Hand-cycling for the Prince’s Trust

A week ago today at this time, I was congratulating myself and others on having completed the Palace to Palace charity ride in aid of the Prince’s Trust.  This is an annual event. The ride is 45 or 90 miles, depending on which route you choose from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle. Around 4000 riders take part.

I am making this post to encourage hand-cyclists to consider taking part in this event. It is definitely do-able, especially if the weather is kind, which it was to us, despite forecasts of heavy rain and high winds – which fortunately didn’t materialise. You can find further information on the Prince’s Trust website.

The ride was a wonderful experience. We joined a small group of hand-cyclists – four in total – for the 45 mile route. The Prince’s Trust went out of their way to accommodate us. Many cyclists meet and park in Windsor (easier than London) and are ferried on buses to the start line on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace, with their bikes being loaded onto lorries. We did this and the Prince’s Trust arranged for a special mobility van to transport us and the hand-cycle. They couldn’t have been more helpful.

We arrived at Buckingham Palace early in the morning.

The organisation of the event was impressive. For the 45 mile route there were 3 water stops at, 10, 20 and 30 miles, with not only free water provided, but also free bananas. Toilets were also available. The route went through wonderful countryside and for someone who lives in the South Lakes, appeared almost flat for most of the route. There were a few hills but our village is surrounded by hills, so the Palace to Palace ride was not difficult. It was also entirely on hard surfaces, so ideal for hand-cyclists. There were Marshals at every junction and the route was very clearly signposted.

This is the description of the route copied from the Prince’s trust website:

  • The ride starts out along the Mall with the stunning view of Buckingham Palace ahead and continues through southwest London, over Putney Bridge, towards the first water stop at (mile 10) amongst the deer in Richmond Park. 
     
  • You’ll then head out through Kingston (mile 13) and Hampton towards your second refreshment stop at (mile 20).
     
  • At Walton on Thames, the Ultra cyclists split off and head South through the beautiful Surrey Hills, heading towards Dorking to battle the highest ascent of 200m on Ranmore Common.
     
  • Those taking the shorter Classic route will continue along a fairly flat ride, pass through Chertsey and Chobham.
     
  • During this time, the Ultra riders will have passed through Dorking town centre (mile 36), before heading west passing the nearby towns – Newlands Corner (mile 45), near Guildford, Deepcut (mile 70), near Farnborough and up to Bagshot.
     
  • The Ultra cyclists will then rejoin the Classic route around Virginia Water, with the final water stop at Kitsmead Lane, Longcross (mile 30/80).
     
  • FINISH! The Ultra and the Classic will then continue through Virginia Water and Old Windsor before finally come to a much needed rest at Windsor Racecourse to enjoy the festival village. 

Gradients
Classic
Ultra

The icing on the cake for the hand-cyclists was having their photos taken at the end of the ride with Chris Froome and David Weir! These are photos to keep for posterity!

With Chris Froome

With David Weir

Many thanks to the Prince’s Trust for making this ride possible for four hand-cyclists.

For a few more photos see: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jennymackness/albums/72157687173126231 

Queen of the Mountain

This is the essence of how bizarre apps and social media have become. Here is the story.

At the beginning of May I took part in a charity bike ride in Bali. In the last 15 kilometres I came off my bike and broke my collar bone. It has taken me 4 months to get back on my bike, which I did a week ago. I would like to do a 45 mile charity bike ride at the beginning of October, if I can get my fitness back in time.

The intention today was to do about 15 miles and see how my shoulder stood up, but after about 4 miles my partner’s bike failed (he is a hand-cyclist with complicated kit), and I had to cycle home to collect the car to go back and collect him.

According to Strava, the app I use on my phone to let me know how far and how fast I have cycled, this was a nine mile round trip, which in itself is hard to believe. We had scarcely left home! And again according to Strava, this evidently makes me Queen of the Mountain. This is despite the fact that I did not sprint once, and the fact that nine miles is neither here nor there in the cycling scheme of things and that the bike ride was completely unsuccessful given our aims. I will continue to use Strava, but I could do without receiving these nonsensical emails.

An email referring to me as Queen of the Mountain seems even more bizarre given the mountains climbed by the cyclists competing in the Vuelta a Espana.

Hand Cycling around Bali


Map of Bali

At the beginning of this month I joined a group of hand cyclists who were raising money for REGAIN  by cycling 320 km around Bali.

