Guest Post: Dr Patricia Xavier – Critical Pedagogy

a link in a large chainThis week I spoke about the discrimination I’ve experienced as a female engineer to my (overwhelmingly white and male) engineering students. I also spoke about what I’ve witnessed in terms of racism and ableism in the sector, and the evidence of this in everyday engineering design. I’ve also worked this into part of their assessment (they’re still a bit stunned…). I’ve done it because I’m discontent with the line that we decide to draw to separate education from personal, complex human experiences, and the techniques and knowledge that we consider to be valid content in our subjects.

Education doesn’t respect bubbles, staff and students experience injustice both outside and inside of the classroom. Not acknowledging this doesn’t make marginalisation less of a reality. By ignoring it, maybe we’re even implicitly condoning the shocking statistics that show the ethnic profile of the names of our students has a bearing on their likelihood of being invited for a job interview, or that our BAME students are more likely to be stopped and searched by police.

I want to find ways to practice teaching inclusively, to understand my own white identity and the often unquestioned Western ideologies underpinning our systems, but it’s hard! I don’t always get it right – I still have my own blinkers that I’m not aware of.

Darren Minister from SALT and I have been discussing this for a while and we’ve decided to start a critical pedagogy group, to play with a safe (and brave) space to have these conversations and explore what it means in our integrated personal/ professional capacities within an educational institution.

It’s open to all staff, regardless of your role, contact or for more information

Critical Pedagogy Community of Practice

[:en]The past year has brought discussions about equality, diversity and inclusion to the forefront in an abrupt and painful way. From discussions about student digital poverty in blended learning, to confronting structural racism in UK society as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, these issues (always present) now seem closer to the surface than ever. How do we respond to these challenges in our teaching practice across all subjects? How can we move to educational practice with a driving philosophy of emancipation, rather than one that might be subtly perpetuating inequality? Inspired by the works of Paolo Freire and bell hooks, this group will meet to discuss critical pedagogies, share practice and support each other to broaden perspectives. All members of staff welcome!


A community of practice to share and discuss ideas, teaching strategies, and teaching resources in relation to critical pedagogy, critical thinking and associated radical pedagogies e.g. the work of Paulo Freire and bell hooks.


Anyone interested in exploring power and privilege in education. Anyone who would like to develop these teaching strategies and pedagogy in their own teaching practice, and/ or are already doing so, and would like to discuss and meet with like-minded colleagues. Applicable to all disciplines.


To build a learning and support network for colleagues interested in teaching as a way to develop critical consciousness in ourselves and our students, through sharing experiences, ideas, strategies and resources.


Mainly through ‘TEAMs’ with opportunities to chat, share links and meet via video.


If you are interested in becoming part of this community of practice, please contact:

Darren Minister (Academic Developer, SALT)


Dr Patricia Xavier (Associate Professor, Engineering)[:]

[:en]Rob Teacher? Robo Student?[:]

[:en]I’m a bit late to this as it launched at the beginning of the year but it was highlighted in a JISC post from Matt Ramirez about Virtual Reality We’ve seen QR codes and Aurasma but this is much more Robo cop.

The video below shows a case study of the DAQRI smart helmet in use in construction but what about teaching and learning? Medicine, Engineering, Archaeology……..?


[:en]Self Teaching Students[:]

Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University, Dean of Applied Physics at Harvard, and Vice-President of the Optical Society, talks about who he changed his lectures from trying to transfer knowledge to getting the students to teach each other.

Open? Educational?

OER (Open Educational Resources) 2015 took place at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on 14th and 15th April in a very sunny Cardiff.

The question of the conference was “What does it take to move OER into to the mainstream?”

