HEA Event at Newcastle

Filed Under (Events, General, Research) by ronan on 29-11-2010

A little tired and very cold I landed in Newcastle airport from Sri Lanka via Dubai, and took the very efficient and economical (£2.90) metro to Central Station and to my hotel, where after a quick sleep, I made a rendezvous with colleagues who were presenting at the research in HE in FE event the following morning. We visited Chinatown in Newcastle and had a good meal – cash only.

The event the following morning, despite its start being delayed by a fire alarm was another success, and the venue, Newcastle College, was excellent.

Again I was surprised by jusr how much research is actually taking place in FE colleges and by the quality also – always lean and highly focused on teaching and learning.
Looking forward to next workshop which will be in North Wales in December.

Colombo Swimming Club – Sri Lanka

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, Events, General) by ronan on 29-11-2010

On my final day in Sri Lanka I stayed at the Colombo Swimming Club hotel and availed of their wonderful outdoor pool. Olympic gold medalist David Wilkie learned to swim in this pool. But I suppose of more significance was the fact that scientist, science fiction writer and Sri Lankabhimanya, Sir Arthur C. Clarke CBE FRAS swam laps of this pool on a daily basis during the second half of his life. Apparently he called this pool his “million dollar pool” and according to the hotel website he used the daily swim as a meditation that spawned the plots and characters for his fictional work.

Arthur C Clarke died in Colombo in March 2008 he had lived here since 1956. He obviously grew to love the country…….

The island of Ceylon is a small universe; it contains as many variations of culture, scenery, and climate as some countries a dozen times its size. What you get from it depends on what you bring; if you never stray from your hotel bar or the dusty streets of westernized Colombo, you could perish of fulminating boredom in a week, and it would serve you right. But if you are interested in people, history, nature, and art – the things that really matter – you may find, as I have, that a lifetime is not enough.” (Clarke in The View from Serendip, 1977)

Colombo Public Library

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, Events, General) by ronan on 16-11-2010

I found time Saturday afternoon to go to a sevens rugby tournament at the headquarters of the SLRU Longden Rd Colombo. It was an incredibly hot day for rugby and the humidity made it even more difficult for the players. Luckily I was in the shade of the stand thanks to our hosts. We sampled the local brew Lion lager (4.8 abv) and enjoyed some good rugby played with real passion – a sin bin in sevens is just two minutes – not really enough time for proper atonement and reflection. Despite the recent flooding that there was on the day we arrived, which made thousands of people homeless, the rugby pitch was rock hard and made for a fast game.

The traffic here today on the Galle rd is very heavy due to the cricket test – Sri Lanka take on the West Indies. I ventured out to see if I could find the National Library of Sri Lanka but gave up – nobody seems to have noticed its fairly recent construction. I discovered later that the national library is part of or housed in the national museum – but the public library is the building I am interested in and I did manage a photo from the car as I passed it by. Fish curries are superb.

College students feature in fashion show

Filed Under (Events, General) by ronan on 16-11-2010

Five students from Bradford College were taking part in the Sri Lanka Design Festival 2010 here in Colombo. Three graduate designers have been living here for the past three months as part of a bradford College, British Council and Academy of Design joint project. Karl Newton BA (Hons.) Fashion Design  had his collection of woven tailored garments on the catwalk. Jade Hannam BA (Hons.) Fashion Design was also featured on the catwalk with her batik designs based on Buddha wheels. Juliette Hadland BA (Hons.) Contemporary Surface Design & Textiles has created a collection of loungewear and bed linen. Juliette has worked with the craftspeople and artisans in the Kandy region who have an exhibition of their work in the craft village.
Laura Rupkus and Carla Dyson travelled out with me from Bradford and both played a big part in the fashion show. Laura, Foundation Degree in Creative Hairdressing, styled the hair of a large number of the models that were working on the two nights of the fashion show. Laura’s ability to work calmly in the highly pressurised environment backstage at an international fashion show was impressive. Carla – BA (Hons.) Special Make-up Effects & Artistry – has recently found herself in a new role as a model. She rose to the occasion on both nights this week and demonstrated her understanding of the industry by taking to the catwalk with confidence and flair.

Designers featured in the show included Barefoot, Yoland, Buddhi Batiks and Kolaro. Carla’s photograph along with other professional models appears in today’s Sri Lanka Daily FT newspaper.

