allison Carmichael and Lynn O’Brien. Many thanks also to Elaine Hurley who has provided invaluable and admirably efficient administrative support over the last six months.

The CAPLE Admin Team The CAPLE Admin Team

Although this week marks the end of Cetis at Strathclyde, Cetis is still very much alive and kicking at the University of Bolton. The centre has broadened its funding base and is going from strength to strength. Cetis will be a launching a new website shortly, so look out for details.

I very much hope that I will be able to resume my association with Cetis at some point in the near future but, like Sheila, for the next couple of months I will be taking a sideways step. However I won’t be sitting around twiddling my thumbs, I have conference papers to write with Phil Barker and I will be following up actions from the Open Scotland Summit with colleagues from SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and the ALT Scotland SIG later in August. There’s also the small matter of a naval history book I’m in the process of writing in my “spare time”. (Have a look here it you’re curious:

Now here comes the plug…if you happen to need the services of an experienced and approachable learning technologist with a sideline in OER, open education policy and project management, please feel free to get in touch. My new e-mail address is and my twitter and skype IDs remain unchanged. I’ll look forward to continuing working with you all in the future!

CAPLE knew how to make its staff feel valued. CAPLE really knew how to make its staff feel valued.

A Pleasant Surprise at Dev8D

Two years ago in 2010 I wrote a blog post in response to a post written by MShaw “Dev8D: where were the women? which commented on the fact that only 7% of the event’s participants were female. I hadn’t gone to Dev8D that year but I felt compelled to comment as this echoed concerns I had with a previous CRIG Repositories Unconference where only three out of the forty delegates where female.

This year I decided I would go to Dev8D, although due to childcare responsibilities I was only able to attend for a single day, rather than the full three days. However I must say that I found it well worth the trip. I was pleasantly surprised to find a friendly and inclusive event with a relatively large number of female delegates. I am no more of a technical developer now than I was two years ago, but at no point did I feel that the event was cliquey or exclusive, despite that fact that UCL Union was packed full of the highest concentration of geeks that I have seen for quite some time.

Mahendra Mahey, who is responsible for running Dev8D and for making it the success it is, commented that he had tried to take possessive steps to encourage more female developers to attend DevCSI events. It appears that Mahendra’s efforts have paid off, as approximately 17% of this year’s delegates were female. This may not seem like a particularly impressive percentage but when one considers that this is actually higher than the annual percentage of female Computer Science graduates then I think that is quite an achievement!

It was also noticeable that many of the Dev8D participants appeared to have a real interest in educational technology issues. JISC’s Andy McGregor commented that educational technology developers were much better represented than in previous years. Certainly JISC’s Amber Thomas and I gathered lots of valuable comments and feedback during our very informal Digital Infrastructure Directions for Educational Content blether round table. Hopefully this bodes well for the forthcoming DevEd event that JISC, CETIS and DevCSI are running on the 29th / 30th May in Birmingham. Watch this space for more news!

All in all I thought Dev8D was an interesting and enjoyable event with plenty of opportunities, even for a day delegate, to have lots of thought provoking conversations and discussions. I think I’ll be going again next year :)

A frontier too far?

Earlier today I had a quick browse around Learning Without Frontiers The Future of Learning Conference website and I couldn’t help finding it somewhat ironic that out of 30 Headline Speakers, only five are women. Of course, not that there is anything wrong with the 25 male speakers, there are many truly individual and inspirational thinkers there and I would quite happily spend an hour of my day listening to any one of them apart from Ed Vaizey. However I do find I do rather dispiriting that Learning Without Frontiers couldn’t find 25 equally inspirational female speakers.