Introductory Video

After the usual interminable welcomes we got Cable Green’s keynote. I won’t give a blow by blow account as you can watch it yourself here

They key elements I got from him though were

He opened with the 5 Rs of openness from David Wiley, where OERs should have the following 5 attributes –

• Retain – the right to make, own, and control copies of the content
• Reuse – the right to use the content in a wide range of ways (e.g., in a class, in a study group, on a website, in a video)
• Revise – the right to adapt, adjust, modify, or alter the content itself (e.g., translate the content into another language)
• Remix – the right to combine the original or revised content with other open content to create something new (e.g., incorporate the content into a mashup)
• Redistribute – the right to share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others (e.g., give a copy of the content to a friend)

The original 4 Rs
The addition of the 5th

He put forward his OER Proposition which included
• Open as a tactic rather than a goal – open practices rather than just lots of open content
• People leaning in new ways with students as co-creators
• Reducing barriers to education
• Transforming teaching and learning through open practice
• Enabling free access to human knowledge
• Introducing internet and digital technologies into education
• Re-professionalising education – not using prepared publishers material
• Connecting communities
• Increasing efficiency of public funds spent on education

There are challenges though. 65% of US students skipped required textbooks due to cost
66% of faculty unaware of OER although 25% who use it are quite passionate about it.
Staff don’t think about cost as they don’t have to buy the textbooks
Staff want content that is of trusted quality – what does trusted quality mean?

Lots of research in this area

His plan –
• Default set to open – all publicly funded education and research must be open – CC BY or CCO no embargo period
• Publicly funded resources should be openly licensed resources
• Learning shifts to solving global grand challenges
• Assignments that matter – eg update the OER for classmates and the world

How do we take it mainstream?
The time of the Cape Town and Paris declarations has passed and it’s now time for an implementation strategy

Would the OER movement benefit from a co-ordinated OER implementation strategy? If so, would his strategy be the right one. He invited everyone to take part in developing the strategy –

There were lots of parallel sessions in a variety of formats. There are videos of all the key notes here and I’ll give a bit of a flavour I picked up from the sessions I attended.

Christine Davies from UWTSD talked about finding and using OER created with Xerte. There will be more new on our own Swansea installation of Xerte will follow at the SALT Conference on July 2nd.

In a presentation from the University of Cape Town a key point from this that struck me was the Global North/South divide in the creation of OER. Who creates and controls knowledge? There is an imbalance north creating and the south consuming.

Hannah Watts talked about adapting the MOOC model for mainstream students at Southampton Solent. It was all about transition, academic skills and socialisation. They created open area on their VLE – no need for a university account to access the materials. Students were involved in development of the MOOC with one student being the week by week narrator of the course.

Short online CPD Courses from Chris Rowell Regent’s University. The first ‘course’ was the 10 days of twitter as run here by the Librarians the next was the 12 Apps of Christmas. He didn’t know what the apps would be when started! The process for each app was
• what is it
• what can it do
• then a 10 min task for someone to do then followed by a discussion form and then a follow up task

It was not a MOOC and open ‘course’ where staff could just dip in. He had four conclusions
• Learning should be situated – people use own space and device wherever they are
• Learning should be discursive
• Learning should be authentic- task should be real things staff could do with students
• It was also important to have a daily joke

You can read more here

There was a really interesting session from Rob Farrow of the OER Research Hub #oerrhub that raised lots of interesting questions.

• Being open with research data may make it easier to identify subjects
• Gorilla research with open data – no need to get ethical approval
• What ethical responsibility do you have when you use open data?
• What about learning analytics? Is this and Open Education Heaven and Hell? Are students just a node on a system? Does as system originally designed to help students end with denying students a place at university because students often fail if they come from certain postcodes?
• Being legal and ethical is not always the same thing.
• The OER Research ethics manual on OER research hub

The third keynote was by Sheila MacNeill at the lovely time of 9am!
Openness isn’t free – some large universities spend lots of money on being ‘open’
It needs to be recognised that it can be difficult for academics to find the time to be open. There is a danger that only those that can afford Use a lot of gardening metaphors an argued that we don’t all need a garden or a meadow can just have OER pots
She also made the point walled gardens have a purpose to protect vulnerable plants from the elements and the walked gardens in education are therefore not always a bad thing as they create safe, protected spaces.

