Boundless – #oneword2018

I’m not big on new year resolutions but the combined prompts of #oneword2018 and the Visual Thinkery Elemental Design tool have encouraged me to pick my word for the coming year: boundless.

Boundless – Visual Thinkery

Why boundless?

1. I spend a huge amount of time trying to curtail my children’s endless energy: running when they should be walking, bouncing when they should be sitting, cartwheeling when they should be listening. However, deep down I’m really just pretty darn envious and would love, love, love to be able to channel even a fraction of this endless fountain.

2. There are lots of changes and new projects on the cards in the year ahead and I don’t want to restrain or limit my expectations of what’s to come.

3. The world around me seems determined (still) to build walls and reinstate borders and boundaries – to my mind a crazy stance.

4. I hope this year to further explore ethnography for research. This is going to be quite challenging but it aligns with my boundless ethos:

Its aim is to observe a situation without imposing any deductive structure or framework upon it and to view everything as strange or unique.

Virtual ethnography really complicates the idea of ‘boundaries’ because it challenges spatial and temporal locations.

5. It brings Tigger from Winnie the Pooh to mind and that is always a good thing.

* Bs is a, tongue-in-cheek, reminder to myself to avoid the common meaning for it at all costs

2017: Risky Business

Confession: In true click bait form there are no dubious teenage antics, including dancing in underpants, to be found in this post.

I wasn’t going to do an end of year reflection this year because the entire year involved reflecting in a myriad of different spaces and also because it was a tad shit. However, when I sat down to write my goals for 2018, I was stuck as I kept thinking back so here are my thoughts in my ageing, rambling fashion.

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My 5 Take Aways from the ALT-C Winter Conference

These are my ‘notes to self’/to-dos after attending and presenting at the ALT-C Winter Conference 2017, this week. The two days had a packed programme, that was not only accessible from sitting at my desk but completely free as well. My thanks to everyone involved, and a special congratulations to the team for overcoming the initial technical hurdles.

I managed to attend a range of different session types and those I missed to due to work commitments or programme clashes, I am catching up with via the recordings. All the recordings can be accessed via the programme, embedded in each session.

These are my personal top take aways from the event.

Take away sign
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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Learning and Teaching through Play: A Play within a Play

Seamus Heaney quotation

Act I: Setting the scene

The words above are taken from an “ode to Adams House” that Seamus Heaney penned to as part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of its founding in Harvard (Kiely, 2013). It speaks of the differences between our youth and our experiences during university. Heaney is clear in the belief that playing was a separate entity from higher education, it is relegated to our childhood memories. He ends the poem by giving permission to the students to play: “To-day’s the day For intellectuals to play.”. Where in history did this dichotomy occur?

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The Manifesto for teaching online and my postcard

This post is in preparation for a Creativity at a Distance Workshop by Tanya Elias and hopefully it makes sense outside of that context.

I have put down my thoughts about a postcard I created in the first module of the Digital Education programme at the University of Edinburgh as a way of linking the annotation of the manifesto itself. It is my personal take on it. Please keep in mind that I am writing this eighteen months after I created it and thus my interpretation may be coloured by the time since. Also it is one very small artefact generated for this course and is not representative of the whole picture, it was simply a fitting example for this exercise.

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Creativity, Distance Learning & Connections

This is an overview/tour of some of the creative elements that I have experienced over the last two years as a student on the MSc in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. It has been on my to-do-list for a while but a recent post by Tanya Dorey-Elias, Creativity at a Distance,‏ was the perfect prompt to actually pull things together in one reflection.

I have completed four modules to date, Moodle being the main space for two and open WordPress sites for the other two. Connection with my fellow students across the globe was through private discussion forums, Twitter hashtags, Twitter chats, WordPress comments, synchronous Hangouts, synchronous Skype calls, synchronous text chats (Skype), TogetherTube, email and various other outside sites including Instagram, Padlet etc.

Creativity was at the core of all the modules although this was not explicitly fore fronted, indeed checking back over the learning outcomes, creativity is not mentioned once. These artefacts are samples of my own personal work and I want to be clear that the objects themselves are not what I am showcasing. The point I am making is that whilst making and sharing these with my tutors, classmates, even the wider world in some cases, I was connecting and learning. Crucially I learned that high end technical know-how is the skill least required for wonderful creativity and I was constantly amazed by what my colleagues produced.

