Tag Archives: learning

Whither libraries?

Too old, too big…too little used?

Article update: 28.10.2017  – A really sound article on the utility of libraries by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett –  No one needs libraries any more? What rubbish  from The Guardian of Thursday, 26th October, 2017.

In it Cosslet takes to task the political pundit Andre Walker, for his omnipotent vision of the library service in the UK. Namely that no-one visits them anymore and they should all be closed down and the books given to schools.

Is there something Presidential in this decimation of the library service by Twitter?

Rhiannon goes on to thread her story with her use of the public library when young – developing intellectual curiosity, cultural awareness, knowledge of the world and taking up the rich opportunity public libraries offer to graze the landscape of the word, six books at a  time.

We recommend the article to our readers.


Original text: In the Spring of 2015 the Adam Smith Institute published an article entitled ‘The End of Local Authority Libraries‘. As the economic ice age of Osbornian austerity descended upon us, the Press was full of cultural turbulence about the closure and operational rigidity of our national literacy assets.

Although the general  Press attention has diminished, it is telling that the dilution of the library service has continued unabated, albeit with increasingly diminished media currency, as we have been further overwhelmed by matters of political moment in and about Europe, perhaps.

View, print or download the full report here…pdf

Central government, arguably, remains enthusiastic and espouses a positive vison for the library service. The recent report Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 from the Libraries Taskforce, is almost entirely upbeat about the half decade ahead. They offer a vision of a multiplicity of supported delivery systems for a local library in section 6.3 of the report.

The website Public Libraries News, in July, declared that now ‘there are at least five hundred libraries that are staffed, if not entirely run by volunteers’. On the one hand, this is a sign, we would argue, that there is profound suport for the local library at grassroots level. But it is also a sign, looking at the plethora of continual changes and negative reviews of library services across the country on the website, that there is no clear, effective and equally profound form of new governance emerging for libraries.

One that, at once taps into localism, yet satisfies the need for an eclectic and near universal access to knowledge and leisure, free at the point of delivery for those who need it most.

The trade union Unison are to hold a National SOS Day on the 19th of October, 2017. Save our Services is designed to show that ‘...libraries are a hub and a haven in our communities. They offer a place for people to work, relax, discover and think.They are a source of local knowledge and history and give everyone access to books, DVDs, music and more, for free or at a very low cost.

But libraries also do a lot more than lend books. Many hold events, anything from story time for children to yoga classes for adults. Library workers help people look for work, advise on using IT, organise talks by authors and so much more‘.

Source: https://www.unison.org.uk/blogs/2017/08/sos-day-17/

The debate, then, continues to have currency. The Adam Smith Institute argued, in its article by Eamonn Butler, that the free market was the solution to the ‘library deficit’ issue, as to be expected. That exemplars of library innovation, in the shape of American organisations such as Library Systems and Services, were to be the saviours of a moribund library market.

However, research shows that the accession of LSSI to the pinnacle of library stewardship has not been entirely successful in the USA. An earlier article in the New York Times shows how both library staff and users, even in the more affluent cities where LSSI has obtained contracts, have been happy to lead protests. Dissenting voices to the ending of  unionised services, diminution of book stocks and antagonism towards the ethics of ‘libraries for profit’.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/business/27libraries.html

The City Library, Birmingham

The Butler argument, from the Adam Smith Institute, saw the then new Birmingham City Library building as an example of ossification of service. The £188 million building began to operate on a ‘self-funded’ basis for events, for example, in the context of author events or arts activity. Both previously seen as draws to footfall for the library service. Indeed key activities in a wider cultural obligation for libraries, we would argue.

However, debate about the capital cost of a building in austere times is one thing, but the Institute author’s position somewhat fails to recognise that it is free market policies which have led to the very fiscal landscape that has so diminished the library service.

If a library is battered by exogenous fiscal policy upheaval, it is somewhat unfair to blame the librarian for lack of service, or diversity in activity, surely?

Is there hope for change? We think so.

We were pleased to see that there is widening acceptance by Councils that the community should have control of libraries as a community resource. At the beginning of August, for example, Derby City Council declared for the cessation of control of ten libraries, which will see ‘…the loss of at least 39 library assistants’ jobs and two library managers, of almost 100 staff who work for the authority. Community groups will get £17,500 a year each to fund their own managed libraries until 2022…’

Source: http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/derby-news/attempt-stop-biggest-ever-shake-265614

What is concerning, in this case, is the timetable and the level of grant in aid ceded to the community organisations in the City, to effectively manage the transfer and creation of a new community organisation to deliver the service.

