Category Archives: Uncategorized

The UK Borders Agency’s War on Universities

Today’s news that the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) has suspended London Metropolitan University’s ‘Highly Trusted Status’ (also reported here) has caused more than a few shockwaves – with potentially quite tragic outcomes for a number of overseas students who have already spent over two years and invested tens of thousands of pounds in a British education that is likely to now be denied to them.

Around 2,000 students currently studying at the university now have 60 days to find another university that will accept them – or they will be deported, with no certificate or qualification to show for the time and money they have spent here. This is clearly an extreme response by the UKBA to what appears to be very poor record keeping on the part of LMU, but not totally unexpected – it is merely the latest escalation of the UKBA’s developing war on universities – a war that seeks to ‘improve’ the UK immigration figures without regard to possible cost to the British economy. A war that picks the easiest targets – not necessarily the best ones.

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Who needs a degree now?

Want to get an interview with one of the world’s top IT companies? Facebook or Microsoft.

Perhaps you think they only look at folk with top degrees from top universities. Wrong. In fact, you can get an interview without having a degree – you just have to be good (really good) at coding, and be able to demonstrate that.

Say hello to Interview Street:

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…and we’re back

Just updated the blog – setup multi-site blogging so that I’ll be able to host all my blogs (!) in one place, each under its own domain name. A bit of a slow process with a few hiccups along the way – but it all seems to be working now. Some images and other media will be missing from some posts, and it might be a while before I settle down again with a fixed theme and set of widgets.

Best feature of the update is probably the WordPress ‘JetPack’, which is a very feature rich plugin with lots of useful elements – including the Twitter, Facebook, Google+ buttons that now appear on posts.

Over coming days/weeks I’ll be moving the blog over to a new domain, and I should be creating a new blog for posting puff pieces about the Games Technology course I teach on.


I attended a meeting of the BCS Roadshow, with Chief Executive David Clarke and President Elizabeth Sparrow, on Friday.
The background to this is the EGM to be held next month (see previous post) – and the current BCS transformation programme that has seen (amongst other things) the disappearance of the words “British”, “Computer” and “Society” from the BCS.

I’ve added my report from the roadshow to the long EGM discussion in the BCS group on LinkedIn. You’ll find my report on the sixth (!) page of comments.


I was impressed during David Clarke’s presentation at his ability to avoid using the word ‘computer’, in favour of the term ‘IT’. I asked David about this, pointing out that my students probably don’t consider themselves to be studying ‘IT’. His answer seemed to reflect his narrow focus – he said he understood that “academics” don’t always see what they do as IT. This seems to me to continue a trend to disassociate the BCS from engineering and scientific areas of computing.

But elsewhere he did say that BCS would be putting more energy again into the Chartered Engineer and Chartered Scientist programs – so he should understand the problem. Indeed, the introduction of the CITP was troublesome, and I’ve seen many complaints from Chartered Engineer members over the introduction of CITP (no space to repeat here). This highlights an area where the BCS acted without first listening to members affected. The impression I got was that the BCS has been forced into changing plans here because of the sheer number of members who feel the IT qualification is not relevant to their career in computing. But perhaps an organisation that spent as much time listening to members as it did wondering about how to communicate its message out to members could have handled the development of CITP better.

VirtualWorldWatch – Spring 2010

The latest snapshot report on the use of virtual worlds in UK FE and HE has just been released by VirtualWorldWatch. The 45 page report provides a wide range of quotes from academics involved in using virtual worlds across the UK – and every report contains its own surprises. For me, one surprise was discovering SLOODLE being used in new places. More generally, virtual worlds seem to be steadily bedding themselves in in an increasing number of institutions – although at the majority of institutions it really is only the early adopters that are exploring virtual worlds.

Get the full report from here, and an excerpt from the report summary is reproduced below:


This snapshot report was put together against a backdrop of political and economic uncertainty. It comes, therefore, as a pleasant contrast to notice many cases of continuity, where academics are building on their uses of virtual worlds in previous academic years. It’s also good to welcome details of new sustainable virtual world projects and initiatives from universities such as Middlesex, Bristol and Bath Spa.

Specific subject areas, where several universities are using virtual worlds, continue to come to light. For example, previous snapshots have highlighted contributions from academics involved in midwifery, with at least four UK universities using Second Life to assist in the training of this practical skill. …

The global access capabilities of virtual worlds become more evident with each snapshot. As universities rely more (especially in these economically uncertain times) on overseas, remote, home-based and part-time students, so technologies that allow learning to take place far away from a physical campus become more useful.

