Walking away

After nearly 20 years teaching in higher education, I'm walking away.

I have taken voluntary redundancy from my post as Associate Professor at Plymouth Institute of Education. Recently I was informed that the Computing and ICT specialism that I have helped to develop and deliver for the last 10 years has been cut from the B.Ed Primary teacher education programme (yeah - try explaining that).

I have mixed feelings about walking away. On the down side, I will miss teaching my undergraduate students, and the wonderful times we have enjoyed together exploring questions such as 'who should define the curriculum?' and 'what is the best way to integrate technology into the classroom?' Thanks guys - it's been great spending time with you, and watching you blossom into excellent educators. I will also miss working with my many splendid, caring, intelligent and incredibly entertaining colleagues at Plymouth, especially those with whom I have developed real friendships. I would like to thank all those in the institute who have supported me, even when some of my ideas might have looked a little crazy.

On the up side (and this is why I'm smiling) I certainly won't miss the petty bureaucracy that is on the increase at a university near you. Ask anyone who works there. They will tell you. There are now so many forms to fill in, regulations to abide by and rules to follow, it's a wonder there is any academic freedom left, or even any time to think. Nor will I miss the penny pinching austerity. Most higher education leaders are now ruled by their accountants and finance officers, who seem to think that the most important mission for universities is to make money. The balance sheet, it appears, carries more weight than quality pedagogy. I seems to me that the sole reason university heads emphasise 'student experience' is because they want to maintain a positive image from good feedback on the annual National Student Survey forms. Their key desire is to stay near the top of the league table. I won't miss the exam boards, budget cuts, tedious mark uploads and reports, the 'research excellence' framework, Ofsted inspections, the academic offence committees, mandatory compliance training days, the ethics boards and the *interminable* meetings that could easily have been conducted by e-mail.

All of this is now behind me, and I'll have plenty more time on my hands to pursue new directions. I haven't felt as relaxed as this in many years. I'm not retiring. I will still continue my personal research into technology integration, social media use in education and mobile learning - but without the pressure of having to publish in the 'right' journals. I will still blog and write as much as I wish, and I will continue to teach and speak, wherever I am invited around the globe. I'll continue to supervise my handful of PhD students and keep myself updated on the latest technology trends. And I have some personal projects planned, included writing (fiction) and playing my instruments (guitars, keyboards), and I've also been commissioned to present a new radio show, playing 70s and 80s vinyl (real fun). The show will be syndicated worldwide via the Web as well as being broadcast across the UK. Watch this space.

I'm very positive about my own future, but I'm fearful for the future of higher education - I'm not sure how it will survive if it continues to be dominated by profiteering accountants who cut and cut and cut again, and expect those that remain to continue to work just as well with dwindling resources. I worry about how universities will survive when they are frittering away their greatest asset - the intellectual capital of academics who really make university what it is. But I have a hope that among the remaining academics there are many who will maintain their integrity whatever is thrown at them, and who will continue to work tirelessly with what they have to give their students the best possible education.

My main website is here, if anyone wants to get in touch. I'm now available for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and cocktail parties.

Photo by Stuart Heath on Flickr

Creative Commons License
Walking away by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Comments

Oh dear ... what a pity ...
Carrie Ansell said…
I very much enjoyed reading your post Steve. You will be greatly missed and I can't help but feel rather envious of your new creative endeavours. Keep in touch.
Lesley Pyke said…
Having just left my own organisation after 30 years, I can only say I know how you feel right now.... and dont regret it one jot ☺. As you say Steve, big smile, onward and upward / sideways ... and enjoy every moment :) :) I look forward to hearing of new adventures xxxx all good wishes to you xxxx
The teacher education world at Plymouth and across the world will be the less for your departure, Steve. Your insight and 21st century mindset will be missed there, as will your experience with new media and emerging technologies. The bean counters will wake up one day and wonder what the hell happened.
David Sugden said…
Good luck with the future Steve. I've enjoyed not having to deal with the 'petty bureaucracy' (albeit in FE) for a few years now. Step outside and feel the freedom.
James Langley said…
Good man - you'll love it. :)
Clive Buckley said…
Sad to see you leave Steve but the really sad thing is that there are many others like you. I have seen outstanding colleagues leave the profession for just the reasons you cite. They cared about teaching, they cared about students, they cared about standards but they could no longer stand the bureaucracy or the constant demands to justify their continued employment. I'm not sure if it was Stephen Heppell or Sir Ken Robinson who spoke about our factory approach to education - probably KR - but it has invaded higher education to the extent that we no longer challenge our students (or excite them), we just process them. And education is the poorer for that.
Mark said…
I sincerely wish you good luck in your future but find your summary of the state of UK Higher Education, and by default what that also means for teacher education in the UK very depressing. I remain hopeful that Brexit will not mean that I have to leave Finland and return to the UK - for I could not work in the situation you describe. I know that you will do some remarkable work in the years ahead - probably more so now you are free of the system. Warmest wishes.
Simon Ensor said…
Come to France!

