Tag Archives: women in Tech

“We are really important to the future of education”

Marieke Guy
Learning Technologist
Royal Agricultural University

ALTC 2018

Last month, courtesy of being awarded a UCISA bursary, I travelled up to Manchester (the city of 100,000 students) for the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Conference 2018. While it was my first ALTC, it was actually the 25th in the series and there was considerable reflection on changes to the learning technologist role and in learning technology itself.  In my posts about ALTC, I want to share some of the noticeable themes and my favourite moments.
The ALTC 2018 committee team launch the conference

I am woman

This year saw three inspiring women providing the ALTC plenaries, unfortunately, unusual enough an occurrence that it warrants comment. On day 1 Dr Tressie McMillan Cottom, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, gave a sociological unpacking of educational technology and explored the idea that context matters and learning technologies do not exist in a vacuum. Tessie suggested that the time is right for us to deconstruct learning technology and consider how we want to put the pieces back together. Learning technologies have (in the US) emerged as administrative units but would they benefit from being a unique academic discipline? She shared the example of the born digital programmes she has led on where “edtech is not just a set of tools but a philosophy about how we think about things” – offering opportunities to the non-traditional student.
On day 2 Amber Thomas, Head of Academic Technology, University of Warwick, gave a wonderful talk considering ‘Twenty years on the edge’. You can read a summary on her blog: Fragments of Amber.  Way too much good stuff to write about here but the main take away was a pat on the back for those of us working with learning technology in HE.
ALT’s 25 year anniversary playing card pack
Things aren’t easy – not only do we suffer from impostor syndrome when we do well but there is also a misapprehension that innovation is isolated to the commercial sector and that governments and agencies are blockers of change. Amber pointed out some of our collective work, from 3.5 million spent on MOOCs, to great collaborative projects and organisations including Ferl, Jisc and EU projects. However, change in universities requires patience and it is important that we listen to the mainstream, after all digital is really about people. We need to be ethical, respectful and useful, for we are “really important to the future of education”.
Dr Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of ALT, gave the last plenary of the conference ‘Beyond advocacy: Who shapes the future of Learning Technology?’. She brought together the conference themes, a good dose of ethics (“equality is everyone’s responsibility”) and empowerment pants.
Amber Thomas presents her twenty years on the edge
She considered the difficulties learning technologists face in being both advocate and critic in a “risky business” where things often go wrong. Perhaps we need to get better at sharing our failings. Maren concluded with a personal reflection that “EdTech is a field of practice, not a discipline”. You can read Maren’s recent post on the state of Education Technology in HE on WonkHE.

Beetastic Manchester
More to follow on the noticeable themes and favourite moments at ALTC.
This blog first appeared in the ‘Digital Transformation at RAU’ blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of networking for women in IT

Rhiannon Gillespie
Service Desk Advisor
Cardiff University

CISCO Live 2018, Orlando

Preparing for CISCO Live

As a UCISA bursary award winner for 2018, I had the opportunity to visit CISCO Live in Orlando, Florida.  CISCO Live is CISCO’s annual customer and partner conference with sessions, hands-on training and an exhibition. With just three weeks to prepare before setting off, I registered for the conference and got to work choosing which sessions I’d attend. There were hundreds to choose from, so I stuck to one area: the ‘Leadership and Equality’ track. I had to register on the sessions before arriving and some I wanted to attend such as the ‘CISCO Live orientation’ were unfortunately fully booked.
I downloaded the CISCO Live app, which held my schedule, helpful information like meals and shuttle times, and general information about the conference. This was very useful while at the conference to keep on top of where I was supposed to be.
I arrived early to allow myself to acclimatize before the conference started.  The conference was just a shuttle ride away, so on the Saturday before the conference I got the shuttle so I could find where the stop was for when the conference started and went to pick up my badge to beat the Monday morning queues.  On the Monday morning I got to the conference early to take advantage of breakfast. I could tell how big the conference was just by how long it took to walk from the shuttle stop to the dining area!
I attended two or three sessions a day and spent the rest of the time wandering around what CISCO dub the ‘World of Solutions’.  This was an area with various technical labs, ‘DevNet’ developer area and a trade show type floor where CISCO partners conduct talks and demos of their products.

