DNA: The Secret of Smooth

It seems to me that the Yachtski scale, as a linear device, is increasingly becoming the subject of contention. And with other areas of the Yacht or Nyacht discussion delving into the history of smooth, it is perhaps time to apply some evolutionary genetics to advance our understanding.

 

Introducing Gregor Mendel

When we start to delve into the history of smooth we stumble across an unexpected character, the founding father of genetics, Greg Mendel. What we can reveal is that whilst he was breeding peas in his garden shed, he was also listening to smooth music. In fact, the his garden shed was an old converted boat house, and the pea seeds germinated to the calm relaxing vibes of yacht rock music.

Greg Mendel

Greg Mendel – fan of the #smooth

The science bit!

Recently discovered, some of Mendel’s historic sketches reveal early hidden hypotheses that refute the linearity of the Yachtski Scale. Combinations of what he called ‘smooth heredity factors’ could form only two phenotypes – either audibly smooth (so-called Yacht) or not smooth at all (so-called Nyacht). As he experimented he realised these always fell into the ratio of 3:1. This would account for why the combination of two (or more) supposedly smooth factors may on occasions (25% of the time) produce a non-smooth result (as detected by the fine measurements of the Yachtski instrument).

Taking the pea

However the phenotype was just part of the story and reflected a complex array of genotypic factors underneath.

Mendel's Early Notes

Mendel’s Early Notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Greg unravelled the mystery of heredity and unpicked the determining genotypes, he found dominant inheritance factors always included the featuring of the singers Kenny and Michael, and songs with the words ‘fool’, ‘heartache’, ‘sailing’ or ‘wind’ in the title. Further experiments showed that recessive inheritance factors that figured in the Nyacht genotype were the year of recording, and the presence of an out-of-tune alto saxophone solo. Perhaps the most radical finding, was the discovery of bass pairings that hold the complimentary strands of genetic material smoothly together. This discovery is often not accredited to Greg.

Bass Pairs

Bass Pairs

 

The CRISPR revolution

Toward the end of his career, Greg had achieved such intricate levels of smooth genotypic combination, it was only to be centuries later where his most hidden secrets were to be revealed. The latest CRISPR technology – Clustered Regularity Interspaced Smooth Pallendromic Repeats – only this week – revealed the wonders of his ultimate experiment. Supreme smoothitude and top of the Yachtski scale. Scientists revealed an animated GIF that Mendel put inside live pea genes all those years ago.

CLICK HERE FOR THE BIG REVEAL!

“That peace only came in death”

TDC1979
The @ds106DC Daily Create took me on an unexpected journey, but then the best ones always do. The task for the community was to share a peace playlist (#ds106 = our community hashtag, #tdc1979 = the daily create (number) 1979). I heard an array of peaceful and evocative music, and instantly had to go and play some Debussy. Peace and tranquility is so perfectly reflected in his music.

What happened next? In an effort to record what I played over thirty years ago in my Grade 8 Distinction Piano Exam (via Garageband, Kawai piano and midi-interface), after a few attempts I pasted a reasonable introduction to a reasonable melody section, being hideously out of practice. The music clashed and created beautiful textures and waves. It was like being thrown around on a calm and then rough sea as the music passages collided with each other.

 

The word ‘peace’ has haunted me ever since I visited the Whitney Plantation, Lousiana in 2016. The plantation is a heart wrenching memorial of the homes and lives of the slaves who were impounded there. I implore you to look up the plantation and the work of John Cummings and colleagues who have fought to tell the stories of the slaves and their children. The quotation was from a series of interviews with the last inhabitants of the plantation, and the lists of beautiful names belie the chilling realisation that these weren’t their real names; they were given, often changed when the children were sold on, empty letters. It is staggering today that many local tourist offices don’t recognise the plantation – and the real stories within it.

I hope the music is fitting for the quotation in some way. The Debussy Arabesque Number 1 is based on a pentatonic scale – based on five notes – rippling up and down. It has an emptiness about it. Debussy often builds up to quite forceful passages and I liked the way they clashed angrily in the recording. Toward the end more of the staccato (jumpy) passages sound more playful, and I like to hope that these children knew what it was to play.

