What Debbie Did … 001

dear dairy

Thanks to Ken Bauer and Ben Werdmüller for the idea and questions ! My previous blog post explains the background to this.

The core questions:

I’m not sure I will make an entry every day and if I will do the stretch questions each time but I really like the thought of answering question prompts so we will see how we go … I wanted to time myself on this but forgot. I don’t really want to spend long on doing this as a general rule of thumb but as this is my first attempt it will no doubt take me longer.

Deb Entry 001

Journal Entry for Monday 3 August 2020

What did you do today? 

Today (Monday 3 August – oh my word it is August already where has the year gone ) was a typical busy day at work. We are gearing up for our Online Summer Summit so there is a lot to keep me out of mischief as well as the usual stuff.

I start at 7.30am now and finish at 3.30pm which is great for my work life balance. I find that starting early helps me find some thinking and planning time. I caught up with a lot of stuff that needed doing.

I then managed to catch up with the lovely Ken Bauer for #educoffee chat earlier this evening which was a real tonic. We talked about how Ken has been running this initiative since March and finds it really helpful – it is his ‘social time’. It was so nice to speak to Ken – one of his students popped in to say hello too, I didn’t get chance to chat much to him as I couldn’t stay long though but it was great to have him join us. We chatted about all sorts of things from what I am hoping to look at in my research in terms of emotional support for educators, the importance of connections in general, affinity spaces, communities of practice, student induction, how some of these new informal conversational tools could be used ( I have recently been playing with something called High Fidelity that could be really useful … that reminds me I need to write a blog post on that ). We also talked about how we have worries for our pets who seem to have got so used to having us all at home during lockdown. That is a lot to pack into twenty minutes.

What did you enjoy? 

I got to share some photos with my lovely team mates today after a busy weekend where I managed to see some friends on Saturday and had a family day trip out on Sunday for the first time since lockdown started. This made a very pleasant change to my usual answer of ‘same old same old’ to the ‘ what was your weekend like ?’ question. This even included photos of a HAPPY teenager … yep you heard that right.

What did you find difficult? 

Hmm, I haven’t managed to complete my appraisal notes which should have been in today. I had started but not finished as other stuff just took priority.

What has changed? 

Well I have made my first entry into my reflections journal …

And then, there are some more ‘stretch’ questions:

What are you grateful for? 

My husband and kids who keep me sane and make me remember what is really important.

Which changes do you want to keep? 

I’d like to try and keep writing some sort of journal entry. I hope I find it helpful. I would also like to try and and get out and about more.

What has stayed the same?

Well I guess pretty much everything is still the same …

When did you last laugh? 

On the weekend – with my friends and family

Journaling / Writing Aspirations …

I must try and get into the habit of writing regularly and I am thinking that journaling might be the way to go …

Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

There are two main reasons for this: a) as a PhD candidate it is really kind of a good idea to practice ! Clearly my blog is a different sort of writing but I figured any attempt at regular writing just might help and b) I don’t think I am particularly good at being reflective and by writing a regular journal might help with that and of course it will probably be good for me in other ways ( eg mental health and well being etc )

I really like the idea of journaling … I used to keep a journal as a kid back in the prehistoric days before t’internet, computers and my probably poor attempts at adulting … but that was really only for me and only me – so I guess that would be more of a personal diary ? Is there a difference ? I’m not sure. I looked it up in Miriam-Webster dictionary but I’m still none the wiser ? Answers on a postcard would be most appreciated ..

In the last week or so I have come across a few different sources of inspiration that have really struck a chord with me. I so wish I could have the sticking power to actually do one of these things. I’m not sure which one I will adopt or even if I might try a different approach but either way I thought I would share in case they are helpful for others and also by way of saying thank you to all these lovely people for sharing their stuff ..

Inspiration 1 : Natalie Sheridan’s Blog, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and #SoTLwalk


I’ve recently connected with Nathalie in relation to our shared love of Flipgrid. We are still trying to have a hangout so we can come up with a cunning plan. However, we have actually been connected for a while now and are currently trying to work out exactly from where! We are like minded souls … it could be #LTHEchat perhaps ?

Anyhow, when I was wandering around Nathalie’s most excellent blog I came across loads of really helpful stuff including her contributions to #SoTLwalk, the brain child of Dr Natasha Taylor – Check out https://sites.rmit.edu.au/seh-sotl/2020/07/19/join-the-july-sotl-walk/

I loved reading this post from Nathalie where she highlights her enthuasism for the #SoTLwalk initative

I have fallen in love with the SoTL walk. It is a great way to engage in reflective practice and with colleagues across the world. This month’s topic was more challenging than I thought. Once I began writing it grew vines and tentacles all over the place. So instead of sharing directly on the padlet, I am trying to disentangle here first. My walk began in our garden and looped around an overgrown path along the canal (because on this side there are barely any people). So nature gave me quite a bit to reflect on.

