“Daddy, what did you do in the MOOC wars?” #ds106


Every iteration of ds106 is greeted by a brace of animated GIFs (it’s a tradition, or an old charter, or something…). Taking inspiration from the “Dancing Jim Groom Around The World” assignment, I’ve taken Dancing Jim (just watch him go!) into a nightmarish educational future, where a young daughter reading a Coursera-provided holographic text on “The History of Disruptive Education” asks her edtech Daddy the eternal poignant question, as his son plays with his “Learning Analytics are Fun!” set at his feet.

Act now – sign up for DS106 before it is too late! The “headless” iteration starts 26th August with the now traditional bootcamp.


FOTA Radio Vol. 6 : Obsolete?

It’s been a while but FOTA Radio, the infamous #ds106radio show, is back and as brutal as ever.

This particular show looks at ideas of nostalgia, loss, obsolescence and the ways an oppressive government can bring these about, through the lenses of:

The music of the UK Rave scene was characterised by the use of (often incongruous) dialogue samples, so you’ll hear a lot more stuff you recognise, both within the music and added by me.

As far as there is a story, you could imagine numerous characters attempting to return to and reassert their beliefs based on their formative years, only to find that their early years are not as innocent as they remember – precisely because of (their? others?) over reliance on a detailed examination of these beliefs.

I’ve used Cakewalk Music Creator 6, Audacity, and audio sourced from my personal collection and ripped from various video hosting sites.

For a limited time only, the show is available to download here ( & google drive mirror), it will eventually make its way to MixCloud or SoundCloud, along with earlier episodes.


We’re up all night to tell stories… #ds106

There’s a new iteration of ds106 on offer. Following on from the sterling work of the Cogdog, the Bava has decided to have another crack at the only large scale free course I would recommend to everyone.

This is what an online course could be, if it was done by humans.  And this is a very rough demo of what it might sound like.


Apols to Daft Punk
Apols to Daft Punk (click to see animated)

(note: some people are showing worrying signs of taking Followers of the Apocalypse seriously… this is a special post just for them. Policy analysis and moocmongery is all very well – sometimes you have to make art, dammit)

Paper submitted for #bccs12: Apsley St John Beaufort in 1912 – new primary sources discovered

I’m very pleased to have had the following paper accepted at this years British Conference of Cliftonian Studies, to be held at Rack’s Bar on St Paul’s road in the first week of August. The discovery of the Apsley St John Beaufort archive is a major step forward in our understanding of one of Bristol’s least known writers.

Abstract: following the initial work of Bohn (2011), Kernohan (2011) and Cullen (2011) I have been able to gain further access to the Apsley St John Beaufort (AStJB) papers, currently archived in the rare books collection of Redland Library, Bristol. Given the wealth of material available I chose to focus only on the late spring/early summer of 1912, already known to AStJB scholars as the period of his career-ending dalliance with an editorial assistant, Ms Alma Vale. With the permission of the Librarian of Redland Library I am able to display for the first time images of “lost” books, correspondence and a small section of an unpublished manuscript.

Background: If Apsley St John Beaufort is remembered at all by the general reader, it is as a minor provincial writer of rather superficial murder mysteries. Spanning around 10 years between 1900 and 1910, his oeuvre is said to span 20 short novels, of which only a handful have henceforth been available to even the devoted scholar of such work. AStJB’s unique charm, as it were, is drawn both from the claustrophobic setting of his work in the unremarkable Bristol suburb of Clifton and it’s environs, and the culinary background of central protagonist Gaston LeCreuset.


As an addition to the “Bibliography of Extant Works” (Bohn & Cullen, 2010) I am happy to be able to include images of  four further works, long thought lost, taken from the recently discovered archives at Redland Library. Of the four, The Celeriac Manifesto (1906) and The Balsamic Caper (1907) stand amongst his finest work, both achieving to this reader – in passages – the heights of his acknowledge masterpiece The Clifton Triangle. In contrast The Dauphinoise  Coalition (1905) is below average, and The Gorgonzola Approbation (1911) almost unreadably bad, far beneath the largely workmanlike quality the rest of his novels. All four books are from the 1937 reprinting, with their modish three-colour cover art.