Delighted you will have more time on your hands.

Those idiots don't imagine what/who they have unleashed from their bondage!!

Actually - come And help us with an open course for young and less young teachers and learners :-)
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Carrie. It's been great working with you (and Keith!) and all the others - you have been excellent, supportive and thoughtful colleagues. I will drop in from time to time to see how everyone is doing. All the best and thanks for your kind wishes.
Steve Wheeler said…
Yep, exactly. I'm quite excited about the future and the next chapter in my life. I will never lose my passion for education, so I won't be neglecting my social media presence, blogging, tweeting and writing.
Steve Wheeler said…
Ain't it the truth. Already breathing the fresh air mate ;)
Steve Wheeler said…
One reason why I have to leave. Thanks for your support, especially in recent years as External Examiner Clive. It's been a blast.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Mark, much apreciated!
Steve Wheeler said…
Love to - sounds like a very worthwhile project. How can we make this happen?
Steve Wheeler said…
I could see it like that, but I've never been so relaxed, I can tell you ;)
Vili said…
Steve youbsre my inspiration and always be, I have passed your ideas and materials to a lot of EU teachers and we all learned a lot. Thanks and be persistant as we are with you:)))
Oliver said…
Very sad to read this Steve, but glad to find your perspective on your personal situation positive. It was a privilege to work with you and others building the ethos, approaches and curriculum of this course. Primary education needs now more than ever new entrants who have spent time thinking deeply and studying the issues around computing and digital technologies. Kids need a lot of support working out the impact technology has on their lives and how to capitalise on it rather than be consumed by it. We all do.

The community created by that course lives on though, I regularly bump into people doing innovative and exciting work as graduates of the course, or from just observing from afar. I know some of them are inspiring other teachers themselves. The ripples will continue.

Keep me posted with what you are up to! =)
Steve Wheeler said…
Thank you for your affirmation. I intend to campaign even more vocally for good, learner centred and engaging education in the coming years.
hasnainzafar said…
Hi Steve, I really enjoyed listing to your Talks/webinars hope you will have more time now to share your knowledge with the world. I trust you will be doing great innovations. Wishing you all the best.
Paul Bauer said…
Hi Steve,
I am sorry about the way it has ended for you. You are one of my heroes because you understand the difference between learning and schooling, education, teaching and all the other sundry things we tend to conflate with learning. But then I will say I have learned more about real learning since I stepped away from higher ed over two years ago than I learned in my prior 70 years. You have valuable insight, lots of talent and drive. Please don't ever walk away from that.
Paul M Bauer
Phillip Long said…
I read your announcement with mixed emtions. Happy to see hou are looking ahead toward projects, both professional and personal, but sad at the thought that your reasoned perspective and leadership will be irreplaceable. I'm glad you were able to visit with us Down under those years ago (UQ in Brisbane) as everyone who attended along with my Centre colleagues benefitted greatly.

Chapters come to a close and new ones are being written all the time. It's good to see you are the primary author of the one unfolding even if the timing may nit have been of your preferred choosing. I like so many others will look forward to your perspective from the new vantage point. I wish you all the best and hope ti run into to you in a future visit to the UK.

Thanks for hour insights, enthusiasm, and sound judgement over the yesrs and the very best in your new endeavors!

