Highlight: In a time when fun is in short supply, it was a ball to be a guest on Terry Greene and Anne-Marie Scott’s podcast “Check the O.L.: Liner Notes from Groundbreaking Online Learning”. I discussed 1999’s Open University course, You, Your Computer and the Net (which I’ve mentioned on here several times). With apologies for my audio quality, it’s a good chat, and we each choose a song from 1999 also. As well as being an informal, friendly listen, what Terry and Anne-Marie are doing here aligns with the aim of 25 Years of Ed Tech, and the accompanying Between the Chapters podcast, namely that there is a recent history to ed tech, which is worth exploring.
Teaching: I didn’t have much to do with this, but as the nominal head of Curriculum in IET, it was great to see colleagues launch the latest microcredential. This one is Online Teaching: Accessibility and Inclusive Learning. Accessibility and inclusion is something the OU’s distance ed approach has been developed to address, with a high percentage of students declaring a disability. Now that there is an increased shift to online learning, ensuring course design meets the needs of all learners is something a lot of educators will be seeking to improve.
Theme: Now that lockdown is coming to an end – I have my first vaccination appointment, local travel restrictions have been lifted in Wales, people are talking about face to face meetings again – I am mostly filled with optimism, but there’s also this sense of being in a grey zone. Having to relearn socialisation (I mean, I was never very good anyway), getting to grips with what has changed, etc – it’s like people who got killed when we knew the war was ending or the Berlin wall was going to come down. There’s still peril in this interim period. The theme then is negotiating these end days of one regime while we’re unsure what comes next.
Lowlight: For reasons I don’t know, but which I believe to be valid, the OU had to cancel the implementation of the Associate Lecturer (what most of you know as tutors) contract. The contract has been planned for a long time, and something that the OU should be proud of – when the rest of the sector is moving towards casualisation it would put part-time tutors on a contract as permanent members of staff. For many of our tutors this means the difference between being able to get a mortgage, feeling secure and making plans. The reasons are, I think, tied up with the implementation of the necessary IT system rather than any shying away from the contract itself, and it will be implemented eventually. But after a year when all the staff at the OU have pulled together, and Associate Lecturers have provided such valuable support to students, it led to a very sudden change in feeling around the institution. This had echoes of the OU crisis of 2018 with distrust and a sense of betrayal. I don’t have any particular insight on it or any inside knowledge, but seeing this division and the sense of anger and despair amongst AL colleagues was a low point for sure. Hopefully there can be a resolution to this soon, but even if there is, trust and love take a long to build and are not an infinite resource.
Vinyl highlight: Finally the Sault albums that came out last year – Untitled (Rise) and Untitled (Black Is) – got a proper vinyl release. These are both amazing – it’s kinda greedy to release not one double album that is the best thing that year, but two. They have that quality of being both completely current and also seeming like they could have been released any time over the past 40 years.
Book: I usually opt for non-fiction but this month I have loved David Nicholls’ Sweet Sorrow. It’s the tale of Charlie who leaving school after his GCSEs falls in with an amateur theatre crowd, in order to pursue a relationship with a girl he meets accidentally. It is laugh out loud funny (someone should invent an acronym for that), with so many apt metaphors and similes on each page you feel rather punch drunk at the end. It also perfectly captures the sort of non-existence familiar to many of us who attended comprehensives, and had no clue what we were doing or wanted to be.