Survey: Mobile devices in Higher Education

I’m forwarding this on behalf of one of my research students, Hanno. He’s looking for folk to take a survey he’s posted online as part of his research, see message below:

Dear all

(apologies for crossposting)

It would be a great help if you could fill in this survey and pass it on to your students / colleagues:

I am involved in a study into the use and potential of mobile devices in higher education, specifically into the use of games and games based learning. The above linked survey is conducted (in the same setting and with the equivalent questions) in the UK, Belgium, Germany and possibly other European countries as well as at universities in the US.

One of the main aims is to investigate the potential of mobile devices to integrate special needs students better into courses by enabling alternative means to access /deliver materials and or to participate.

I have just filled in the survey myself and it does really take less than 10 minutes. If you could find the time to give your opinion and response it would help a great deal. If you want you will be emaile the outcomes and findings of this study, if you are interested you can also get access to the (raw data) results once the survey is finished.

Again, apologies if this is of no interest to you and thank you for considering it.


Free webinars on learning games

This Saturday, April 24th, The Future of Education has two free online webinars on learning games:

From Steve Hargadon / The Future of Education


The British Computer Society appears to be mid-tranformation into The Chartered Institute for IT. This is apparent on the web-site, which would leave the casual visitor wondering what the letters “bcs” in the logo meant – as they are often not spelled out anywhere on the page. (I would not be surprised if a vote to change the name of the society came in a few years time… though the idea has not yet been officially mooted.)

This is part of a larger set of changes in recent years, and a trend towards chartered qualifications and ‘professionalism’. Some of this is good – the BCS website has finally started to catch up and modernise. Membership is up, reserves are up, the society is looking a lot more ready for the current century. But there is a downside too… professional managerialism is up, and The Executive exerts large amounts of control over the society – with more constrained member control of, and input into the direction of, the society.

I used to hear much of this a few years ago when Bill Milne was the chair of my local branch of the BCS (BCS Glasgow). He would relate tales of meetings attended in London where the HQ staff would outline details of changes about to be imposed (like this one) – and branch or specialist group representatives who disagreed would be treated with disdain and/or ignored. It seems that this trend has angered others, and there is now a call for an EGM asking for votes of no-confidence in the current chief executive and president (and also for a vote to suspend expenditure on the current ‘transformation programme’)

The call was started by a BCS Trustee (who has now stepped down from that position), and former council member.

This has attracted some coverage in ComputerWeekly, which notes that the EGM is supported by a number of people who have held (or currently hold) senior office in the BCS:

The EGM’s supporters include IT lawyers and former BCS president Rachel Burnett, BCS Council members Iain Thompson, Ian Sunley, Rajan Anketell, Robert Ward, Max Bramer and Kevin Chamberlain, and former councillors Ian Stuart, Glyn Hayes and Jennifer Stapleton.

The ComputerWeekly blog has a 20-point rebuttal from the BCS, with comments from Len Keighly in response – which makes interesting reading (BCS vs Len). Some of the detailed notes on relations between staff and members sound familiar:

… at least one Staff Director is “adamant” that the “Active” members are not “expert” enough to participate in the management and strategic direction of the membership operation, in order for it to be “world class”.
The paper, IMB/2010/007 v3a, is not available in the IMB area of the member’s website and no further minutes have been produced, even though there have been two further meetings of this group. This calls into question more transparency issues again.

The core of the call for the EGM can be summarised in the final point – and in the BCS response and Len’s subsequent response:

20) In conclusion we can only assume that Trustees are diminishing the role of the membership in the Society.

BCS Response
We believe that based on the above evidence and all of the facts, this conclusion is totally wrong. The statement is without question completely wrong.

LK’s Response
I and many others believe the above suggests to the contrary.

I have added my name to the list of those asking for the EGM. Len’s blog on the EGM is here.

Free photos in The Commons – commonsExplorer

Finding free photos for use in notes, to illustrate lectures and so on, is typically an activity that takes a bit of time – searching first Flickr, then WikiMedia, then a.n.other repository (and possibly checking in at some restricted rights repository that your institution subscribes to, though I rarely bother with this myself). Flickr now hosts a very rich set of creative commons images – its The Commons project has been working with a range of national and institutional archives to make them accessible to the public.

Now finding images is easier with commonsExplorer – a desktop app for Windows, Mac and Linux. commonsExplorer “provides a “big picture” view of these collections – a rich, single screen interface that reveals structures and patterns and encourages exploration.

Check it out here.

Extensions of Man

For the McLuhan fans.

Its around 50 years since McLuhan wrote about media as ‘extensions of man’. A recent article in Current Biology adds evidence from neuro-science that the brain adapts to the use physical tools – so that to the brain the tools indeed become extensions of the user. I’m sure this all ties up neatly somehow…  I’m wondering if this kind of work will impact research on presence in virtual realities. Perhaps.

BBC article and the Current Biology article.