#GetBexRunning: 1

OK, so I said I was going to start running again, and I tried to put it off tonight (even scoffing Haribos on the way home :-(), but then decided to look through the App store for more ideas. Sara Batts had suggested http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_3/181.shtml, but I in trying to find the app that went it, saw there were loads that talk to you whilst running (whilst allowing you to play music), keep a record, and then Tweet at the end of it. Sounded about right!

I went for: http://splendid-things.co.uk/getrunning/, as it had a huge number of positive reviews on the iTunes store. Also a forum you can join:

OK, so the first run starts off with a 5 minute warm up, at which they recommend that you walk at a brisk pace (there’s various settings you can set up on the phone for age, weight, connect to Twitter, etc.), with a pleasantly voiced woman (I detect a tang of Aus in there!) giving calm instructions, and letting you know what comes next:

The app then sends you off on your first 1 minute run, indicating that you have 8 of these, and that you will walk for 1.5 minutes in between each:

This is how I was looking just before the half-way mark … hadn’t realised that it gave an instruction to turn round at the exact halfway, and had turned round a minute beforehand, ho hum…

If desired, you can check the phone to see how you’re going on, otherwise leave the music going, and I found my body responding almost automatically to the instructions (tired, feel a bit like a robot!), although by the 5th run my calf muscles were aching a bit (they’ve only just recovered from snapping 3 times in 4 weeks earlier in the summer… but have been building up with shuttle runs at the gym… those are a minute each too… but I guess the body gets stretched in between…): 

“She” congratulates you at the end of those runs, having kept you going, and calls for a 5 minute walk down … she let’s you know when the warm down is done, and recommends that you stretch (but no particular stretches – I know lots from the gym, but I’d be a little worried that complete coachers would not know what to do):

As I had linked the app to Twitter (or could have done Facebook), and asked it to pre-write the message – that’s what happened, and here goes this message (it puts your next run in too, but short of running at James/Holly’s… I’d rather run again Thurs!):

Feeling quite tired at the end of that… more the psychology of getting myself running again … have been in this flat for 1.5 years and not run from here… used to run from previous lodgings (the joy of Winchester, it’s not FLAT!):

So, how are you going to cheer me on? Ensure that I run again (Thursday, I think!)… or join my ‘Secret’ Facebook group!

Academic working hours

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1267744

Recognising that I’m incredibly fortunate to be doing work that I (mostly) enjoy, I’m also seeking to find a better balance, ensuring I have time for friends, etc… The truism is true: nobody on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time at the office.

What was once vaguely containable in a 9-to-5 regime has expanded, so we must work evenings and weekends. We are trapped in a structurally embedded “long hours culture”, where hours in excess of the 48 stipulated in the European Union Working Time Directive have become normalised. Yet, while everybody grumbles and deplores, nobody seriously tries to do anything about it. A young female lecturer of my acquaintance who tried to keep her weekends free was told by her dean that she could not expect promotion if she took that attitude. And it is a sad truth that many academics are workaholics, literally addicted, as managers trying to remove some tasks from them have witnessed.

As Pete Phillips recently told us at #cnmac11, we need to take time out to think creatively:

These thoughts are echoed in this article:

We need to turn our backs on what feminist scholar Cynthia Cockburn has called “heroic masculinity”, admitting that as human beings we need time “to stand and stare”. We need to raise the value of part-time work and job-sharing and, as T.S. Eliot said, “redeem the time”.

Read full story, and let’s remind ourselves of what Henry Ford said:

“It’s that man down the corridor,” he explained.

“Every time I go by his office he’s just sitting there with his feet on his desk. He’s wasting your money.”

“That man,” replied Ford, “once had an idea that saved us millions of dollars. At the time, I believe his feet were planted right where they are now.”

I’m signed up for the @Great_Run (South)

At this point, I’ve just signed up for the Great South Run, 28th October 2012.

In 2006, I was on a ski trip in January, and said that I would run the Manchester 10k (May) .. thinking it didn’t sound that far… but after 1 minute on the treadmill, I was slightly dying, so joined the running club. My aim was to get it done in 1 hour 30 minutes, but I did it in 1 hour 8 minutes 26 seconds…

Later that year, after sharing a bottle of wine with a friend, we signed up for the Winchester 10k, which was a WEEK later (and I was still running, but definitely not at the same level), but I completed that in 1 hour 6 minutes! I’m sure it’s more hilly also…

In the time since, I’ve been travelling around the world (where I got a chest infection), partaken in a number of computer based jobs, and I felt the need for something to inspire me to get my ‘get up and go back’ (I’ve been back at the gym for over a year, and love the classes there)… and know that running before, though I don’t particularly “enjoy” it, I really reap the benefits from it… and seeing @batty_towers talking about her runs, a friend running today in the Great South Run, and seeing the apps that show how far you’ve run (seen those Tweets about #runkeeper?). Also see:

I’ll be running on behalf of the NSPCC, so at some point there will be an appeal for sponsorship, but encouragement & support will be greatly appreciated!

