Iftar at Sutton Islamic Centre

We went tonight and shared a wonderful chat and meal with our local Muslim community. 

The local Islamic Centre has had some trouble recently with the rise in hate crime nationally and locally. They received a lot of support from non Muslim neighbours and are keen to stress that extremism and terrorism have no place in Islam. The Imam said (I think from Quran) that if you take a life, you are killing all of humanity and if you save a life, you are saving all of humanity.

We are hoping to plan activities together starting with a ‘holding difficult conversations’ workshop that our #Moreincommon group is running on Tuesday, 6.30pm Sutton College.

The workshop will look at strategies for how best to talk with someone holding extreme opposing views.

Life in London blogs

Here’s some local blogs giving insight into everyday London life or recommendations and also a friend’s site: LondonforFree

There is also London bloggers directory which you can search for blogs by tube station. Also London’s best football blogs 

Don’t know if these are in it but 4 via @davehill

Marshman Chronicles

London masala and chips (go back beyond recent election stuff)

Broken Barnet


And life in central London:



Finally my neck of the woods Surprising Sutton (hasn’t posted for a year but lots of interesting stuff before)

Conversational UI elements

This is preparation for a module at Roehampton which will probably be in spring 2018. As referenced previously Conversational UI project and the case study. These both show the steps in how a conversation evolves with a chatbot by looking at the communication rules, building the conversation frame, use of syntax and messaging formats. They came up with conversational UI definition

An interface based on a holistic system of functional, adaptive and meaningful messages exchange, in which both sides of the conversation use and interpret the language codes, maintaining and complying with the constitutive and normative rules in a friendly, informal way 1

An interesting overview of the programming elements in a conversational UI explains the developments of chatbots from performing tasks to more advanced forms of conversation using AI processing and scripts built using Chatskills (based around Amazon Alexa which could retrieve photos as well as respond to queries). This is designed for using applications on computer or phone rather than e.g. a chatbot service for ordering taxis etc

There is a breakdown of a query into namespaces which mean that words for the chat or content are separated from the same word for processing or script e.g. XML namespaces example.

In the article, it describes namespaces

Namespaces allow us to separate logic and tasks, which might re-use similar conversational text keywords. By namespacing services, we can allow other services to use the same keywords, while still identifying which service we’re currently working in. A bot might have many different namespaces. In addition to the epix service, perhaps it may also have a photos service, a users service, and an orders service. 2

This could be applied to different contexts where a service could be users (students) but another alternative service to – show a photo of…, for  our students, it could be asking it for an explanation of a concept based on pre-built libraries that the conversational bot can search and retrieve an answer. If there is interaction with students, another Kory Becker primary objects article looks at emotion and AI using sentiment analysis. This has got a lot more sophisticated since I explored it a little in 2008 when looking at media and the financial crisis. The code and any computers & applications involved in the processing isn’t actually showing empathy, it’s retrieving words that have been described as a suitable human response. Shrinkwrapped has a psychoanalytic look at empathy and AI and what different fields are doing to try and ensure that future computers and their processing are friendly in their interactions with humans and this universe.

I have always been and remain opposed to covert & non-consented experimentation of computing and human interaction but students will be creating future worlds not me, so who knows.

1. 2016, Zawadski L, Conversational UI Principles — Complete Process of Designing a Website Chatbot, available at Medium: https://medium.com/swlh/conversational-ui-principles-complete-process-of-designing-a-website-chatbot-d0c2a5fee376
2. 2016, Becker K, An Overview of Conversational UI, available at Primary Objects: http://www.primaryobjects.com/2016/04/12/an-overview-of-conversational-ui/

Putin documentary, I hope Oliver Stone succeeds in his goal of generating discussion 

I don’t want to use this blog to talk about the Russian president or repeat previous thoughts, so will be quite brief. I haven’t watched yet but will, I haven’t owned a TV for several years. The documentary took place over two years. That should be long enough to get a sense of who he is and what he thinks regardless of any bias. Neither filmmaker or president are stupid people.

I spoke with a couple of US friends yesterday who have lived in UK over 20 years. They are not returning to US this year (they go annually). We don’t discuss politics very much and US/Russia topic has never featured. As with many US citizens I have met, we discuss policies and impact on society sometimes but Washington and Wall St are what they are, so are Westminster and City of London.

So if you really can’t be bothered to learn Russian or visit Russia and to date just recycle media via social media, at least watch it and decide for yourself. 

Force in Systema and force in taekwondo 

More experienced taekwondo practitioners than me would not notice this probably.

We did one step sparring drills and I was unusually with another black belt so we attempted some basic wrist techniques. I noticed the difference in force, they were using too much and sometimes pushing downwards. In Systema session someone pointed out that I was doing the same thing. So today I didn’t and was able to achieve same result with less effort and less energy. 

Had interesting chat with another senior practioner after the session, he has recommended to practice thousands of breakfalls, read the Dao de Jing and apply this in all aspects of life. 

#makefriends initiative

This is very encouraging to see a joint statement. I studied world religions as part of my teaching degree (not out of choice, wrong A levels..), in fact all of my fellow students except one were the same. It led to very interesting conversations. My dissertation was about the impact of American missionary groups in Latin America. I spent a summer going to / from a Latin American library in London.

Hinduism is tempting. Bhagavad Gita is beautiful and they’re nice to animals, but the caste system and traditional views of women.