Stories are so important. People are important.

Resilience (again) – a critique.

Just sharing this super post by Dr Dave Webster and Dr Nicola Rivers, provoked by a recent learning and teaching event which caused Dave to think about the pervasive nature of the term ‘resilience’ and what it stands for.

Read the blog post here:

A Contrary View: Critiquing Discourses of Resilience in Education

They refer to the term ‘snowflake‘ used to describe students which was new to me, and probably from some crap agency handbook of market segmentation. There needs to be a demographic term for people who sit around degrading other’s in society ‘waste of space’ I’d call them.

Nicola and Dave talked about the associations of the term resilience with weakness and lack of being able.  Here is my summing up of the Twitter and blog responses to a previous post of mine on the subject which got quite a barrage of responses.

Resilience. Do you want to talk about it? Yes they did!

The community need to draw together to reframe this narrative and empower the students in our care, not to label them as failures. My thoughts about the term ‘snowflake’ I cannot possibly publish here.

A wall, a bothy and open.

Just prepping for #OER17 and a wall is an odd image to use to represent open, but this is a special wall.

Side gate “Wayside”, Kearsney Court near Dover. CC BY Viv Rolfe

We were guardians of this wall once. Our house was behind it. It was the Victorian kitchen garden designed by Thomas Mawson at Kearsney Court. This was the side door from the kitchen garden into the main park. We never locked it. And it was wonderful on occasions when inquisitive people from the park would just open it and walk into our garden. Walls can be open too.

“And through Wall’s chink poor souls they are content”
(A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare).

What I like about these memories is that we were guardians of these walls, and the amazing conservatories, terraces, ponds, steps and pathways within it. We never own houses do we – they seem to own us for that short period of time. I feel the same about our education system – those of us that work there are passing through it at this moment in time, and I can’t help but feel we aren’t providing the nurturing and attention it needs.

Kearsney Court

Back gate “Wayside”, Kearsney Court near Dover. CC BY Viv Rolfe

In the 1987 hurricane, when the insurance company came around to inspect the damage to the roads and driveway caused by innumerable trees having been blown down, I remember the man’s face froze in horror when he saw the wall. He said that it would bankrupt the company if it was damaged. It was a miracle that although trees were blown down on all four sides, the walls were untouched.

One memorable Saturday night after I had left home, the family were having a bonfire in the garden which got slightly out of hand. The next thing they knew was a fireman peering over the wall. My mum climbed the wall to explain that everything was under control. He checked that there was nothing more he could do, and Muvva explained – “well you can get your ladders, I’m stuck on this wall”.

Kearsney Court

Peeking In “Wayside”, Kearsney Court near Dover. CC BY Viv Rolfe

There were more types of apple trees, plum trees, pear trees than I could ever name or remember. There were lilacs of every colour. Each main wall had remnants of fruit cages, metal frames and brackets to ensure early and late crops growing on the South-facing and North-facing walls. There was a vinery and melon pit. The ornamental pond was a land mark on German World War II maps to indicate the flying route from Dover up to London. There were acres of daffodils in the spring and a clematis in every corner.

It was a truely shared space. Ducks from the park used to make nests to hatch their ducklings. There were rabbits, foxes and badgers. A green woodpecker spent the best part of a day creating a hole in one of the apple trees. He pecked for hours and hours. Misses Pecker came to inspect the next day, and to no avail. The hole was clearly no good. They never returned. We looked at what he had created and it was the smoothest and most perfect hole in the tree that you could imagine.

It was a wonderful house – well, quite small bungalow really. It originally was the gardener’s ‘bothy’. It looked along the Alkham Valley and you couldn’t see another single roof. How lucky was I spending some of my time there. My parents stretched themselves financially, and the snooty local estate agent frowned when they turned up to view it in a battered old Morris Minor. The intention was that my Nan could live with us – but sadly she never made it. I used to so regret not being able to walk her round the garden to savour the different plants, and being blind, it would have been the most amazing sensory garden for her. She never made it away from the horrors and fumes of the A13 in Essex where she lived for most of her life.

