Academic Blogging

With guest speaker Alexandra Mihai (7 July 2021) speaking on Zoom about academic blogging. Hosted by Dominic Pates and Jane Secker from Learning Enhancement and Development, who schedule monthly appointments for writing, using a blogs as the chosen medium for City University of London staff. This was their first open event with external visitors. Alexandra spoke and I took a few notes.

Benefits of Blogging

Blogs allow you to express the essence of your research in different ways for different audiences. The blog allows you to connect with a broader network, to plug in to conversations that go beyond an immediate academic circle, to extend an academic role. Blogs are a place that offer you the opportunity to “brainstorm with yourself”. You can collect and process information, play around with ideas in a safe space at a exploratory or private stage of your research. Blogs also allow you to become unstuck, re-work and rewrite and allow you to receive feedback on a minimum viable product in a more timely manner and from a more diverse audience (including non-academic peers). This can lead to very fruitful exchanges, especially if you begin to combine your blog with your social media stream.

Challenges that comes with Blogging

Blogs are a time investment, it takes time to write a good blog. Deciding what you want to share is difficult, and it hard to know when to “let go” and publish. This is often a very personal decision and it is BIG making it public. Academic blogging isn’t a copy paste of your research. A blog requires that you take steps to translate your “academic knowledge” into ordinary day-to-day language (not simple) that isn’t intended for peers. Blogs mean that you are expected to highlight practical implications and be catchy and accessible, if the blog is to be read by a broader and mixed audience. And then blog posts about unpublished work becomes tricky when it comes to publishing into a journal.

Further Thoughts

OE4BW – 2021

A few years ago, while scrolling through Twitter, I saw a link to an application to be mentored in the Open Education for a Better World (OE4BW) programme. I’d created many online and digital resources, but my efforts were often solitary and conversations around the work were limited to individual “client” updates. Work felt insular and exchanges between educationalists ed-techies and developers were minimal.

OE4BW (an initiative to develop and deliver large-scale open resource or courses aligned with the SDGs) initiated freshness into work with new mentor conversations. The programme introduced me to a wider “open” world and facilitated a 6 month journey of conversations, discovery & collaboration between a mentors / mentees. Dialogue had benefits for all involved. I received inspiration, valuable feedback and felt re-included in a learning community.

The project combines warm & caring relationship, regional hubs, a growing community that offers rich and stimulating expertise AND a visit to the awesome Vipava Valley in Slovenia. This free and international initiative has really been worth my time. I’ve been mentored (once) and acted as a mentee (twice)

  • 2018 – Open badges for mlibrarians – where I was a developer, mentored by Lance and Sandya
  • 2019 – Teaching Language Across the Curriculum – where I mentored Isabel (and presented on her behalf)
  • 2020 – Plain Language Multilingual Glossary – where I mentored Matilda
  • 2021 – Designing an open online course that teaches people conversational Kiswahili – where I am mentoring Said Yunus

If you are motivated develop & deliver education technology that is open and for public good. Or want to broaden your footprint, spread your wings a bit further and derive value from being open with mentors from around the world, then visit

OEGlobal20 Conference

What’s on the OE Global plate

Open Education Global (OEG) is a global, members based, non-profit organization, promoting supporting the development and advancing the use of open education around the world. Creative Commons, is a member of OEG and as South Africa’s CC representative on the GNC, and interested especially in developing, implementing and supporting open education in South Africa, I thought that it would be a good idea to participate in Connect, their annual international conference. Highlights for me we the following

This was my second OEGlobal conference, and I enjoyed the opportunity to nurture old and new relationships, explore possible collaborations, understand issues better, and ask difficult questions, in a safe and convenient space. While entry to the synchronous elements of the conference was limited to paying delegates, the conference proceedings and recordings are accessible to anyone with a Connect account

Myanmar textbook authoring

Montrose is an international development project management and consultancy company providing support to clients operating in the developing world. I’ve been working with them on a project entitled “Strengthening Pre-service Teacher Education in Myanmar” and we have been redesigning the pre-service teacher education curriculum

Middle school teachers in Myanmar receive four years of pre-service training through 25 Education Colleges (ECs), which are spread across the country. Since 2014, the Ministry of Education (MoE) has been working on year focused projects intended to improve pre-service teacher education. I’ve been part of a team developing curriculum materials for pre-service teachers and teacher educators. I was hired as a subject specialist and facilitator to support the drafting and editing of the new EC student teacher textbooks (TBs) and teacher educator guides (TGs) for Year 2 of a 4-year degree programme. This STEM curriculum development project has been run under the auspices of Montrose International, and I acted as lead author for ICT an textbook and teacher guide.

Here’s an extract I wrote for the introduction to the textbook

“The rapid digitisation of the economy and society has already prompted many to think about incorporating ICT into daily lives and schooling. In this book, you will discover more about the role that ICT plays in teaching and learning and how digital may be used to solve problems, be creative, complete tasks and prepare students in middle schools for the future.
Education is concerned with information exchange, communication and the creation of knowledge. ICT allows these three activities at scale and this opens-up new education opportunities. But the realities of the educational impact of ICT are not always predictable. We really don’t know whether the web, mobile phones, computers, apps etc. will improve, transform or even disrupt schooling. No one can tell you exactly about the nature of the relationship between educational potential and actual use in Myanmar. While we may hope that digital will shape education’s future to benefit all, the history of education technology shows that innovations are usually shaped by traditions and the powerful.

We want students to start thinking about a model for understanding the relationship and fit between ICT and education. We propose three simple statements.
• We learn about ICT
• We learn with ICT
• We learn through ICT.

These three simple statements are an attempt to explain how ICT’s should be incorporated into the teacher education curriculum. The statements are to guide the authors and readers of textbook as we explore future classrooms, teaching aids, digital literacies, assessment, school management and professional development. These statements do not address the many pedagogical challenges associated with using ICT for teaching and learning. Nor are they context specific and hands on expertise when using ICT in an education setting. Technical issues such as connectivity, hardware and software provision, technical support are not addressed either. These statements are intended to focus our attention, because reality is often too complex to portray or because much of that complexity is unique to specific situations.

The textbook asks that future teachers think, plot, plan and strategize about how they intend to use ICT in their teaching, learning and administration. We hope to prompt them to consider how they can take on the challenge of learning about, with and through ICT to develop the skills, knowledge and understanding required to make effective use of a range of technologies to solve problems. We hope that by learning about, with and through ICT, future educators will be able to address challenges and find solutions to the future of education in Myanmar.

Adapted from ICT Student Textbook Semester 1

A brief introduction to VoiceThread & micro- teaching

VoiceThread is a cloud-based application that run in your web browser and on almost any internet connection. VoiceThread allows you to upload, share and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files and videos into a common space for an asynchronous group conversations. Viewers can comment on VoiceThread slides using one of five powerful commenting options: microphone, webcam, text, phone, and audio-file upload.

Micro-teaching is a teacher training and faculty development technique whereby the teacher reviews a recording of a teaching session, in order to get constructive feedback from peers and/or students about what has worked and what improvements can be made to their teaching technique. (

I will be using VoiceThread as a “venue” for a micro-teaching workshop. I’ve decided to use this platform (and not the institutional platform) as it offers lecturers (who were uncertain about letting others see their own webinar recordings) a safe and “mediational space” to externalize their own experience or running a webinar.


Credit: The article that inspired this approach Microteaching in Isolation: Fostering Autonomy and Learner Engagement through VoiceThread.

VoiceThread Instructions

This brief introduction to VoiceThread will should help participants to

  1. Create an account,
  2. Become familiar with the basic VoiceThread interface
  3. Take you through the steps involved with commenting on a video or slide show
  4. Explain how to join a group and
  5. Show you how to create a VoiceThread.

1 | Create an account

1. Go to the address

2. Find either of these links to “Sign In” or “Register”

a. “Sign In” if you have an existing account or

b. “Register” if you have never used VoiceThread.

2 |The basic Interface

After you’ve logged on, youʼll see the account navigation at the top of the page and the three important tabs at the top: Home, Browse and Create

Home: Once you have logged on, your own account’s page and folder wherein your VoiceThreads are all available

Browse: Review all the VoiceThreads that authors have chosen to publish publicly.

Create: Add media to create a new VoiceThread. After youʼve created a VoiceThread, it will appear in your home tab.

3 | Comment on a Voice Thread

Open the VoiceThread. Comments can be made on slides and videos by clicking on the microphone button. Comments appear directly in the timeline, and you can also respond to comments.

  • Move to the position in the video timeline or onto the slide where you want to comment
  • Record a comment by clicking the plus (+) icon

At the bottom of the slide, you will see a plus (+) icon. Click on this icon to see the commenting options. Choose an option (audio, text, video etc) to respond. With this commenting functionality there are many possible uses, including critiques, reflection, project collaboration, presentations, topic discussions, and more.