CISCO Empowered Women’s Network

The track of talks I attended used to be a four-hour session called CISCO Empowered Women’s Network or ‘CEWN’ on the Sunday before the main conference. This was the first year they had spread it over multiple sessions over multiple days. A newbie to networks and the only female in the IT Service Desk team, I sometimes lack confidence. There were more technical sessions, which matched all levels of technical ability but owing to my lack of confidence I didn’t attend any of these.  The CEWN sessions, however, really helped with my confidence. They discussed varying diversity issues and how to overcome them, and some sessions were presented by women who work in different areas of CISCO discussing their roles. They also discussed how to create more diverse teams and the benefits this can have, this included a talk from the main person behind ‘CISCO men for inclusion group.
My favourite talk was about ‘Women on the Front line of Disaster Response’ which consisted of three managers from separate teams (one a different company, NetHope) discussing how they approach disaster response and help bring back networks to disaster areas. This included man-made disasters, natural disasters and refugee camps (pictured the CISCO van and inflatable satellite they take to disaster areas).
It was interesting learning how they managed this as well as the results from completing the work.  For example, one of them discussed how when speaking to some refugee children, it transpired that they had learnt how to speak English by watching videos on the Wi-Fi.
If anyone is ever thinking of attending CISCO Live, I highly recommend it. If you are a woman thinking of attending, definitely go for it. Only 8% of attendees this year were women, but this was up from 6% last year – we need to keep pushing that number up! The conference really did help with my confidence and it was just generally really good fun (especially the party they held at Universal Studios!).

 Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

CIO+1 – celebrating diversity in IT

Anna Mathews
UCISA Head of Policy and Projects

 

 

In April UCISA sponsored a CIO + 1 event, as one of our activities to support diversity in our sector, as outlined in the UCISA 2018-2022 Strategic Plan  CIO +1 is a series of events designed to improve diversity in IT, and expert speakers, technology or subject matter-leaders are  involved at each event.
Established by Claire Priestley, Director of IT at City, University of London, CIO +1 gives underrepresented groups in the sector access to unique networking opportunities.  The CIO +1 audience is therefore CIOs and IT leaders, accompanied by their nominated individuals from HEI and FEIs (as well as local and central government, charity, NHS and the private sector).

As Claire explains, “CIO+1 is an initiative developed to help diversity in IT leadership. CIOs are invited to high calibre, free networking events on the basis that they bring along a talented individual from within their own teams – ideally someone from a typically underrepresented group. The “+1” gets exposure to the same high profile networking, strategic conversations, products and presentations that we – in tech leadership – have the opportunity to experience regularly.”
And what a fun, informative evening it was!  One element that really stood out was the care and attention Claire’s well-briefed colleagues took to host the reception and  ensure that people were brought into conversations if they found themselves on their own; another was Claire’s emphasis on “breaking bread” –  the excellent food, along with the convivial, friendly atmosphere made for a relaxed evening.

 

There were three guest speakers:  Professor Marianne Lewis from the Cass Business School; Sarah Wrench, AI expert from Ernst Young; and Aline Hayes, who is leading the development of big data and AI at Lloyds Banking Group as Head of Systems.
In a funny and engaging hands on presentation Sarah covered all manner of topics:  boxing, the importance of positive and negative data sets in machine learning, and using magic tricks at interview.  Aline, who many of us know from her previous roles in higher education spoke about her role at Lloyds and about employment practices, such as flexible working, to support diversity.
We concluded with a fascinating talk from Marianne who explained polarity mapping in organisations, using  the changing fortunes of Lego as a case study.   In short, in trying to reinvent itself twenty years ago, Lego moved too far away from its core values and central business (creating too many new product lines, not listening to retailers, ignoring the strength of the heritage brand it had built up).   When falling sales led the company re-examine its culture, it realised that it had “over adjusted” (or to put it another way the pendulum had swung too far).  This realisation led to a return to Lego’s core values.  And from that new position of equilibrium the company went on the success it now enjoys by innovating but always paying heed to its history.

You can find out more about the CIO + 1 initiative from Twitter and the CIO + 1 page on LinkedIn.  The next event takes place on Tuesday 31 July and it is being sponsored by the UCISA London Group , which is supported by the London Metropolitan Network.