More positively again, Bury Council this month have approved a new community asset transfer plan. ‘The new policy means applications from groups to buy community assets from the council will be considered against ‘key tests’ designed to ensure a deal which is best for the council and residents‘. The landscape of community opportunity grows!

Source: http://www.thisislancashire.co.uk/news/15439093.New_policy_hopes_to_make_it_easier_for_groups_to_take_ownership_of_council_buildings/

However, it is entirely possible, we would argue, to imagine the creation of community libraries as Social Enterprises, where the not for profit governance model delivers a mix of volunteer and employee led services, bolstered by an admixture of social business services to support and maintain the core library provision.

A community cafe, a learning centre, a gardening or horticultural project…the list could easily be imaginatively extended by a dynamic, active community. The whole focused upon the creation of ‘…a place for people to work, relax, discover and think‘, to remind us of the Unison observation.

If the trade union are having an SOS Day, why do we not start a new think-tank movement, LASER – Libraries as Social Enterprise Renewal.

Write to conversationsEAST if you are interested in social enterprise, passionate about libraries and learning and keen to develop governance-sound, community led, not for profit library buildings.

We’ll publish a web site, host a meeting and give the idea traction?


Additional narrative – 20.08.2017

Read more here…

We have just come across a recent article in Wired by Susan Crawford, where she argues for a resurgence in phiilanthropy to revitalise the library service.

In the text, in response to a recent tweet by Jeff Bezos asking for suggestions about a new shape for his giving, she argues for an Amazon/Bezos programme of giving to libraries.

Developing Jeff Bezos’s current long term view of his ‘social investments’ towards, arguably, a philanthropic delivery that would cater for the short and the long term. Mr. Bezos describes his search for a new intitiative ‘…to help people in the here and now’. Our new library programme, as described, would do that, but also cater for the long term too.

Namely a series of Amazon Memorial Libraries, or Bezos Community Cultural Centres, would benefit the communities they were placed in, but they would also create new readers and enhance human capital in the hinterland of their sites, as well as delivering a major philosophical boost to the image of Amazon as a socially beneficial company.

You can read Susan Crawford’s piece on the pages of Wired here.

We understand Jeff Bezos reads every email sent directly to him. We’ll write to Mr. Bezos and make a suggestion supporting a new philanthropic venture into the British library landscape, and explore the models that might be created.

We would argue that history has been kind to the Carnegie model of library establishment, why should not future generations look as kindly upon Jeff Bezos?

Watch this space for an update, even if we don’t get a reply!


Useful links to accompany this article:

Library over-watch!

http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/

Use it or lose it! – The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/16/library-use-in-england-fell-dramatically-over-last-decade-figures-show

City Library Birmingham: Image by Gareth Williams - Creative Commons

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Bologna, books and biglietti

Animal illustrations for the Book Fair in Bologna...
Dining in Bologna at the Children’s Book Fair 2017…

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We hopped on the bus near the Ospedale Maggiore di Bologna, having purchased our biglietti for Euro 1.50, and found we could ride the autobus, through the medieval cobbled streets of the city, in any direction for ninety minutes”.

Our Partnership team were in Bologna, Italy last week. We were attending the Children’s Book Fair to meet with publishers, authors and artists, and to soak up the atmosphere of world class creativity and dynamism that is the book trade for children in Italy.

Being regular attenders at the London Book Fair, it was noticeable that, although the giant Amazon had a media stand at the week in Bologna, there was nothing like the all pervading presence they seemed to have in London earlier in the year.

Indeed, for the retail giant Italy is still a market in development. We noted that “…Amazon’s Prime service offers one-day delivery of a million products in 6,000 Italian towns and 2-3 days for the rest of the country“.  Read more here… Source: Italy24 web pages.

Bologna Book Fair 2017 image
Bologna Book Fair detail…

With a significant Amazon building and development programme in Italy under way, the diversity and complexity of the other international publishing presences in Bologna, from traditional publishers to independent writers, artists and agents, was a sign that the trade in Italy is perhaps conditioned and delivered still in a very traditional way. Affording much opportunity for disruptive innovation in retail distribution we suspect.

As a micro-publisher, establishing our own tentative foothold in the Italian market, what was stunningly noticeable was the available space and ease with which new graphic artists, illustrators and designers could display their work.

Whatever language children are reading in, the quality of the illustrative art applied to the story enhances and opens that bridge to the imagination. It is as important as the ‘book’ itself, or the page layout or font choice, we would argue. The simplest narrative story can become an exciting page turner with the addition of wonderful artistic creativity. There was much of it evident in Italy last week.

