Don’t mention BL _ _ KB _ _ _D!

What a week. SS RMIT was at full steam, full throttle. Monday saw us engaged with the NGV on a new Design Partnership project, hot on the heels of Shifting Gears, curated by the inimitable Harriet Edquist.

On Tuesday evening we launched the 12-storey-high light-show Urban Animators on the cliff-like walls of Buildings 10 and 12. It was quite a gig. 10 of the artists gathered around a giant red button in the SAB and at my command, we gave it such a push it nearly shot off down 2 flights of stairs!

Talking of red, at some bleak predawn hour, I was on air with Red Symons. No one warned me. I think I stayed on topic. At least I managed to mention RMIT eight times, art twice, and animation at least once.

Wednesday saw me in a double-act with the VC at Storey Hall, where Martin wowed the audience with a spontaneous riff on “what a user-centred online learning experience might look like”. It was as if he’d invented electricity. People went bonkers – nodding, whooping, clapping, standing up in spontaneous excitement… and that was before any drinks had been served.

As the week unfolded, we hosted a terrific inaugural lecture by Jago Dodson, where I embarrassed the DVCI by making everyone sing Happy Birthday to him. I am sure he said it was his birthday…

I then raced off to a British Council event at the Bowie exhibition. I may have sung Happy Birthday there too. Though no-one would have guessed as I was wearing one of those Ziggy face masks they were handing out. For a few delirious seconds you feel as though you look really cool. A tad difficult to sup your drink though.

Next day I had another stand-up, this time with the real Ziggy. Two hours at Council presenting an update on the rugged health of DSC.

Then the highlight of the week – a mass gathering in the Green Brain of the fabulous e-learning ninjas across RMIT. The topic was Disruptive E-learning. No tail lights to follow. No rules. Except one: Do not mention ‘Blackboard’. Call it anything you like – Bluebeard, Logi Baird, just don’t mention the dreaded B-word. Instead, fifty ninjas on a Friday focused on innovation and user-centredness, not the alleged constraints of current systems and God bless them, they broke some ground!

I closed my wacky week with a slot on ABC Radio National Drive-Time, trying to convince a rather skeptical Patricia Karvelas (an RMIT alumnus I later discovered) that the new Banksy event in the English seaside resort Dismaland would draw crowds in their tens of thousands. I said ‘Patricia, believe me, there’ll be queues around the block, or more likely all along the beach – it’ll look like the evacuation from Dunkirk…’ And never once did she mention BB, though she did wrap-up by calling me a ‘bigwig from RMIT’. Result!

All Dewey-Eyed

I’ve heard it’s called ‘click bait’ – the [ab]use of an alluring title that draws readers into the lair of a Blogger. My initial attempt was rather fruitful, so I thought I’d try a dreadful pun this time.

The well-bearded Melvil Dewey – he of the mind-bogglingly laboured library classification system – had a particularly lurid and colourful personal past. A regular reader shared it with me last Thursday, amid the booze and books of the fabulous 700s Arts Festival, staged so expertly by Amanda Kerley, Sue Wyers and colleagues in Building 8. You won’t find the tantalising truth about Dewey on Wikipedia though – best ask a librarian!

Speaking of click bait, I encourage you to go a-wandering the forums of ShapeRMIT. The conversation is rich and stimulating. There are healthy disagreements and some inspirational ideas, especially from our students and alumni and the conversation is embroidered with references, pointers and occasionally, polite put-downs. Join the conversation, share your wit and knowledge, and while you’re at it, check out The Teaching Tom-Tom, which has an equally stimulating essay about deeper forms of ‘sustainable assessment’ that eschews (great word) multiple choice questions and answer sheets, in favour of assessment for learning that is both process and practice.

That’s enough from me. This week I’m mostly giving speeches – Urban Animation Art Attack (oh I do love lengthy alliteration) and a 90-minute, high-stakes presentation to Council. Mouse in one hand. Bible in the other. Click… Click… Bait?


Of all RMIT occasions, there’s not much we do better than bidding farewell to trusted colleagues. For those who were there, the ‘leaving event’ for DVCA Gill Palmer will remain memorable for many years to come: who’d have ever thought that so many ‘F’ words could be spoken so eloquently, so richly, by so many eminent people, and with so much genuine admiration and appreciation. As the trusted MC, I only used one ‘F’ word – ‘phenomenology’. For the rest, you’ll have to ask those who were there.

By the way, there was no strippergram. They got the address wrong. Instead, I watched in awe as a young chap stripped months and years of posters from the pillar in Bowen Street in preparation for RMIT Open Day. I’m told by a blog reader that the very last poster he scraped off was an advert for the Glen Millar Band in 1944. So, the great pile of paper, the exfoliate, was a genuine record of musical history, a palimpsest of this fine city’s culture.

Of course, Open Day was a real bonanza – the signage was wonderful, the sun shone for a few short seconds, the students and volunteers veritably beamed with pride. After visiting my teams, I lurked in the library taking photographs of books in preparation for an entertaining speech I’d been invited to give. They were looking for a witty, informed, insightful speaker. Failing to find one they asked me instead. I have discovered the only two jokes about libraries that exist. If the strippergram fails to turn up again, I may yet be forced to tell them.

Aberdeen Music Hall, 16 May 1973

Few artists have so wilfully and imaginatively reinvented themselves as David Robert Jones (AKA David Bowie). His wardrobe and accoutrements are brilliantly displayed in ACMI for the coming months, the ‘concert tour’ having finally made its way from the V&A Museum in South Kensington, to Fed Square.

I had the great fortune of seeing the man himself on his Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars tour in the early 1970s, to be precise, at Aberdeen Music Hall, 16th May 1973.

He’s an object lesson in creative renewal and I’d like to think I took a thing or two from that concert, not in the least an idea of how to crop my hair, apply eyeliner and purchase a sparkly leotard to wear of an evening.

For a few months, I’m adopting another identity. At the request of our VC, I’ve agreed to act as DVC Academic until the right person has been found to fill the huge shoes of Gill Palmer. I agreed to do so only on the understanding that I stayed PVC, dividing the work as needs be. Martin Bean agreed because we both recognise that the College has a strong, united and committed Executive Team who support me, keep me out of trouble and will maintain the momentum that the College and Schools have achieved.

There’s plenty to do. August is crammed full preparing the Strategic Plan for Council, mid-year reviews are underway, the students are back in force, and David Bowie’s working on a new album… I must dig out that spangly catsuit… classic DVC gear.