Walls can be wonderful if you can peep over them or walk through them. Humans turn them into barriers. You need the walls to protect and cultivate the things within. Openness in education needs to be nurturing, hopeful and touchable. But ultimately what is the point if people can’t freely come in and you choose not to share beyond the walls?

Open Quotes


 

 

 

 

 

Open Education 1972. CC BY Viv Rolfe

Quotations from:
Resnick LB (1972). Open Education: Some Tasks for Technology.” Educational Technology 12(1), 70-76.
Katz L G (1972). Research on Open Education: Problems and Issues.

Photographs taken in 2015 as part of Muvva’s 80th Birthday ramble.

Open Textbook Mashup

Introduction to Open Textbooks – let’s hear from inspirational teachers, researchers, students, policy makers and advocates in the US and Canada.

I have been following these open textbook initiatives for a number of years now, and the books you see photographed in this video are from BCcampus and OpenStax. Other excellent sources of open textbooks include the Open Textbook Library and for books specifically relating to international relations please visit E-International Relations. Further open content textbooks can be accessed from Wikibooks.

Why this video now?
I am worried about the plight of our students. The National Union of Students have reported on the rising costs of university in terms of tuition fees and living expenses, alongside the escalating costs of essential study items such as books. I wrote previously how my students were spending between £300 and £900 on books, and one of their major concerns was echoed by a UMU student in this film – that often they purchase expensive books that the teacher / professor / faculty member then does not even use.

Last summer I was struck by one student who had secured a dream placement at a local children’s hospital. Students on professional healthcare courses such as these do not have the long vacations in which to earn extra cash. This individual was holding down four part-time jobs to support their studies. I was devastated to hear that they had not passed their modules and the placement opportunity was suspended. I cannot imagine such pressures of having to earn money, study and have my career aspirations in the balance all at the same time. I decided then to start raising awareness about open textbooks and linked in with the National Union of Students (NUS) #cutthecosts campaign. I started up @UK_SWOT to promote ‘Success With Open Textbooks’.

Introducing open textbooks!
I participated in #OpenLearning17 last week and was very much inspired by Steve Greenlaw’s sessions on open educational resources (OER). The live webinars and recordings provided were excellent – some of which you see in my video, although it does not do justice to the depth of discussion and debate from last week. (Thank you Steve!). The video I hope serves as an introduction to open textbooks – what they are, what are the benefits to learners, emerging pedagogies and the results of evaluations.

References and attributions

Student debt data:
Science textbook costs – Viv’s own data Textbooks cost whaaaat?

National Union of Students 2015 – “Debt in the first degree” report available via this blog post: https://www.nus.org.uk/en/news/debt-in-the-first-degree-9k-fee-graduates-dissatisfied-with-degrees/

Star performers:

Dr Kelly Damphousse, University of Oklahoma
Featuring OpenStax.org books, Feb 2nd 2014,

Kelly is editor of the OpenStax “Introduction to Sociology” textbook and in the video talks about his rising concerns about student study costs. The book is a wonderful collaboration by authors and reviewers across a number of institutions. One of the Amazon reviews of this book captures everything:

“I am so thankful that so many professors are switching to OpenStax textbooks. Written, in my opinion, more clearly than some of the textbooks that cost all four limbs, OpenStax has given me access to an affordable education without a sacrifice in quality or understanding”. (16th November 2016)

Nicole Allen, Director of Open Education SPARC
Feb 18th 2012, CC BY

Nicole is a wonderful advocate of open education and leads international debate to put open education in the spotlight. Her blog summarises some of her incredible work influencing US education policy that has been seminal in enabling open textbook adoption in US schools, colleges and universities at such a scale.

Mary Burgess, Executive Director BCcampus
Filmed at 2015 #OpenEd converence, Vancouver
Jan 16th 2015, CC BY

Mary is Executive Director at BCcampus which leads open education initiatives across post-secondary institutions in Canada. The growing collection of Open Textbooks are widely adopted across 32 institutions, and Mary’s work at BCcampus also includes the publication of accessibility toolkits and a range of guidelines for institutions and authors.

John Hilton III, Brigham Young University
Video by Steve Greenlaw for #OpenLearning17
March 21st 2017
(Note – John is live-broadcasting top right – photographs on the slides are of co-authors).

