Monthly Archives: March 2016


I think we need to have a discussion about the difference between “credentialed” and “qualified.”

I not long ago got to once again experience the thing where I am the only person in the room not given a title.  Probably not a coincidence that I was also the only woman.  Ordinarily, I don’t insist on titles, because I think insisting that people call me “Doctor Lanclos” is kind of a dick move.  But if everyone else is given their titles, then I guess I should ask for it too, since I did earn that PhD way back when I was 29.

The thing is, that PhD is not really a credential, but evidence of a particular educational experience on my part.  What qualifies me to do my current work is my experience with a particular methodological and theoretical approach, and at this point the fact that I’ve been working in academic libraries and HE environments in the UK and US for the last seven years.

I am qualified.  Not because of my PhD, even if that does open doors for me.

I am so conflicted about that last sentence.  If the only reason anyone listens to me (if anyone listens to me) is because I have a PhD, I actually don’t want their attention, or to be present with them in any fashion.

I work with people in many different contexts who do not have PhDs and my God are they ever qualified.  Some of the most innovative and impactful work I see around me in terms of pedagogy, space, place, and learning is being done by people who do not have PhDs.

I don’t give a shit about your PhD, I care about your work.

And you shouldn’t care about my PhD, you should care about my work.

Insisting on PhDs (or any other terminal degree) as a credential is to fall into the trap of thinking that a degree is the same thing as a qualification.  It’s NOT.  It might be, but that requires critical thought about the nature of a person’s experience, how their work is relevant, and insists on you engaging with a person rather than reading a CV with a list of boxes that have been ticked.

We should not do that credentialing dance with our colleagues any more than we should with our students.

I’m qualified.

You’re qualified.

“Your edu-ma-cation ain’t no hipper than what you understand.”

Take it, Dr. John:


“Digital” Doesn’t Do Anything: #digifest16


I got to attend my third Jisc Digifest (out of three) last week in Birmingham, because I was invited to participate in the plenary keynote panel at the beginning of the event.

Jisc invited all of us in the plenaries to write something ahead of the event to get people thinking, and you can find what I wrote on the Jisc blog.  I was also interviewed for the DIgifest podcast, you can hear me speaking starting about 1.30.

So here is roughly what I said (those of you who know me will realize that not all of the adlibs are captured here, but I try).    Nicola Osborne of Jisc did a nice job of live-blogging both days, and she captured the keynote Q and A (as well as other things) here.   I also Storified it so you can get some sense of what the content of the room while I was speaking was like.  I had no slide deck, just paper notes, and the #digifest16 Twitterstream behind me.   It’s my understanding Jisc will be posting video highlights soon.


“The power of digital for change”

The power of digital is not contained in nor limited to, the kinds of tools it can offer.  Tools change, and how people use them does too.

More than this, as we discussed recently with the Jisc digital leaders programme, education leaders should now think of “Digital” as place.  The implications of society as we experience it face to face also erupting within the digital are wide-ranging and profound.  Have we really thought about what that means in terms of education?  

What does it mean for the human experience of teaching, learning and research to know that it is possible to carry these places around in our pockets?  

Digital is not just about attention, and where people put it, but about where people are themselves.

This means that (those endless circular) debates we have about tools being “fit” really miss the point.  In fact, they are symptoms of a flawed system wherein we hand people tools and insist that they use them regardless of their practice.  The point is actually the people, and the practices in which they are engaging.  And our work should be to facilitate the exploration of all the different ways they can do that.

What are the implications for research?  What are the implications for teaching?  What are the implications for pedagogy?  What does it mean for the design of learning spaces, when, with digital places, nearly any physical place can have a learning space nested within?

And furthermore what does it mean for those who don’t have access to those spaces?  What is lost when those spaces exist but not everyone can get to them?  More than just a digital divide, it’s segregation, lack of access to the places where power and influence can accrue.

It’s crucial that we move the conversation from “tools” and even sometimes from “practice.”  Let’s talk about place, let’s talk about presence.  Let’s talk about (says the anthropologist) people.  Where are we?  Where are our students?  They can be scattered, or they can be layered in their presence–for example, in a room, on Twitter talking publicly about the content of the room, and in DMs snarking about the content.  

This is multi-modal engagement.  What does the presence of these places mean for engagement?  We have never been able to take engagement for granted–disassociation happens in face to face spaces all the time.  What’s happening in this room right now?  How does that make you more here?  How does that take you away? Who else is here?

“The power of the digital for change.”  That’s the theme for the next two days.

In thinking about change I am less interested in what we are changing than how change can happen?  And also thinking about–change for whom?  Why?  I am never interested in change for change’s sake.

At the end of the Visitors and Residents workshops we do, that we’ve done for Jisc and for other orgs,  where we talk about practice, we do end up talking about tools, but then we always, always end up talking about people.  Who are the people with whom you connect?  What does engagement look like?  

And, when you want to change things, who are the people you need to influence, not just the things you need to do?  And if you don’t want to change things, make that argument.  Make the argument for change, too, not just saying the word change over and over again.

More than that–we need to think about what the role of leaders is in making space for these questions to be asked, and explored.  Institutional acceptance of risk, change, failure, this is all crucial.  Accepting change means accepting a certain lack of control.

We on this stage have been asked to help frame what Digifest can be for you, and of course I would recommend that you go to the mapping sessions, explore your own  practices, and engage in discussions around the implications of digital practices for individuals and institutions

But beyond specifics,   I would encourage you to explore the parts of the Digifest that are not someone handing you a tool or a piece of tech, but are about people talking about their educational agendas, their practices, and the people with whom they are working, and why.

Eventually tech will come into it.  But not starting there is a much more interesting conversation