Entering the exhibition halls at the event in Bologna Fiere was like stepping into a giant gallery. With a fantastic display of artwork in the principal foyer, annexed to a series of giant display boards for the young and independent artist to display samples of their work. Although the book trade is about business, the Italian approach led with free form creativity and individual design expertise in a way that we felt was unusual in the English book trade.

Some simple highlights for us during the week

Illustration by Marco Bonatti image
Illustration by Marco Bonatti

 

 

 

 

Marco Bonatti

We enjoyed the informal display of Marco’s work. He produces character with a gentle style, with which to enhance any children’s story, we felt. Engaging, friendly but equally up to the illustration of a more challenging narrative.

Based in Desenzano del Gardo, Italy – you can find Marco Bonatti’s work on the web here.

Katie Rewse

Katie Rewse image
Katie Rewse, using blue to effect…

Katie both studies and lectures in the Arts at Bournemouth University. She also runs Seablue Designs, a wonderfully evocative title for her business, which encompasses oceanic themes and a subtle and diverse range of blue in her work.

Katie’s palette, even informally displayed,  is striking when seen from a distance, which is what caught our eye, but is equally as powerful on the page when feeding a child’s imagination.

See Katie’s work on the web here.

 

 

 

Natasha Durley

Natasha Durley, pattern and proportion…

Another graduate of Bournemouth University Arts faculty, Natasha produces images of plants and animals that are bold in structure and colour, but which are always seemingly ‘anatomically’ sound and proportionally framed.

We liked her structured pattern work particularly, standing out as it did from many of her contemporaries on display in Bologna.

You can find Natasha’s award winning work on the web here.

 

 

 

 

Alessandra Fusi

Allesandra Fusi - a traditional style - image
Allesandra Fusi – a traditional style?

An artist and animation specialist, resident in Bologna, Alessandra has exhibited her work across not only Italy, but also Europe and the USA.

Her pen work was superb we thought, creating striking black and white images for her clients.

Alessandra has an ability to portray character through her artistry, but holds her style very much in the traditional fairytale mannerism, to which she expresses an enduring fascination.

You can see Alessandra’s work on the web here.

(All artist featured images captured from the Bologna Children's Fair ad-hoc display boards in 2017. Copyright remains entirely with the individual artist).

It was the artistry and illustrative energy that was the touchstone experience for us in Bologna this year. Although we were able to build a number of new partnerships and projects for 2017/2018, it is the imprint of ‘the image’ that will stay with us, particularly the energy of the work typical of the artists we have championed above.

Historical linearity in illustration:

We were looking, on behalf of another project before our departure for mainland Europe last week, at the history of children’s book illustration. The Digital Bodleian in Oxford have a wonderful new web resource featuring a number of historic children’s books and games.

You can trace a linear development between the Bodleian web holdings, many dating from the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, through to the modern day.

Not only in their stories about children, but also how the imaginative landscape is pictured, focused on illustration as we are in this article. Innovation was the driving force even then.

Colouring instruction - 1824
Colouring instruction – 1824

 

 

 

 

 

We particularly liked the game Choriama, dating from 1824, which serves as a ‘youth’s instructor’ in the drawing and colouring of landscape. The work being made up of a number of individual landscape sections, which can be folded and re-folded to create new topographies of play. See more at the Digital Bodleian here.

 

A Round of Fun - education and art? - image
A Round of Fun – education and art?

We also warmed to depictions of  A Round of Fun. Pleasant illustrations of classroom activity where imagination and fun, with guidance , are the focus of the day’s activity. Is this not how school should be?

This work, in the Digital Bodleian, was created in England but was printed in Germany. See more of the Round of Fun at the Digital Bodleian on the web here.

Our whole Digital Bodleian experience, looking back, has been resonant with echoes of  our contemporary take on the Book Fair in Bologna.

Creative and imaginative illustrations, some classical and others traditional in feel, the many with a modernist take on old themes – the whole utilising the practised hand of the artist, European production skills and education marketing.  A creative journey from the Nineteenth Century to now, following enduring first principles.

Our biglietti:

We are already booking them for the 2018 event! Perhaps we may see another blue crocodile?


Editorial note on Italy:

Italians, in a recent report, the Bloomberg Global Health Index of 163 countries, lay claim to being some of the healthiest citizens in the world. Despite the prolonged downturn in the country’s economy and with up to 40% of the young unemployed.

It is the proximity to high art and culture, as well as a high vegetable and fruit diet, that must be responsible for the continual flowering of Italian artistic endeavour surely?

