Virtual Team outtakes: using voice recognition for reflection

Since we started this monthly blog series openly sharing our approach to leading a virtual team,  Martin and I have often talked about how useful the process of writing the monthly posts in itself has become: it makes us make time to focus on things we may not otherwise dedicate as much time to, it prompts a joint process of reflection and improves communication.

I’ve often written about how important reflection is to my professional practice, and I use different tools for different types of reflection: this public blog, a private blog, some drawing/making activities, walks and conversations and I value each one for different reasons. But recently I have found that I have struggled to write down/type everything I have on my mind, and so I have started to use the dictation tool on my phone – with interesting results.

Mobile instead of laptop: First, using dictation allows me to use my phone rather than a laptop to write my reflective posts. I much prefer that, particularly at weekends or in the evenings as it makes it feel less like work. Although the interface for one of the blogging platforms I use isn’t optimised for mobile, I still find this way of producing a reflective post much more convenient and comfortable.

I talk faster than I can type: and thus, I now add a lot more than I did before. The posts are longer and more spontaneous because instead of carefully constructing sentences, I speak my mind more. It’s a different tone and takes less time than typing the same amount of narrative would have done.

Less self-editing: although most of what I use dictation for ends up in a blog which I don’t share with anyone else, I find the process of talking about my day or week is far more frank now than when I was typing. Not something I had expected, but it is an interesting by-product of this way of working.

More like a conversation: one of the real benefits of writing collaboratively is that it is more like a conversation. But not everything I reflect on lends itself to being shared and I find talking to my blog rather than writing in it is much closer to the kind of dynamic that I might get from having a conversation or telling someone about things on my mind. I say more things that I may not have expected, realise that things are important or have bothered me more than I would have done when I was typing the words. I have hundreds of posts to compare from the past few years and the tone of the voice posts is very different.

Saying it out loud: for me, reflective blogging has always felt quite similar to writing a journal and over the decades I have written many journals in different formats. But sometimes being good at writing things down can make it harder to talk about something, to say it out loud. Dictation like this can really help you practice articulating your thoughts to someone else as well as to yourself. It also improves self realisation in my case. The other day I felt angry about something and when I said it out loud I realised how angry I really was. It helped me better reflect because it helped me understand more fully how I felt – to pause and realise, that is how things are in my mind. The feelings dissipated quickly, but the realisation stayed with me.

Some pitfalls: dictation does require privacy. At least in my case there would be no point doing this if I felt someone else might be listening. Also, the voice recognition in iOS, which is what I am using, is pretty good – but it’s not perfect. It’s worth reading along or reading through the text afterwards as there can be some funny mistakes to correct. It takes only a few minutes, but still effort.

It’s actually recording a podcast episode earlier this year that made me try voice recognition for reflective blogging and I am curious to see how future editions of the joint series may develop as we revisit that format. For now, I am going to keep experimenting in my own practice.

Which direction to take… researching alternative ways of measuring impact in Learning Technology

This is the second post about my current work on researching alternative ways of measuring impact in Learning Technology. Go back to the first post in which I have set out the context of my work and what I am particularly focused on.

Alongside the practical work with the ALT Journal Strategic Working Group, I am pleased that my proposal of a short session The quality of metrics matters: how we measure the impact of research in Learning Technology’ has been accepted for ILTA’s Annual Conference in Carlow, Ireland later this month. 

In the meantime, I have been doing more reading and research into innovative ways of measuring impact and this time my work has come up against some very practical questions, not least because as a UK-based publisher we are in the process of ensuring the the journal’s operations comply with the incoming GDPR legislation. Open Source journal systems are not at the forefront of compliance and like other independent publishers we work as part of the community to move towards compliance.

At first glance factors like GDPR may not seem to be closely related to how impact is measured, but my thinking links them closely as a lot of the opportunities around developing the journal are dependent on technical solutions that have data processing implications:

A convincing alternative
Discussing how important having an impact factor is quickly runs into the question of what the alternative looks like. As well as the technical challenges in implementing innovative tools or mechanism for measuring impact (to which the new GDPR legislation adds another level of complexity), the sustainability and longevity of both tool and data storage need to be examined. For example, introducing a tool like Altmetrics requires us to educate all stakeholders and ensure that the level of digital literacy required is not a barrier to making the tool useful. The user interface and experience needs to be robust and practical, building confidence in alternative or innovative ways of measuring impact. With new tools and platforms being created all the time there is a certain amount of churn and in order to really build a convincing alternative there needs to be a certain level of consistency.