As we know (Cullen 2010) The Gorgonzola Approbation  was his final published work, written towards the end of his career in the summer of 1912. At this point, AStJB had become disenchanted with his writing and had taken to a louche and degenerate life around the fleshpots and houses of ill repute in neighbouring Colston Hill. However, with the newly discovered archive of correspondence we are now able to say with certainty that – to AStJB at least – this period represented a profound artistic awakening under the tutelage of his muse, Ms Alma Vale.

(Widely-read readers may appreciate AStJB’s use of a slogan current within certain online communities. As far as I am aware this is the first recorded use of the phrase, predating the better known use by Orwell in Down and Out in Paris and London by some 20 years)

We know vanishingly little of Ms Vale’s early life, but it appears she became an Editorial Assistant to Sir Paul Hanbury at Clifton Publishing sometime in 1911, at the tender age of 18. Most scholars (Bohn 2012) suspect that the affair was primarily in AStJB’s increasingly addled mind. Indeed, given his use of her name as a character in a The Celeriac Manifesto nearly 6 years earlier, we now have significant doubt as to her existence outside of AStJB’s gin-soaked imaginings.

However, the discovery of the following letter preserved in the Redland Archive suggests otherwise.

With the permission of the librarian, the letter has been submitted for forensic testing but early results appear to point to it being genuine. An immediate reading suggests that it confirms our initial theory that – although Ms Vale was an editorial assistant at the relevant time, she did not reciprocate AStJB’s advances.

We do know, however, that at around this time AStJB submitted the typed manuscript of an atypical novel owing much to the work of HG Wells. Clearly this was not suitable for the formulaic list of murder mystery novels at Clifton Publishing, and it is unclear why he felt it would be. Maddeningly, only one page of the manuscript has survived (AStJB’s habit of typing on only one side of very small notepaper was preserved even into his penury towards the end of his life).

It is difficult for the serious AStJB scholar to know what to make of this manuscript – the style and presentation are classic St John Beaufort but the content, despite a few familiar ticks (the emphasis of “indeed” framed in dashes for example), is almost entirely unrecognisable. He appears to be describing an arcade in something very similar to modern-day Clifton, including references to concealed lighting, plasma televisions, mobile phones – and one could imagine the “infernal machines” as either air conditioning or motor transport.


The breadth and nature of the Redland Archive significantly challenges the accepted understanding of the brief career of Apsley St John Beaufort. Clearly, a concerted collaboration between scholars in the field is needed to conduct a proper survey of the treasures within.

Bibliography (in date order)

Bohn, M and Cullen, M,  “Apsley St John Beaufort: A bibliography of extant works” (unpublished monograph, 2010)

Cullen, M, “The later career of Apsley St John Beaufort”  in Journal of Cliftonian Studies issue 19 (Bristol, 2010)

Bohn, M, “Is the lost Apsley St John Beaufort archive in Redland Library Basement?” letter in Journal of Cliftonian Studies issue 22 (Bristol, 2011)

Kernohan, D, “Reply to a letter from Bohn” , letter in Journal of Cliftonian Studies issue 23 (Bristol, 2011)

Cullen, M, “Initial report: the Apsley St John Beaufort archive”, Proceedings of the 9th annual British Conference of Cliftonian Studies, (Bath, 2011)

Bohn, M, “The Dark Lady: Alma Vale and Apsley St John Beaufort”, Journal of Cliftonian Studies issue 27 (Bristol, 2012)


Two DS106 design assignments

Figured it was time I got some DS106 work up here, convincing myself and others that I’m not just at Camp Magic MacGuffin to play about building a British Embassy in Minecraft. Although fundamentally that is a large part of it…

First up: Lyric Typographic Poster (design assignment 529). I knew it had to be Eels, and I chose the opening lines from “Friendly Ghost” on Souljacker. People peg the Eels as a depressing band, but I think not.  The background texture is one of a load I downloaded for something else ages ago.

Next: Design an Invoice (design assignment 58) – described as “Create an invoice for a transaction that has happened in a film, TV series, etc”. I chose an invoice from Local Hero, one of those utterly wonderful early 80s Bill Forsyth films and quite possibly my favourite film of all time, ever*. It’s something I find myself coming back to again and again, especially at times when life seems less delightful. I’ve added some handwritten notes to preserve two lines of dialogue that need to be preserved, and I had to hand-create the logo in PowerPoint so have uploaded it as a PNG in case anyone else in the world needs to print out a Knox Industries logo and answer the phone with “Thank you for calling Knox Oil and Gas“.

Knox invoice.pdf
Download this file
Anyway, happy ds106 everyone. #4life

* seriously, watch it some time. Here’s the first bit on youtube.





Ever since I went back to working with Wonderbrass and rediscovered their love of unlikely pop covers, I’ve had this perfect, beautiful song stuck in my head. The chords are amazing, but the original Spice Girls version just goes too fast to properly experience them. (Craig Armstrong’s string arrangement still rules, however)


(set your spirit free…)


However, on slowing the progression down I was struck by how close it was to a certain classic ballad by none other than Jimi Hendrix.


(fly on, little wing…)


So for the last couple of months, on and off, I’ve been arranging, recording and tweaking a version of 2 become 1 with a more “little wing” approach. I’ve had help from some very talented people so hats off to:


@cosmocat – UNU’s very own gospel soul diva, who generously consented to record the delicious vocal.


Graham Reynolds – drummer with The Jellied Reels, who kindly recorded both of the drum parts.


Jo Jones – Wonderbrass keyboardist, and teacher at Forte School of Music, who lent me a glockenspiel 🙂


And thank you to the many, many people who have encouraged me to do this, and berated me for not doing so faster.


So here it is, for your listening and sharing pleasure. The song remains the copyright of the composers  (Spice Girls/Rowe/Stannard), but this recording and arrangement are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.


I’ll hopefully be doing a “Behind The Music” featurette on this recording sometime later tonight on #ds106radio, wherein I’ll try to cover how and, indeed, why.

The Origins of the Apocalypse #ds106 #DesignAssignments319

This post represents my personal opinions only, and is available under a CC-BY license. [Both this post and indeed this entire blog have nothing at all to do with the Education for the Apocalypse session at #lwf12 – a conference so legendarily crap that they give you freeipads just for registering. If you are in London that day (and can avoid the myriad disruptive innovators talking about disruptive innovations like social media, mobile phones and gaming, just like at the 2007 JISC conference) it’s probably worth going to that session as it has @kerileef in it and she’s ace.]

Lou McGill told me that if I was doing #ds106 this year, I had to do some of the visual assignments. Make art, dammit – these were the words she used. But the nice thing about ds106 is that you can do something you felt like doing anyway and then claim it as an assignment – so, inspired by GuiliaForsythe’s beautiful narrative about the #dailycreate and tagging, I wanted to do something visual with a narrative.

Immediately I thought of a super-hero origins strip. I know very little about graphic narrative, but I love and have always loved origin strips – those background stories that tell you how Jim Groom became The Bava and got his powe (kudos, Cogdog!) or whatever. So, I thought I’d make an origin strip for the Followers of the Apocalypse, with more than a hint of the story of ds106 and edublogging in there too. I used Pixton which is an absolutely beautiful tool and I would recommend it to everyone.
Here’s the assignment


Followers of the Apocalypse Radio vol. 3

These are my views and not those of my employer, or of projects and programmes I am responsible for. This post is available under a creative commons CC-BY license. Material linked to contains rights owned by various sources, available under various licenses.



Here’s the gen on the latest Followers of the Apocalypse radio show on #ds106radio

If anyone is wondering what kind of music this is, the straight answer is “I dunno”. I say “drums & bass” but that is a fragmented genre that is pretty much meaningless. I’m no expert, but I think what I’m playing in this set is a mixture of old school D&B, darkcore, darkstep, EBM and industrial.

If you want to hear this kind of music done properly, check out DJ Lee Chaos at chaos approved. He’s an astonishingly good west-of-the-uk based DJ playing pretty much this kind of music. I love his stuff.
Full tracklist and on-demand listening for the Followers of the Apocalypse mix #3 on Mixcloud

Helen Beetham speaking on “Digital Literacy and the role of the University” at Greenwich University, November 2010

In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 – “The Medieval University“, with Melvyn Bragg, Miri Rubin, Ian Wei and Peter Denley, March 2011

Jim Groom speaking at the City University of New York, “Going Loony at CUNY“, February 2011. 

In-game audio from the Fallout series of games.

Sample from “Terminator: Salvation

#ds106 – Followers of the Apocalypse radio show 2

The opinions expressed within this blog post are my own, and not those of my employer, or of projects or programmes I am responsible for. This post is available under a Creative Commons Zero (public domain) license.

Released the second mix in this series to DS106 Radio last night. Wise words include those from @daveowhite, Joss Winn, @hallymk1 and @dougald – fine music includes pendulum, 1 speed bike, rammstein, king crimson, and silver mt zion. As far as these things have a theme, the first one was pretty much a general exploration of the way I want to use the apocalypse as a narrative form in this series, this second one is kind of about the place of education in a dying society.

Available on soundcloud. No, it’s not an OER – sorry. In fact it’s probably illegal, definitely not safe for work (or children) and you probably won’t like it.

What is #ds106 ? Why is it the greatest thing ever?

This post represents my own opinions only and does not represent the views of my employers, or of programmes and projects I am responsible. It is available under a CC-BY license.
I really didn’t (don’t?) have time to get involved in #ds106 , but it sucked me in through just sheer awesomeness. It’s a MOOC (massively open online course) led in inimitable style by THE BAVA: Jim Groom at Mary Washington U. The course is actually offered to (and is being taken by) a number of Jim’s actual students, but their participation is more than matched by the enthusiasm and anarchy of what I’m going to start calling the EduPunk diaspora.

The canonical course site is here.

It has assignments, but these have quickly become sublimated into waves of activity. The first was around animated .GIFs, which I have yet to engage in but need to rectify urgently. The second – which was just so completely up my alley that I couldn’t not was an open access radio station. Adherents have been uploading their own audio work and their own favourite tracks, which are played with a cavalier disregard for public taste and the laws of copyright, all thanks to Jim’s enthusiasm and Grant Potter’s technical wizardry.

And it is compulsive listening. Occasionally mind-blowing, occasionally irritating, occasionally challenging – never, ever, boring. UK folks, it’s like the second coming of John Peel. 

This is an amazing example of the ability of the internet to bring people together almost despite themselves – a more concrete example of the phenomena which makes the “misc” section of any discussion board the most interesting and lively, makes mailing lists occasionally veer wonderfully off-topic and does bizarre things to conference back-channels.

If you provide people with the means to connect and share experiences then they will – on a level that is both more massive and more human than anyone could have anticipated. If you try to constrain the connections and the sharing you kill a community. The internet has taught me (and many others) that, now #ds106 is bringing it home.

[I’ve contributed a 1hr “Followers Of The Apocalypse” radio show/mixtape, made during odd bits of downtime this week using Audacity and Sonar. Be warned, it’s pretty extreme and definitely not safe for work/children and the IP is just, well, my fault…- but it would make a good workout/deadline/driving mix. Possibly.]