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Project Torino – inclusive learning for visually impaired children…

 Building blocks of code for young leaners – code creation in new ways from Microsoft

 

Microsoft researchers, at their Cambridge UK facilities, are in the midst of developing a new set of coding tools which will support children with additional sight needs in exploring the creation of code, commands and programs.

Torino is a physical programming language, which will, it is hoped, enable children with visual impairments, to take part and contribute in coding classes. Sharing the world of code and developing an understanding of the structure of programmed technology with their peers.

It is hoped that the project, when fully realised can be useful to other cohorts of learners, from adults to those who can be constrained by dyslexia and autism, to be able to access careers as computer scientists or software engineers.

The World Health Organization estimates that 285 million people worldwide are blind or visually impaired, and the vast majority of those people live in low-income settings. In the United Kingdom alone, the Royal National Institute of Blind People says only one in four working age adults who are blind or partially sighted are doing paid work.

Source:  blogs.microsoft.com  Accessed – 28.03.2017

Recruiting young people and educators for the project:

The Project Torino Beta – Expression of Interest page is still live on the web. You can subscribe to receive more detailed information from Microsoft and Project Torino when the beta evaluation goes live.

The process is available  to educators and parents in the UK. See more here.

Inclusion at the heart of technology:

Reading the project detail, it is clear that inclusion for all learners lies at the heart of the project. The research and design work, initially geared towards children in the seven to eleven age group, has already created a curriculum for teachers to be able to use Project Torino. (No prior coding skills are needed…Ed.)

An ‘app’ has also been created to enable children, once having mastered their physical language coding skills, to move on into text based code, wherever appropriate.

Great news from Microsoft Research in Cambridge. We shall follow the project with interest.

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Chelmsford Ideas Festival 2016

ideasfest2016button
Discover more here…

It’s that time of year again. We are packing our notebooks, pencils and cameras for a series of editorial visits, as usual, to the Chelmsford Ideas Festival 2016.

22nd October till the 12th November 2016.

”The Chelmsford Ideas Festival aims to stimulate and inspire people through a set of innovative events, talks and workshops”.

With a much improved web site this year, you can find a range of activities and interests to stimulate the intellect across a variety of themes. Each category of event has its own diary section. See below for what might interest you most.

Arts  |  Heritage  | Kids  |  Technology  |  Your City  | Wellbeing  |  Food

You can see last years event article on conversationsEAST here. This year, 2016, the programme is diverse, inclusive and accessible.

To book individual workshops and events simply open the calendar entry on the web page to get full details of the event and how to book.


Highlights from the programme? We liked…

Rooted Art – Public Art Workshops   25th October, 2016   10.00 to 12.00

‘Let’s make history! Join Artist Nick Haydon (known for his large scale printmaking) and Artist Victoria Button in creating a massive historic mural in Chelmsford city centre, depicting stories of the city’s heritage. Funded by Essex County Council’.

See more about artists Victoria Button and Nick Haydon


We also liked…

Chat About the Old Days – 27th October and 27th November, 2016  – 14.00 to 16.30

‘Come along to this free session – enjoy a cup of tea/coffee and a cake for just £1 and join us in reminiscing about the ‘old days’. (Don’t forget: even teenagers have an ‘old days’ – what do you remember about times past?) 

Our idea is to have a jolly good nostalgic chat session over a cup of tea and then for some of the memories and stories that come out to form the basis of a new community artwork to be displayed at the Ideas Hub. Maybe it will be the start of a series of artworks…who knows?’

Organiser: Artist Max Dolding – see more here.


And also…

ESA’S COPERNICUS PROGRAMME: How is E2V protecting Planet earth?    24th October 19:00 – 21:00

‘Paul Jerram is Chief Engineer for Space Imaging at e2v, Chelmsford. Headquartered in Chelmsford, e2v is bringing life to technology and employs 1750 people globally. e2v partners with customers to provide world-class image sensors and detection subsystems that can help solve the mysteries of the Universe, understand climate change on Earth and much, much more…’

Event follows the Festival launch at Anglia Ruskin University.


The Ideas Festival Chelmsford,  22nd October till the 12th November 2016, is certainly now a premier intellectual and cultural landmark in the regional festival landscape. Visit the web site and book to join in the work. You will not be disappointed.

See the Festival full contact details here.

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The Gift of Knowledge?

How it used to be done!
How it used to be done!

At this time of year everyone reflects a little on their progress in the previous twelve months, and more often than not, looks forward to the next twelve, with joy or trepidation depending on personal circumstance.

One factor of life that will not change is the ubiquity of the web and the range of services available for the owners of the right ‘machinery’, or for those who have access to it.

