Highlight: As I’ve probably bored you all with mentioning, I wrote a book recently, “Metaphors of Ed Tech“. It’s sort of a companion piece to 25 Years – one is the narrative approach to a subject, the other the metaphorical. I submitted the completed manuscript to Athabasca University Press in February, and it has since gone out for reviews, which all came back favourably. One reviewer commented that it was “a fun and robust read” and the other that it was “a delight to read”. Those are the types of comments for which you would make up false identities to post on Amazon, so it was an unashamed ego boost to get them. Athabasca Press work by getting the whole book in, then reviewing and only then approving (because they’re open access, they work slightly differently in this order to many commercial publishers). So after the reviews were in, it went to the committee and was approved for publication. In addition, I worked with Bryan Mathers and we have some great ideas for the cover, coming to a t-shirt near you soon.
Teaching: I am the Chair of the Open Programme at the Open University. This is our multi-disciplinary degree which allows students to select from 251 modules to create their own pathways. This year we undertook our Periodic Quality Review. There is an annual review process at the OU, but also every 6 years each programme undertakes a more in depth review process, which results in recommendations. It is a significant undertaking – we prepared a 40 page Self Evaluation Document, a panel of internal and external reviewers was recruited and over the course of three days there were sessions with senior management, students, associate lecturers, the team, faculty representatives, data, marketing, etc.
We have been preparing for it for about 8 months and the review took place at the end of June. It was an incredibly collegiate affair, with everyone seeking to find answers to show what is working well, and recommendations for improvement. We had a very useful and supportive report from the panel, which praised the open programme and its role in the Open University. I mention it not just because it was a rewarding experience but because it represents the kind of hard work that all those working in higher education undertake to ensure high quality learning experiences for students. And yet it is also the type of activity that gets almost no attention, unlike say, setting a research network with negligible funding or institutional support which is so divisive it pulls in resource and disrupts activity across the whole university. Oh well, as a variation on the the saying goes, you can do good work as long as you don’t want any recognition for it.
Theme: Beaches are my theme – we went on holiday at the end of the month to West Wales and visited a total of 18 different beaches with the dogs. Each one carries its own character, and calls forth different behaviour and reactions. There’s probably a metaphor for education in this somewhere, but that’s enough metaphors for one post.
Lowlight: As well as the aforementioned research network with all the upset and division it created, the other lowlight was offered by watching the strange reaction to England losing the Euro 2020(1) final. After a period when their diversity, modesty and decent humanity seemed to indicate a better England was possible, the loss on penalties brought with it all the reminders of the racial hatred that is only held in abeyance as long as no mistake is made. It was a great relief to be living in Wales and miss out on all that “It’s coming home” nonsense. I’ll just put the highlights of the Wales homecoming party in 2016 on instead.
Vinyl highlight: There were a lot of really good releases this month – Wolf Alice, GreenTea Peng, Lucy Dacus. But I’ve gone for Faye Webster’s “I Know I’m Funny Ha Ha” – it’s on the fabulous Secretly Canadian label for a start and is a mix of alt RnB, with country twinges and indie lyrics. It’s the Smiths via Thundercat, full of wit and heartbreak. It’ll make you want to cry in a good way.
Book: As I went on leave, I’ll go for a holiday type read – the Mermaid of the Black Conch by Monique Roffey. It recounts a romance between a fisherman on a small Caribbean island and the mermaid Aycaycia, who was cursed centuries previously. Caught by obnoxious Americans, she returns to a land based woman, and this account is where Roffey really triumphs. Of course, her presence in the small village brings its share of trouble and the sense of impending threat makes it a tense read. It acts as an effective allegory for the broader perils women face in society, as the narrator says “Womanhood was a dangerous business if you didn’t get it right”, and it’s also an effective romance, and an ideal, intelligent holiday book.