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Can’t Crochet, Won’t Crochet

This post was an assignment for #mscde – Understanding Learners in an Online Environment. It is my reflection of a learner challenge, a new motor skill. It was submitted in March 2017.

Starting out

Upon initially reading the assignment I immediately thought of crochet, a skill that has alluded me from childhood. However, examining the details I worried this would not be enough of a departure from knitting, a skill I already possessed. Turning to the discussion forum to check out the feasibility it was interesting that a difference of opinion from each tutor transpired. Weighing this up together with the practical realities of being extremely short of free time I decided to forge ahead with crochet.

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Falling between the cracks: in search of a mentor

Zoshua Colah

Over the last couple of years I have been reading about the benefits of mentoring and colleagues have shared the many positive experiences they have gained from having a mentor. So what’s the problem? Simply put, as an education technologist, as with many other aspects of my professional life, I fall between the cracks. Internally, there are mentor schemes for academics, postgraduate students, administrative/clerical staff and technicians. I have asked about an equivalent scheme for professional support a few times without success and was directed to a coaching scheme instead.

However, having looked at this I simply couldn’t see how it was equivalent, it seemed to be about having a set number of sessions with a stranger to work through issues or problems within the work environment. This isn’t what I was envisioning, I think of mentoring as a longer term relationship with someone with whom you build trust, who has had similar experiences and can then advise me in my goals and directions, where I am going right and where I am hurtling off in the wrong direction. Big picture guidance not small picture problem solving.

I then turned to external sources again without success so I abandoned ship at that point. However, a recent Twitter conversation together with a personal review of 2017 brought these thoughts back to the front of my mind and I am taking a new approach to the problem – writing in the open.

At one point, I was asked ‘who do you have in mind?’. This surprised me, is it not the very point of an official scheme that mentors and mentees are matched by backgrounds and needs combined with interests (at least this is how I see it from the outside). How on earth do I know who is best suited? Having a foot in academia and a foot in technology (and being part of neither group) with no clear routes regarding professional development doesn’t make things easy.

This question then starts the snowball effect. If I were to find the right person how on earth do I cold-call a request to be my mentor? How much information do I need to give upfront? Am I going to look super needy? What do I do if this person either ignores my approaches or outright declines? What if I pre-empt this and ask more than one person and get more than one ‘yes’? I live on a small island and would have to rely on virtual connections, would that put people off? What if everyone says no???? Is this an act of total self-harm?

So in lieu of any rules or guidance I am throwing caution to the wind and directly asking the people* I most admire for their work and achievements, for their strength and openness in my online network – not to be my mentor but their thoughts and advice on the whole conversation. *This list is potentially huge and I am starting small to keep things manageable initially so please feel free to forward to anyone you think I have should have tagged and apologies to anyone who did not appreciate being tagged.

Before signing off I want to be clear that I am surrounded by incredible, supportive friends and colleagues who are mentors in many different ways – but it is back to being an education technologist, we don’t have clarity about our roles never mind expect others to understand and provide advice on our complex journeys. I think this post is therefore just the start of a series tackling identity and perceived identify but that is for another day.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your stories


The VLE: It’s about the people, people

I had to give a presentation this week on my ideas of how to inspire academics to use the VLE. The timing of this meant that I had read Kerry Pinny’s I am not your enemy blog post the week before, along with the numerous heartfelt reactions this generated. Admittedly, this wasn’t the ideal article to read before such a presentation, I felt like the enemy before I had even created the opening slide.

So I took a deep breath, hunkered down and channeled the brilliant visuals by Bryan Mathers (@bryanMMathers), if I was going to be the enemy at least I was going down in a carroty blaze of creativeness, screaming “It’s about the people, people.“.

The hill is still steep and the top looks a long way off but here are my slides, for what they are worth, to try to ease the way for others.

Diving into #clmooc

Having been on the periphery of previous #clmooc (Connected Learning MOOC (#clmooc) A Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration) runs this year I was determined to dive on in. The barriers to joining in were to do with summer being my busiest time, for workload and family, but after so many years of following on the outskirts it felt a bit daunting to dive in. In some ways it felt like entering a room of strangers, many of whom had close knit connections, and announcing ‘Hey, I’m Clare. Look what I made.‘. Stranger yet was that whilst the majority of people didn’t know me, I felt as if I knew many of them after observing conversations during previous iterations. This highlights my wonder and simultaneous bafflement of open online communities.

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