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July round-up

My “doing it for the newsletter” monthly round-up of activity and random bits for July.

It’s been a bit of a disjointed month, because after returning from the Eden conference in Dublin at the end of June, both Maren and I came down with covid (no-one else from the conference seems to have been inflicted so probably an airport/plane thing). It was as rough as the first time around, a reminder that it’s still there and still carries a punch. I made sure to take time off work this time around though – last time I soldiered on attending Teams meetings and I think that meant it lingered around longer (it also normalises doing that for everyone, so don’t do it folks).

Then we went on holiday to West Wales. We usually go out of season, but thought, hey, lets try it in July when it will be warm and sunny. It was not warm and sunny. But we did get to visit some great beaches (Barafundle Bay FTW!) and have fish and chips on the beach.

Reading wise, I was asked to provide a cover blurb for Dave Cormier’s upcoming book, so got an advance (digital) copy. I highly recommend getting your mitts on this when it comes out. Dave takes the idea of a pedagogy of abundance that I toyed with but never really explored fully, and really delves in to what it means for education. I’m surprised how little discussion there is about the impact of super-abundant content on a system designed around scarcity, so thankfully Dave has definitely covered that ground now. It will be especially relevant with AI generating more content than we ever needed.

Speaking of must-read books, Brian Lamb has a generous and thoughtful review of Metaphors of Ed Tech in the Canadian Journal of Learning Technology that I must repay him for through the medium of long ice hockey chats soon.

A post that resonated with lots of people this month is Inger Mewburn’s the enshittification of academic social media. Like Inger, I used to advocate the benefits of using social media to share work, but also like her, I don’t think that’s sound advice any more. As she puts it “things have changed. Telling academics they can achieve career success by using today’s algorithmic-driven platforms is like telling Millennials they could afford to buy a house by eating less avocado on toast. It’s a cruel lie because social media is a shit way to share your work now.” The daily ongoing mess of Twitter (laughably now rebranded) reinforces her points. But I still believe in blogging, that was always the hub for me, and social media more of an add-on. I’d still propose blogging to anyone but not for the likes or the promotion. For the LOLs. Anyway, I’m on Threads here if you want to play with another social site.

At GO-GN HQ we’ve been busy organising the seminar for our 10th anniversary bash which will take place before OEGlobal in Edmonton (I mainly choose North American conferences based on their proximity to NHL games). We’re bringing about 30 members to the 2 day seminar and then they will all stay on for the conference. This month we also had excellent webinars from Adrian Stagg on the ecology of open educational practices in Australia and Guy Standing on The Education Commons: Reviving the Soul of Lifelong Learning

More Bryan Mathers GO-GN penguin art will be forthcoming

And while we’re on open education, I attended an internal OU presentation about the Open Stem Labs. I’m a huge fan of this immensely practical work in making various STEM experiments accessible to distance ed students. Some of the online tools are free to use, and others are restricted to students on specific modules (often a capacity issue). The pandemic demonstrated the fragility in any system based on the assumption of face to face attendance, so more HEIs should be investing in similar approaches. If only this was the sort of ed tech that investors got excited about.

It’s been a good month for listening to, and buying vinyl, often from very established artists. Jenny Lewis’s Joy Y’All is an indie doo-wop homage to joy, and makes perfect summer holiday listening. Jason Isbell continues to be ridiculously consistent in turning out brilliant albums with Weathervanes. If you fancy something a bit more introspective, This is the Kit’s third album, Careful of your Keepers, is produced by Welsh wizard Gruff Rhys and is simultaneously loud and quiet. I also found comfort in the fact that someone as long in the tooth as Lloyd Cole can still be producing intriguing music with On Pain. And to top it off I finally got Everything But The Girl’s Fuse, their first album for 24 years, which shows you can get cooler as you get older.

I read 11 books this month, mainly holiday horror or crime (nothing quite like a horror book to relax to in a rainy coastal cottage). I thought Jarvis Cocker’s Good Pop, Bad Pop was an entertaining way to approach a biography, by cleaning out an old loft space of 20 years of accumulated junk and deciding whether to keep or discard the items. I listened to this on audiobook, read by the man himself and his dry phrasing was hilarious in places. Becky Chambers short sci-fi meditation A Psalm for the Wild Built was a decent antidote to the AI angst swirling around. It features a friendly robot in conversation with a tea monk, which I think might be my new vocation. And for sheer self indulgence I was in heaven with Matt Taylor’s beautiful, and beautifully detailed, Jaws – Memories from Martha’s Vineyard.

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