Making British Government easier to learn

My friend and colleague Jason Caplin pointed out today that the LSE have open up the lectures for their undergraduate course on British government and how it all works.

It’s a fantastic resource, and great that they have shared this openly, as it’s something that would be of use to anyone working in and around government.

However, the formatting isn’t all that great and it doesn’t work brilliantly on mobile. Plus, there’s no ability for learners to ask questions, leave comments or discuss the topics.

So, I very quickly threw together a WordPress site to rehouse the videos, using a nice simple responsive theme and layout. I also enabled comments, so there’s a bit of a social element there as well.

I’d be really interested to know from folk if this has been a worthwhile endeavour, and if you make use of the site. Also, if you have any suggestions for improvement.

The site is at

Happy learning!

Some personal hopes for 2015


I don’t want to call them resolutions – doing so means failure if they don’t come off. However, there are a few things that I hope will happen in the next twelve months.

1. Focus more on writing (or, creating and communicating)

When it comes down to it, the thing I most love doing is writing. Not proposals, or reports, or meeting notes – but creative stuff, on this blog and my newsletter.

Actually, maybe it’s a bit more than just writing – it’s communicating ideas generally. Attention seeker that I am, I do love speaking at events, and I see that as being a similar activity.

You could also roll in stuff like my podcast, which I really enjoy doing and need to put back onto a more regular footing. It ought to be possible to get at least one a month done.

On the blog I have managed to have a good run over the holiday period, having the time to think about what to post and to actually write it up has been super valuable. I’d love to be able to carry on publishing a reasonably substantial piece every day, or perhaps at least three times a week.

I’d also like to figure out a why of publishing shorter bits, maybe quick posts that point to an interesting website or app, or a news story perhaps. Also, the bookmarking I do of interesting stuff elsewhere on the web could be made more of I think, but am not sure right now what that might look like.

Finally, the newsletter needs rebooting. I managed to get quite a few issues out last year but would really like to be able to stick to a weekly publishing schedule in 2015. Of all the things I write, the newsletter is probably the most rewarding, especially in terms of the feedback I have been getting.

2. Get a proper job

Yup, I think it’s time. It’s four years since I left my last permanent post, at Learning Pool, and the last proper public sector role I had was at the information authority back in 2008.

Freelancing is fantastic in many ways, and it does suit me to a certain extent. However, it’s also exhausting. Even when you have what feels like a long term contract, you can’t let the networking or business development side of thing drop for a moment, because in six month’s time, you’ll be needing something new to do and need to be on people’s radar.

I also want to be able to actually deliver something that has my name all over it. As a consultant, you’re only ever supporting others to achieve things. Having a real single focus is something that appeals to me right now – particularly if it is going to be something that has a real positive impact on people’s lives.

Finally, I think the time is right for my family for me to have something more stable and a little more consistent in terms of working hours and levels of stress. I’d like to be able to experience something approaching a normal life, even for just a short while, and I owe it to Catherine, Ben and Ruth to try my hardest to make that happen.

So what does this mythical job look like? Well, something fairly strategic, where I can bring my experience of working across a number of organisations to bear. It’s no coincidence that I have recently been blogging about the ‘shared CDO‘ idea and that sort of role is definitely one I would love to have a crack at.

3. Do some real L&D

Just before Christmas, I started doing a course on CodeAcademy – the basic one on Python programming. It was really helpful in terms of doing some learning for learning’s sake – after all, I’m not going to be getting any work as a developer any time soon.

I’d really like to be able to do some proper learning this year if I can. I’ve been looking through the Open University course catalogue – but to be honest I’m not sure if the more formal courses are really for me, and of course there’s the cost.

So maybe the thing to do is to stick with the informal stuff, do some courses on the various MOOC platforms that are out there and other training sites like Lynda, and basically build my own curriculum.

4. Make something happen around digital capability – particularly in local government

In the context of work, I’m passionate about two things mainly – the internet and learning and development. My work in 2014 at the Department of Health helped me to combine these things, and if I took a regret away from my time at Learning Pool it was that I didn’t do anything significant to boost digital skills in the workplace via their amazing community.

So, during 2015 I’d like to be able to work on something that can contribute to the digital capability agenda, particularly in local government where it’s probably most needed right now.

I have some ideas on where to start, and no doubt I will be sharing them in all their half baked glory here on the blog soon.

Loving lurkers

I couldn’t agree more with Mozilla’s Laura Hilliger:

We can’t force people to participate, and if we really care about educating people, we shouldn’t try. We should build and design for the people who are participating, and we should be careful to ensure that the lurkers feel welcome. We should create safe spaces of learning and mentorship where even those who don’t complete the call to action still start to develop trust in us, in our products. The fact is you are always a lurker before you participate, so we should be careful not to push people away by implying that they don’t count if they aren’t like us. If we work to love our lurkers, maybe some of them will find their reason to participate.

Digital learning materials – any point to video?

Here’s one you can all help me with. When putting together learning materials – particularly aimed at a public sector audience – what’s the best format to use?

More specifically – is there any use in using video? Problems with video in the office include:

  • lack of sound cards / speakers / headphones to hear them
  • lack of access to video hosting sites
  • lack of bandwidth to download them
  • …and so on

For a couple of projects I’m looking at putting together learning resources for people about digital “stuff”, and I am leaning towards just writing lots of blog style bits of text with screenshots, rather than going down the screencast or video route.

It makes it chunkable so people can learn in bits if they choose, and of course text and images are a pretty universal, low bandwidth means of content delivery – they will work fine on whatever screen size, and won’t take ages to download.

Plus, by adding a social element, enabling people to talk about the content and discuss it in the context of their own work and projects, that will help embed the learning a little more.

What do people thing?

Link roundup

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Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to:

Link roundup

I find this stuff so you don’t have to: