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A week in the life of
Shirley Evans
by Shirley Evans


Monday

I am relieved that today I have some time to catch up with myself, work-wise at least. The previous week I spent two days in Brussels with Sal Cooke and Simon Ball from JISC TechDis. At the weekend I took my son down to uni in Swansea, quite a shock when they actually go. So first thing I have to do is blog about the Brussels event -  The European Congress on E-Inclusion 2010: ‘Delivering Digital Europe in Public Libraries.’ JISC TechDis presented on the second day on theme 2. Sal introduced the Service outlining the work it does that is relevant to libraries. Simon spoke about OASES and his secondment to Eifl to manage their freee and opes source software (FOSS) programme and how that all relates. I spoke about the e-book project I have been involved in and which provides generic guidance to the publishing industry on accessibility issues and signposted the way to the soon to be published guidance for libraries.

In amongst this I (in my JISC TechDis role) am contacting a number of people with expertise in the area of assistive technology about a consultation on a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).  ‘Competitions for new technologies and ideas are run in specific areas and aim to engage a broad range of companies in short-term development contracts’. Alongside this a couple of colleagues and I are just finishing off writing a test case to determine whether assistive technology fits this type of remit.

I have been an Open University (OU) student forever and a tutor for 11 years. Tonight I am in student mode and am enjoying unpacking my box of materials for T255, Object-oriented Programming with Java. That Christmas parcel excitement never seems to go away and I am immediately and simultaneously installing the course software, planning my calendar and seeking out the course website and discussion boards. Unfortunately I upload the wrong photo (my cat ‘Mamma Fat,’ instead of a headshot of me in sun glasses) and learn that this will be displayed for two hours – it could have been worse!

Tuesday

Off on the train this morning to Lancaster to visit Beaumont College – a Grade 1 Independent Specialist College for learners aged between 18 and 25 with a broad range of physical and learning disabilities. Travelling North I can go from Leominster instead of Hereford so only 15 minutes to the station. Then an hour to Crewe and an hour to Lancaster but a bit of a wait in-between. I have a Samsung N140 which I use when travelling and I am pretty happy with it usability and portability-wise. I also have an iPhone which I adore. Seriously addicted to Kat Physics.

On the journey I am preparing for an end of course assignment co-ordination meeting to take place on Saturday. This is the OU course T215 (Communication and Information Technology) which I tutor on and am running a tutorial for on Thursday evening in Birmingham. We have been given three dummy scripts to mark and have also been supplied with an automated marking template as there is a high number of criteria to evaluate. So I am getting up to speed with the new system and consolidating my knowledge of femtocells and cognitive radio.

It is said that you can tell the ethos of a place as soon as you walk in the front door. That is certainly true as you approach the reception desk at Beaumont. The place is buzzing with vitality and positivity as is Rohan Slaughter (Head of Technology) who I am meeting today. Beaumont has been involved with a number of JISC Techdis initiatives. They currently have an Innovation 3 project (amongst a range of others) on the go. The main aim of this project is to up-skill student support staff so that their IT skills are commensurate with an overall e-mature organisation. Rohan updates me on this and their many other initiatives and I am privileged to have a quick tour of the college, meet staff and sit in on a session he is running on technology access. I leave feeling both informed and inspired and part of me longing for more learning and teaching interaction.

Back home I have better luck on the photo side: my Glasto registration has been confirmed. 

Wednesday

Being self-employed/having my own company now for the last year I expected CPD to be somehow different; however I still tend to go to the same sort of thing with the same sort of attitude as before. I am quite fortunate in that the OU contribute up to £1200 per year towards courses for Associate Lecturers and I have to say I am making the most of this. When I was employed full-time I was always very pro-active in this respect and self-funded both my MEd and PhD as I felt this gave me more autonomy and flexibility, although on reflection I am not so sure this was the case.

Well today it is a Single Equality Act Workshop focusing on disability and education run by NIACE and Skill in London. I have read widely around the topic but I wanted this quality time to consolidate and reflect on what I know and how this will affect the work that I am involved in. JISC Techdis are in the process of publishing a leaflet about the Act (due to come into effect tomorrow - 1st October 2010). Amongst other things the leaflet signposts to useful resources such as government guidelines and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I found that the workshop really did consolidate my knowledge and I learned some new stuff, met some very interesting people and had a very nice lunch.

Thursday

Back in the office today. Working from home is not that easy as there are a lot of distractions but you can feel quite isolated if you are used to having work colleagues around. I do quite a lot of Skyping though and some communication by Instant Presenter and Elluminate. It is amazing how comforting it can be seeing someone else working in a Google doc - that little coloured flag whizzing across the screen ;-).

I have been an OU Associate Lecturer since 1998 tutoring on a range of ICT related courses. On T215 there are five face to face tutorials with everything else done online. So I am preparing a PowerPoint Presentation for tonight. Some tutors share these and I have a look on the forum to see what there is. There are already four available as tutorials are at different times in different regions. I have a look through, extract the nuggets, add my own bits and then post mine back to the forum. Students have to create a sample multiple choice questions so I put in an activity looking at the process and format more so than the content. Most of the students have full-time jobs and quite a number are doing more than one course and/or finishing off a degree so it can be quite a juggling act for them. Much of the tutorial focuses on thinking about where they are in the course and their qualification, signposting and looking at the assignment. It is about quality time with other students, and as I hope this evening, with your tutor.

Friday

This morning I am off to London again to the Specialist Colleges Advisory Group (SCAG) meeting at the JISC offices in Brettenham House. It is the second meeting that I have attended and there are three papers tabled today on which I must give an update.

I have instigated a new CMALT scheme, snappily called the JISC TechDis CMALT Independent Specialist Colleges’ Initiative, well at least it says what it is. The scheme is for technicians and those working closely with In-Folio (an accessible e-portfolio). Engagement in the scheme will, amongst other things, enable staff to reflect on and review how their role impacts on learners as well as help share good practice across the sectors. We already have 10 signed up so the first cohort will be getting started very soon.

I am also heavily involved in an event for Independent Specialist Colleges (ISCs) to take place in conjunction with Natspec on the 8th November 2010. The event is called ‘Significant progress at inspection: the role of technology in supporting ISCs’ and is based on research I have been carrying out into Ofsted inspection grades and the relationship to engagement with ICT initiatives.

The final aspect I am updating on is two evaluations I have carried out on the HEAT scheme and the Specialist Colleges’ Innovation and Kickstart funding. I have produced an overview for JISC TechDis team members as well as a combined paper that would be suitable for presenting to funders. What is important to note is that both these initiatives have demonstrated that small amounts of targeted funding can have a sustainable and significant impact on students, staff, and in and between organisations. These projects can also have huge potential on a cross-sectoral basis in terms of sharing good practice and driving forward the inclusivity agenda.

After a hefty and stimulating agenda it is time to head for home. This is not a great journey at 5.15pm on a Friday with all those people and all those stops between Oxford and Worcester, it goes on forever. I think I shall just pop in to M and S and check out their wine selection………

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