Nathalie Sheridan

This blog post explains how the #SoTLwalk went virtual during lockdown and Nathasha gives a brilliant overview of the initiative in this video. Seemingly it combines walking with scholarly activity.

This is something that is now in it’s 5th month and I have missed it all ! I am really very sad about this as it is such a brilliant idea. Participating in this would mean that I could a) give my regular writing a kick start and b) actually get me out of the house which would be an excellent plan as if I don’t do something soon the good old ‘Covid Lockdown ‘ weight gain will mean that I will be the size of a house if I am not careful …

This weeks theme is ‘‘When life gives you lemons…’. I don’t think I will get to actually think about that by tomorrow but I look forward to seeing what the theme is next time !

Dr Natasha Taylor explains the #SoTLWalk Initative

Inspiration 2 : Doug Belshaw’s Blog and #100daystooffload


I’m always inspired and completely in awe of how Doug manages to be so productive in all that he does … clearly not an easy feat … I have learnt so much over the years from him (kind of where my love of Open Digital Badges comes from) .. his blog is an absolute treasure chest of hints and tips .. what is so lovely is that he so open and genuine and gives such an insight into how he does stuff

Doug has been doing a series where he has been writing regularly with the aim of doing 100 posts in a year.

This is a link to Doug’s first post in the series where he explains how he was inspired to take part in this initiative started by Kev Quirk

I came across someone using the #100DaysToOffload hashtag on Mastodon. Curious to find out more, I clicked the links on a few updates that contained the hashtag, and eventually discovered this blog post from Kev Quirk:

What if we had a hashtag that encourages both existing and new bloggers to start writing? The posts don’t need to be long-form, technical masterpieces that should earn you a masters in English. But instead, just a simple and fun way to get people writing and sharing their thoughts. You never know, the whole might be cathartic too.

There’s now a site complete with some guidelines: 100daystooffload.com

Doug Belshaw 2020 / Kev Quirk2020

This is a link to the latest of Doug’s posts in this series – I just love how he signs this one off …

Living a good life is not a theoretical exercise : I have spent much of my adult life studying Philosophy, either formally at university or informally through reading and discussing. But living a good life is not a theoretical exercise, and that is why my Mastodon bio simply quotes Epictetus in saying:

Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.

Doug Belshaw 2020

… anyone who knows Doug would find it diffcult to comprehend that he needs any encouragement to write regularly ( as he recogises himself in the first post) as he is just so productive it is unbelievable … although it is so good to see that he knows he needs to take time out and slow down at times … this gives me hope .. even if I could have a little bit of Doug’s magic productivity dust I would be happy .. )

Inspiration 3 : Ken Bauer’s Blog

Screen shot of Ken’s Main Page


I found links to Ken’s blog on Mastodon . I’m already connected with Ken and have been for a number of years now through things like Virtually Connecting, but for some reason I had missed his blog series on his experiences during lockdown. Ken uses a set of questions as prompts for reflecting and this approach looks really good. I wonder if this might be something that I could do ? Maybe ?

The questions Ken answers in each post are :-

The core questions:

  1. What did you do today? 
  2. What did you enjoy? 
  3. What did you find difficult? 
  4. What has changed? 

And then, there are some more ‘stretch’ questions:

  1. What are you grateful for? 
  2. Which changes do you want to keep? 
  3. What are you scared of? 
  4. What has stayed the same?
  5. When did you last laugh

Ken mentions that he in turn was inspired by a post by Ben Werdmüller titled “Recording life on the ground“ which I think is where the questions came from.

This is a link to Ken’s first post

Entry 000 :
Yes, I left three digits there so this will roll over after 999 more entries. Let’s hope it doesn’t reach that number.

Ken Bauer 2020

and the most recent one where Bailey gets a shout out

Reading: Entry 103 for Saturday July 25, 2020
When did you last laugh? Our dog Bailey is good to keep us in a good mood, smiling and laughing. We are sure glad that she arrived on our doorstep almost three years ago.

Ken Bauer 2020

I also have to include this one as it has a piccie of Bailey who is like the cutest doggo ever ..

