on Reflection

OK – a bit of a change of plan – I’ve been looking at some of the blogs already set up by OCA students and have read the instructions re. all submitted work needs to be done within the context of the course – so, have decided that I need a separate blog for the reflective practice, which will be linked to from this one – but not vice versa (?) tbd.

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Fresh starts and Lemonade

Well, this is interesting. Nine months since I posted in the blog – time to incubate a whole new person 🙂 and yes, looks like that’s what I’ve been doing – well, maybe not so much a new person as rediscovering the old one. My Last blog post was 4th October, I remember a nice few days after that – I went to see Mumford and Sons live in Brighton on 10th, fantastic concert, wonderful music, great musicians. Life was good and secure and the future exciting as I planned to give myself time to work out what I really did want to do for the next few years.

On 11th October my husband told me he wanted a divorce, there was no-one else, but no room for negotiation –  ah, bit of a spanner in the works there then – and as for ‘no-one else’ cue music to denote my cynicism at that point dear reader, and yes I was correct and he’s getting married to her in September. He moved out at the beginning of December and we were divorced in April. I took the view, being a pragmatic northerner, that I didn’t want to be married to someone who didn’t want to be married to me – and that actually this might not be a bad thing at all for me, not happy for the children, but selfishly I became keen on the idea quite quickly. “When life gives you lemons make lemonade”, great cheesy saying but true – and if you don’t like lemonade make lemon curd or drink lots of G&T!

So… I need to earn money, support the offspring though exams, keep a family home until they fly the nest and meanwhile keep my sanity by doing the things that I really enjoy. The garden has, sadly, not had the attention it deserved – I have got some veggies planted but have been too preoccupied by repairs and building work to give it a lot of time – and interestingly have found it hard to ‘give myself permission’ to things that I do not count as ‘work’.  I realised I was making the OU work, for example, stretch to fit the time I had, rather than the time I was being paid to work.  I had done nothing else on the textiles at all. This must stop.

I have therefore signed up to do ‘Textiles: A Creative Approach’ with the Open College of the Arts (OCA) with a view to doing the other textile courses and eventually getting a BA in textiles (well, I don’t have a BA – so might as well – and I respond well to formal assessment… some people collect stamps, I collect degrees OK?)

This blog will now be used as part of my reflective practice – so I’d better get better at tagging I think!  once again, watch this space, and I hope this time you don’t fall asleep waiting for the next post 🙂

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So much for guilt free….

Having given up full time paid employment the theory was that I would now have the time to do all of those things that I previously had not had the time to do.  I would no longer feel guilty about fruit being unpicked and there not being enough wildlife on the whole of the south coast to eat the windfalls…  ho hum, that’ll teach me.


autumn pickings

autumn pickings


The things I do on a daily basis really do expand to fill the time available, what with the OU stuff, chaplaincy, meeting … I know, excuses excuses. Basically I’m not sure how much more preserved anything I can make – there is only so much Jam and chutney one family can eat (and give away). I do have a regular home for some of the Jams though, and I’ve developed a new line in plum sauce that I hope will take us through the winter in stir fries. I have one more big plum picking to do (with step ladder) and then have to start on the apples. The press is in the hallway, having come back from being loaned out to a couple of community groups, so I have no excuse not to get apple juice (cider? – bad Quaker!!) this year. I also want to get the grapes picked, still have lots of “mulled grape jelly” from last year, so think I might try making real wine with this lot (very bad Quaker).

So, off to pick plums and collect the dodgy ones plus windfalls for the chickens 🙂

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Hone again home again jiggety jig

A delayed return home from ALT-C due to stopping over in London for the night.  Found myself having an interesting conversation over breakfast at the Quaker B&B with an American woman on her way to Venice with a friend. We were sitting at the “we would like to have a conversation over breakfast” table (great idea) and discovered a couple of very interesting points of contact.  My companion turned out to be Prof Kristin Morrison, a scholar of modern English & Irish Drama, one time colleague at Boston College of the late Prof Mary Daly – the radical (and somewhat scary) feminist theologian who was at the vanguard of the emergence of Feminist Theology as a serious academic discipline. Kristin is now living in Glasgow having married another icon – but this time of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) community, Prof Robin Popplestone.  After a career in Edinburgh he married Kristin and moved to Amherst (Mass.) –  returning to Scotland after becoming ill. Such a small world that two very different parts of my life could be “met” in a stranger over breakfast.