Chatting on @bbcmerseyside this morning #flashevensong

After blogging about @flashevensong on this blog the other day, and subsequent conversations on Facebook/Twitter, Wayne Clarke invited me to speak (at 7.40am!) on BBC Radio Merseyside about my experiences of being there.

  • Listen again, from around 1.32, to the stories about St Paul’s (around 1.37 for my stuff)
  • And I’ve collected a version for posterity…
If you want to read more about The Big Bible Project, just click in… and we’d love it if you join the conversation! And if you want to comment on what I said, be interested…

Is it worth ‘teacher coaching’ at University?

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/667183

Is ‘teacher training’ at Higher Education level worthwhile? Well, as someone who’s in the Learning & Teaching Development Unit, clearly I think so! I completed my PGCLTHE earlier this year, and found it great to challenge my thinking on the way that I teach, and it’s changed my practice hugely. There’s plenty of comments on this story in the Times Higher Education:

Where academics were instructed on how to teach better, Dr Robson said, peer review of their lectures could be used, although this would only be right for staff that had received “long-term training”.

Dr Robson added that self-evaluation could be useful, with lecturers asked to provide examples of how their training did or did not improve their teaching.

They could also use National Student Survey scores to show improvements, she argued.

Other areas could be assessed more simply (whether staff had absorbed basic health and safety training could be ascertained using a simple questionnaire, for example). But leadership and development coaching needed something “more detailed”, Dr Robson said, such as appraisals by line managers three to sixth months after completion.

Where staff took on much more “intensive” training, scores could be given on performance, which could then be used to calculate the return on investment.

Lifelong Learning: Are Libraries the Key?

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1204883

Academic libraries cannot do everything. They rely on their universities’ explicit support and resources – but the investment is smart. Universities rely on alumni to be their ambassadors, and the provision of services that keep them connected both generates goodwill and equips them to be more effective on behalf of their alma mater. The ivory towers are imaginary: the academy cannot separate itself from the fate of its local community, its alumni, or wider society. “The library is the heart of the university” is the inscription that greets visitors to our main library. Increasingly, we hope, it will also beat strongly for lifelong learners in our hometown, among our alumni, and in the global community.

Read full story, especially encouraging is the idea that we continue community/relationship with people who have attended university, but also the local community – as Universities are battered on all sides, we have to think differently about how we demonstrate relevance.

You can’t tell me anything @timeshighered

Yet the world seems to be ignoring the experts – even actively contesting them, having judged them to be among the people whose headlong mistakes caused the international economic downturn. The credibility of the intellectual classes, including academics, has come under attack in the US and elsewhere. And while scholars such as Romer may be exasperated by this new reality, some concede that they and their institutions bear a portion of the blame.

Seeking to explain this anti-intellectual turn, Norman Nie, founder and director of the Stanford Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society, says: “It’s really a result of the loss of liberal arts education. There has been an explosion of what amount to trade schools and, even in (many) universities, a curriculum that is trade school-like. Social sciences and the humanities have melted away. Physicists don’t read the great works of history. The biggest problem is the loss of the background that a liberal arts education gives you in terms of context.”

Read full story, see also the editor’s leader:

The academy has to accept some responsibility for this lamentable state of affairs. Scholars seem reluctant to try to shake students out of their utilitarian, employment-driven mentality, which makes them disinclined to question and argue. Academics are often unwilling to stand up and be counted in some of the most contentious – and vital – debates on and off campus.

although mentioning that “climate-change denial and creationism emblematic of the malaise” appears to be not taking part in the debates himself, but the point about ‘Vocationalism’ is an important one.. to return to the main article:

The humanities are missing an important opportunity by not making the case that learning how to formulate arguments and move around in the world of ideas is an important idea.

Also of particular interest:

“There’s been a general debasement of the idea of evidence, the idea that looking at the facts can teach you something that you don’t know that forces you to rethink your position,” Dimitriadis says.