John is a seminal scholar in this field and was awarded the Open Education Consortium’s 2017 “Excellence in Research Award”. He has conducted several evaluations of the impact of open textbooks on student learning and their wider education experiences. As part of the Open Ed Group he has established a useful research framework for academics (COUP) and the group website provides details of on-going and published work.

Kelley Swenson, Molly Miller and Steve Greenlaw (moderator)
University of Mary Washington, 27th May 2016
Series of 6 videos here including no. 3 Student Panel.

Steve is a Professor of Economics at the University of Mary Washington and he shared this student panel video as part of OER Week for the #OpenLearning17 course. He is a critical friend of the open education movement and conducts his own research into the effectiveness of open texts. He has co-authored OpenStax texts on Macroeconomics and Economics and in this video here (Textbook Hero) he describes the authoring and collaborative processes experienced in producing the books. (Note to self – good topic for next open textbook video). I really liked the student contributions to the debate as they echoed some of the thoughts of my own students around the purchase of books that are then not embedded within classes.

Amanda Coolidge, BCcampus
Filmed at 2015 #OpenEd15 converence, Vancouver
January 12th 2016, CC BY

The #OpenEd15 crew in Vancouver filmed a number of videos which are all worth a view. Amanda is a Senior Manager within the BCcampus team and is a real champion of open textbooks. She has co-authored guidelines and other materials for those wishing to author open textbooks – Open Textbook Authoring Guide  and in 2016 she was selected to be an Institute for Open Leadership Fellow to contribute to discussions on policies and practices around openness.

Dr Robin DeRosa, Plymouth State University
Filmed at UMW OER Summit 2016
May 27th 2016
Series of 6 videos here and you may need to select No. 6 featuring Robin.

Robin is a Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Plymouth State University. She is editor of an open-access journal Hybrid Pedagogy, and combined with her regular blogging in the field of digital and critical pedagogies,  she provides a much respected critical voice which is helping shape the open education movement. In her video which was part of a UMW event in 2016 she describes how the co-authoring of open texts empowered her students, and how the open textbook can be and should be re-imagned beyond being a replacement for a traditional book.

 

Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani, Kwantlen Polytechnic
Filmed at BC Institute of Technology, Feb 26th 2016
CC BY

I do insult to Rajiv here in snipping out just a short statement about the need to raise awareness of open textbooks, from what was a superb hour long presentation on the future of open education hosted by David Porter at the BC Institute of Technology. Rajiv is author of several open textbooks including Research Methods in Psychology (for BCcampus), Principles of Social Psychology (for BCcampus) and has contributed to the psychology-based NOBA Project. Rajiv is a passionate advocate of open, a researcher and recipient of notable awards and fellowships, as outlined on his blog ThatPsychProf.com.

The power of reflective writing. And parma violets.

I feel twitchy because I haven’t written anything (sensible) in a long time. Work has been so stressful I don’t think I’ve had the brain capacity. Suddenly now this year my other work – open education – my outside of office hours work – the work I get no time or recognition for in my institution – is bursting with activity. I was bored on Twitter just now, and as always the wonderful Sally was poised with a challenge: So what shall I write about?

I don’t know yet but I’ll let you know by the end of this blog post. It might be:

  • Parma violets are disgusting but I’ve eaten the whole packet anyway.
  • I’ve bought daffodils and Haribo for my team meeting tomorrow.
  • I’ve seven invited talks and conference presentations between now and the end of June!
  • We buy our first house and move. Soon!
  • Yoiks.

Actually I know what I’m going to write about and it is going to be ugly. Because blogging is a great way of getting things off yer chest and solving problems with a wider community. The trouble is I’ve national awards for my work – I’m a National Teaching Fellow and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. That is fine, but as part of that work I have to mentor others, promote the scheme. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the Higher Education Academy and wish them well in their transition. But I sadly think learning and teaching in institutions is moving away from that community of teachers, the learning and teaching culture that is the heart of your university, to being top-down strategically decided. I see this everywhere and I’m not picking on any university in particular. So I’m struggling to attend workshops to mentor folk through their applications, to sit on reviewer panels, to read applications, because if I’m totally honest, I’m thinking it is an absolute waste of time (apart from getting to hang out with fantastic people).

