Category: Everything Else (page 1 of 37)

#BelshawBlackOps16 Pt.1 has started!

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be away for the month of August, camping with my family around Europe. I’m back online in September.

That means no personal email, no social networking, no blogging, no weekly newsletter, and no podcasting.

Consultancy-wise, I’ve still got some capacity from September so I’ll occasionally be checking work email to interact with new and existing clients. I hope you have a great summer (northern hemisphere) / winter (southern hemisphere)!

Email: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com / doug@nullweareopen.coop

Image CC BY-NC-SA freeflo

[INCOMING] #BelshawBlackOps16 Pt.1

Since 2010, I’ve taken a personal digital hiatus for a least one month each year. This involves abstaining from social networks, personal email, and blogging in an attempt to be more mindful about my existence in the world.

This is a quick note to say that I’ll be away for the entire month of August. I’ll be spending all (or nearly all) of it camping around Europe with my family. The plan is to spend lots of time with my wife and two children, slow down, read, play, and be a different kind of person than I am for the rest of the year.

I’ll take the second part of my digital hiatus in December, after experimenting with the August/December approach last year and it working well. Taking two months together is a little too much, I’ve found. A month in the summer (sunshine! family!) is great, and a month in the winter (Christmas! Seasonal Affective Disorder!) is regenerative.

On our camping trip I’ll be taking minimal tech, but I will be taking my iPad and smartphone, so I’ll still have access to my work emails. Get in touch if you want to discuss working with me in September and beyond! I’m spending the next couple of weeks finishing up existing work for clients, travelling to California for some work with the Corona-Norco schools district, and tying off other loose ends.

Email: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com


Image CC BY-NC-SA Tim Britton

New blog theme

Dai Barnes reminded me on the latest episode of TIDE just how annoying pop-ups are. That led to me thinking more generally about my blog and how I wasn’t happy with the theme I’ve used here for the last six months.

As a result, I searched for a new, clean theme. I think I’ve found it in a lightly customised version of Rams. I ensured the sidebar was the same colour as my consultancy website, and that I used the same fonts.

I think it’s looking pretty good!

A few words on #Remain, #BadgeSummit, and #ISTE2016

Just to say that:

  1. If you’re eligible to vote in today’s UK referendum about membership of the European Union, I respect your decision to vote with your conscience. That being said, if you’re at all undecided, please vote to remain in the EU. I’m of the strong opinion that it will adversely affect future generations if we choose to stand alone.
  2. I’m flying to Denver today to keynote the Badge Summit tomorrow (Friday). My slidedeck currently stands at version 0.5, and you can view my progress on that (and comment on it) here.
  3. On Saturday, I’m teaming up with Ian O’Byrne, Noah Geisel, and Bryan Mathers (remote) to run an ISTE pre-conference workshop on building an Open Badges ecosystem. You can check out the agenda, etc. here. There’s still a few spaces left if you can make it!
  4. I’ll be at ISTE on Sunday (only) and would love to connect with you if you’re reading this and will be there! Tweet me: @dajbelshaw

A quick redesign

Blog redesign (April 2016)

I know that quite a few people get updates from my blog via email and RSS, so for their benefit (and because I always do this when I apply a new theme) I thought I’d share a quick update.

Yesterday, I followed a link from Hacker News to brutalistwebsites.com. I played about with the idea of applying a similar kind of theme to my blog but, in the end, found the (free) Casper theme by Lacy Morrow. It’s based on the default theme found on the Ghost publishing platform, and I think it’s great.

Every theme has its own affordances and constraints. With this one I had to reduce the number of items in my main menu, and add some links to social profiles. I started by adding all of the places I pay attention to online but, after stepping back and taking a second look, stripped back the icons to just Twitter, email, LinkedIn, and RSS.

I’ve had mixed feedback so far. More creative types have said it “destroys their soul” (harsh!) whereas others have praised how clean it looks. I’d love your feedback!

