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Weeknotes 32 & 33/2019

I’m composing this from Boston Logan airport before an overnight flight to Manchester, and a drive back home. Team Belshaw has been in New England on holiday for the past couple of weeks. In many ways it’s felt a lot longer than that.

Let’s deal with the positives first. Our experiences here have been the kind we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. The kids have got on well together — gloriously screen-free, apart from the occasional movie on a TV in an Airbnb.

The weather has been exactly what we hoped for: hot without being scorching. We travelled clockwise from Boston, to Cape Cod, to Providence, Rhode Island. From there we went up to Vermont and then across to Maine. Finally, we drove back to Boston to fly home.

It’s the most expensive holiday we’ve ever been on for a couple of reasons. First, New England is an expensive place to take a vacation in there summer. We managed to score super-cheap flights thanks to Jack’s Flight Club, but the accommodation cost a lot more than we were expecting.

Second, it was announced a few days into our holiday that the British pound was the lowest it had been against the US dollar since 1985. In these kinds of situations, you can decide to economise as much as possible, or just enjoy your holiday and deal with the consequences when you get home. Unusually, we decided to do the latter.

Some of the many memories I’ll take back with me:

  • Going whale-watching off Cape Cod at the same time as starting to read Moby Dick for the first time.
  • Playing ‘baseball’ with a foam bat-and-ball pretty much everywhere we stayed.
  • Visiting, and photographing, beautiful old lighthouses along the coast of Maine and Cape Cod.
  • Kayaking near Cape Elizabeth (it was our daughter’s first time!)
  • Paddling in Queechee Gorge in Vermont and imagining what it must have been like hundreds of years ago.
  • Eating whole lobster and feeling like we were eating an alien!

We’d definitely come back, especially to Cape Cod which we absolutely loved.


Now then, while I was away, the plan was to uninstall all messaging and social media apps from my phone. It was supposed to be a break from what can feel very much like an always-on, hyperconnected lifestyle back home.

As I’ve already written, we stepped off the plane to some tragic news about my good friend Dai Barnes. Given that Twitter is the place many know him from, it was important to try and balance honouring his memory with being present for my family.

As a result of being on Twitter, I couldn’t help but become briefly embroiled in a debate which happened amongst educators in Twitter. I didn’t originally engage with it directly, but rather reminded white guys with a decent following that they have responsibilities via this tweet:

If you're a white male with a bunch of followers, it's probably worth:1. Telling people that you're anti-racist, anti-homophobic, and anti-transphobic (if, indeed, you are)2. Acting like it.#its2019people
(I delete my tweets every month, so this is a screenshot)

Unfortunately, instead of any kind of nuance or healthy debate, the whole thing descended into A Hashtag About Which People Should Take Sides™. I’ve been a little skeptical when people have called Twitter a ‘rage machine’ because of the move they’ve made towards an algorithmic timeline. Well, I was wrong to be doubtful; this was that in action.

If you want to read more on the whole debacle, I’d recommend that you read Shame Cycles and Twitter Rage by Sherri Spelic, and Edutwitter, Witches, and Whiteness by Michael Cole.


Next week will be all about the jet lag and catching up with developments with MoodleNet while I’ve been away. I’ve been mostly Telegram-free all holiday, so I guess I should be thankful for small mercies.

Weeknotes 43 & 44/2017

Last week, after tying up some loose ends with various bits of client work and scheduling Badge News #20, I headed off for a holiday with my family from Tuesday to Tuesday, returning to the wonderful island of Gozo in the Mediterranean. No wonder it’s suspected of being the mythical island of Ogygia, referred to by Homer in The Odyssey.

This week, after arriving back on Tuesday evening, I started some work with Moodle from Wednesday to Friday. In fact, I’m heading to Florida on Sunday for the 2017 Miami MoodleMoot to kick off work on a project I’ll be leading. More details on that soon.

Otherwise, I’ve spent this short three-day work recording the Episode 91 of the TIDE podcast with Dai Barnes, helping facilitate this month’s  Badge Wiki barn raising with Bryan Mathers, and catching up with Oliver Quinlan, Laura Hilliger, Gavin Henrick, Garnet Berry, Tom Murdock, and a few other — including some students from UCL looking for some advice about putting on a conference.

Oh, and I haven’t eaten meat for the last two weeks, but I’m following the advice of Alan Jacobs (via Austin Kleon) on that…

I wrote the following:

After my trip to Miami next week, I’ll be home for 24 hours before heading to London on Friday to present at the InnovateEdTech 2017 event on Saturday 11th November. I believe a few tickets are still available and you can get 50% off if you use the code EDTECH50.


I make my living helping people and organisations become more productive in their use of technology. If you’ve got something that you think I might be able to help with, please do get in touch! Email: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com

Weeknote 32/2017

This week I’ve been:

  • Sending out Thought Shrapnel, my weekly newsletter loosely structured around education, technology, and productivity. Issue #270 was entitled ‘Holiday’ and this week included only links without commentary given I had deadlines and had to pack to go…
  • On holiday in Devon. It was great, as we stayed in a wooden house built by friends of my wife’s parents, and went as screen-free as possible for a week. We saw the Red Arrows, and hung out with my brother and sister-in-law, and their children, a fair bit. The only thing that could have been improved was the weather at the start of the week…
  • Reading dead-tree books. I finished Bird by Bird: some instructions on writing and life by Anne Lamont, which was excellent and I’ll be re-reading. I can see why so many people recommended it. I also finished Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari. He’s an historian, so I really enjoyed his previous book, Sapiens: a brief history of mankind, and the first half of this one. However, I think he drank a bit too much Silicon Valley kool-aid before writing the second half of it. I’m half-way through Happy: why more or less everything is absolutely fine by Derren Brown (yes, that one!) He shares a short history of philosophy and some anecdotes, before launching into an overview of Stoicism. The philosophy isn’t anything new to me, but he packages it in an engaging way.
  • Running. Which is probably a good job given how much I’ve been eating and drinking this week. I really enjoyed going out for a short run with our 10 year-old now he’s old enough to keep up!

Next week I’m in Birmingham from Monday to Wednesday to do some work on behalf of Freeformers at the Google Digital Garage. Then I’m in Brighton on Thursday and Friday working with Totara.


I make my living helping people and organisations become more productive in their use of technology.  If you’ve got something that you think I might be able to help with, please do get in touch! Email: hello@nulldynamicskillset.com

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