A Dog’s Life : Entry 009 for April 23, 2020
What has stayed the same? Our dog Bailey is very happy about this entire situation. She gets today’s title and picture because we all need more pet photos to keep our spirits up.

Ken Bauer 2020

Journaling during Covid-19 – Entry 009

Photo by Ken Bauer ( I think ! )

As far as I can tell Ken has mostly been blogging daily , even if there are one of two days when he doesn’t quite manage to blog a reflection in the series, it is still so impressive and VERY inspiring ..

So, all in all I think all these approaches are just brilliant and they have all in some way inspired me to write this so that is at least a start isn’t it !

However, there is a teeny part of me that is wondering if this isn’t another attempt at procrastination and some sort of weird attempt to avoid writing my research proposal and perhaps making that public ? Do I feel brave enough yet … hmm that is a question for another day …

all the best

Deb’s Bitmoji is probably having more success in writing …

The PHD Elephant in the Room

In a great blog post today called How not to be an Academic Asshole during COVID the amazing Inger Mewburn of @thesiswhisperer fame (btw who I am very proud to be a patreon supporter of ) talks about the prevelance of ‘Toxic Positivity ; not showing weakness and pretending everything is ok when its really not’ in the academic world , and that this can stop people from admitting that they are struggling with things.

Inger is completely open and honest about her own struggles in many of her posts but this one really struck a chord with me …well worth a read.

I remember at one of our residential courses, the lovely Brett Bligh gave us a presentation where he asked each one of us to think about why we were doing a PHD… I didn’t really have an answer then and a couple of years down the line I’m not really sure I have an answer of much substance now !

When I started my PhD in 2017 after two Masters, a degree and a couple of other bits and bobs, I was convinced I probably would’t get through the first year and that as it was a modular based course, it would at least give me some PhD level modules to ‘bank’ and probably run away with. That didn’t happen and by some miracle I am still hanging on by my fingernails.

I struggle constantly with nagging worries about whether I should be doing this flipping thing in the first place … whether I am smart enough, whether what I am doing is ‘worthwhile’ , whether I can continue to justify the time, cost and pressure that this puts not only on myself, but also on the ones I love … sometimes I just don’t know anymore.

Now I’m not saying I think I want to quit, ..but I am certainly saying that I am finding it soooo hard. I am often scared of admitting this but having read Inger’s post I am hoping admitting that I am struggling with things is half of the battle.

I’m really not sure that I have what it takes to get to the end of this thing but I am at the moment still on this journey. I had some time out last year only to return and then find we were about to go head first into a global pandemic. However despite some pretty regular wobbles when the usual imposter syndrome creeps up, I am still chugging along.

Inger talks about a recent survey from the University of Sydney that found that nearly half of PhD students are contemplating leaving their studies in the next six months … NEARLY HALF ! As you can see from her tweet there were a lot of people that read it and it clearly resonated with loads of people .. although this is a worrying statistic it its strangely comforting for me in that I feel slightly less alone now …

The elephant is always in the room

Inger reminds us that we are all vulnerable in terms of suffering from poor mental health and that while we seem to be comfortable with talking about Student mental health , we ‘rarely turn the spotlight on academics who teach and mentor them ‘.

This provides more justification for what I am hoping to look at in my PhD in terms of emotional support for educators during and beyond COVID19 and how open practice and personal learning networks can provide a vehicle for this.

Inger has provided some great links at the bottom of her blog post that are really useful .. she also always comes up with some catchy titles such as ‘ Should you quit (go part time or pause) your PhD during Covid‘ and ‘The valley of deep Covid Shit‘ and my personal favourite ‘Academic Assholes and the Circle of Niceness

If you are doing a PhD and haven’t already found Inger ( are you living under a rock ?) you can follow her on twitter @thesiswhisperer and her blog at https://thesiswhisperer.com/

Virtual Hugs

I came across this blog post that the lovely Maha Bali wrote on her blog “Digital Affect (Emotional Presence?) and Continuity with Care during COVID-19. In her post, Maha mentions that the social distancing aspect of the current COVID19 situation ‘makes the need for digital affect (emotional presence?) so much more important’

This really resonates with the stuff I’m hoping to research. Maha also shares two recordings of some online conversations where the participants talk a lot about the concept of care particularly during COVID-19. I remember seeing tweets about both of these happening but as ever life got in the way and I didn’t get to take part in them and I still haven’t caught up with them.

So I am putting the direct links here to the video’s that Maha mentions, so that I can try to make sure that I watch them both as I bet they will be REALLY helpful ( and also because as Maha says it was a ‘much needed virtual hug’ 😌which is something I think we can all do with at the moment !)