Having said that, and this is important, I have no plans to go to Learning Without Frontiers, so if I can’t even be bothered to attend, do I really have any right to criticise the conference? Am I actually part of the problem? I’m sure LWF12 will be an excellent event but attending in person has never been an option as I have childcare commitments on Wednesdays and Thursdays that make it almost impossible for me to travel those days. Of course travel restrictions are a factor for all working parents and event organisers are much more aware of the importance of disseminating their events to those who are unable to attend in person. So I’ll be following the #lwf12 tag with interest and will hopefully catch a few of the keynotes and presentations on the live stream, I just wish that the profile of the speakers on the “stellar programme” was a little more balanced. It would be nice to know we all have a place in The Future Of Learning. </rant>

LWF12 Headline Speakers

Mary Lacy, the female shipwright

Something a bit left field for Ada Lovelace Day this year as the woman I’ve chosen to write about was born 75 years before Ada herself, and I’m perhaps stretching the definition of “technology” a bit. Allow me to introduce Mary Lacy, the female shipwright, whose contemporary autobiography written in 1773 has recently been republished by the National Maritime Museum. Lacy is an astonishing woman by any standards. In her introduction to the autobiography Margaret Lincoln of the NMM writes:
The Female Shipwright

“In an age when women did not serve in the armed forces or train to become qualified shipwrights or set themselves up as speculative house builders, Lacy did all three.”

And what is even more remarkable is that she did it all independently while disguised as a man.

Lacy was born into a poor working class family in Kent in 1740. She grew up as a self confessed wayward child and was put into service by her parents in an attempt to curb her unruly behavior. At the age of nineteen, following an unhappy affair with a young man, she appropriated a suit of her father’s clothes, assumed the name William Chandler and ran away from home. On arriving penniless and hungry at Chatham Dockyard she joined the crew of the newly built HMS Sandwich, a 90 gun second-rate ship of the line. Lacy knew nothing of ships, and much to the amusement of the other men mistook the open gun ports for a large number of windows. Chandler was taken on as apprentice and servant to the ship’s carpenter, a volatile man who beat her and appropriated her wages. Lacy however didn’t hesitate to stand up for herself and when challenged took on one of the Admiral’s boys in a fight. She records that she came off with “flying colours” and that she and the boy “reconciled to each other as if we had been brothers”.

Lacy served aboard the Sandwich and later the Royal Sovereign from 1759 to around 1764, enduring the extraordinary hardships of life as a rating during the Seven Years War. During this time the Sandwich was stationed on blockade with Admiral Hawke’s fleet off Brest. The ship was returning from blockade duty when the French fleet broke from Brest resulting in the Battle of Quiberon Bay. Lacy writes of the engagement but adds that “…our ship had no share in the battle for we were at the time in Plymouth.”

Following the Quiberon engagement the Sandwich was ordered to the Bay of Biscay where Lacy notes:

“I must here observe, that a person who is a stranger to these great and boisterous seas, must think it impossible for a large ship to ride in them, but I slept many months on the ocean, where I have been tossed up and down at an amazing rate.”

Lacy experienced even more boisterous seas during a terrible two day hurricane which struck the English Channel in 1760. The Sandwich survived with seven men downed and sprung main and foremasts. However their sister ship Ramillies foundered with the loss of 675 men and only 25 survivors.

Life at sea soon took its toll on Lacy and by her early twenties the continual cold and wet brought on inflammatory rheumatism, a recurring condition that hospitalised Lacy several times.

In 1764 Lacy finally secured an apprenticeship as a shipwright at Portsmouth dockyard. Her trials were not over however. She appears to have been apprenticed to a series of irresponsible masters who once again appropriated her wages and neglected to provide her with the bare necessities.

“It may with very great truth be said that Mr A____’s house entertained a very bad set of people. I had not been long with him before he turned me over to another man to pay his debts; and when I worked that out, was again turned over to a third: so that shifted from one to the another I had neither clothes on my back nor shoes or stockings to my feet; notwithstanding which, I was frequently (even in the dead of winter) obliged to go the the dock-yard bare-footed.”

Lacy’s life was not without entertainment however. She had a veritable string of sweethearts of whom she writes candidly and unashamedly. She even notes with some pride that:

“As I was frequently walking out with some of them, the men of the yard concluded that I was a very amorous spark when in the company of young women.”

And indeed she was!