4 | How to join a group

Join group that was set up on Voice Thread:. Click on the sign up link that has been shared with you. As soon as you click on this link, you will be added to the group. There you will see a collection of VoiceThreads that have been shared to the group. Open and navigate to the place where you wish to post a comment.

5 | How to Create a VoiceThread

Three simple steps

  1. Create a VoiceThread. Click on the Create Tab to add your media – Powerpoint, images, documents, movie files, PDFs or Excel spreadsheets.
  2. Comment on a slide – Add your own comments to your slides in text, voice, or video format. You may delete your comments at any time.
  3. Share with others. Make your VoiceThread is viewable to others

In summary

These five sets of instructions are a useful way to learn the basics of the VoiceThread interface. After uploading your media (Powerpoint or mp4 files) and adding your own comments to your slides in text, voice, or video format, you will be able to particpate in micro-teaching.

House keeping

Conferences, seminars, workshops, colloquia often seem to kick off with “housekeeping”. Where’s the bathrooms? Announcement of meal times. What’s the wifi password. Reminder about venue rules. Introductions of attendees. Location for the bus to take you to the social activities in the evening. This is is key orientation information, to help you to navigate an unfamiliar place.

But before a webinar, such basic “house-keeping” instructions are not always as clear as they should be. To remedy this, I put together a Slidedeck (Creative Commons License) intended to serve as inspiration for future housekeeping communications. This presentation allows the event organizor o host to be pro-active when using a platform with group of people who are unfamiliar with the norms and amenities. But instead of only being a list of instructions, it also contains quick questions that can be answered with a number in the chat.

The deck is not only about orientation to the platform. It is also intended to elicit reactions from remote students about the space wherein they learn, their inner state & current tech skills. It can also be used as a discussion prompt about hybrid learning and platform use (e.g Zoom).

Take what is useful. Delete the unnecessary. No specific platform is highlighted. Make copies or change where necessary. Comments are also welcome.

OE Global 2019

Conference Swag I’m back home after a fabulous week in Milan. Spent my first morning back at my desk  scrolling through tweets, looking at OE Global conference photographs (via Flickr) and admiring my new swag. Before ploughing on into December, I’d like to consolidate what I gained from the Open Education Consortium’s conference (26-28 Nov 2019).   

Under the theme “open education for an open future”, Chrissi, Paul, Paula and Lamberto (and all the other members of the hosting teams) put together a conference programme that blended formats (posters, workshops, action labs, lighting talks, presentations and world cafe’s) within the context of a busy university – the Bosiva campus of Politecnico di Milano. Since the conference was held in term time, the very busy programme felt rooted in an everyday reality of students lives. The hallways, common study areas and classrooms were full of young people,  not event organizers and vendors. This setting and programme were grounding and served as a reminder for me to be cognizant of a need for OER to be inclusive and quality oriented for each learner and not only focussed on the worthy wide scale principles that inspire the open work of institutions.


This ongoing and lived reality of students in Milan helped with creating a context for the conference. The students perspective on openness was examined in depth during the first session of the conference by Paula Corti and a panel. In a keynote presentation entitled “Students: Storytellers and creators of their own open futures”, we heard three student’s voices (Trudi, Robert and Guilla) who talked about the difficulties and choices that they had to make when studying. Trudi, for example, told the story about how she was forced to make the choice between buying new glasses or a textbook. Guilla spoke about how she and other students were becoming involved in OER production and open practices and how this had an impact on supporting their learning success. A point that stood out for me was that if students are to be life-long learners, then it is imperative that they learn about “open” in their undergraduate years and understand what this approach enables for their 100 year life-long education journey.

The OE Global Conference really did feel like both a global meeting and community building event at the same time with the combination of grass roots activities and thought leadership at a continental scale. Highlights of the  included the opportunity to make or renew connections with projects and people that I have read, followed and retweeted. I was surprised to note how much of the conference programme was about open in the higher and further education spheres and not that much on open in K-12 education. This has been, in my South African experience, the place where OER projects such as Siyavula, African Storybook and Bookdash have made significant impact in education. 

My presentation was around social publishing, digital reading and mliteracy. There seemed to be lots of conference attendees in the space about open textbooks as well as open access publishing, and I thought that my presentation  [link to be provided] slotted quite nicely with this group. There are too many other presentations to write up, although Chris Rowell does a good job at attempting the above. Below are three sessions from each day that I found interesting, each using a different format.

