What Christmas teaches us about education

It’s that time of year again.

Lights appear strung across shopping streets like Victorian washing lines. The same four songs are playing in every single shop. Retail workers have that glazed-eye expression from hearing the same four songs on a loop all day. Everyday packaging suddenly is adorned with pictures of holly leaves. Everybody is ‘festive’. Continue reading “What Christmas teaches us about education”

Using VandR mapping techniques for platform development

I attended the first Jisc Digital Leaders course a couple of years ago (you should go, if you get the opportunity), and one of the central ideas is that of Visitor and Residence (VandR) in digital practice.

VandR is a really useful way of thinking about people’s interactions/behaviours/relationships with technology. You can read more about it on Dave White’s website. I think it is fair to say that VandR was a counter against the prevalent (and potentially dangerous) use of Prensky’s Digital Immigrant/Native work.
Continue reading “Using VandR mapping techniques for platform development”

My computer told me to say this…

Lots of people are going on about how AI change how we do assessment and feedback. Or, how AI can replace teachers. Or how AI can provide truly personalised learning opportunities.

But what if it is the wrong way round?

Instead of AI replacing the education system, maybe it should be the product of it?

Three years of a degree, and during that time, students have to develop AI so their tutors don’t know whether assessments are self- or computer-generated. If they can fool their tutor, then they pass.

Submit two version of each assignment, when the AI gets a higher mark, you graduate!

No-one is talking about that, are they?


Or for our new robot overlords:


Which reminds me of:

MC Top Trumps

The other day, I was listening to Rakim, widely regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time. I started to wonder why. A good discussion with my friend, Sunny, and we came up with these criteria and this survey.

I would be really interested to see your views on different MCs, so get adding them using the form below. You can add as many as you like.

If you would like to ask about the questionnaire, or what we want to do with the info, then either me or contact me.

Email Charter

A few years ago, Chris Anderson (of TED fame) proposed an email charter to help stop ‘everyone… drowning in email’. Every hour we spend working on our groaning inboxes is simply making the problem worse for our friends and colleagues.

So the emailcharter.org was born. It provided 10 ‘rules’ to help people use email better.

However, I noticed the other day that the charter website was down. I asked if it was gone forever (the ISP reminder emails probably got lost somewhere in an inbox), but still haven’t had a response.

So, in the spirit of keeping these things live, here is a version.

email charter

10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral

1. Respect Recipients Time

This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender. the onus is on YOU to minimise the time your email will take to process. Even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.

2. Short or Slow is not Rude

Let’s mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we’re all facing, it’s OK if replies take a while coming and if they don’t give detailed responses to all your questions. No one wants to come over as brusque, so please don’t take it personally. We just want our lives back!

3. Celebrate Clarity

Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic, and maybe includes a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens] [Lou Priority]. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. Avoid strange fonts and colours.

4. Quash Open-Ended Questions

It is asking a lot to send someone an email with four long paragraphs of turgid text followed by “Thoughts?”. Even well-intended-but-open questions like “How can I help?” may not be that helpful. Email generosity requires simplifying, easy-to-answer questions. “Can I help best by a) calling b) visiting or c) staying right out of it?!”

5. Slash Surplus cc’s

cc’s are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don’t default to ‘Reply All’. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.

6. Tighten the Thread

Some emails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it’s usually right to include the thread being responded to. But it’s rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut what’s not relevant. Or consider making a phone call instead.

7. Attack Attachments

Don’t use graphics files as logos or signatures that appear as attachments. Time is was. trying to see if there’s something to open. Even worse is sending text as an attachment when it could have been included in the body of the email.

8. Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR

If your email message can be expressed in half a dozen words, just put it in the subject line, followed by EOM (= End of Message). This saves the recipient having to actually open the message. Ending a note with “No need to respond” or NNTR, is a wonderful act of generosity. Many acronyms confuse as much as help, but these two are golden and deserve wide adoption.

9. Cut Contentless Responses

You don’t need to reply to every email. especially not those that are themselves clear responses. An email saying “Thanks for your note. I’m in.” does not need you to reply “Great.” That just cost someone another 30 seconds.

10. Disconnect!

If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we’d all get less email! Consider calendaring half-days at work where you can’t go online. Or a commitment to email-free weekends. Or an ‘auto-response’ that references this charter. And don’t forget to smell the roses.

Alternatively, maybe we shouldn’t use email as our default communication tool/technique. Why not use something like Slack or Microsoft Teams (*shudders*) to communicate within teams or projects? Have a read of James Clay’s post on alternatives here.

Link to full-size image
email charter

Revisiting my VandR mapping one year on

Lawrie Phipps recently published a post, “Development not Training: an approach to social media for leaders“, setting out the history and rationale for the VandR mapping exercise he uses on his Jisc Digital Leaders course (VandR is shorthand for Visitor and Resident, a really useful way of thinking about how we engage with our digital lives – see here for a natty cartoon). If you haven’t read his post, please do (but promise to come back). And if you haven’t attended the Jisc Digital Leaders course, I would highly recommend it – booking is available for the May 2017 but I do not get commission.
Continue reading “Revisiting my VandR mapping one year on”