I didn’t go to local mosques but followed various Islamic family traditions with my ex’s family and had interesting brief conversations with my ex mother-in-law.

Cold / Russia acclimatisation

Also useful for a potential visit to some Korean mountains – and anywhere else that cold for that matter!

I’m taking part in a research trial at the moment, part of which involves being seated for 30 mins at approx -3 degrees celsius. Obviously that wouldn’t be sufficient for Siberian (or St Petersburg non-summer) temperatures but it is useful to understand reactions ! It’s a long way down the temperature scale from Turkish summers (or winters) albeit approx 20 years ago and I have been in minus temperatures there too. If I had kids and spent winters standing at football / rugby pitches that would probably be closer to average Russian temperatures with the wind chill etc but got to start somewhere. And it’s useful to researcher hopefully !

Off to systema for first time tonight with an instructor who has also done taekwondo, should be interesting ! Won’t be blogging about the sessions unless something particularly of note – having spent several years blogging taekwondo sessions as a new martial artist, don’t need to repeat in same way.




People’s Uni water sanitation module

I met with Surrey University colleagues today. We may do a history of water sanitation, current issues and why they still exist. This example was given:

Giardisis (gastrointestinal infection) caused by giardia (commonly lamblia) in surface water in many parts of the world. It is treatable but is excreted back into the environment.

It can be filtered in towns, harder in rural areas. Is sensitive to chlorine, it involves different steps in sanitation process with two filtering steps, disinfectant.

Water companies know risks and put in appropriate treatment where possible but supply of equipment, disinfectant, when tests are completed (e.g. after rainfall, at night) can all affect the analysis.

This is also well summarised in this water research post: http://water-research.net/index.php/reports/giardia-crytosporidium-and-waterborne-disease

Roehampton University eLearning Meet

Our team organises a get-together where staff can showcase different technologies they’ve been experimenting with to improve / enhance learning with their students or different research projects they are involved with. Due to staff absence, I covered a couple of these and have been asked to write blog posts so sharing here too. Note I joined in  both the Glion activity at the end just from creating the quiz onwards so the majority of the activity had already happened and with the art psychotherapy activity, I was still in the process of changing roles so not able to spend any serious time in planning it.

Glion Institute of Higher Education presentation – student generated quizzes


Anthony Basiel who is teaching a Counselling & Negotiation Skills course wanted to involve students in a bottom-up networked learning model. There is a core textbook but Anthony wanted students to demonstrate their understanding but also develop the intellectual capital of the group. The students were organised as a business with teams managed by a student in each team. Together with an IT colleague, Anthony developed a google forms template which students used to create questions from the book. These were multiple choice questions with three answers and needed to provide specific feedback including references to where the correct answer and clarification could be found. They had overview sessions and links to videos explaining how to write good questions.

It was not possible to easily convert the questions from google forms into a moodle quiz, so the quiz was recreated from scratch using the questions exported as a CSV. Five questions in three quizzes were created. For the first quiz which was run during a teaching session, the questions were randomised. However this meant that well written questions were not necessarily selected so specific questions were selected for the final two quizzes which the students preferred. Anthony wanted the students to rank the questions but this was not possible with the core quiz activity.

The eLearning Services team have since installed a student quiz plugin which allows students to generate quiz questions and ranking. This will be tested over the next month.

The students actually ranked the poor questions higher when asked to use an anonymous ranking tool. We don’t know if they knew who had written the questions and whether that was an influencing factor.

Intellectual capital. It is hoped to finalise a question bank of student generated questions and then negotiate with the publisher of the original textbook to generate an eLearning resource. This allows a practical application of the negotiating skills.

Art Psychotherapy Virtual Field Trip


The lecturer wanted each student to contribute a reflection on a visit to an artistic installation. All the students are mature students who are doing a mix of remote and face-face learning on campus. Due to the short timescales for planning, a quick test of the Collaborate virtual classroom plugin in Moodle was completed. The ‘room’ was opened in advance of the session and the instructions were sent to the students asking them to test out their audio in advance.

Overall the session went well but we had some hiccups at the beginning due to some students attending in person which meant that we couldn’t book an appropriate teaching room with boundary microphones available so we had to use a mix of a smartphone, an iPad as well as a desktop computer with a headset. This meant that microphone feedback had to be managed and some other settings had to be temporarily managed by another facilitator in the virtual room. The iPad app does not always work so we had to explain where to find the link to using Firefox or Google chrome when it asks you to install the app (you don’t need to but the link to use the web version on the screen is quite small). These issues can all be fixed during the planning phase for future sessions.

Each student sent in their slide in advance which were combined into one presentation (27 students in total – each presenting for a couple of minutes). This made it easier for anyone who hadn’t checked their audio settings – if needed we could switch to other students quickly whilst they sorted their settings. This would have been more difficult with 27 presentations loaded individually.

Some students who do not say anything during face-face sessions were much more talkative during the virtual session. Some students used their smartphones to deliver their presentations and found that easier for managing the audio. Feedback included

“The virtual field trip gave me a sense of the various visits, and some of the questions and thoughts of other trainees; that I possibly would not have had. I also found being able to type questions and share thoughts whilst the presentations were happening to be a real bonus.”

“It was difficult to instigate meaningful conversation about the field trips, only quick comments were received”

“A better developing understanding of the importance of technology and its ability to connect. Being able to see art work made therapeutically in context and understand more of the role of art in patient life.”