Photo by Liz Pardey, Volunteer at Bali Sports Foundation

(click on the photo to see it more clearly)

REGAIN is a charity that aims to support British men and women who have become tetraplegic as a result of a sports injury.  The charity provides many different types of support, but one of its activities is to arrange events which will help to improve the independence of people who have been seriously disabled by a sporting injury. In this case the event was hand-cycling around Bali. REGAIN organised this in conjunction with the Bali Sports Foundation – so we were joined by 7 disabled Indonesian riders. The route was organised by the Bali Sports Foundation.

Whilst I joined this ride in support of REGAIN, I was impressed by the Bali Sports Foundation and the work they are doing to promote sport for the disabled. It was wonderful to witness the stoicism and enthusiasm of the Bali cyclists.

Source of video: Bali Sports Foundation

14 people went to Bali from the UK including four tetraplegics and their carers. It’s interesting to reflect on how facilities for the disabled have improved. 50 years ago, which is when my husband (one of the four tetraplegics) suffered his spinal injury, an event such as this would have been impossible. How things have changed. Whilst facilities for the disabled could still be improved, some places needing more improvement than others, the intrepid tetraplegic can now get out and about as never before, taking on challenges that are daunting for the able-bodied, never mind those with a spinal injury.

Speaking from the perspective of an able-bodied partner of a disabled hand-cyclist, one of the wonderful things about a trip like this is how much you learn, not only about the country you are visiting, but even more from the people you meet and the experiences you share.

The Bali ride was definitely a challenge. Not only did we cycle 320 kms over four days, quite often in heavy traffic, but we also did this in 100 degrees heat. I have never taken in so much daily water; neither have I ever purposely ridden a bike soaking wet to the skin, which was the only way to keep cool. Keeping hydrated was essential for the tetraplegics who easily over-heated. I learned that a spray bottle is useful for cooling down tetraplegics without soaking them too much, but for myself, I simply poured ice cold water all over me! And of course, whilst you might want the best of suntans, Factor 50+ is a must.

Photo by Liz Pardey, Volunteer at Bali Sports Foundation

Perhaps the most wonderful thing about joining a REGAIN event is the friends you make and the amount of support you get, both from the able-bodied riders, but also from the tetraplegics who are always on hand with advice as to the best way of managing such a challenging ride (and life in general). The four tetraplegics on our trip, Dom, Tim, Piers and John, are inspiring, truly amazing people, all of whom meet life head on with humour and courage. And this account would be incomplete without a shout out to Dom, Tim and Piers’ amazing carers/partners, Daniela, Sarah and Erika, who are all equally inspiring.

If you are a hand cyclist looking for a new challenge, maybe these photos will be of interest.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jennymackness/albums/72157680913131863

You can also have a look at  Liz Pardey’s photos:

https://1drv.ms/f/s!AnfMHZJyMQ0kkn44ueMTtQ1ayI4F. Liz is a volunteer with the Bali Sports Foundation and helped to organise the event.

‘The New World’. Fact and Truth in 2017

 

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 Source of image

Every day this week, BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting a 45-minute programme at 9.00 am bearing the title ‘The New World’. This is a series of programmes examining the major forces that are changing the world around us. The first programme focused on ‘post-truth’ and bore the title ‘Nothing but the Truth’.

For me this is just the right programme, after all that happened in 2016, including ‘fake news’ allegations surrounding Brexit here in the UK and Trump’s election in the USA, to broadcast at the start of 2017. It pulled together and tried to explain society’s changing relationship with truth. It tried to unpick what we mean by ‘post-truth’ and what it means to live in a ‘post-fact’ world. The programme drew on several research studies and spoke to a number of different scientists, researchers and others. The podcast gives further details of these speakers and can be accessed on the BBC website at Nothing but the Truth although I realise that this won’t necessarily be available to those living outside the UK.

The programme started by telling us that ‘Post-truth’ was the ‘word of the year’ in 2016, when it was added to the Oxford Dictionary.

After much discussion, debate, and research, the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth – an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.  (Source of quote)

It suggested that 2016 was the year in which people questioned whether facts matter any more and whether there is any longer a need or role for experts in our society. Post-truth describes the world according liberals and their liberal angst. (See The Fallacy of Post-Truth by Rune Møller Stahl & Bue Rübner Hansen for more on this).

When did we enter this post-fact world? According to Rune Møller Stahl & Bue Rübner Hansen any one of a number of events could have been the cause, but the Radio 4 programme presenter suggested that the first clear instance of there being a lot of information ‘out there’ with no basis in fact was the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Events went on to show that when facts are coloured by ideology it is difficult to change people’s minds. In this case people not only resisted the evidence that there were no weapons of mass destruction but also became more convinced that there were – a phenomenon known as the ‘backfire effect’. By developing counter arguments people become more entrenched; they persuade themselves and they rationalize instincts and feelings that they already have after the fact in an act of retrospective justification. They put their feelings first and make the facts fit. They think they are reasoning but are actually rationalizing.

