“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.

Everything is connected game…

Liking this Wikipedia/Wikidata game as introduced by Martin Poulter:

“Here’s a fun activity that creates open educational resources. Thanks to programmer Denny Vrandečić, there is now a tool to create puzzle games based on Wikidata’s 24 million entities and the relationships between them. To create a game, you just need to construct a query string using Q numbers, Wikidata’s language-independent identifiers. They are multilingual games in that you can choose which language the puzzle pieces are labelled with”.

Instructions:
https://tools.wmflabs.org/everythingisconnected/about.html

Examples:
https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Wikidata:Everything_is_connected

My attempt:

Click to start my Everything is Connected game….

OK, so there weren’t quite the data connections on Wikidata yet, but this did ultimately seem to combine all my wordily interests in one game. Click here for what I imagined the answer to be!

My answer:

Click to see answer…

 

So Wikipedians – we have work to do!

Achieving teaching excellence in biosciences – with OER

My week includes meetings at the University of Kingston, Open University and Bath University, largely talking about open education.

On Wednesday in Kingston, Dr Nick Freestone organised an event to explore Teaching Excellence Workshop advert (PDF). I liked his approach in having a mixed audience of staff and students, including those studying biosciences, pharmacy and other medical-related subjects. I think I’m so used to having to do a ‘hard sell’ about open education at times, I was not expecting at all the huge level of interest and enthusiasm that my presentation received.

I started off with a reflection back on my PhD dissertation which examined the secretory mechanisms of E. coli toxins. Some 15 years on, our knowledge has become more detailed but hasn’t really significantly advanced our understanding of gut secretion. It is sad to observe the global statistics on deaths caused by diarrhoeal disease remain little unchanged. One has to reflect on the global ‘business’ of scientific research, and some of my own students commented in a lecture recently on the inequalities relating to health and distribution of funding around the world. In my talk I wondered if science could be done in a different way, illustrated by the ‘BOBCAT‘ project in which a global task force of over 180 individuals worked together to advance the medical knowledge and clinical approaches to the management of Barrett’s Oesophagus.

Discussions around open education

I explored the idea of open and collaborative approaches to science, the sharing of data openly, and sharing open educational resources. It is clear this is an area of interest for this scientific community:

  1. We need to raise awareness of open education – it was new to many people at the event.
  2. Folk need some basic practical skills or to develop open literacies for searching, evaluating and understanding open educational resources.
  3. Folk need to understand Creative Commons licenses as a priority – many didn’t know the ‘CC’ logo.
  4. People seemed very keen to be sharing resources especially around laboratory or surgical techniques and skills.
  5. We need to define approaches to support all of the above – possibly through the professional bodies who sponsored the event.

Open education and teaching excellence

I talked about how involvement in open education links easily to teaching excellence through enhancing your professional development. The very nature of working in the open takes you ‘beyond’ your institution and encourages you to develop your professional networks. These are useful activities for you to create impact around what you do, and to disseminate your ideas, and examples of you doing this can provide evidence to support claims for awards and fellowship, for example part of the HEA UK Professional Standards Framework for higher education (UKPSF). Even better if the framework and some of the performance indicators we are increasingly embroiled in could be reworked to facilitate open pedagogies.

The process of participating in open education – whether it is sharing an open educational resource or sharing data openly, is a valuable learning experience. Lecturers who share OER always comment about how much more they understand about designing good quality materials, they gain knowledge about copyright and licensing, and also gain perspectives on the use of technology in teaching. OER reuse and creation should be part of every PGCertHE or similar courses that train all new university lecturers, and openness should be part of teaching excellence standards and ultimately the TEF framework as it evolves.

How better to demonstrate excellence – that your teaching materials and practices inspire and are reworked by others.