monthly roundup

January round up

Despite being 27 weeks into the year it is still only January apparently. I gave a keynote at an informative event organised by the Open University in Wales (pictured with my colleague John Butcher), to celebrate the launch of their Access Insight Project, looking at the experience of Access and Foundation students across Wales. It’s an excellent report, with HE and FE providers across Wales all collaborating effectively (not always the case in higher/further ed). I was asked to give a ‘provocative’ talk before lunch to get people chatting. Provocative can often be a synonym for ‘obnoxious’ but I hope I avoided that. I worked up the metaphor of the internet design for building robust systems in Higher Ed, looking at the systemic, institutional and course level. My slides are on Google.

On the GO-Gn front we have organised a one day seminar for 12 members who we are bringing to OER24. If you’re going to that conference (and why wouldn’t you?), come and say hi to us. This may well be my last OER conference, so I’m glad it’ll be in a fun place (Cork), with friends such as Rajiv Jhangiani, Catherine Cronin, Tom Farrelly, and Laura Czerniewicz. Speaking of prepping for my OU departure, I’m also very pleased that my colleague Rob Farrow will be taking over from me as co-editor of JIME (along with Katy Jordan) when I step down in June.

I have been hitting books hard in this longest of months with fifteen completed. I’ve reactivated my Goodreads page for 2024, so you can track all my reads there. I’ve also dipped into using The StoryGraph, some stats shown below (they need to make these embeddable).

Marie Arana’s scholarly, comprehensive and hugely readable biography of Simon Bolivar is worth reading for the narrative alone, but it probably contains lots of lessons about revolutions, aspirations and the hard work of everyday governance that one could apply to many sectors (not least, educational technology). I am a big fan of horror writer Stephen Graham Jones, and the second of his Indian Lake trilogy, Don’t Fear the Reaper is a meta-fiction in slasher lore. Having grown up watching VHS horror in the 80s, I like the idea of this literacy in the subject – I wasn’t bunking off school, I was studying. I’ve been boring everyone talking about the importance of microbes – basically everything is down to microbes after reading I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong. Other notable reads this month: finally got around to reading last year’s hot novel, Yellowface, which was a funny, nimble take on social media, publishing, and racism; Jordan Peele edits a fine anthology of black horror writers short stories in Out There Screaming; another excellent Mexican horror outing from Sylvia Moreno Garcia, featuring film and Nazi occults in Silver Nitrate.

I started 2024 with some solid vinyl buying options. Maren picked up this Welsh/Brazilian fusion album from Carwyn Ellis which makes you wonder why there are not more Latin Welsh albums. It’s marvellously sunny and uplifting, which was very welcome in January. I don’t know if January is too early to call album of the year, but Bill Ryder-Jones’s Iechyd Da (Welsh for Good Health), is going to be a contender. Cinematic, sweeping & romantic, many tracks start with a simple piano and climax with strings & school choir, as if each one poses a mournful question and finds its own optimistic resolution.

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