The programme posited that we all have this pre-disposition, i.e. the pre-disposition to selectively accept information which is consistent with our world view and the more proficient we are at analysing data the more we do this; we interrogate the evidence and ‘waterboard’ it until it tells us what we want to hear.

Fact and truth. The programme went on to discuss that there are different kinds of facts. When is a fact not a fact? Take for example the question, ‘Is the UK in the EU?’ This is a straightforward question to answer. It is a fact and a truth that we are currently in the EU. But the question ‘how much does the EU cost the UK?’ may have many answers (many truths and facts) and the question ‘is it good for us to be in the EU?’ is not a question about facts but about values. Fact and truth are not the same thing. Has our relationship with truth changed over time? Truth is more personal and is about how you feel about the world. We are all more or less biased. Areas of life that are not about facts but about values shouldn’t be the monopoly of politicians, intellectuals and self-appointed authorities. No-one knows what it’s like to live your life. We don’t have to trust others to interpret the truth or its relevance for our lives.

Echo chambers. If our relationship with truth has changed over time, why is this so? The Internet has affected us all and changed society. Two-thirds of Americans now get their news from social media and this is an increasing trend in the UK. But we tend to inhabit echo chambers on the Internet. We live in filter bubbles seeing echoes of our own opinions, amplified by social software’s algorithms (e.g. Facebook) which give us more of the same and ensure that we don’t encounter dissenting information.

And this doesn’t only happen on the Internet. Some research from America and in the UK has shown that like-minded people move to live near each other. This is known in America as ‘the big sort’ and studies of psychological geography have linked geographical clustering to personality differences, making the chances of meeting people different from us increasingly slim.

How can we burst the bubbles we live in? How do we get contrary information and alternative perspectives into echo chambers? It seems that we can’t win arguments by throwing in more facts. It’s not an information deficit that we suffer from, but an affinity deficit and a lack of trust. We determine the truth by the people and sources we trust. It’s not that facts don’t matter any more. What is really worrying is the lack of trust underneath this which comes from being exposed to fewer opposing views and which makes it harder to believe the other side has anything to offer.

What was suggested in the programme is that it’s difficult to build trust, but perhaps we could start by trusting ourselves a little less, asking ‘Can I trust how I feel?’ We should be anxious about echo chambers and fitting what we see to maintaining our standing in the group. We should resist forwarding to our echo chamber that article that proves how right we are. Just because we like it doesn’t mean it’s true. We should listen more to people we disagree with and make a habit of doubting what we hear, see and read if only for a short time each day.

Like others (see for example Audrey Watter’s post – Education Technology and the Year of Wishful Thinking) during 2016 I became increasingly aware of the issues raise by this Radio 4 programme, of the echo chambers in which I work and live and the pressure to conform to group ideologies. Alternative perspectives are often not welcomed and as I have personally experienced can be met with at best silence and at worst abuse and ridicule. As an academic and researcher this seems a particularly sorry state of affairs.

A-Z of authors I have learned from this year

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To follow my last post – A-Z of my year – I have been thinking about my reading this year.

Unlike the last one, this A-Z is not a complete list. For some letters of the alphabet there is more than one author. For others, there are none. Nearly all these references relate to my work, but a few are related to personal interests. Only one is a novel.

I have read a lot more than this over the year, many more journal papers and novels, not to mention many blogs. Several of the references listed here are not new to me, i.e. I have not read them for the first time this year. I have included references that stand out as having in some way influenced my thinking this year. The references have, in some cases, also been selected because for one reason or another the author has been significant in my learning this year. For many authors I could have selected more than one paper. Unfortunately, I have had to be selective, so the list doesn’t do justice to all who have influenced me, but it has been interesting to compile.

Here is my list.