Paul Richardson for JISC posed some interesting points. He suggested we are better teachers by using OER. However, what is needed to get people to make OER? In universities a great deal of money is often spent on creating nice new paths across campuses. The students then often walk straight across the grass and create a new muddy path. With OER we need to put paths where people have been working. However, we need to recognise that some people are quite private and don’t want to share and publish their teaching.

Is a lot of OER just rebadged Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) that in itself was rebadged e-Learning? There seem to be a number of people doing the same things and saying the same things about disruption that were being said 5 or more years ago. All perfectly valid but not perhaps the cutting edge to be shared at a conference.

I know it was a relatively small conference but one of the quotes in the overview video, about the conference being about the people who were there, is quite revealing. There seemed to be a sense that everything was marvellous and everyone was brilliant. This has carried on in many of the post conference reflections. There seemed to be very little dissent or rigorous debate and questioning. For example, while there is a lot of great OER significant amounts of it are very poor. Why are the OER repositories such a poor experience? JORUM isn’t really very good but no one is allowed to say. Is OER just TEL? Is OER always the way forward?

I asked this in a tweet and most of the responses were along the lines of ‘we do like dissent and we are a group the welcome questions’. The framing of the responses with ‘we do’ and ‘we are’ emphasised the point that this was something of an echo chamber with lots of people who know each other well and have built up the group. Communities can be great but they can also be excluding. Perhaps this is a case of this is local OER for local OER people. Interestingly the Twitter comments defended the OER community, while many non-Twitter conversations also raised the issue of the echo chamber. For OER to really enter the mainstream the OER community have to let go of it.

Enough of my thoughts. I leave the last words to the final Keynote, Martin Weller
He argues that Open Education is a set of coalescing ideas.
There are 3 types of users – OER Active, OER as facilitator and OER consumer
Open Access publishing has reached a tipping point – publishers are double dipping and predatory Open Access practice where we now have pay to publish.
Education is the next tech target of big companies. Another mention of openwashing and the concept that “education is broken someone should sell me something”.
He raises the questions –
Why does openness really matter? What can it do for you? He suggests that it not inevitable that open will go into the mainstream.
Watch the video and see what you think.

Why should I care…… and biscuits

Unlike HELF, which I am new to, I have been a member of the Learning and Performance Institute (LPI) for over 10 years. The LPI is “a global Institute for Learning & Development professionals. Established in 1995 the Institute has grown on an annual basis to become the leading authority on Learning & Development.” A few years ago I was made a Fellow and as a result was invited to the Fellows Symposium in Aldgate. With the title “the Learning Curve” it brought together “the heads of learning from some of the UK’s largest organisations, including a number of FTSE 250 organisations, for a day of networking and inclusive debate.” The symposium was a mix of workshop, presentations and discussion.

I had forgotten the joy of the early morning commute into London. Strolling along the beach or through Singleton Park is a somewhat different experience on one’s way to work. As this was an event with a more corporate flavour I thought I ought to make sure I was smart and didn’t let the University down. Shows what I know – I was the only delegate in a tie! The other guy in the picture with a tie is the MD of the LPI

Anyway enough of my fashion ‘tips’ and on to the content of the day. One of the sessions attempted to apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to organisations. I’m not quite sure how well that worked but I did pick up a few useful nuggets. When discussing some of the positive and negative effects actions have on motivation and whether they are short of long term, the issue of biscuits arose. Now I’m a big fan of biscuits and there were some mighty fine examples at the coffee break. So this got my attention. (By the way if you like biscuits, you really should visit this site. A large company used to have biscuits at its meetings. The management decided that to save money biscuits would no longer be available. On the surface this seems sensible if money is tight and biscuits aren’t essential to the running of the organisation. However, the impact on moral was huge across the company and 10 years later staff still remember and resent the issue. What may have been seen as a short term, low level impact had a major, long term impact.  They didn’t try to quantify it but I suspect the impact of the drop in moral on productivity was probably greater than the saving made in biscuits. I’m not advocating we have biscuits in meetings or lectures but we need to think carefully about the impacts of our actions. We might not get 10 years of student resentment but changes that aren’t fully thought through could have a negative impact on students throughout their time here.  The same could be true of our work in SALT. Food for thought.