This journal is the product of Fellowship imaginations, but others are looking at the world and re-imagining news, reflection and analysis too. Below are some great ways that you can commit to developing knowledge and understanding, all at no cost…beyond that all important access to machinery!

 

Wonker – a complex news analysis engine:

wonkerLogoThis is a brave attempt to develop and share knowledge and understanding about the critical social, economic and community development conflicts across the globe.

Just getting started, but with a vast task in front of them, Casey and Nick the creators of Wonker, risk burn-out or perhaps even take-over by mainstream news outlets if the concept becomes a raging success. The site currently offers analysis of the ISIS crisis and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for example.

That said, even if you are a ‘policy wonk‘ already, the site offers a great way to get contextual analysis from outside your own professional field of endeavour. Alternatively, you can use your professional knowledge to contribute to the Q & A style presentation of Wonker.

As with all user contributed content, there are potential questions of political bias, Americo-centrism in this case or even propogandism as the site develops. It is however, we think, a brave attempt to make clear the complicated to either the disengaged or the distracted, one conflict at a time.

See more of Wonker here…

Highbrow – expand your knowledge universe, one email at a time…

Not a new concept on the literate web, but this service is nicely presented for those who have just five minutes a day over ten days to become acquainted with a new field of study, one email at a time.

highbrowLogoIt’s not particularly clear  on their web site, but you are constrained to one ten day course subscription at a time. Presumably to prevent burn-out or ‘knowledge fatigue’?

You can choose your starting date, in order to manage the light work-flow from the beginning. Courses you can choose from cover such topics as art, history, philosophy and psychology, amongst others.

It will be interesting to see the content as it develops over time, as the delivery is heavily dependent upon TED talks at the moment. Worth checking out, either as a refresher in a busy email day, or as context to develop a new interest.

See more of Highbrow here…

Don’t forget The RSA…

If video access to fresh thinking is your mode of learning, then the RSA has a long history of offfering its audience the most topical material from thought leaders of the day.

The RSA can offer you a whole range of video talks and presentations from some great thinkers. The example below is one such. The need for a revolution in education, breaking the political and social bounds of the mind to create new worlds. (Makes me breathless just reading this…Ed.)

Debra Kidd argues for the creation of ‘architects of hope’ for young people. A powerful ambition and an idea well worth spreading. One interesting observation Debra makes is that individuals need to know what they are voting for and how the solutions offered by the political machinery are tinkered with by the self interest of the elected representative.

See the movie on YouTube

See this original video on YouTube here.

Knowledge, context and critical thinking are key. With a tsunami of information crashing over us, the tools and resources above can help with process, we would argue.

See a catalogue of RSA videos here…

Happy New Year.

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Headline photo credit: Bill on Capitol Hill via photopin cc

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Human Centred Design
– a toolkit

A little while ago a group of Fellows in Suffolk undertook a Human Centred Design course using the resources of IDEO.org (…see our archive of entries on our regional events page for more details).

IDEO have long had success with their Human Centred Design toolkit, which is an enabling mechanism for those interested in community development. The on-line course, which Suffolk Fellows undertook, has seen over 40,000 individuals from 148 countries wrangle with a specific problem in the last two years. That is poverty.

There is now a new development. IDEO have recognised that where the problems are most significant, then take-up of web resources can be limited. This may be to the complete absence of any technological infrastructure to engage toolkit users, or that the technology that is available is far beyond the community’s ability to acquire it.

Their solution is to create a printed book, the ‘old fashioned’ way of disseminating knowledge.

Supporting Human Centred Design on KickStarterYou can get involved and support the HCD book project. They are raising funds on KickStarter, where for very modest sums you are able to support the creation of this new medium, to the benefit of communities around the globe.

A pledge of 25 dollars will see you receive a pocket guide to Human Centred Design, with a 50 dollar or more pledge getting you a full copy of the toolkit in bound form.

With only 27 days to go till the close of the IDEO campaign see what the team are trying to do and you can pledge your contribution here on the pages fo KickStarter.

Don’t forget that you can use KickStarter to support RSA driven projects too. Visit this RSA web page to see a wide variety of Fellow led projects – from hand printed sustainable textiles to creating community circus teachers. See more here.

If you do support this IDEO project, or any of the worthwhile RSA initiatives…thank you.

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Getting behind British science?

The British Science Association have just announced details of grant funding schemes for British Science Week in 2015.

