I’ve had one of those months that has been superficially busy, but when I look back on it, I can’t point to anything particularly significant. Sometimes it’s just about doing the work I guess.
One thing I did do was, along with some colleagues, complete an interesting internal project on community amongst open degree students. Creating a sense of community, or belonging, is important for students, there’s plenty of evidence that student who make those connections tend to persist in their studies, for example. It is more difficult for distance education students, obviously, as a lot of that community arises pretty seamlessly on campus. It is even more difficult to establish for students on the open degree, who are all studying different subjects, so don’t have that sense of belonging to a cohort. Our work found that this is not always needed, or even desired, by Open University students (they often choose this way to study precisely because they want to work alone), but others do value it. We also found that although we value community and promote it as an institution we often make decisions (for example around IT choices, or extreme GDPR concern) that hinder any community development. I would like there to be someone present in the room whose sole responsibility is to consider the impact of such decisions on community.
I started using my podcast as a means to explore revisiting the 25 Years of Ed Tech book. It’s a process as people like to say – the podcast as medium for reflection on what I think of each chapter now, the comments raised by the Between the Chapters podcast, and consideration in light of recent developments, particularly the pandemic and AI. It’s all a bit rambling, but hey, that’s the charm, right? Right?
I’ve started exercising most mornings, which means lots of audiobook time, so I got through 13 titles this month. Minnie Driver’s autobiography is well written, hilarious and whip-smart. A Revolution in the Head, Ian MacDonald’s account of every Beatles recording, is both brilliantly insightful and painfully overwritten at times. He’s certainly no mindless fan, and is savage on some recordings using words like embarrassing, tedious, shambles. But when he writes about the social significance of I Want to Hold Your Hand, or the structure of Tomorrow Never Knows, then the writing soars. He’s wrong about Helter Skelter though. AI is making a reappearance in horror fiction, from a heyday in the 70s, as witnessed by Sammy Scott’s Beta, a tale of a malicious AI house of the future. I expect AI will become the new zombies in horror – every possible variation will be explored.
Vinyl I’ve been listening to this month (if not actually released this month) has been: The National’s Frankenstein part 2 release, Laugh Track; Adia Victoria’s evocative blues in Southern Gothic; The Walkmen’s ode to calming down a bit, Heaven; Mercury Rev’s 1998 classic lush indie Deserter’s Songs.