Bitmoji Image

I spy quite a few familiar faces in these so I’m looking forward to watching 🙂

Last week I read one of the new papers (Bozkurt et al 2020) that Maha is a collaborator on along with many of my lovely friends at Go-GN Global OER Graduate Network . This is such a great article with something like 31 countries represented. It really chimes with the pedagogy of care aspect for me and provides some back up for my planned proposal in terms of emotional support and open practice aspects….. Yay !


Bali, M., 2020. Digital Affect (Emotional Presence?) And Continuity With Care During COVID-19. [online] Reflecting Allowed. Available at: <https://blog.mahabali.me/pedagogy/critical-pedagogy/digital-affect-emotional-presence-and-continuity-with-care-during-covid-19/&gt; [Accessed 21 June 2020].

Bozkurt, A., & Sharma, R. C. (2020). Emergency remote teaching in a time of global crisis due to CoronaVirus pandemic. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 15(1), i-vi. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3778083

Authentic Experiences in Online Learning : Look Behind you !

This post was triggered by an opinion piece entitled ‘ Instructors please wash your hair’ that I read in Inside Higher Ed that wound me up a bit.

I am definitely not alone in feeling this way, as there is certainly an interesting exchange of comments below the article.

The author of the piece has provided an explanation that it was written before all the COVID-19 stuff happened and seems to recognise that it is ill informed.

The piece itself is more aligned to a commentary that advocates for the need for educators to ‘exhibit professionalism’ and relates this mostly to the appearances of educators and how they are dressed, a line of argument for which I just have no words for given the current situation I am afraid, however, it did make me think about online social presence and how this relates to the environment that we find ourselves in, and how in turn this impacts on authenticity in online learning.

So, the main thing that it caused me to ponder on is that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about those weird and wonderful backdrops and images that people can use to display behind them when on an online video session. I seem to have come across most of them when using Zoom but I’m sure it is something that can be done in other platforms.

I just don’t like fake backgrounds I’m afraid …

Personally, I really like being able to see the real life situation that people are conducting their session in. I just don’t like a fake background. I think it really helps to provide a connection and provide for a more human experience if you can relate to the person’s environment.

I can see that people might like the quirkyness and wizardry of being on the bridge of the starship enterprise or having some sort of calming beach scene behind them, but for me I just don’t like it – Yes it might act as an ice breaker and a moment of lightheartedness (which we can certainly all do with at the moment) and I can see that some people just don’t want to show their home environment ; I guess that there is also an argument for trying to remove some of the distraction of the real life environment but personally for me I think by removing the real life background and replacing it with a whacky image means that the host loses more than they gain ..

I actually like it when I can see the walls, bookshelves and even piles of washing behind the speaker and when the cat or dog does an appearance . Having the children wandering past the camera in the background isn’t a distraction to me, it shows that the person is real. I also really don’t mind it all if someone is wearing their pyjamas or hasn’t washed their hair.

“trying to remove ourselves from the environment that we exist in by putting up a background image will simply put up a barrier to that empathy.”

I believe all of this stuff adds to an authentic experience and enables a deeper connection between participants and educators alike. I think it enables empathy to appreciate the fact that there is often a lot of other stuff that is going on in peoples lives.

Don’t get me wrong. Maybe there is a place for fake backgrounds somewhere if it helps people feel more comfortable but personally I think that the current crazy world that we are finding ourselves living in will be helped by an empathetic connection, and trying to remove ourselves from the environment that we exist in by putting up a fake background image will simply put up a barrier to that empathy.

I definitely won’t be having a fake background anytime soon ..

So I will be wearing my unicorn slippers and probably a pink cardigan for my next synchronous session and I may even wash my hair .. I will probably also have bribed the kids to keep quiet and have pre- fed the cats so they don’t jump on the keyboard and cut me off, but if the dog appears she will say hello as usual and my very pink but definitely messy room will be on view and I definitely won’t be having a fake background anytime soon ..

Keep it real people … currently feeling very lucky and privileged to have a garden to sit in -something which is a luxury that is not available to many people right now …

Online Learning and Teaching Useful Resources (#COVID19)

There have been so many really helpful resources shared over the last week or so in relation to learning and teaching online.

I’ve put the ones that I have come across on this PADLET as I keep losing track of what I have seen and where in all the noise. I also wanted somewhere to keep track of the compilations that others have made and developed too. Sharing it here in case others find it helpful 🙂

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