This is a good time to remind you that I’ve got a now-similar-looking blog for alternative thoughts and reactions at discours.es. It’s got an RSS feed. 🙂

Refocusing my energies

Derek Sivers:

Those of you who often over-commit or feel too scattered may appreciate a new philosophy I’m trying:

If I’m not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, then say no.

Meaning: When deciding whether to commit to something, if I feel anything less than, “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” – then my answer is no.

When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”

We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.

A few of us are setting up a co-operative called weareopen.coop. I’ll have more details soon but I’m going to have to dedicate quite a lot of time to this over the next few weeks and months, over and above my current day-to-day stuff with clients for Dynamic Skillset.

As a result, I’ve decided to pull back from several projects and trips that I was planning. These include the BadgeChain group, attending the Groningen Declaration meeting in Cape Town to present on Open Badges and blockchain, and writing a chapter that I said I’d write for an upcoming book. I remain committed to the 2016 Digital Badge Summit, and running a pre-conference workshop at ISTE in June.

I do feel bad about this, but the whole point of being self-employed is to have more control over what I do, when I do it, and who I do it with. I’m looking forward to working in a spirit of solidarity and co-operation, and I want to bring my A-game to give that a chance to flourish.

Image CC BY Ian Liu

 

3 things I’ve learned from 200 weeks of sending out an email newsletter

Doug Belshaw's Thought Shrapnel

Every week, nearly 1,000 people receive my newsletter in their inboxes. Entitled Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel it’s an irreverent look at the intersection of education, technology, and productivity. People seem to like it, which is why this Sunday I’ll be sending out issue 200!

Here’s some things I’ve learned along the way. I hope it’s of use to those thinking of starting up their own newsletter in 2016. 🙂

1. You are the most important audience

Even if you’re productive and have great workflows, it still takes time to curate and craft a newsletter. You need to motivate yourself to do it every week, as consistency is key to developing an audience.

I’ve developed a few ways to ensure I send out a newsletter on a regular basis:

  • I only share links I find interesting. My single criterion is “would I like to see this in someone else’s newsletter?”
  • I take breaks. Every year I have one, sometimes two, months where I’m off personal email and social media. I’ve extended that to my newsletter. Having downtime makes your uptime more productive.
  • I’ve started allowing sponsorships. When there’s money involved, then there’s expectation and a contract. This pays for my time, but also means I’ve got another reason to get this week’s newsletter out of the door.

2. People like commentary

Every week I get people replying to my newsletters. Those replies go direct to me, and I respond to each one. What I’ve found is that people really enjoy it when I comment on the links that I’m sharing.

We’re often exhorted to ‘add value’ in life. I think this is one example where I can do so in a pretty simple way. For example, I might point out how X is similar to Y, or how an article is based on a false premise, or juxtapose it with something else to raise a smile.

True curation is about doing more than giving people a bunch of links. It’s about presenting them with information in a way that’s going to inform or entertain to the best of my ability.

3. A little bit of personality goes a long way

I’m a fan of long-form content on the web. I have a weekly podcast with Dai Barnes called Today In Digital Education (TIDE) that often runs to an hour and a half. We discuss lots of things during that time, but even so we could go on longer. The important thing is that we attend to what’s important.

Similarly, with my newsletter, I could literally list the hundreds of links I bookmark and come across each week. But that would be of little value to my subscribers. Instead, I sift through these for the ones that either resonate with, or challenge, my worldview. That means that my newsletter isn’t a bland read: it’s opinionated and biased. But that’s OK.

Conclusion

I greatly enjoy the discipline of curating and crafting a weekly newsletter to send out every Sunday morning (UK time). If you’re reading this and don’t yet subscribe, then I hope you’ll consider doing so at thoughtshrapnel.com.

I’m also looking for sponsors for 2016. I’ve already been fortunate to have some great sponsors last year, including Makers Academy, C-Learning, and Think Associates. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss this further: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com


Many thanks to my friend and collaborator Bryan Mathers for the great logo he devised last year! For more of his work visit bryanmathers.com or follow him as @BryanMMathers on Twitter!

