Highlight: The OERxDomains21 conference was a big highlight this month. When we’ve all become accustomed to online conferences, it is difficult to make any of them feel different. They are in the same platforms (Zoom/Team), they have the same structure, and they don’t feel different from your everyday work. What I admired about OERxDomains21 was the thought, and successful implementation, of an overall aesthetic. Beyond a logo, not many conferences do this. The Community TV theme was carried through in the programme (like a TV guide), the platform (StreamYard and YouTube), the intro and end credits to each talk, and the old adverts shown in breaks. In addition Discord came the closest I’ve seen online to recreating the genuine informal hallway chats at conferences, and the instant recording offered by StreamYard meant that if you missed a session it was instantly available. And it could then be released openly a couple of days after the conference ended. It’s not often you attend something that makes you rethink the format of the whole genre. Oh, and the sessions were amazing.
Teaching: Not exactly teaching, but I’ll include presentations under this heading too. Following on from the triumphant session last year, Tom Farrelly got the band back together for one last job, to do Gasta 2021. For those who don’t know, Gastas are lightning presentations (5 mins) preceded by a communal countdown in Gaelic, led by Gasta Master Tom Farrelly. The theme for these was the pandemic one year on, and I did a version of my Jaws and the online pivot piece (also a chapter in the upcoming Metaphors of Ed Tech book).
Theme: I had my first vaccination jab this month, like so many others. Pubs in Wales reopened outdoors, I visited my parents for the first time since August, my daughter returned to her uni accommodation, we got to visit beaches again. While not quite fully open, the theme was one of emerging this month. I found my vaccination a strangely moving experience – in a big leisure centre, everyone queuing patiently, aided by helpers it was like partaking in a big social success. It’s odd that so many Brexiteers are anti-vaccine as this is probably the nearest they’ll come to the blitz spirit they so idolise. It’s been tiring though doing that going out thing again, like learning how to be a social human in the world all over again.
Lowlight: The creepiness and mendacity of the Proctorio lawsuit reached new depths this month, and is I fear, part of a pattern we will see more of as ed tech companies strengthen their hold on higher ed, and are led by people with no understanding of, or sympathy with, education.
Vinyl highlight: I’ve been listening to Cassandra Jenkins’ An Overview on Phenomenal Nature a lot this month. It’s part trippy folk, part jazz, part transcendental therapy session. When she sings dreamily “go to the ocean/
The water, it cures everything” it makes you want to get in your car and drive to the sea.
Book: I read in one sitting David Baddiel’s Jews Don’t Count. His central argument is that for those on the progressive left (where he places himself), anti-semitism is somehow seen as a lesser form of racism. He cites a number of persuasive arguments for this, which you can make up your own mind on. What I admired about the book in particular was that it set its boundaries clearly (for example, he’s not talking about far right anti-semitism here, on the assumption we know that is wrong), makes his points clearly, counters any arguments, and then gets out in about 28K words. There was no need to extend chapters, to add in a whole section on cancel culture, or provide a detailed history of Israel. I wish more authors would do this.