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ALT-C day 3

Final day of ALT, sitting in the East Midlands Conference centre for a few hours waiting to go get train. A series of apparently sensible-at-the-time decisions have left me stranded with nowhere to store luggage while exploring the town as planned – alternative plan to meet someone this pm has fallen through due to geographical logistics (I’m not on the right Nottingham campus!) so time to catch up with email etc. The experiment if only bringing the iPad has been largely a success – no battery life issues, and manifestly more portable than my laptop. I worked out the HTML / plain text posting glitch for the OU VLE – meaning I could actually format forum messages to my students – but I can’t do some of the back-end word press tweaking I want to do.

The morning session I went to was interesting – David Morris and Nigel Ecclesfield – looking at themes emerging from ALT conferences over the years. They were using a cheap tool – Cirilab’s speed reader $29.95 for Qualitative text analysis with another piece of software (I think called theme reader ) running on top to extract mind-map like diagrams. Very nice – but sadly old and windows based, running on XP.

The final keynote speaker was ill and unable to attend, so they had a plenary panel instead, with each speaker giving a short presentation on their responses to the “sea change” they saw coming. Gilly Salmon was her wonderful Systemsy self with good metaphors and verbal imagery – I still use one of her “rich pictures” with my students as an example of best practice in that technique. It reinforced my decision to really begin to explore the use of Systems Thinking and practice as a critical and analytic tool in Education.

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ALT-C day2

Had a late start today, made the mistake of trying to “quickly” sort out getting offspring’s passport renewed – which involved complex arrangements around her work hours, a Stephen Fry event we are going to at the Southbank and so needing to find hotel near Victoria. So missed first session, which was annoying.

The session on failure – “What went wrong” which I did get to, was interesting for me in the light of my own DPhil research. Very glad to see that learning from failure is becoming a more acceptable topic of discussion. The panels’ taxonomy of failure was more complex than mine with a more institutional bias (I thought). I had a very simple division (arising out of the empirical work i did ) into technical, contextual and conceptual failures. I.e. The kit sometimes is not fit for purpose, there is no (or not enough) support for what you are trying to do, and the people you are working with either don’t ‘get’, or misunderstand, what you are trying to do.

The keynote by Sugata Mitra was packed, and rightly so. The irony was, I think, widely noted that his message was also “beyond the lecture ” but as he had some empirical work backing this up it was experienced as inspiring not hectoring. His work letting kids loose with computers and watching them teach themselves has certainly been the experience of many parents who choose to home educate their children. I only did this for 6 months (certainly know it’s not an easy option!) but watched this phenomenon at work – particularly, as Mitra says, when you get a group of kids collaborating around one screen. Must dig out that research on the effectiveness of home Ed, done IIRC by someone at the Inst of Ed in London – an Aussie?

(another very full day when I didn’t get time to add more to this!)

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ALT-C Nottingham day 1

Currently at ALT-C at the university of nottingham – the conference for the Association of Learning Technologists. My first time at an ALT conference, not presenting a paper but have come just to learn and to network – having said that I have ducked out of the first workshop, am not sitting chatting, but am on my own, on a comfy sofa, in the middle of a sea of people (also ducking out of first workshop) tweeting and blogging and reflecting on the keynote by Donald Clark.

True to form Donald was engaging, provocative, annoying, inspiring … At times I was cheering him on and at times disagreeing profoundly – pretty much my usual reaction when I’ve heard him speak. Good choice ALT!

In many respects he embodied what is good about the lecture format while raging against it – not quite the contradiction it sounds because his main point (I think) was that it does not always work as a good format for information delivery – we have good technological solutions for that – what he didn’t seem to address (unless I missed it during Twitter distraction) was how to use the contact time in a more facilitation / workshop mode ( having made the content available previously you can now really get to grips with it) ie the kind of approach we were trying to promote in the use of the creativity zone at Sussex.

The issue of lecture capture is an interesting one – I’m still not convinced it should be the norm – or indeed common – I think there are huge ethical implications about consent and the impact of the capture on the students who are there. I do think that inspiring lecturers should be digitally ‘captured’ and made widely available – but in a bespoke format that makes the best use of technology.

And now I need to find out what I’m supposed to be doing next… Hope it involves food:-)

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