Lacy achieved her certificate as shipwright after seven years apprenticeship in 1770 enabling her to earn an independent wage. In 1771 however Portsmouth dockyard was ravaged by a terrible fire, as a result of which the shipwrights had to work “double tides”. The long hours and hard labour aggravated Lacy’s rheumatism to the point she could no longer work and was forced to seek retirement as a Superannuated Shipwright.

It seems inconceivable now that a woman could serve undetected in the close confines of a man-of-war for such a long period, however the Royal Navy was desperate for able bodied men at the time, whether willing to serve or no, so few questions would have been asked. In a chapter on Lacy, Suzanne Stark author of Female Tars also notes that, living in such close confines, ratings were accustomed to turn a blind eye on all kinds of goings on. When Lacy’s sex was eventually revealed by a female “false friend” her male colleagues are unperturbed and continue to treat her as the shipwright they know. It is also notable that when rheumatism finally made it impossible for Lacy to continue working at the dockyard she applied to the Admiralty for a pension under her own name. The application was granted and Lacy was paid a substantial pension of £20 per annum.

Lacy’s biography concludes with her marriage to one “Mr Slade” however historians have cast doubt on this event. Stark suggests that the marriage is a fiction to make Lacy appear more respectable to contemporary readers. Lincoln has found no record of Lacy’s alleged marriage however she has traced

“Mary Slade of King Street, Deptford, who we can take to have been Mary Lacy, moved into a new double fronted house in Deptford with Elizabeth Slade in 1777. This house was at the centre of a terrace which she built herself….The terrace survives in part at Nos 104 -108 and 116-118 Deptford High Street…It seems likely that she used her pension of £20 p.a. as security for a mortgage…She lived for another twenty years…after her death “Mary Slade” was described as a “spinster and shopkeeper”….it seems probable that Lacy took Elizabeth Slade’s surname to pass as her sister.”

A remarkable end for a remarkable woman.

Lacy wrote and published her biography at the age of 33 and her account of her life is inspirational, candid and refreshing. While she shows contrition for her youthful waywardness and acknowledges that she would have spared herself a life of hardship had she listened to her parents, she is unapologetic about the life she lived and path she chose. I believe Mary Lacy is easily worthy of commemoration on Ada Lovelace Day and who knows, perhaps Ada even read her biography herself!

Further information
Lacy, M., (2009), The Female Shipwright, National Maritime Museum.
Stark, S. J., (1996), Female Tars: women aboard ship in the age of sail, Constable.
And a podcast by Margaret Lincoln of the National Maritime Museum celebrating the republication of Lacy’s biography: The Story of Mary Lacy.

Dev8D: where were the women? A response.

I’m writing this in response to MShaw’s post on DevCSI asking why there were so few women at Dev8D. I’m answering over here rather than over there because this is something I’ve been pondering for a while. And, as my colleague John Robertson pointed out on twitter:

Appropriate for International Woman’s Day? discussion on devsci blog about proportion of women (~7%) at #dev8D

Over at the DevCSI MShaw notes:

The technology/web development industry is notoriously male-dominated, but even in this context the gender imbalance at Dev8D seemed disproportionate.

And asks:

Are we doing enough to attracted women to these kinds of events? What could we do to improve the gender balance? Do you even think it’s an issue?

I think it is in issue. I’m not entirely sure what we can do about it, but I certainly think it’s something we should consider closely.

There are a lot of complex and interconnected issues which I can’t possibly hope to untangle here. They include: are fewer women really attracted to careers in technology? If so why? Is it something to do with the discipline itself? Or is it more to do with the culture of technology industries? And I include educational technology here.

Obviously I do work in technology, I have done for some time and I am one of those women who did not attend dev8D. Why? Although I work in technology I do not consider myself to be a “techy”. I am most definitely not a programmer and have often joked in the past that I couldn’t implement a spec if my life depended on it. Having said that, I am not remotely afraid of technology and I enjoy talking and working with developers. I’ve run more than a few codebashes in my time for heaven’s sake! You don’t get much more techy than that. So while on the one hand I may consider myself “not techy enough” to play with the boys at Dev8D, on the other hand these are the same people I have enjoyed working with for the last ten years or so.