The keynote was from Andy Laporta, author, speaker and highly rated by the FT no less. When I spoke to him over lunch he said that I must say hello to a member of our Accounting and Finance teaching staff here that he had met at a recent event in Cardiff. I don’t normally get to speak to the keynote at events like this or have them extoll the virtues of my colleagues. I don’t know whether this was due to the fact that he’s an expert on networking or down the excellence of the teaching staff in Accounting and Finance. I suspect a bit of both.

Andy talked about networking and I wasn’t sure how this would apply to our work in SALT but he was a really entertaining speaker and had lots of interesting things to say, many of which I found really useful. Often when people think of networking they think of people trying to get to know as many people as possible who might be useful to them. I’ve certainly met people who you can see looking round the room for their next networking opportunity as they decide I’m not going to be useful to them. Sadly I’ve even experienced that here at the university. Andy argued it’s not who you know, as the old adage says, but what people know about you that counts. People don’t know whether they should get to know you until they know why they should care if they know you. He also argued that networking shouldn’t be about getting what you want from people it should be about what you put into a network. So, as we try to expand the SALTezers network, why should teaching staff across the University care if they know us in SALT? What would we like people to be saying about SALT when they talk to others? Answers on a postcard perhaps?

One impression I was left with surprised me a little. As Fellows of the LPI are made up of ‘heads of learning from some of the UK’s largest organisations, including a number of FTSE 250 organisations’, I was expecting us to be somewhat ‘behind the curve’ when It came to training, development and the use of technology in delivery and support of training. Discussions on giving everyone an iPad and the novelty of MOOCs have been taking place here for about 3 or 4 years but it seemed to be quite of the moment in the experts’ panel discussion. e-Learning/Technology Enhanced Learning in the corporate world still seems to be very much content driven and notions of learners as producers and co-authors of learning were absent from the discussions. Not that I’m saying they are necessarily absent from the corporate world just that they didn’t seem to impact on the discussion on the day. So maybe we are on the right track after all.

You can find the Storify of the day here

Now where did I put those biscuits?

Teaching is more than a job. It's a responsibility.

“Teaching is more than a job. It’s a responsibility—one of the greatest responsibilities in civilized society. Teachers lay bare the mysteries of the world to us. They train our minds to explore, to question, to investigate, to discover. They ensure that knowledge is not lost or forgotten but is instead passed on to future generations. And they shape our lives in limitless ways, both inside and outside of the classroom.”

So says Professor Patrick N. Allitt of Emory University and the lecturer on ‘The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from Master Educators’, a course from the Teaching Company. The Teaching Company has been running since 1990, based on the concept of finding the top 1% of college professors in the world selected entirely for their ability to teach (now there’s a thought) and using feedback from customers to help craft courses into formats uniquely designed for the lifelong learner. Over 10 million courses have been sold and they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, “If a course is ever less than completely satisfying, you may exchange it for another of equal value at any time. You may also return any course, within one year of initial purchase, for a full refund.”  Shall we try that here?

I know I’m a bit sad but over the last few years as I walked to work along the seafront, I’ve gone through the following ‘Great Courses’ –

  • Origins of the Human Mind
  • How We Learn
  • Theories of Human Development
  • Story of Human Language
  • History of the English Language
  • Legacies of Great Economists
  • Economics
  • Understanding the Fundamentals of Music
  • Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion
  • History of Russia: From Peter the Great to Gorbachev