Scrutiny of new vs. established ways of measuring impact
The kind of scrutiny with which we are examining alternative ways of measuring impact isn’t easily applied to the established method. There is a critical discourse, for example this recent blog post on the LSE impact blog, which argues:

Many research evaluation systems continue to take a narrow view of excellence, judging the value of work based on the journal in which it is published. Recent research by Diego ChavarroIsmael Ràfols and colleagues shows how such systems underestimate and prove detrimental to the production of research relevant to important social, economic, and environmental issues. These systems also reflect the biases of journal citation databases which focus heavily on English-language research from the USA and north and western Europe. Moreover, topics covered by these databases often relate to the interests of industrial stakeholders rather than those of local communities. More inclusive research assessments are needed to overcome the ongoing marginalisation of some peoples, languages, and disciplines and promote engagement rather than elitism.

It’s really helpful to read this kind of perspective, but in my experience there is a strong sense that institutions and senior management place much importance on the established value of the impact factor. We have decided to carry out consultation with stakeholders, but in the absence of a convincing alternative (which in our case we simply haven’t had time to implement as yet) I am not sure what we would be asking our stakeholders to compare or comment on. There is such a range of options being implemented by Open Access publishers, that we can a learn a lot from their example and work towards putting in place improvements that will help establish what might be an alternative or a complimentary perspective to the traditional impact factor.

Measuring beyond impact: peer review
Through our Editorial Board, the working group has now also begun to look at platforms like Publons, which promises to ‘integrate into the reviewer workflow so academics can track and verify every review and editorial contribution on the fly and in complete compliance with journal review policies’ (read more). It’s clearly a widely-used platform and some colleagues seem to be enthusiastic users, so it’s made me consider what this kind of platform could add to the user experience alongside innovative tools to measure impact. As a journal that does not charge any APCs, the value proposition for authors is clear, but resources to improve the experience of reviewers are limited. More work is needed for us in this area to examine whether we can compliment our efforts to improve the ways in which the impact is measuring could be complimented by enhancing the experience of peer review.


Read more (with thanks to everyone who’s sent me comments or links):

Information for publishers from DOAJ: 
DOAJ does not believe in the value of impact factors, does not condone their use on journal web sites, does not recognise partial impact factors, and advocates any official, alternative measure of use, such as article level metrics.

There is only one official, universally recognised impact factor that is generated by Thomson Reuters; it is a proprietary measure run by a profit-making organisation. This runs against the ethics and principles of open access and DOAJ is impact-factor agnostic. DOAJ does not collect metadata on impact factors. Displaying impact factors on a home page is strongly discouraged and DOAJ perceives this as an attempt to lure authors in a dishonest way.

Full information here.

A year in socks and shoes and stickers (2017: part 3)

This is the third and final part in this series of posts. If you’ve missed them, you can go back and read part 1 and part 2 of this series of posts, looking at my year Learning Technology in 2017.

I’ve already covered some of the highlights of my work for ALT, big issues we’ve encountered in Learning Technology this year and talked about the professional community I am part of. As a Learning Technologist I spent most of my time working for ALT, but I do get involved in other projects, support other causes and learn new things as part of my professional practice.

I benefit greatly from using Learning Technology to manage, implement, support and learn. I embrace it with a healthy dose of critical reflection. Yet I experience its limitations and drawbacks like everyone else who has ever stood at a lectern, in front of an expectant audience, desperate to be rescued as the inevitable technical glitch occurs. And this year has certainly brought with it the usual amount of things going wrong!

To ‘do it properly’, Learning Technology calls for a paradigm shift or a culture change. It requires you to win hearts and minds. It needs buy in from everyone, new skills and continued support for all, including senior staff. It works best when it’s embedded, strategic, well funded. It isn’t a panacea. It is transformative. It has enormous potential. It entails thorny questions and ethical implications. It requires constant renegotiation. It often goes wrong. It demands that we takes risks.

Each year since I started working in Learning Technology has brought me face to face with things going wrong. Whilst I know what it takes to make things a success I can’t avoid risking failure. I can’t stick to what’s tried and tested because the goalposts keep moving. New technologies are developed, new possibilities explored and new approaches required. So, like the wider, global professional community I am part of, I rely on my network to achieve the best I can. I learn from the successes AND the failures that others share and in return I give back and contribute what I can.