Event dates: 13th to 22nd March 2015

As well as the usual grants by region in the UK, offering their traditional support to schools, this year (2015) sees the introduction of community organisation grants, offering those in the community sector working with ‘hard to reach’ communities the opportunity to build new work using science and discovery as a lever to engagement.

  • Kick Start Grants – grants of £300 for school activities (and up to £700 for schools/communities) in the UK faced with challenging circumstances.
  • Scottish Grant scheme – grants of £200 for schools and £350 for organisations in Scotland.
  • Welsh Grant scheme – grants of £200 for schools and £350 for organsations in Wales.
  • Community Grant scheme (new for 2015) – grants of up to £500 for community-based groups and organisations working with hard to reach groups in the UK whose targeted audience/participants include those not traditionally engaged with science.  (These might be people who “..are from the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic community (BAME); not in education employment or training (NEET); or who live in a remote and rural location”…Ed.)

Although the sums are modest, it is possible with imagination, to see how the seed funding could be used to engage those interested in science, or to give the undiscovered young scientist a chance to take their first step on the road to research, for example.

The Association web site offers the following as eligible activities under the grant scheme.

  • Presentations from invited speakers on science and/or engineering topics.
  • Field trips to local science centres, museums or university science departments.
  • Arranging a talk or workshop with a local STEM ambassador.
  • Recruiting a freelancer to deliver an arts and science activity.
  • Fete, family science days, mini festivals, science fairs.
  • Busking displays run in public venues, such as a supermarket, park or high street.
  • Hands-on workshops.
  • Debates and discussions with scientists.

At conversationsEAST we really warmed to the idea of a cross disciplinary event, say using musicians, artists and electronic engineers to devise an event using music, graphics and an introduction to audio-visual or web technology. The output of the engagement and learning to be put on the web, or streamed live, or turned into a music CD, for example.

As always, if there any Fellows in the region planning an event, we’d be happy to donate web resources from conversationsEAST to contribute to the work. Just let us know?

interneticon  You can read more on the British Science Association Science Week web pages here...

interneticon  See the Science Week funding guidelines here...

interneticon  When ready, you can download activity packs and sample flyers too…

We are looking forward to our Science Week in March 2015 already.

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Supporting children in Cambridge

Cambridge Education Initiative

 

A group of Cambridge Fellows is developing an initiative to improve educational outcomes for young people in the City’s deprived areas.

Although, overall, Cambridge is one of the UK’s – and the world’s – most successful cities, it has pockets of deprivation and the educational performance of some of its schools is below the national average. Children who are eligible for free school meals and who have special needs or other challenges, including looked after children and young carers, are at the highest risk of underachieving.

We have been talking to Council officers and plan to meet Headteachers in the autumn term. The emerging features of our initiative are

  • A place in Cambridge where deprivation is accompanied by underachievement. Arbury meets these criteria.
  • A group of RSA fellows prepared to commit time to a targeted intervention to raise achievement, working with the local community and voluntary organisations
  • Alignment with Council priorities
  • Developed by listening to head teachers, young people, the local community/ voluntary organisations
  • Time limited
  • Replicable

We would welcome contributions from other Fellows.

If you live in the Cambridge area, you are very welcome to join our group. Or if elsewhere, please share your ideas and experience.

emailIcon4 Contact   Sam Weller: samandmary_weller@hotmail.com; or Jo Durning: jodurning@btinternet.com

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The Great War – the wrong turn to end all?

The weekend of June 28th 2014 marked the centenary of the death of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, at the hands of Gavrilo Princip. Arguably sparking the events that put in train the First World War.

This reflection revealed a surprising and diverse range of resources about the Great Conflict. Many, perhaps, at odds with the perceived understanding of the war and its consequences. Remarkable in as much that so much is yet to be discovered, even after a century has passed…

Image: A single German war grave near Ypres, commemorating over 40,000 of their lost combatants…

The weekend in East Anglia in 2014 was fresh, warm and sunny, as it was across England on that weekend in 1914. (You can see a detailed weather forecast from The Meteorological Office for June 1914 here  pdfIcon4…Ed.) It is unlikely that Princip, in his passion to undermine Austrian dominance of his culture, was thinking of the words of Thomas Hoccleve, see below.

His ambitions were arguably localised, national, but the outcome of his act  was trans-continental. With the destruction to come, the terrible devastation of war, linked to and having an unfortunate long echo back to the previous tumultuous tragedies in France during the 15th Century. The anguish is contemporary still.