However, times are changing and what place does the Teaching Company have in this brave new world of MOOC and OER? (I have signed up for numerous MOOCs but sadly never completed any. Their time based nature means if you fall behind you’ve had it. Perhaps MOOCS are the new exercise bikes?) The Teaching Company are still here but do have a 70% sale on all of their courses at the moment. Hence my £29.99 investment in ‘The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from Master Educators’.  There are twenty six lectures each lasting around thirty minutes on topics including Teacher Student Relationships, Creativity and Innovation, Dynamic Lecturing and Maintaining Your Enthusiasm. There is also a course booklet with a summary of each lecture, a toolkit of tips for each topic and a bibliography. I get a DVD and online version of the lectures and they can be watched at any point in the future. So far so good but is it any good? Can I learn anything form this ‘course’? Will I make to the end? Does it matter? How does this slightly old skool approach match up in 2014? I bet you can’t wait to find out! I won’t fill up the SALT blog with my thoughts but I’m going to make notes as I go through and blog about it here

Wish me luck 🙂

It’s Wednesday so it must be Bristol……

It’s Wednesday so it must be Bristol and the Heads of E-Learning Forum or Helf as its known to its friends. Helf according to its website is, ‘a network of senior staff in institutions engaged in promoting, supporting and developing technology enhanced learning. We have over 125 nominated Heads from UK Higher Education institutions and a regular programme of well attended events.’ They have meetings  2 or 3 times a year as well as being involved in a number of reports and other publications. They also run a lively JISC mail list that brings a lot a remarkably useful information into my inbox.

One of the real values of this group is that your hear what really goes on in other institutions all shared under the Chatham House Rule. None of the proud parent, ‘Oh our young lecture capture is doing remarkably well at University’ here. What you get is a much more nuanced, honest view and all the better for it.

This was my first face to face meeting so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but the title ‘Blending physical and virtual spaces’ was intriguing and I was keen to meet some of the people who had been sharing all that information. Interestingly, there were people from all over Britain but remarkably few from other Universities in Wales considering that Bristol is not that far away!

As I often do I won’t give a blow by blow account of what I did on my day out but instead share some of the many useful things I got from the day.

There was an interesting project from Derby using video feedback the This involved staff to student feedback but also student to student feedback, helping students to learn to both to give and receive critical feedback. The trick will be to see how scalable it is. Another project The Dynamic Lab Manual in Bristol and has won awards and you can read about it here –

UCL have created a new role of Learning Spaces Specialist, Paul Burt, who sits in the E-Learning Environments team. His role is to make sure that learning space at UCL are actually fit for learning. So they don’t have a ‘let’s have what we have already got but bigger, bums on seat approach’ that inflicts so many universities. Instead, making learning spaces effective for learning is at the heart of their design. The have some extensive Learning Space Guidelines that outline what to consider when requesting, specifying, designing, supplying, installing and maintaining facilities and environments in UCL’s learning spaces. The guidelines cover a whole range of requirements from access to the amount daylight and from acoustics to technology. One major area talked about was the variety of teaching uses a room could be used for. A strong message that came through was the outdated nature of traditional large lecture theatres and that theatres such as the ones below can accommodate both large group teaching and small discussion groups in the same session, make good use of the space and are not as expensive as may be thought. In some case they may even be cheaper than traditional lecture theatres.

Queens Belfast

Loughborough University

Adding power in every seat may be outmoded when tablets can last for several days on one charge but may be needed in the short term by some students. UCL have power in the front two rows. If you want power, you need to sit at the front, which may well have other benefits for you as well.

Peter Bryant, Head of Learning Technology and Innovation at LSE was looking at the success or otherwise of e-learning and argued that there are numerous small local projects still in the use that have not reached tipping point. I think JISC has been responsible for a lot of the small project culture of e-learning, making the most important thing chasing the next round of project funding where the new is always more exciting rather than turning a project into an institution or sector wide application. Additionally he argued that institutional dictats do not always have the desired effect. What’s needed is change from the middle out.

Finally, Mark Gamble from the University Bedfordshire, home of the first series of Freshers,explained that his role is to manage the e-journey of their students from the moment a student thinks about coming to Bedford and clicks. Quite a task but how joined up are we in this process?