“In a sense, belief systems have become more important than evidence” – including in-campus cultures that encourage diversity – helped along by “that notion that everyone’s belief system is OK. We have this notion of balance, that your belief is as good as my belief. I believe that global warming is caused by X, and you believe that global warming is caused by Y.”

Expanding on this theme, Graff says higher education seems to have abandoned the concept of argument. “I blame the educational system for contributing to the flood of undigested information,” he says.

“What would focus that information for students would be well-focused debate. Controversy clarifies. But educational institutions fail to take advantage of presenting controversy.”

Academics, in their research and writing, practise robust debate, Graff says.

“But when we go into our classrooms, we don’t. In theory, higher education is an argument culture; it (certainly) is in our publications and conferences, but not in the curriculum. I suppose it’s rooted in a certain fear that, as we become more diverse in higher education, we don’t really know how to negotiate disagreement.”

A very thought provoking article, is belief or evidence more important?

Brammer says: “How do you refute personal experience? When arguments are based in the personal, questioning the evidence is questioning the person.”

She continues: “The simple truth is that the personal-experience argument makes argument accessible to everyone. It is compelling and easy, requires no research or work or reading, and ultimately makes it nearly impossible to engage in the meaningful deliberative discourse necessary to solve global and local problems. Unfortunately, via the media, the US has exported this to the world.”

Joining #flashevensong / @flashevensong @StPaulsLondon #OccupyLSX

Today, I met with Pete Phillips to discuss where we’re going with @bigbible, etc. and, combined with a number of Tweets I’d seen earlier, decided that I would join the Flash Evensong, organised by @artsyhonker (who’d run a similar event on Sunday).

Bex and Pete at #occupylsx (mp3)

Check out the rest of our boos from #occupyslx

Information had been circulated via Twitter since Sunday afternoon (always with the knowledge that the Cathedral might reopen), with materials available on a website (therefore those coming were asked to either print off, or use their phones for the material). We were welcome, however, to just stand and enjoy the atmosphere (tho I knew I’d be doing some tweeting, etc..) … and it was great to run into a number of people that I often talk to on Twitter but rarely meet face to face… It  was great to see how Twitter had brought people together (for an event that @artsyhonker had expected about 10 people at), and to see crowds grow as 30+ singers sang beautifully… although the ‘paps’ were rather disconcerting – they know how to get their picture (yes, push!) … lots of us just stayed up to watch ITV News … but no sign of us :-( I was asked by ‘Classical Music’ magazine – there was a guy in the right place at the right time – whether I thought this was a ‘publicity stunt’ or a service … those of us there definitely felt that it was a service, and Kathryn (@artsyhonker) rationale for creating it was that people aren’t able to go to Evensong in the Cathedral, but faith/worship is clearly so much bigger than the building (see Jhon Cooper’s interview)

Never mind the media coverage… you can listen to some audioboos (music 1; music 2; artsyhonkey; riggwelter; peterould, and see my snapshots on video:

There’s also some pics here and a blog from @riggwelter … sure there’s more around!

Tweets are being collected on Twapperkeeper (it should be able to pick up the last 24-48 hours), and I was chuffed to see Peter Ould undertake his first audioboo tonight:

Chatting to Hazel, one of the @occupylsx campers (mp3)

Universities: Concentrate on overall experience, not jobs

http://www.wordnik.com/words/experience

Too much emphasis on graduate employability in Key Information Sets could play into the hands of private for-profit providers at the expense of universities, a vice-chancellor has warned.

From autumn 2012, all institutions will be required to publish data on contact hours, course fees, living costs and average income of graduates, to help students choose where to study.

But Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University and chair of the Higher Education Public Information Steering Group, told a Westminster Education Forum event on 13 October that she feared students may focus too heavily on employment success statistics and pay little mind to information about the overall university experience.

“I am worried about an over-emphasis by students on employability,” she said at the London conference, titled The Student as a Consumer? The Next Steps for Student Experience and Quality Assurance in Universities.

“What they want (for) £9,000 (tuition fees) is employability, but we offer a much richer experience. We have a hinterland that for-profit institutions cannot offer.

“If we are really clear about the range of opportunities we offer students and make it obvious, then we will only get stronger.

“We must not get sucked into thinking that we are providing some kind of production-line product.”

Read full story and three cheers for anti-careerism!