Cheers mate.
Phillip Long, now CiNO & Assoc. Vice Provost at the University of Texas at Austin
Honorary Professor & Founding Director of CEIT at the University of Queensland (all that is to help you triangulate the writer ;-)
TS Bray said…
I'm sorry to hear you are moving on, but also happy to hear you are moving on. Good luck in your future endeavors and if you should find yourself in Turkey (during summer or winter) or in Korea (any other time of the year), please do contact me and let me know, because I'd love to meet you in person. You have been an inspiration to me on Twitter (I'm @tsbray) and I hope to continue seeing you in that space.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Oliver. I really enjoyed working alongside you for two years at Plymouth. You are right about the legacy of former students and their continuing impact. I tried to capture just a little of this in my recent blog interview series. They are awesome educators, and I'll miss the interactions we had with them. But new doors are opening now, and I'd be a mug if I didn't pursue these new opportunities. I hope we can meet up again soon!
All the best for your new beginning or maybe rather taking a turn in the road you may not have chosen a year ago. I'm sure it'll be an exciting adventure and give you heaps of opportunities to share your insight and knowledge as well as learn from everyone around you.
Mike Hamlyn said…
Sorry to hear you're moving on, you provided so many great ideas and an awesome talk at the StaffsUni conference last year. However, after 29 years in HE, I've moved on too (albeit not my decision) but have no regrets, as so many institutions are no longer fun places to be.
jfleming said…
You will be missed but up and away on your new ventures
mvallance1234 said…
Hello from Japan. This is shocking … and extremely sad. Just as STEM and STEAM and Computational Thinking are becoming prominent in school education (even in surprisingly low/no tech schooling in Japan!) , your uni has terminated ‘Computing and ICT’ in teacher training. What? The new teachers more than ever need to be engaged in safe environments prior to school teaching to discuss and work out what ideas like Computational Thinking actually mean, how to support learners’ grasp of Computational Thinking, how to teach, check, and transfer across STEAM topics.
I met you in Manchester at ALT-C in 2009 when you introduced us to Twitter. You were the first on my Follow list. Since then I have been reading your BLOG posts and tweets. At times when I was consumed with self-doubt - the time when my colleagues and management really don’t get it! - your Blog posts, along with Jo Ito of MIT Media Lab ( I personally rank you up there with Jo!), re-reading Papert’s Mindstorms, and Skyping academic colleagues overseas, all reassured me.
Steve .. cheers for Learning with ‘e’ s. Cheers for your humor in Twitter. And thanks for sharing your colorful and informative presentations.
I hope one day I can buy you a pint in Plymouth … or a sake if you ever make it to Japan.
Michael
Anonymous said…
The tech evangelists have only critiqued the neoliberal university (sometimes for their own profit on the international conference circuit); the point is to change it.
Stephen Downes said…
Enjoy your transition. I'd say you've earned it. I hope the income keeps coming in at a decent rate, so you can enjoy your freedom .
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Michael, I genuinely appreciate your comments, and I'm pleased to have been of some service. I'm not quitting education, or my social media presence. You'll continue to see tweets and blog pists (and, yes more books and articles) from me in the future, for as long as I have ideas and thoughts to share. I'll hold you to that pintnone day!
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Stephen. No worries for me. I already have several interesting offers, including a series of keynote speeches including 3 in Canada this coming August, several consultancies and visiting professorships. Hope to work with you again soon.
I've only been teaching as a senior lecturer for 3 1/2 years, but I have felt enormous frustration almost from the off. I am very close to moving to secondary eduction (or back into pure research as a postdoc) because of my frustrations. UK HE is not in a great place at the moment, and there is going to be a rough ride for a lot of academics for the next few years.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Charles. Hope to see you again soon. Singapore in November?
Steve Wheeler said…
Great minds eh? ;)
Tim Lynch said…
Hi Steve, you have seen many changes over the years. I had many thoughts going through my mind when I recently chose to leave Higher Education. I am loving teaching and being part of a school community. I wish you all the very best with your new opportunities in life and thank-you for your support and friendship.
natkin said…
You certainly inspired me !
Have a few interesting projects on the go - passing through in mid July - catch up ?
Steve Wheeler said…
Cheers Tim. It was great to work with you even briefly at Plymouth. I think we've both made the right decision :)
Sounds like an exciting new chapter is about to begin. Enjoy!
Steve Wheeler said…
I hope to capitalise on the extra time I will have to do more to support and encourage the global education community.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Paul. I promise you I certainly won't be walking away from true pedagogy ;)
Steve Wheeler said…
Yes, absolutely Neil - Let me know when.
Anonymous said…
Steve, I wish you the very best. Please do keep sharing your thoughts on technology and learning as and when you can. Thank you for your contributions to the TEL community.
Clint Lalonde said…
Steve, I have been a longtime reader/follower & have appreciated both the work that you have done over the years, and the transparency in openly sharing your work with the rest of us. Thank you. Look forward to seeing what new directions you head in.
Uwe said…
Steve, I have followed your journey and shared your blog with my students for years. Your departure will be a real loss to your university but I hope you will continue to share your thoughts, experience and good practice with the community. I wish you all the best for the next chapter in your life.
Emma said…
Good luck with the change! Looking forward to reading of your new adventures, both creatively and educationally - and, I suspect, often both.
Martin King said…
and its even worse for those further down the "food chain" of formal education ... FE & AE have been wasted ... softened up for some kind of algorithmic takeover ... its why I'm so disillusioned by education, tech & especially edtech

The days after I left formal education (as head of IT services) I felt a sort of natural high ... no longer trying to squeeze what matters into an increasingly overloaded day .. the demands for more and more data ... such that the demands for measurement affect that which is being measured.

Enjoy the freedom ... enjoy life.
Martin King said…
Steve .. Those of "a certain age" (like us) have known #education #tech & #edtech in a different time & type ... a younger generation are conditioned to how things are not how they were .. I'm pessimistic about the future

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