Allas! what peple hathe your werre slayne!
What cornes wastede, and doune trode and shent!
How many a wyfe and maide hathe be forlayne,
Castrels doune bete, and tymbered houses brent
And drawen doune, and alle tortore and rent!
The harme ne may not rekened be ne tolde;
This werre wexethe all to hore and olde…

Thomas Hoccleve, Poet & Clerk, London
‘An appeal for Peace in France’ (1412)

Princip, part of a team of six Bosnian-Serb radicals dedicated to their plan,  was standing outside a cafe in Franz Josef Street, reflecting on an earlier failed assassination attempt upon the Austrian Archduke by a co-conspirator that day. When, seeing the royal vehicle, engine stalled  after taking a wrong turn, he leapt forward with his revolver, and from a distance of five feet, changed history.

This story of ‘cataclysm by happenstance’ continues to provoke debate and divide about how the next few months saw progress into war, but also about the wider legacy of Princip’s actions, even after a hundred years has passed. The narratives still differ, both historic and contemporary, often in surprising ways.

Modern Sarajevo remains a divided city, politically and culturally, to this day. With Princip seen as hero or devil depending upon the view of historical events taken from the city centre. To mark the Sarajevan centenary Andrew MacDowall, in The Guardian newspaper, has written an interesting and insightful article on how stands the political front-line concerning Princip.

You can discover MacDowell’s article on-line here…

In Eastern Sarajevo, from the view point of the Serb Republic, Princip is a national hero,. His actions freeing the city from Austrian dominance. However, for the Bosnian Muslim population Princip’s actions bought about an end to a golden era of Austrian administration. The Muslim population look to the grand edifices of civil society, schools and railways of the Austrian Empire as evidence of their argument.

Even after a hundred years, residents of a strife torn city cannot agree on a single, conciliatory view of their history. This set us thinking about that sunny day in 1914. What were, or what did, contemporaries to Princip think about the coming events and their out turn?

We turned to the Project Gutenberg on-line library. Looking through the project’s World War 1 bookshelf we discovered, amongst the usual, deeply moving and contemporary military narratives, a surprising and very different view of events and understanding of the ‘culture’ of war, particularly of conflict in other places.

This writer did not know of a Mills and Boon, Kiplingesque  literary  oeuvre developed around events of the war. Deeply at odds with the first person narrative of other, military writers, but perhaps born of a then contemporary optimism for Empire, incomplete knowledge and the heady ‘home by Christmas’ approach.

The Gutenberg archive also makes available to the general reader a selection of European political writing on the Great War. We found the account of pre-war diplomacy and events from Viscount Haldane both disturbing and revealing about political attitudes and actions towards European conflict. See more here…

interneticon  You can discover the Gutenberg Project library World War bookshelf here…

Red Cross Girls cover picMargaret Vandercook in her The Red Cross Girls with the Russian Army, (John Winston Co., Philadelphia, 1916)  writes about war and combat as a sort of Mills & Boon romance adventure. Dashing young men in foreign places, capturing the swooning hearts of kindly young women. Published in 1916, it arguably represents a canon of juvenile fiction, that was blind to, or unknowing of the true horror of warfare at any front-line.

There is a sort of breathless, adventure story pace to the book, at odds with the newsreel and written narratives we have come to know about the Great War and other conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries.

There is in this bookshelf collection a fascinating insight into the power of Empire and the loyalty created in military service.

In Talbot Munday’s Hira Singh – When India Came to Fight in Flanders  lies the fictionalised story of a group of Sikh soldiers captured by the German army in Flanders and transported back to ‘Constantinople’, who then escaped and marched overland to Kabul in Afghanistan to rejoin the British Army in their fight in Europe again.

One hundred Indian troops of the British Army have arrived at Kabul, Afghanistan, after a four months’ march from Constantinople. The men were captured in Flanders by the Germans and were sent to Turkey in the hope that…they might join the Turks. But they remained loyal to Great Britain and finally escaped, heading for Afghanistan. They now intend to join their regimental depot in India, so it is reported.
New York Times, July, 1915 (Talbot Munday)

Although fiction, with some of the language jarring by modern cultural norms, and being written by a European,  the story none the less provides insights into the nature of leadership, how men who were accomplished warriors from another culture, might have seen the conflict in Europe with empathetic eyes.

The archive does not contain any reflection from Indian sources, but when looking at the contribution of the Indian Army and Marine service to the conflict, there is little doubt that support there was.

How profound, prompted a look at the detail of the contribution of the Indian Army in the Great War? Details of the 1 million Indian troops who served in France, Mesopotamia and other battle zones can be found on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web pages. interneticon  See more here…

Closer to home are a range of projects and community activities to remember the Great War in detail.  One such is the work done by Fellows in Chelmsford, as part of a Heritage Lottery funded  project – Chelmsford Remembers,  and which will be launched as part of the Essex Remembers event, which involves both Essex County Council and Chelmsford City Council, to held at Hylands House on the weekend of 13th/14th September.

