Late summer and early autumn are upon us. Summer holidays are moving from present reality to fond memory. Holiday time is precious and necessary for us to muse, in hopefully less stressful and more beautiful surroundings, upon our work, its meaning, and how we can improve, enhance, and develop it. Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that early autumn is the time for many academic conferences. Several Beyond Distance colleagues and I will be attending the ALT-C Conference 7-9 September in Nottingham, and I am really looking forward to a time of sharing with and learning from other learning technology practitioners. I expect to come away from the conference with fresh ideas and insights to apply to my work.

I spent part of my holiday time in Edinburgh, where I enjoyed visiting the Camera Obscura,the main attraction in a museum of fascinating optical exhibits. Not having heard the term camera obscura before, I learnt it was much like a periscope, located on the 5th floor in the charming old building’s tower, in which a mirror picks up and directs images from around Edinburgh Castle down to a round table where observers can enjoy a 360 degree virtual guided tour of Edinburgh. Patrick Geddes, the town planner who in 1892 bought the tower and promoted it to the public, used to rush visitors up the steps to the top in the belief that the blood rush to their heads would heighten their experience of the camera obscura’s images. In addition to this exhibit, he included displays of biological and zoological topics, so as to encourage visitors to think about all the wonders of the world around them in a holistic sense. After viewing these, he would guide visitors to a meditation room, where they could think through and personalise the images they had seen and the facts they had learnt. Geddes believed in the power of reflection to enrich the inner person and to bring learning to the practical and personal realm.


The photo is from another exhibit within the Camera Obscura museum; I think its name is Infinity. It was produced by two large boxes of mirrors containing many LED lights. The lights and images seemed to go on infinitely. That makes for a lot of reflection.

I wish you a lovely early autumn and I hope it is a time of productive and enriching reflection for you. And maybe I’ll see you at ALT-C!

Terese Bird

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