The work of the wonderful Annette Cashmore and colleagues from their 2013 report always comes to mind: Rebalancing promotion in the HE sector: is teaching excellence being rewarded? They talk of a two tier system. Career cul-de-sacs. Others have referred to career suicide. As commented at the time – the students are at the heart of the system. For sure! But we must “value and properly reward those who teach them”. In a 2016 communication – you can see how grumpy I was getting then – I reflected upon the fact that as a sector there is still a fair bit of inertia in recognising great teaching. As stated on the poster below, Jo Johnson in all of the papers said that teaching should not be the poor cousin of research. Unfortunately the teaching excellence framework (#TEF) will be about as useful as a chocolate teapot, and I suspect a fair amount of fabrication and spin has already gone into TEF submissions. Care for amazing National Teaching Fellows and care for fantastic research and evaluation to improve learning and teaching practice will have not.

But surely we recognise excellence?

 I presented this poster last year because I’d been declined from a job. An essential criterion was ‘postgraduate teaching qualification’ and based upon the HEA, HEFCE and HESA definitions, verified by our lovely HEA chums, I did indeed have some of them. I was rejected from the selection process. In the end it wasn’t because I din’t have ‘postgraduate teaching qualifications’ but ‘I didn’t have the right ones’. OK I’m from Romford, I can take shit on the chin.

Poster_VRolfe_TeachingExcellence

What can we learn from elsewhere?

A really interesting conversation on the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) mailing list echoes some of these points. Our wonderful community of learning technologists in the UK I do feel is on a similar trajectory. In the US and Canada, techs and library staff are the power houses of university and college innovation. In the UK they are sequestered into dark basement rooms and never see the light of day. (I love them all). Then, considering about 90% of learning /teaching and assessment is digital these days, we need to listen to ALT conversations and the likes of the awesome Tony Bates who talked about the digital in this entirely free and openly licensed textbook: A MUST READ FOR ANY PGERTHE STUDENT: That is free to read. And openly licensed. To share. Teaching in a digital age. The email thread (of about 20+ responses) asked about the use of evidence-informed decision making. I think the same applies for learning and teaching these days:

  • Evidence is slow – the research model does not work
  • A focus on particular technologies / assessment and feedback strategies (not the learning)
  • Long lists of journals presenting positive impacts of TEL (and less so of pedagogy) on learning (which is perhaps part of the problem – publication bias)
  • I’m pretty sure James Clay won’t mind me quoting (cos I can’t get onto his blog article) “when an academic asks “for the evidence to show technology can make a difference” the problem is not lack of evidence, but one of resistance to change, culture, rhetoric and motivation”. Sure. I also think academia has expanded like layers of filo pastry in Mary Berry’s oven. Do we think about students, ourselves, our league tables, metrics…WHAAAT? (Come on, I joined this gaff because I just wanted to teach).

There was then on the ALT list a general melching of agreement that in terms of learning and teaching versus technology (still separated at birth – why) implementation, implementation of processes and technology, implementation of new assessment policy happens from the top-down all the time, but is rarely backed up by evidence or research. And certainly never published. As for being in a university with a community of librarians – technologists – and passionate teachers, this is long gone. How bloody sad. I’m trying to think of a metaphor here but failing. What is tragic is that this system – the omnipotent – is failing some students every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So welcome to the end of the blog post.

Where next? Well let’s try and influence our friends in influential positions. Wait! That is many National Teaching Fellows and Principal Fellows! You are heads of learning and teaching, pro-vice chancellors.

 

So let’s hopefully have some honest discussion about what we are doing. And for god sake. Parma violets are bloody disgusting.

 

 

Farewell old friends…

 

Dear darling cherished friends of mine,
Your smell bequeathed to passing time.
Mud-filled paths we have travailed,
In fitness fads to no avail.
Worn out treads and threadbare insoles,
Puddle-seeped, beyond console.
Stench-infused in every granule,
Desirable only to a spaniel.
From Vale of Belvoir down to Bristol.
I cry my friends, I sure will miss you.
As always inspired by @lemnsissay