Ionic, isn’t it? @timeshighered

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/731014

What a brilliant idea …:

Academics from physicists to experts on Scandinavian culture are crafting stand-up comedy routines based on their work. But this is no joke. Matthew Reisz finds that a crowd’s laughter is not the only payoff

Here’s an idea of the content:

The nominal theme, tying in with a major exhibition, Power of Making, is “craft”, though the audience could not possibly have guessed it. Performers explore Tory drinking rituals and the “extreme decollete fashions” of the 17th century; pubic hair loss during the menopause; the importance of anti-Catholic fart humour in the early development of printing; the difficulties of translating Danish jokes into English; and the history of racist comedy (the speaker warns the audience in advance that “because this is a national institution, I’m not allowed to tell you the punchlines”).

A PhD student offers a glimpse of his lonely life: “Today is Tuesday, the day after University Challenge, when I get a chance to spend some quality time with Jeremy Paxman.” There is also a song about dinosaurs in Westminster and a polka-dotted cabaret duo, not to mention the occasional groan-worthy one-liner (“Anyone seen Ralph Fiennes in The Tempest? It’s going down a storm”).

And here’s the rationale:

As head of public engagement at UCL, Cross created his academic comedy nights in response to a specific challenge: to find a way of engaging with people in “the great demographic gap” between the ages of 20 and 40. “Universities have been very good at schools outreach and at getting academics on to Radio 4,” he explains, “but we haven’t been so good at reaching the market in between.” Many museums and cultural institutions face a similar problem.

So how could they get “an audience to turn up and listen to members of the university sharing their research, teaching and knowledge in a meaningful, interactive way, face to face and not through a facilitator”? Cross and his team talked to people who ran theatre, music and comedy nights. “We wanted something with content that would attract an audience beyond those already working and studying in universities. The thing we came up with was stand-up comedy – because of the rise of intelligent comedy, because researchers can learn to perform to a good standard relatively quickly, and because you can make anything funny.”

Read the full story and check out ‘Bright Club‘ on Facebook

Teaching Overseas: A Cultural Challenge

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/659902

Fascinating insight into teaching practice from Dr Jennifer Hill, a lecturer who had a six-month tour of Iraq with the Royal Engineers as a Territorial Army officer:

But Dr Hill’s time in Iraq was not just about serving Queen and country. Working with a completely different set of students made her a better teacher, she believes.

“We were there doing post-war reconstruction and helping to get their infrastructure back on track,” she said. “I was in charge of a group educating and training local artisans, who were learning under a system with no formal framework of qualifications.

“These electricians and carpenters had a certain level of technical knowledge, but they could not apply it beyond their basic training.”

Saddam’s regime, she said, “had completely squashed their ability to think for themselves and problem-solve.

“We encouraged them to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses – to make their own decisions and think more creatively.

“It made me think about how I taught my students in Bristol, and consider whether I spent too much time thinking about the cognitive and academic demands of a course, rather than how students were interacting with each other or approaching materials.”

Also a great advocate for PGCLTHE:

Dr Hill is an unapologetic advocate for compulsory teacher training for young academics. She took a postgraduate certificate in teaching and learning at her own university seven years ago and highly recommends the experience.

“The course validated many of my teaching activities, clarified the theoretical foundations on which they were based and prompted me to consider how I could improve my practice, especially how to engage students more actively in their learning.”

Increased use of podcasts, video clips and other new-media materials is another way that teaching can be improved, she said.

“I teach a lot of bio-geography about forests and deserts, and it’s often difficult to convey what a place is actually like.

“I film a lot of stuff on location and students love it, but you have to make sure it’s engaging with them in a useful way. When I first did it, students were not coming together or learning from each other.”

She also cautioned against allowing students to think that their lecturers will spoon-feed them with all the materials they need.

“You need to anchor them in the subject and challenge them to find out more. I now set quizzes about the materials and generally help to move them in the right direction.”

She finishes:

“Every university should encourage and support teaching to the same extent that it does research.”

A Winning Pair @timeshighered

I really enjoy working collaboratively with others, finding the space to be challenged in my thinking, sparking ideas off each other, and being accountable to a co-editor, so really enjoyed this piece in the Times Higher Education:

In these early partnerships, we quickly discovered that one of the great beneficial outcomes of successful collaborative working is confidence: that such an arrangement could not only be made to work but could add all kinds of value in terms of depth of knowledge and the creative generation of ideas. Far from acting as a constraint on originality, joint working produces much more spark than solo efforts: with a trusted co-author you can float the wildest ideas and, with luck, some will be jointly honed into fresh insights and new perspectives. Having complementary areas of research expertise means that writing partners are able to enrich each other’s contributions so that the whole work becomes more than the sum of the parts.

Read full story.