Skip to main content

The writing on the wall

So things are going well at Newham University Centre.  We have a whole new building dedicated to our students, a new suite of laboratories and a shiny badge of accreditation from the British Psychological Society with which we can attract more students to add to our 900 or so current crop – not to mention a decent vote of confidence from HEFCE.  At the same time, we now have staff rooms filled with new, young and vigorous academics, some with faces still glowing from the completion of their Phds and others with publications lists that run into page numbers greater than their birthdays.  Not bad after just three years.

It is good times.  There is a sense of something exciting going on - although still in its early stages.  There is even a new Research Manager, which means that I am finally facing the inevitability of having to address my own research shortcomings.

The truth is I have no research record.  No Phd.  No publications.  Not a thing.  Many years ago I somehow sidled into a job as an associate lecturer, and from there sidled into a job as a lecturer, and have been merrily ploughing away with nothing more than my lowly MA and enthusiasm to support me.  This has never bothered me over-much – the majority of the lecturers who I looked up to as the most inspiring and the most effective didn’t have Phds, and so I felt myself to be in rather good company.  However when NUC was first envisioned by a small handful of folks in a disused classroom, I drafted a Mission and Vision document designed to reflect our aspirations and included a statement about developing a ‘research culture’.  This was seen as something different to merely the base requirements of any HE lecturer to keep up to date with developments in their own subject.  It meant developing an institution in which teaching was informed by an enthusiastic participation in research by both lecturers and students, and where lecturers were never simply the omniscient gate-keepers of a knowledge already achieved but were always (like their students) active seekers of knowledge themselves.

Sounds good, and certainly this was a clause which I was enthusiastic about at the time.  Back then, the idea of going off and researching was very attractive.  One of the most enjoyably things about my job is (don’t laugh) the hours I spend blissfully in the library pouring over new publications, making notes, writing materials, revising my views, and thinking about how it effects my pedagogical practices.

Back then though, I did not have two small children.  Since then, it has not been so easy to disappear at weekends to the British Library – and frankly given a choice between a day pouring over academic journals or a day getting cuddles from my children the latter seems far more attractive.

Even so, I knew this day would come.  This enthusiastic bunch of research-active academics are making me feel distinctly squeamish about my own research apathy.  I was fortunate enough to start my career when Phds were not a starting requirement for an HE job, but the writing is on the wall – one day soon, someone will turn to me and say in politely suggestive terms that it really might be a good idea if I got on with something.  The topic has already cropped up ominously in my last two appraisals.

It is making me rather nervous.  A few years ago I would have embraced such an opportunity with gutsy confidence, but now the room in my mind which I decorated like an expectant parent for the arrival of a research project has become faded and covered in cobwebs.  Fragile pages of scribbled notes blow across the dusty floor like tumbleweed.  The prospect of going back in and making the whole thing habitable seems daunting after years of working almost exclusively on quality assurance and on teaching.

So – here is my pledge to you (whoever you are).  I promise to… think more seriously about possibly actually starting something maybe.  In the meantime any helpful hints or suggestions would be most welcome!

Popular posts from this blog

2) Introduction to morphemes

So does language begin with words?

No. Language begins with sounds. It is important to understand this first and foremost. We have already raised this point, but it is worth raising again – language begins with sounds!

If I appear to be emphasizing this with a rather bizarre desperation, it is because it would be easy to think that since we are beginning our exploration of language and linguistics with words that this is where language begins. When you think about it logically though, all words are composed of various sounds grouped together. The word ‘cat’ is composed of three distinct sounds - /c/, /a/ and /t/.

So why aren’t we starting with looking at how sounds create language?

Well, in the not-too-distant past, when European football used to be free on the telly, Manchester United or Arsenal would jet off to Spain for a titanic contest with Barcelona. When the commentators referred to Barcelona, they would pronounce it ‘Bar-se-low-nah’ (bɑ:sɜ:ləʊnæ). After a few years th…

A fond farewell

Every time a new term starts, I find myself wondering what the hell happened to the supposed weeks inbetween?  We leap from teaching, to marking, to assessment boards to enrolments - and after all that, BANG!  Back in the classroom!  At which point we often start wishing there had been at least some time to prepare our classes...

But things have been rather different this time.  About a three months ago I was (admittedly to my own surprise) considered worthy enough to be offered an incredibly exciting job with the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) and the University of East London.  The regular whirlwind of activity over the Summer then, is having something of a more terminal period: Teaching, marking, assessment boards, enrolments and BANG! I'm walking out of Newham College for the last time!

It is now almost exactly 10 years since I joined Newham College.  The plan then was, at heart, very simple: The residents of Newham Borough represented a vast population …

Moodle looks rubbish: The myth that may be costing HE institutions

It was interesting, but not entirely surprising to read Phil Hill's blog on e-Literate suggesting a dramatic slow-down in the take-up of Moodle in HE Institutions.  Not surprising because there seems to be a myth about Moodle that has always flickered in dark corners and is fanned into flame by for-profit LMS providers at the nearest opportunity.

This myth is that Moodle looks rubbish.

Other LMS providers set up a course content page filled with as many html5 gadgets as they can imagine, and compare it to the most basic topic-format Moodle page.  "There we are!" they declare, "Look how rubbish Moodle looks compared to our system!  And in the modern world where students are using tablets and mobile phones more and more, isn't it important that your University LMS looks smart and contemporary?"

And so Universities look at these other LMS systems and think: 'Ooo, it has this, or it has that!  Our Moodle doesn't have them!'  Which in turn prompts a…