Day 1: The morning’s workshop, entitled MyMi, billed itself as a collaborative guide of experiences in Milan. The organising team set up a “design-thinking” like challenge to create open knowledge through a set of collaborative and experiential activities. Workshop facilitators set the task of developing an interactive guide to Milan. While doing so, their intent was for us to understand the value of sharing everyone’s knowledge and personal experience and together to build collective knowledge. Apart from the vary obvious point of sharing, the workshop had an alternate agenda and that was to show how you could use CC licensing to create a collaborative experience guide to the city.


Day 2: The evening’s keynote by Cheryl Hodkinson-Williams entitled “The warp and weft of Open Education and Social Justice” was both powerful and gently communicated message for all who are already within the open world. Using shweshwe material as a metaphor, Cheryl unpacked the relationships between open education and social justice and how a thread was woven through the economic, cultural and political dimensions (or warps) of education and the associated implications for OER, OEP and OE Communities as it weaves its way through to create a material form. As she spoke, Cheryl allowed us to “pair-share” about our own open stories and it became apparent that  these three dimensions are inextricably interwoven into our experience. Coincidently, James Glapa-Grossklag’s action lab session the next day was about “zero textbook costs degrees”, subtitled “Improving social justice or just lowering costs”  This action lab was was based upon Cheryl’s framework and gave me time to apply Cheryll’s thinking immediately.

Day 3: The brief 10 minute lightning talk by Karen Meijer-Kline about the library as an open publisher and the way that Kwantlen Polytechnic University library has gone gone about developing open textbooks was both practical and inspiring. Particularly enjoyed the revised workflow and practical advice that has obviously been learned through experience

The good news that undergirded the whole OE Global conference was the announcement of UNESCO’s General Conference recommendations to support the development and sharing of openly licensed learning and teaching materials a day or two before the conference started. Practically, they have highlighted five areas of action for mainstreaming OER. And OE Global has accompanied this announcement with a coalition of partner organizations intended to advance open education globally and support its implementation. We heard the backstory from Mitja Jermol and the 4 years of work involving meetings, consultations, lobbying, drafts inputs etc to get to this point. Well done. Was also very pleased to see Tanja and Anja and a significant presence from the OE4BW community of mentors, mentees and organizers.

OE Global and the time in Milan was week well spent. The organizers, presenters and participants meshed knowledge, hands on expertise, key stakeholders, activists and many varied talents to develop an inspiring and thought provoking event. Despite a long history of promoting “open education” this was my first international conference associated directly with this aim. I’ve returned home energized by people, the exchange of ideas and re-inspired by possibilities for social justice and the development of greater agency among those who teach and are learning.

Finally, a big thanks to the Goethe-Institut for assisting me getting and staying there and to OE Global for their assistance and patience with my conference fees.

The blended learning field guide

I’ve been working with the Department of Education Innovation at Pretoria University to design a “Field Guide to Blended Learning, intended to complement the Blended Learning Self-Evaluation app. The app uses eight dimensions (assessment, teaching and learning strategies, learning activities, content, communication, administration, design and support) as a structure for self evaluation. Academics open the app and work through a set of questions that allow them to self-reflect upon their existing practices, self-identify their own levels within the eight categories and record these results as benchmarks, for future reference.

Challenges and barriers to using blended learning

As I put the field guide together, I referred to a range of blended and online frameworks from other countries, universities and tech organizations. The systematic nature of these frameworks offered inspiration. I was able to slot many of the listed practices into the eight dimensions that I arranged the field guide around.

The frameworks were almost all “instructor” or “practitioner” centred. They addressed common issues and challenges facing course designers or university administrators. While these frameworks were quite comprehensive in their coverage, they missed a key theme. They neglected the day to day self regulation challenges that face a student who does not have the tometabled routine day associated with bricks and mortar campus . Unheard expectations, poor time management, self regulation etc. are acknowledged issues that come with blended learning. But frameworks did not seem to address this.

I took the liberty to imagine ambiguous and ambivalent responses towards teaching and learning. I labelled them, turned these responses into statements, captured the challenges and barriers and then associated these voices with each of the eight panels. Whether it was the passive, distracted, overloaded student, or content tyrant, prepare them for the real world or ban phones lecturers, I articulated “negative” stereotypes and wondered if blended learning had anything to offer those voices.

As I began began to write down common responses, I also wondered “whose” voices should be unpacked? Among students, who should I listen to. Who can tell me what’s working well and not so well? What influences your perceptions of effectiveness? I recognize that it is dangerous to speak on the part of anybody else and assumptions from my point of privilege can be easily made. But I’ve been a part of the research into the effects of #feesmustfall on students. My characters were not intended to be glossy tech stereotypes(like digital natives, net gen etc), but voices from the vulnerable, frustrated, time pressed and stressed. Affected by #feesmustfall and the choices to use digital for course completion.