The logistics of the event also made it difficult for me to attend. Although I used to travel a lot I now have a small child to look after and a partner who works long shifts so arranging childcare for anything longer than a single over night stay is difficult if not impossible. Logistics and responsibilities can’t be ignored.

MShaw’s post also brought to mind a CRIG Unconference I attended a couple of years ago. The focus was repositories, a technology domain where I think women are reasonably well represented. However of the 40 or so people who attended there were only 4 women: me, Julie Allinson, as sociologist who was there to observe the event and the administrator, who took names at the door and handed out stickers and badges. Not very encouraging.

At the time there was something about the lack of women at the CRIG Unconference that concerned me. I used to spend a lot of time on the road participating in international standards meetings, where I was frequently the only woman in the room. This was such a common occurrence that eventually I scarcely noticed. So what what was it about the Unconference that bothered me? I’m still not sure. I hesitate to say it but there does seem to be something a bit blokey about the format of some of these developer events. Although to be fair, at the recent CETIS Future of Interoperability Standards event women were as poorly represented as at Dev8D and the Unconference.

I can’t help being reminded of my previous career as an archaeologist. Although I did most of my field work in Scotland I once worked on a survey project in the South Hauran desert in the north of Jordan near the Syrian border. We stayed in a tiny one horse town called Umm el-Qetain where we rented the top floor of a typical house from a Bedouin family. Our hosts were extraordinarily welcoming and offered us hospitality at every opportunity. What was interesting is that these traditional houses are normally quite strictly segregated with family rooms, women’s rooms and the men’s rooms. The only woman allowed in the men’s room was the eldest matriarch of the house and even then she appeared to observe certain conventions of behaviour. However the three women in our field crew were treated exactly as men. We were regularly invited into the men’s room for mint tea and pastries and none of the men ever commented on our unusual behavior. (However they did howl with laughter when they saw our male colleagues washing their own socks.)

I’m still sometimes reminded of sitting in the men’s room in Umm el Qetain when I attend certain technical events. Everyone is welcoming and hospitable to a fault but you can’t help being aware that you are the minority and that somehow you are “fitting in” or rather being slotted into a space that doesn’t quite fit.

I don’t think I’ve expressed this very clearly, primarily because I don’t have a clear idea of exactly what is going on here. Hmmmmm. If anyone can enlighten me please comment.

Ada Lovelace Day 2010

Ada Lovelace day is coming around again on the 24th March and you can plegde to participate here

The following is from the Ada Lovelace Day pledge announcement but I’m more than happy to repeat it here:

We had an amazing day last year, with over 1200 people writing about a woman in technology or science whom they admire. We got lots of coverage in the national press and even appeared on the BBC News Channel. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We wanted you to tell the world about these unsung heroines, and you did. Thank you!

But our work is not yet done. This year we want 3072 people to sign up to our pledge and to write their tribute to women in tech. We have the 72, we just need the 3000, which is where you come in. Please sign the pledge at and let all your friends know about it.

It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is, what gender you are, what language you blog in, if you do text, audio or video, or what you normally blog about – everyone is invited to take part. All you need to do is sign up to this pledge and then publish your blog post any time on Wednesday 24th March 2010. If you’re going to be away that day, feel free to write your post in advance and set your blogging system to publish it that day.

To keep up to date with what is happening:

The Pledge:
The Blog:
on Twitter

Thank you for your support!

Suw Charman-Anderson

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!

Rachel Heery

We have all been deeply saddened to hear of the death of Rachel Heery, Assistant Director of Research and Development at UKOLN until her retirement in 2007. Some of us in CETIS, particularly Phil Barker, R John Robertson, Sarah Currier and I worked closely with Rachel on a number of JISC projects and initiatives over the years including the IE Metadata Schema Registry, the Repositories Programme Advisory Group, the Jorum Steering Group, the Digital Repositories Programme Support Project and the Repositories Research Team.