So in that spirit, and to end my review with sharing practice openly, here are snapshots of some of my favourite moments of 2017: 


"Week Five: Google Hangouts, Collaborate Ultra and Wikimedia" flickr photo by interactive.content shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
“Week Five: Google Hangouts, Collaborate Ultra and Wikimedia” flickr photo by interactive.content shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

At the start of the year I wrote a guest post on the #altc blog, reviewing the #23things course called #23things – how taking part turned into a digital knowledge habit. The post was about an open online course run by the University of Edinburgh that I took part in together with my colleagues at the end of the previous year. Nearly a year on, a weekly show and tell slot in our meeting meetings continues to encourage us to share tips and tools regularly and this course set a lasting example of how we could expand CPD within a small organisation.

Visual Stickery by @BryanMMathers campaign–2#/

Also early in 2017 I supported this brilliant campaign by Bryan Mathers, offering a range of options to support the work of Wapisasa CIC (Community Interest Company). I am a great fan of Bryan’s work and the causes he champions and as well as supporting a worthwhile cause I got the best laptop stickers anyone could wish for.

Emergency Rations, edited by David Hopkins

In March a new book edited by David Hopkins was published and I was delighted to be able to contribute one of the chapters. It was a really rewarding collaborative writing process (read about it) and I wrote about the things that I can’t live without, professionally speaking (my edtech rations outtakes).

Appraisal via laptop… from left to right: Maren Deepwell, Josie Fraser, Martin Weller

I have a lot of support, many people who help me achieve what I do and one of the ways in which I develop my practice further is a robust annual appraisal process. This year I met with Josie Fraser and Martin Weller to discuss progress and set goals for the coming year – a thoroughly inspiring day that set out some very ambitious targets and got me thinking about how I could develop further in a new way. As you can see from the picture, plenty of stickers were involved… . Having heard many others’ experiences of appraisal and mentoring in their roles, I think I am fortunate indeed to have had many exceptional individuals to work with over the past five years and each of them has contributed to my work. You know who you are. Thank you.

The KingPin Bowling Alley in Bloomsbury, OER17 Conference social

The OER17 Conference in London in April had a rather unusual social programme, with an evening at the KingPin Suites in Bloomsbury, where there was karaoke (which I stayed well clear of), table tennis (again, not for me) and plenty of drinks, snacks and music…. as well as bowling. A good time was had by all, I believe. And I was comprehensively out-bowled by my colleagues Tom and Martin. 

Bon Stewart ‘beaming in’ to the Future Happens workshop at the LSE

I also took part in one of the excellent Future Happens workshops run by Donna Lanclos, David White and Peter Bryant this summer, at the LSE in London. It was a great day of thinking and doing that really inspired me both in helping to promote this particular work but also because it gave me great pleasure to see Bon Stewart in action. Bon took part remotely, intervention style, from her base in Canada and it was an impressive example of how much can be conveyed by a remote speaker if they are as good as Bon Stewart! Of course, I had the pleasure of witnessing the electric ‘real life’ keynote Bon gave later in September at ALT’s Annual Conference.

During the summer I also recorded my first podcast as a guest on Sophie Bailey’s Edtech Podcast. I really enjoyed it and we ended up talking about quite a few things besides Learning Technology.

Exploring further into different recording media, I joined Lorna Campbell, Sheila MacNeill and our congenial host John Johnston on Radio Edutalk. Together we discussed ALT’s Annual Conference and a lot of other things. As I am not a fan of being on video, I found myself really enjoying this kind of recording, chatting in the evening with colleagues on the other side of the country to an unseen audience.

Running to support Learning Technology across ALTerrain… with thanks to Bryan Mathers

Inspired by the visual thinkery from Bryan Mathers and together with a few of my fellow running colleagues, we created a t-shirt that helps support the cause we work to advance in a completely different context – on pavements, trails and at races up and down the country. Still work in progress, I think, but no doubt it won’t be long before you can spot a running Learning Technologist near you 😉

VConnecting at #PushingHE in Barcelona

One of the most memorable moments of my year in terms of conferences was a VConnecting session I joined at the #PushingHE Conference in Barcelona. The session was packed with excellent speakers from Tony Bates and Yishay Mor to Rikke Toft Nørgård and Allison Littlejohn. It was an amazing line up and a really interesting discussion. However, what made this session stick in my mind is that it took place the day after the Catalan Independence Referendum. The impact of what was going on in the conference host city was so palpable it really framed the discussion and made our thinking about pushing the boundaries of Higher Education and Learning Technology much more political. It really demonstrated the power of Virtually Connecting. 

