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Bob Rotheram :: Blog :: Burglars, teachers and windows

October 12, 2008


Question: What’s the connection between burglars due in court and university teachers launching modules? Answer: Windows. If the link isn’t immediately obvious, it’s probably because your career has been different from mine. I used to be a probation officer and now I’m a university staff developer.

When they hear the word ‘windows’, many people involved with technology think first of the computer operating system. I’m very involved with technology: the core of my job is about its uses in assessment. What’s more, I’m producing this piece with the help of Windows. But my PC is behaving itself today and Microsoft’s money-spinner isn’t what’s on my mind. Instead, I’m reflecting on the last couple of weeks of Sounds Good activity and am keenly aware that I’m using windows as much as I can.

Burglars, teachers and windows? Mmm.

In my previous blog post, ‘Let’s not get carried away’, I noted that I’d spent September racing around leading sessions about Sounds Good. Since then I’ve done several more, including two last Friday. Some of the ‘gigs’ have been by invitation, others because I’ve taken the initiative. More than once, it has been difficult to fit the session in but I’ve made the effort. Why push myself? Windows.

Burglars, teachers and windows? Need clues? Anxiety. Dissatisfaction.

Right now, the beginning of the academic year in UK higher education, can be a pretty anxious time, and not just for new students. It’s when teaching staff make key decisions and establish patterns for the next chunk of time – the term, semester or year. Some will be worried or uneasy about how they are going to run their modules and assess the students. At times like these they may be more than usually receptive to snake-oil salesmen who offer the prospect of both making their lives easier and pleasing students. But soon, for better or worse, the teachers will have made their major decisions on assessment, learning and teaching. Anxiety levels will have fallen, along with the chances of them buying snake oil – until the cycle begins again.

The windows I have in mind are, of course, windows of opportunity. I used to try to exploit them with burglars up for sentence and anxious to show they were turning their lives around. Nowadays my target group is very different but the strategy is the same: get the timing right; use temporarily-raised anxiety and dissatisfaction to produce a public declaration of changed ways; hope for a better course of events. A gentle nudge may be all it takes.

Gotta go. Snake oil – sorry, audio feedback – to sell and I can hear the sound of windows closing.

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