Design Festival – Sri Lanka

Filed Under (Events, General, Research) by ronan on 14-11-2010

Greetings from the beautiful island of Sri Lanka.
I have travelled to Colombo to attend the Sri Lanka Design Festival 2010. I am speaking on how information and communications technologies might support the design and fashion industries in the future while having an absolute minimal impact on the environment. 
In the words of the organisers: “Sri Lanka Design Festival (SLDF) 2010 is a unique Festival designed to promote Sri Lanka’s creative and design industries, both traditional and contemporary, as well as the Sri Lankan apparel industry’s incredible capabilities and creative strength on a global platform.”

I am impressed by the enthusiasm and drive of the design and fashion people here; and this, coupled with the emphasis on ethical sourcing and ethical consummerism makes it a unique event.
“The Festival is equipped to engage both the Festival-going audience and the commercial visitor, with a range of workshops and talks in all fields of design- Graphic, Fashion, Jewellery and Interior – led by both international and local delegates”.  The government paper here this morning the Sunday Observer talks about reviving the textile industry while maintaining a strong ‘garments without guilt’ approach – this entails legislation which the government is pleased to pass. The paper quotes Mr Rizad Bathiudeen Minister of Industrial Development and International Trade “The ethical sourcing and sustainable development practices in the garment industry aim to empower women and support their communities through poverty alleviation and offering opportunities for education and personal growth.” 
More to follow on this excellent event and my experiences

UKRC Conference, London

Filed Under (Events, General) by ronan on 23-10-2010

As a member of their board I was pleased to attend the Annual conference of the UK Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology, held at the QEII Centre in Westminster, London on October 12th. As with last year there was a large turnout and some very interesting and engaging debate. The event was very effectively hosted by Kate Silverton, with guest speakers Professor Lord Robert Winston and Dr. Aleks Krotoski, bringing their own perspectives to the issues and speaking with informed passion and commitment. This I felt was in contrast with Miles Templeman CEO of the Institute of Directors who’s contribution was rather limp. With little more than a vague commitment and no evidence of a track record within his own organisation his encouragement of the audience to ask questions was brave if not foolhardy. The inevitable happened and he was very adroitly backed into a corner by questions from an audience that refused to be patronised. In the panel debate I was again impressed by Emily Cummins and also the NUS representative who was brave enough to mention the political dimension of not just the under-representation in the workforce of women but also the political dimension of wider educational debate.

Annette Williams, Director of the UKRC said:  “There were more than 300 delegates from across the public, private and third sectors, all sharing a commitment to building gender equality in science, engineering and technology. This was an important opportunity to explore the issues and inspire action, and we look forward to continuing to extend the debate and work with others to bring about change.”

UKRC website

“There were more than 300 delegates from across the public, private and third sectors, all sharing a commitment to building gender equality in science, engineering and technology. This was an important opportunity to explore the issues and inspire action, and we look forward to continuing to extend the debate and work with other to bring about change.”

Envisioning the future

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, General, Professional practice, Research) by ronan on 01-10-2010

I have been reading an interesting collection edited by Sue McKnight called Envisioning future academic library services; initiatives, ideas and challenges published by Facet 2010. It was brought to my attention not by the marketing efforts of Facet but rather it was well reviewed in the Times Higher over the summer, which on reflection, the marketing reach of Facet may have had a hand in; I don’t know much about the dark art of book marketing.
There are some interesting contributions Derek Law as always is provocative – one of his sub-sections headed “academic partners, not servants” will strike a cord with many.

Andrew McDonald looks at libraries as place while Liz Wright  opens her chapter on future leadership with a quote from William Gibson which I paraprase here: “Only charlatans say they really know the future”.

Paul Coyne, from Emerald and a good friend of Bradford College, writes very well and covers much ground in his look at ‘the discovery and consumption of scholarly content’. He provides a great definition of Library 2.0 (from  Maness (2006)) – it has four essential elements:

  • it is user-centred
  • it provides a multimedia experience
  • it is socially rich
  • it is communally innovative

Martin Lewis – University of Sheffield – Information Commons – gives a policy level overview of the role libraries might play in managing research data, this is also taken on an international level. His sub-section ‘what libraries can do about data’ gives a clear rationale for what should be done locally, nationally or internationally. He also usefully looks at funding although I suspect that will date quite quickly.

So its a good collection of essays and will be a good text to accompany the discussions of the newly-formed Bradford College library futures group in which about a dozen library staff have already expressed an interest. I’ll deposit the book in the staff library when I’m finished with it –  promise.

Reading Festival

Filed Under (Events, General) by ronan on 02-09-2010

Over the summer I always try to catch up on my reading but this is never successful because I generally find bookshops and buy more books. On holiday in Dalkey just south of Dublin I purchased Fintan O’Toole’s excellent Ship of Fools   from the local “Exchange” bookshop and it has proved to be a fascinating if not frustrating read. The Excahnge bookshop is situated in Dalkey’s main drag, Castle Street just along  from the original public library building (1901) and the newly built public library where, despite the contradictory signs of “free Wifi available here” and “the use of mobile phones is not permitted” I managed to crouch in the general non-fiction section (signed Neamhfhicsean – for Irish speakers) to connect my iPhone to the outside world.

Another bookshop visited was the wonderful Secret Bookshop – in the centre of the city (but I obviously can’t tell you where!)  Here I bought, for just 5 Euros, Niall Murphy’s A Bloomsday Postcard a selection of 250 postcards all posted in Dublin during 1904. Edwardian Dublin had six postal deliveries a day and one on Sunday and the sending of postcards was extremely popular and indeed reliable as evidenced by one card sent by a young man to his sweetheart asking her to meet with him that very same day at Kingstown station (near Dalkey). Many of today’s institutional e-mail systems are less reliable. 

Cutting back through Trinity College to catch the brilliantly named DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport train) back to Dalkey, I stopped in the TCD boohshop and picked up (half-price 9.99 Euros pbk) Berhard Meehan’s The Book of Durrow which contains 40 full-colour reproductions and a very interesting text. This has reminded me of my probably over ambitious plan, some while back now,  to host an exhibition of illuminated Qur’ans, from the Chester Beatty Library  here in the Grove Library, at Bradford College.
Back to my own summer reading challenge – while driving from Oxford to Winchester en route to the South Downs for a camping trip I was, amid all the flurry of media interest in public libraries, excited to see signs for a reading festival – how proper I thought. Of course it later emerged that this was the Reading (and Leeds) Festival where, according to my guitar hero son, the Libertines did an amazing comeback performance. The Buzzcocks are playing around the corner at Myrtle Park festival on Friday night if anyone fancies it!

Spirit Level

Filed Under (General, Research) by ronan on 18-08-2010

 Although I have not yet read this book it is of interest to me because it highlights both the importance of research methodology and indicates that the world of print is alive and well. I was introduced to it when I read recently in the Saturday 14th August Guardian about the rather vociferous debate the title was generating. The authors both from North Yorkshire have apparently succeeded in constructing a convincing argument, based on many years of research it should be said, that demonstrates how inequality contributes to a range of social ills. So well received the book has been that many thinkers on the right have sought to attack the thesis and have published a response see here. This has only served to strenghten and prolong interest in the original text. As a sideshow to this one can see the reviews section for both titles on the Amazon website. Is this a forum for a modern-day version of debate? Both political wings leading up to the May general election appeared to chime in with Wilkinson and Pickett’s view – seeking perhaps some respite from the paucity of economic policies to provide a ‘soft-landing’ for the crashing economy. Yet this book is not a distraction it has in fact some very simple yet challenging ideas – hence the backlash from various quarters on the right. 

In their response to the response as it were, available here  the authors re-affirm their scholarly credentials and in so doing, without a hint of one-upmanship, leave the author of the attack decidedly lacking. Cicero himself would be proud of such tactics. So for those who carry out research and are fortunate enough to reach the point of publishing and being well and widely received there are other aspects that need to be considered. Most urgent is how to construct a defence of your work in the light of a concerted and politically motivated attack. As part of this is the requirement to assert, perhaps with a subtlety, ones credentials and most importantly to have a vehicle through which to communicate e.g. a blog. I look forward to completing the Spirit Level and perhaps submitting a full review to Amazon.

Incidently The Spirit Level  is also the title of a 1995 poetry collection by Seamus Heaney. The poem The Errand page 54 carries the reference to the spirit level – it was one of the recurring jokes on the building sites of London in the early eighties within the Irish communities to send one of the new recruits off to find something unfindable: 

“‘On you go now! Run, son, like the devil
And tell your mother to try
To find me a bubble for the spirit level
And a new knot for this tie”

Let’s hope that achieving a more equitable society is not a fool’s errand

Talis Alto and Bradford College

Filed Under (General, Technology Reviews) by ronan on 15-07-2010

It is great to see the published Talis Case Study on the excellent work that Lakshmi and Simon have carried out on optimising Bradford College’s library management system. Reading it reminded me of the importance of monitoring workflows in such systems to ensure they remain efficient. Another point worth noting is how the role of the single  ‘systems librarian’ has become outmoded and in its place we have introduced a number of librarians with a good knowledge of the system – the latter being infinitely more preferable. A third aspect has been the willingness of librarians at Bradford to engage in systems reviews through the use of webinars to learn new skills and develop their knowledge. 
Well done to all staff involved in this over the past 18 months it sets us up to reap benefits from future developments.   

Full Case Study available here