We look forward to supporting Fellows in the project by delivering a ‘web special feature’ about this exciting social history journey of discovery. (You can find the Chelmsford War Memorial web site here – this is a wonderful resource, with images and detailed biographies of the 359 men commemorated on the Great War Memorial in Chelmsford, Ed.)

Even after one hundred years, the local and social is as telling and moving as ever. Princip would probably still recognise the physical landscape old Sarajevo, if not the political one, whilst great new discoveries and insights lay waiting in the family archives of Chelmsford we suspect.


Newer on-line resources for The Great War

interneticon The Google Cultural Institute – The First World War

A new web resource, dedicated to the art, politics and history of the great conflict. Referencing major UK museum collections, but also providing insights into history from a surprising variety of sources.

 interneticon  Europeana Exhibitions – Untold Stories of the First World War

A  new resource offering insights into how ‘… it was the ordinary men and women who were affected the most. This exhibition gives those personal accounts from across Europe for the first time, based on stories and items contributed by the public’.

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Students rising to the CIPD Challenge

University of Bedfordshire
Learning in Bedfordshire

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is a professional association for human resource management professionals. It is headquartered in Wimbledon, London, England. The organisation was founded in 1913 and has over 130,000 members internationally working across private, public and voluntary sectors.

Bedfordshire Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recently worked with the University of Bedfordshire (pictured) on the CIPD Challenge.

The University of Bedfordshire is based in Bedford and Luton, the two largest towns in Bedfordshire. A campus in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire is for students studying Nursing and Midwifery. A further campus in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, teaches business studies, electronic engineering, and telecommunications.

It has approximately 24,000 students. Nearly 3,000 international students study with the university. The university was created by the merger of the University of Luton and the Bedford campus of De Montfort University in August 2006 following approval by the Privy Council. In 2012 it achieved FairTrade status.

CIPD Bedfordshire Group Committee members, Paula Grayson, Sandra Brown and Letitia Winston worked with Sarah Jones from the University of Bedfordshire on the CIPD Challenge in the practice week for undergraduates on the BA Hons. in HRM.

On 3 March 2014, students were briefed on four “Consolidating Culture” challenges to provide good practice HR processes. The guiding principle was to design a process which should assist in consolidating and reinforcing the culture of the organisation.

(Over time the CIPD have developed a comprehensive, effective and wide range of resources for HR professionals. One aspect of the work is the creation of a CIPD Profession Map. Integral to this is the Courage to Challenge Model, which is part of a sequence of themes that look at behaviours around curiosity, decisive thinking, collaboration and being a winning influencer. All skills that the Bedfordshire students would have needed to deploy, in order to complete their assignment….ED).

They needed to use good practice guidance from the CIPD and other sources, remembering organisations are operating in difficult economic times. All additional costs needed to be justified in terms of improving productivity, increasing employee engagement or reducing an existing employee cost pressure. Each team was asked to choose one challenge from:

•  designing a new induction process for a large successful retail organisation to induct and socialise recruits, remembering to embed the strong values as soon as possible, while ensuring health and safety together with all legal requirements were fulfilled from day one

•  using social media in recruitment and selection for a small and relatively unknown web design company needing a web designer who could work within a performance driven culture with tight deadlines to meet client needs. They had to improve the poor job description and person specification written by the Managing Director, including taking out illegal elements, then outline their campaign and process, especially how social media could be used in the short-listing stage

•  improving motivation at a recruitment agency providing education professionals to the local authority and individual schools where the staff are partly paid on commission. They needed to address the low staff retention rate and high absence rate through appropriate non-financial rewards to recognise and provide incentives to staff

Students formed their teams, chose their challenges and got to work.

On 6 March, Sarah, Paula, Sandra and Letitia judged their proposals, selecting a runner-up team and a winning team. The presentations were all excellent, offering thoughtful, appropriate and legal advice to their organisations.

Their professionalism demonstrated how much they had learned during their course, not only about Human Resources but also how to write and present practical solutions to employment issues using good practice. The runners-up were given University of Bedfordshire conference folders.

The five students in the winning team will each have two days of work shadowing with CIPD Bedfordshire Group committee members.

Article contributed by Sarah Jones and Paula Grayson

(If the University has an image of the Challenge Teams, or the winners ceremony, email it to the editor and we will add it to this narrative…ED.)

University image by Kriscollins at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons

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