Much is made about blended learning being student centered. I’m not aware of how our frameworks capture the range of student voices. The contextual realities associated with every blended learning design will vary. There’s no one size fits all approach for guiding practitioners, academics, course designers and students towards quality improvements. But the missing voices, and how the two primary roleplayers (academics and students) might jointly address their unvoiced challenges seem to be a major hole in blended frameworks.

Feesmustfall allowed us to look beyond the glossy stories of technology enabled education. Frameworks, apps and field guides also need to acknowledge the hazards with the benefits. I’m hoping that my field guide allows readers to hear and understand troubling accounts of tech divides or challenges in a blended context. And then find a pragmatic response which allows those constraints to be acknowledged and allow opportunities to attend to these challenges.

Course rollover*

Another semester. A new cohort of students. And for many, a re-run through the once “wired”, but now “tired” online course.  The overturning of a course is usually seen as a quick copy and paste exercise, a brief interruption (hopefully) and then a return to normal service. 

A course rollover does not have to herald another repeat or re-run. A roll-over could be the the opportunity for you to work with an instructional designer and breathe some freshness into your course.

If you are stuck of the tired and stale text under glass, don’t just repeat last years site. Look around for some interesting digital practices. Think about how they might apply to your course site. Take this short quiz and decide whether you want to make a change for the better when renewing  your existing course site. 

Course rollover quiz

Question 1 – Let’s compare: Take a look at your course home page on the LMS and compare it to your home page a year ago. Does it look any different from your current course?

  1. I don’t use the LMS so I can’t see if there is any difference
  2. Wait? Is that the course I taught last year? Don’t recognise it at all.
  3. I recognize that course, its got my colleagues name and photograph in it, but everything else is familiar
  4. It’s a bit like Groundhog day. I’m basically using the same course that I used last year. A few thing have changed, I have made some minor improvements.
  5. My course page on has never changed, but I’d like to know what I can do to spruce it up a bit.
  6. My course page on the LMS will never change. The end!

Question 2 – Let’s be honest: Are any of your list of resources that are on the LMS and see if they are looking a little tired?

  1. I don’t use the LMS,  so don’t have supporting resources on it
  2. The LMS is so clunky. Students are inspired by emerging technologies and I’d like to update tools within my course site
  3. My PowerPoint presentations are looking a little tired. That template background has dated badly
  4. We watched a great YouTube video in class, I’d like to try out some more video ideas 
  5. I have not got many supporting resources on the LMS, but I’d like to change this
  6. I’m happy with my collection of supporting resources. Thanks

Question 3 – Let’s be vulnerable:
Are you nervous about undergoing an online course refresh

  1. I don’t the LMS so the question does not apply to me
  2. Not really, I have done this in other courses and I know that I can make my course better. 
  3. A little! I usually subscribe to the “if it ain’t broken…” philosophy
  4. IF I am informed about what is involved, then I’m happy
  5. As long as I don’t have to throw out all my old stuff. There’s years of knowledge wrapped up in my materials
  6. I am indifferent to your question as I will never need a course makeover


Turn this upside down for the answer


If you are seriously interested in making a small incremental improvement or perhaps a big leap into refreshing your course, then

This is the way that I go about working on a digital course renewal before doing a course rollover

* The renewal of online courses at the end of an academic term is called a”course rollover”.

Social Publishers

Mliteracy – Activity

Instructions for participants

There are several anomalies with children’s published books. These become very clear when English is not the language that is spoken at home.

These 10 positions are intended to articulate some of these incongruities. Each position has a statement at different ends of a continuum. You will select statements that are most true for you and your library community. And then convince others that your position is correct.

For the facilitator

This activity is intended to highlight many of the typical anomalies and challenges facing those who are involved in reading, publishing and stories. Commercial publishers alone are not able to address all societies’ reading needs. Social publishers set out to create reading materials for neglected audiences. Rather than operate on a profit basis, these publishers are driven by a mission. They see their books as a social good, to be directed where they are most needed.

More about Social Publishing

In South Africa, to make story books affordable, accessible and available, social publishers like African Story Book, Bookdash, Fundza, Nal’i Bali and Vula Bula have adopted a range of innovative book production practices. Almost all have digital editions of their books available, formatted in PDF, ePub or as a webpage. Some of these storybooks are published under Creative Commons licences. Sometimes they also have apps available for mobile devices  associated with these projects. Caregivers can freely install these apps, download the different books and store and read them from their mobile devices.

Social Publishing