Where I’ll be at BETT 2016

I’ve spoken at BETT in many guises. I started off as a teacher, then I went as a school senior leader, then went there during my time with Jisc, then Mozilla… This time around, BETT 2016 will be my first as a consultant. On the first day I’m there I’ll have my City & Guilds hat on as they’re one of my main clients. On the second, I’m representing myself (i.e. Dynamic Skillset).

I love to hate BETT. While I dislike the amount of snake oil I see there, it’s worth attending because of the people. While I’m there I try to bring a dose of healthy edtech skepticism. I also try and show people alternatives to to their current reality.

This year, you can catch me at BETT at the following times:

Wednesday 20th

The first session I’m involved with on Wednesday is a presentation with Bryan Mathers. We’ll be talking about educational credentials such as Open Badges, and how City & Guilds can help with this. We’ll be going both wide and deep.

  • The Digital Skills Sandwich: credentialing 21st literacies in a fast-paced environment (1:45pm to 2:15pm) Learn Live Further Education and Skills theatre

The second session is one I’m chairing. I’m looking forward to asking probing questions of the panellists and getting input from the audience!

  • Connecting With Young People: Using Social Media and Digital Marketing to Enhance Student Recruitment (4:45pm to 5:30pm) Learn Live Further Education and Skills theatre

If you’re attending BETT and want to catch up, lunch, a coffee after my presentation, or dinner are your best options.

Thursday 21st

I’m only doing one short presentation on Thursday, and spending the rest of my time wandering around. I’ll be presenting on the Exa Networks stand (full programme), after being asked nicely by Alan O’Donohoe. Space is limited and there’ll be 10 minutes for questions afterwards.

  • How to be an (open) badger (12:00-12:20) Stand B160 – Exa Education

I’m hoping to bump into a few people on Thursday before heading home late afternoon. I’ll be pretty flexible, so if you want to say hello, do tweet me (@dajbelshaw) or email me beforehand to arrange a time (hello@nulldynamicskillset.com).


If you’re interested in where I’ll be over the coming year, then you might want to check out my Lanyrd profile. I still need to update it with some stuff from last year, but event-wise it’s a decent overview of my past/future movements!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Its January 1st, 2016 which means I’m back from my December hiatus. As ever, it’s been refreshing to step out of the stream of social media for a month, to do more offline things, to be a different version of myself.

I’m going to take my time to come back online slowly. I’ve actually already started semi-secretly blogging again; I’ll send a newsletter out this Sunday; the Twitter app is back on my mobile devices. Things are getting back a version of normal.

A very Happy New Year to you and those that are important to you! My family and I are looking to a an exciting, healthy, and prosperous year. I hope that describes your outlook, too.

If you read this blog and we’ve never been in touch before, please do drop me a line. Just say hello! I’d love to hear from you.

Image CC BY-NC Shawn Harquall

#BelshawBlacksOps15 Pt.2 has begun. See you in 2016!

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be spending the month of December away from personal, published, digital output. This includes personal emails, my Thought Shrapnel weekly newsletter, the Today In Digital Education (TIDE) podcast, blog posts, comments, and (even) the super-secret Slack channel I started this year with some pretty awesome people.

I’ll still be replying to work-related emails, so you can get me on my Dynamic Skillset adddress. If you’ve got my phone number (lucky you!) I’ll be replying to text messages, too. Other than that, I’ll be enjoying a different way of being that doesn’t involve a) thinking in 140 characters, b) expressing myself via animated gifs, and c) treating my brain as a way to connect together what other people are saying.

In terms of consultancy, I’ve got enough to keep me going for most of the first half of 2016, but do let me know if you’ve got projects you think I might be interested in around digital skills/literacies, badges, and/or educational technology!

Otherwise, see you on the other side. Have a great festive period and, for those of you in the northern hemisphere at least, keep warm!

Image CC BY-NC-SA Eric Leslie

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