Image result for uncommon women colouring book

Another one of my conference highlights of the year was going to Mozfest where I met Kelsey Merkley and Ryan Merkley and received a copy of the wonderful uncommon women colouring book. Thanks for the kind gift (my own portrait is still work in progress). 

I also discovered the feminist internet this year, thanks to Charlotte Webb and her talk at Online Educa. It’s been a great year to meet many outstanding women from all around the world who work in education and technology and work, like me, to achieve greater equality. 

I’ve come to the end of this series of posts, and I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my thoughts with you, some insights and hopefully some useful links and ideas for further reading.

I ended my last big event of the year, taking part in a virtual fireside chat, hearing the crackling of (real) marshmallows being toasted over flames whilst colleagues were sharing their fears and hopes for openness in education and Learning Technology. It was a reminder of how much the human dimension matters when it comes to what we do, what I do.

So on that note, thank you for reading and to you a peaceful end of the year. I am looking forward to 2018.

The Open Education SIG fireside chat, at the ALT Online Winter Conference

May 2012

Over the past few weeks I have been exploring established and new Open Educational Resources including some new textbooks and courses. The Expeditions and Discoveries Open Collection at Harvard Library for example has been a fascinating source of maps, accounts and contextual materials telling the stories of journeys and their findings. Although only selected materials are available online, the details of botanical, anthropological and geological findings are inspirational and give insight into nearly four centuries of exploration. Having originally signed up for Stanford’s Human Computer Interaction class, I have also been considering other MOOCs and there is a lot of choice, particularly for those of us interested in technology. One of the ones that has caught my eye on Class Central is about Internet History, Technology and Security. This brings me to events and activities closer to home, at the Oxford Internet Institute which has a number of events coming up. Also, although not yet in the open domain, reading about being connected, I would suggest From A to B and back again by Andy Warhol (1977), which was originally published before the internet as we know it now, before social networking, but was way ahead of its time.

March 2012

North sea beach

As it’s March already and this site has had a rather long break over the past few weeks, here’s a bit of an update: there was a very interesting ALT webinar with Diana Laurillard and Stephen Downes, the recording of which is now available. The most recent edition of the ALT Newsletters which features an article about The Self Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) School Support Pack by Sugata Mitra has also been published together with an announcement about my appointment as ALT’s new Chief Executive – which I am very much looking forward to. I’ve also been learning how to set up and make the best use of a Google Apps domain and have been involved in various activities for JISC’s Developing Digital Literacies programme. On a non-technology-related note, I have been experimenting with making Florentines (with mixed, if delicious results) and making a plan for what to grow in the veg patch for the new season.

February 2012

This site,, is currently being updated. Please be patient and apologies for any inconvenienc caused. 


End of January 2012

It’s the end of January and I haven’t really started the year with much activity across my blogs so this is an end of month update in the hope that in February I’ll get to write something before that month is over and now that the tax return is filed. I’m really excited that the Human-Computer Interaction class I have signed up for is finally starting tomorrow and there is still time to join the class. I’m also delighted to see ALT’s journal Research in Learning Technology on its new Open Access platform, with the entire archive of the journal as well as current issues now being available. On a less technological note, it’s time to think about what to grow in the veg patch this season and I have been having company while trying to decide.

December 2011

9th attempt – christmas seal
This is the last update for 2011. At the start of December I attended Online Educa in Berlin and chaired a session on Lecture Capture with three really interesting presentations from Ilkka Kukkonen, Dan Roberts and Amanda Hardy. 
While I am still working on completing my CMALT portfolio, I have signed up for Scott Klemmer’s Human-Computer Interaction course which starts online in January and I am looking forward to participating in the course as well as experiencing the online learning environment.
For the next few days however I’m planning to enjoy the time off with friends & family (and continue my experiments with sealing wax) and look forward to writing some more in 2012.
Seasons greetings,