I first came across Rachel at a UK Metadata for Education Group Meeting in 2001. As usual she made quite an impression with her astute and forthright views and I made a mental note never to get into an argument with that woman. However I quickly learned that Rachel was an excellent person to get into an argument with. She was authoritative and insightful and always seemed willing to discuss alternative perspectives from outwith her immediate domain, as was the case with CETIS. I got the impression that she didn’t suffer fools gladly and never hesitated to question accepted orthodoxies when necessary.

It was invaluable for CETIS to have such a strong ally at UKOLN and Rachel’s open-mindedness proved over and over again that the two JISC innovation support centres could work productively together with a minimum of fuss. I remember attending one particularly tedious and unproductive “coordination” meeting in London where we made more progress in the fifteen-minute tube journey across the city with Rachel (and Pete Johnston) than during the whole day long meeting.

Of the projects mentioned above DRSPS / RRT is notable in that it was the first JIIE programme support project delivered collaboratively by two JISC services (now innovation support centres): UKOLN and CETIS. Rachel managed the project from 2005 until her retirement in 2007 and when she left her departure had an enormous impact. It’s ironic that Phil and I are in the process of putting the finishing touches to the RRT Final and Completion reports and had planned to send them to her this week in case she cared to take time out from her retirement to comment. We tried hard to get across in the reports the irreplaceable contribution she made to the project at both the strategic and personal level.

I always used to look forward to meetings Rachel was attending as you could usually guarantee a sparky and thought provoking discussion. Her professional integrity always commanded respect. Personally I will miss her enormously as a colleague and a friend.

Our thoughts are with her family.

Meet della

Several people have already picked up on this on twitter. Meet della from Dell for all you girlies needing to “simplify your life with technology”.


“Tech tips” include:

Get healthier: Use your mini to track calories, carbs and protein with ease, watch online fitness videos, map your running routes and more.

Eat better: Find recipes online, store and organize them, and watch cooking videos.

Chill out: Stressed? Your mini can be your meditation buddy as you take mini-breaks throughout your day (schedule them, with reminders, on your calendar). You can find free guided meditations, download meditation podcasts, watch yoga videos, create soothing slideshows of images and music and even bliss out to Visible Earth images courtesy of NASA.

Travel smarter: …. entertain you in airports, trains and buses.

All is not in vain though, here’s the science:

Stay in the clouds: “Cloud computing” is a buzzword for what your mini does best: save money and time by using free online apps for everything you need-meaning you don’t need to buy, install or update a bunch of space- and memory-hogging applications on your computer itself. No matter what operating system you have, it’s easy to find free and low-cost streaming media and online apps. Any time you need to transfer data to or from your mini, you can stream it, port it via removable SD cards or USB flash drives or plug in an external drive.

Words fail me. Ada Lovelace must be spinning in her grave.

A short list….

….but an illustrious one! For Ada Lovelace day a list of all the women I’ve worked with in the domain of educational technology since 1997, all of them inspiring in their own unique way.

Julie Allinson, Helen Beetham, Kerry Blinco, Rachel Bruce, Joanna Bull, Gayle Calverley, Jackie Carter, Lisa Corley, Sarah Currier, Jenny Delasalle, Susan, Eales, Suzanne Hardy, Rachel Harris, Rachel Heery, Nancy Hobelheinrich, Sarah Hollyfield, Allison Littlejohn, Sheila MacNeill, Sue Manuel, Moira Masey, Lisa Mattson, Mhairi McApline, Sarah McConnell, Lou McGill, Celeste McLaughlan, Liddy Neville, Solvig Norman, Chris Pegler, Sharon Perry, Sarah Porter, Jean Ritchie, Tish Roberts, Laura Shaw, Christina Smart, Amber Thomas, Rowin Young, Li Yuan, Kamala Velayutham, Su White, Lara Whitelaw, Heather Williamson, Vashti Zarach, Linn van der Zanden.

Apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone!