Monday, August 31, 2015

Irish Association Talk: Transforming Societies

I will be speaking at the Irish Association for Cultural, Economic and Social Relations autumn lunch on Saturday 12th Sept 2015, 12.30-1.00. My topic is 'Transforming Societies After Political Violence: Reflections on Truth, Reconciliation and Healing in South Africa and N Ireland'. Using personal experience from engagement with victims and survivors during the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and peacebuilding work in Northern Ireland, the lecture will delve into the complex interplay between individual psychological processes and macro-political interventions such as truth commissions. Specifically the lecture will explore issues such as reparations, “doing justice”, the power of ambivalence, and concepts such as closure, trauma and reconciliation setting out the role of transitional justice, human rights and mental health practitioners in helping survivors move beyond the toxic past without covering it up or becoming mired. The lecture will take place at Stephen's Green-Hibernian Club, 9 Stephen's Grn, Dublin 2. For Details, click here.

Friday, August 7, 2015

MOOCS and Open Learning at Ulster University

By Professor Brandon Hamber and Dr Brian Murphy

These are times of massive change in the digital landscape. Global connectivity through the internet added to the power of communication technologies and the affordability of modern devices makes knowledge more accessible and education more and more distributed. It is in this context that MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – have been making the digital headlines in higher education recently. And it would be fair to say that a University-sponsored group on Open Learning may not have materialised were it not for the MOOC phenomenon.

The membership of the Ulster MOOCs and Open Learning Working Group drew in expertise across learning and teaching, research and innovation, internationalisation and digital learning; all common aspects of a MOOC. On the principle that we could not ignore the changes taking place, we reviewed the MOOC landscape extensively: what, for example, students expected; what others in higher education were doing and had invested heavily in; and what lay behind the power of the platform.

Download MOOCs & Open Learning Report
We started from a conundrum: we saw Ulster as having a proud and long-standing position of strength in depth behind the walls of our digital learning environment, yet some of the new players in MOOCs and Open Learning had moved into this space openly and rapidly. As we researched and reviewed, we increasingly found tensions in the higher education positions on MOOCs. This was reflected locally too in terms of delivery, resources, priority, issues of exclusivity and the additional pressure on lecturers and others for design, production and delivery in this arena. We recognise these tensions in this report. We also recognise the challenge of discerning a business model that works for Ulster, be it on reputation, finance, values, or a combination of these and others.

All paths led us back to the principles of Open Learning re-forged by the white heat of technology and its potential to transform the dissemination of knowledge and distribution of education whilst also remaining true to our institutional values.

We concluded that:
  • Openness at Ulster should be as much practical as philosophical; widening access, for example, is a dominant gene in our institutional DNA.
  • Openness at Ulster must resonate within our business equation; the tensions of resource must be set in the context of the value of what we want to do, the cost of getting there, and a recognition of where we are coming from.
  • Openness at Ulster should draw from our niche educational provision relative to others in the sector.
  • Openness at Ulster should draw from our niche and high quality research and enterprise; much of our research is publically funded with funders increasingly requiring open dissemination and public engagement with research that is accessible, substantial and demonstrable.
  • Ramping up to massive open courses would be a massive step too far today; we need firstly to underpin a change in culture and capability that moves to openness in an assured manner. A measured approach would be to develop a conventional, for-credit online module and then scale for open access.
  • MOOC costs are prohibitive unless in partnership; partners could be drawn from higher education, the commercial, professional body or third sectors; on a global scale there may be synergy with the aspirations of IGOs and NGOs with a remit in education, health, young people, poverty and peace - UNICEF, UNESCO for example.
  • We must demonstrate capacity and capability by building our external profile in open learning and dissemination in an assured manner – using Jorum and iTunes U, for example. 
  • We should realise the potential for innovation through the research-teaching nexus; using open learning to enhance the student experience and to inject valuable co-creation and collaboration with our students in curriculum and research outputs. 
  • We need a policy statement on open learning with aims and objectives to frame an institutional position and calibrate diverse impacts. 
  • And we must underpin all our efforts with on- going awareness raising, academic discussion, support and targeted projects.

In the end, our journey traced the sequence in the name of our Working Group: from MOOCs to Open Learning. Ironically, the impact of MOOCs on our University can be celebrated already: MOOCs were the genesis of this study and may yet be one the many academic fruits collectively visioned by this Working Group and endorsed by this University.

Blog posted originally on Ulster University Access Digital and Distributed Learning: 02 Jul 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Update on Prehen Woodland: Destruction Continues

Back in 2012 I wrote an article about the destruction of the environment making specific reference to an ancient woodland in Prehen in Northern Ireland. Three years later and the destruction of the woodland continues and developers continue to work away at destroying it. 

At the time I made the point that:

"...not caring about the Prehen woodland, or any other, is like saying the extinction of a specific species of insect is not important because there are lots of other insects in the world. But, like an extinct species, once this ancient woodland is gone, you cannot grow it back."

Posted by Tom McBride on the Campaign Facebook Page, 29 July 2015

It is sad to see no one really seems to take any serious notice. 

So recently I posted the latest update (27 July 2015) from the Prehen Historical and Environmental Society on Facebook calling for us all to take a little action by sending an email. 

So please do read it and if moved by it follow up. Ireland has so few ancient woodlands left, and we should not have another one decimated essentially for profit.

Visit the No to Housing Development in Prehen Woods Facebook page to add your voice or find out more.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Psychosocial Perspectives on Peacebuilding

I am delighted to announce that my new book edited with Elizabeth Gallagher is now out, Psychosocial Perspectives on Peacebuilding.

The book Psychosocial Perspectives on Peacebuilding offers a template for those dealing with the
aftermath of armed conflict to look at peacebuilding through a psychosocial lens. This Volume, and the case studies that are in it, starts from the premise that armed conflict and the political violence that flows from it, are deeply contextual and that in dealing with the impact of armed conflict, context matters. The book argues for a conceptual shift, in which psychosocial practices are not merely about treating individuals and groups with context and culturally sensitive methods and approaches: the contributors argue that such interventions and practices should in themselves shape social change. This is of critical importance because the psychosocial method continually highlights how the social context is one of the primary causes of individual psychological distress.

The chapters in this book describe experiences within very different contexts, including Guatemala, Jerusalem, Indian Kashmir, Mozambique, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The common thread between the case studies is that they each show how psychosocial interventions and practices can influence the peacebuilding environment and foster wider social change.

Psychosocial Perspectives on Peacebuilding is essential reading for social and peace psychologists, as well as for students and researchers in the field of conflict and peace studies, and for psychosocial practitioners and those working in post-conflict areas for NGO’s.

Interested in a copy, you can buy from Amazon, or directly from Springer.

You can also get updates on the book by visiting the Facebook Page.