A

Ashwin, Paul – Analysing Teaching-Learning Interactions in Higher Education: Accounting for Structure and Agency

B

Baggaley, Jon – MOOC Postscript

Barnett, Ron – A Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty

Bates, Tony – Teaching in a Digital Age

Bayne, Sian & Ross, Jen – The Pedagogy of the Massive Open Online Course: the UK View

Biesta, Gert – The Beautiful Risk of Education

C

Cilliers, Paul – Complexity, Deconstruction and Relativism

D

Downes, Stephen – OLDaily  and Half an Hour 

Dwyer, Sonya & Buckle, Jennifer – The Space Between: On Being an Insider-Outsider in Qualitative Research 

E

Edwards, Richard – Knowledge Infrastructures and the Inscrutability of Openness in Education

Esposito, Antonella – Research Ethics in Emerging Forms of Online Learning: Issues Arising from a Hypothetical Study on a MOOC

F

Farrow, Robert – A Framework for the Ethics of Open Education

G

Gourlay, Lesley – Open Education as a ‘Heterotopia of Desire’ 

H

Haythornthwaite, Caroline – Rethinking Learning Spaces: Networks, Structures, and Possibilities for Learning in the Twenty-First Century

K

Knox, Jeremy – Posthumanism and the Massive Open Online Course 

L

Littlejohn, Allison, et al. – Learning in MOOCs: Motivations and Self-Regulated Learning in MOOCs

M

Marshall, Stephen – Exploring the Ethical Implications of MOOCs

McGilchrist, Iain – The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Melcher, Matthias – Connectivist Think Tool

N

Noddings, Nel – Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education

O

Osberg, Deborah & Biesta, Gert – The Emergent Curriculum: Navigating a Complex Course between Unguided Learning and Planned Enculturation 

P

Polit, Denise & Beck, Cheryl – Generalization in Quantitative and Qualitative Research: Myths and Strategies

R

Raffaghelli, Juliana – Methodological Approaches in MOOC Research: Retracing the Myth of Proteus 

Rolfe, Vivien – A Systematic Review of the Socio-Ethical Aspects of Massive Online Open Courses 

Ross, Jen – Speculative Method in Digital Education Research 

S

Sousanis, Nick – Unflattening

Sharpe, Rhona – 53 Interesting Ways to Support Online Learning

Snowden, David & Boone, Mary – A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making

T

Tschofen, Carmen – first novel completed

U

University of Edinburgh – 2016 Manifesto for Teaching Online

V

Veletsianos, George & Shepherdson, Peter – A Systematic Analysis and Synthesis of the Empirical MOOC Literature Published in 2013-2015 

W

Weller, Martin – The Art of Guerrilla Research  

Wenger, Etienne – Learning, Technology and Community. A Journey of the Self

Williams, Roy – The Resonance Project

A-Z of my year

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At this time of year my cousin sends me an A-Z of her year on a long slip of bright yellow paper inserted in a Christmas card. It is lovely to receive and in just a minute or so I have a very good idea of what her year has entailed and what her numerous interests are. This is a very good way of quickly reflecting on the year, what has been done, what has been achieved and more importantly what has been valued. It surprises me that I have done more than I would have realised had I not gone through this process.

Here is an A-Z of my 2016

A Anglesey in April

B Bosch (Hieronymus) in The Prado, Madrid

C Cross Bay Walk, Collaborators, Choir

D David Hockney at the Royal Academy, Dulwich Art Gallery

E Exercise

F Friends, Family

G Glass Cutting,  Grids Gestures

H House hunting, Holy Island

I Imposter syndrome

J Jutta visits

K Kielder Water

L Lisa in Durham, Life Drawing

M Madrid, McGilchrist, Materiality of Nothing

N Networked Learning Conference, Northumberland

O Open vs closed

P Pendle Hill, Publishing

Q Questions, more than answers

R Raby Castle, Research

S Seventy – this year’s number, Sheep fold by Andy Goldsworthy

T Tate Modern, Triathlon 

U Universities 

V Volkswagen Transporter

W Westminster Abbey, Writing, Waiting

X  X-rays

Y Year – a good one

Z Zest – for life

Mad Old Gitesse Syndrome

This post has been sparked by an article in The Times Higher Education (Dec 8th, 2016) – ‘What does retirement mean for academics’, in which Lincoln Allison, Eric Thomas and Richard Larschan reflect on ‘the next phase’ of scholarly life. Having recently entered my eight decade it is perhaps not surprising that this article caught my attention.

Being this age several of my friends and family are ‘retired’. Some have left work never to think of it again and are now enjoying a life of travel, golf, cooking, gardening or any number of hobbies and interests. Many are fitter than they have been for years. For others ‘academic work lingers’. They continue to supervise students, do some teaching, write books, articles etc. and present at conferences. I fall into this latter category. According to Lincoln Allison this is ‘mad old git syndrome’.

Sir Eric Thomas writes of retirement ‘But let’s agree that while you may do other things in the future, when there is no more full-time work, no more of what has defined you for more than four decades, that is retirement’. ‘Your innings is over’.

I don’t feel that my ‘innings is over’, simply that the nature of my innings is changing. From all this I am clearly a ‘mad old gitesse’.