Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black

Bletchley Park takes its place in history, such history that cannot sue black buckingham palacebe disputed by anyone. Without the codebreaking and the world’s first computer the outcome of the Second World War may have been very different and yet this historically signification site was at risk of destruction.

Dr Sue Black, a champion in computer science, a leading advocate for Women in Technology and the driving force behind the saving of Bletchley Park, started a social media campaign that has helped secure Bletchley’s future as a world class heritage site and education centre.

Saving Bletchley Park campaign, backed by thousands, built a community via social media to generate funds to enable Bletchley to continue its story for future generations.

Stemmed from email discussions ending with a letter to The Times, the disrepair of Bletchley was picked by the media, donations were made and a petition signed. This book by Black shares the significance of Bletchley Park focusing on the 10,000 people who worked there, half of those women, and how it has been saved by 20years of campaigning.

A Triumph … Dr Black writes with disarming modesty and great flair


LSE LTI recently hosted a panel of leading women in technology with Sue Black being one of the panelists. This topical discussion looked at encouraging women to work in technology through education as it gives you the ability to understand digital literacy. “For women a career in technology needs to mean something”. This can certainly be said for Black! The NetworkEDGE discussion is available on our Youtube page.

The Saving Bletchley Park book can currently be purchased from unbound until the end of March with 10% of all profits going to Bletchley Park. From April the book will be available on Amazon. Black will be doing a book tour across the UK this year with talks already planned for Oxford, Bath and other literacy festivals.

To see what events are coming up at LTI click here

January 21st, 2016|innovation, NetworkEDGE, Reports & Papers, Social Media, Tools & Technologies|Comments Off on Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black|

Meet Dr Ellen Helsper, our upcoming NetworkEDGE chair

Ellen HelsperThe NetworkEDGE seminar on Wednesday 20 May will be a ‘Women in technology panel’ which will discuss ‘The role of education in encouraging women to work in technology’

Dr Ellen Helsper, from LSE will be chairing the panel so we caught up with her to find out why she is taking part in the discussion and her views on women in technology.

Can you tell us why you are chairing the ‘women in tech panel’ for networkEDGE?

When LTI asked me if I wanted to chair this panel I did not hesitate for a moment because I think the issue of why there is unequal participation of women in both the study of technology and career trajectories in IT is an extremely important one to consider. I have been simultaneously concerned and fascinated by the question of why, after several waves of feminism and women now making up a majority of the students in higher education, we are seeing a stagnation and even drop off in women taking up STEM subjects as students and in professional careers. I think it should be a societal concern that women are less likely to enter, are more likely to drop out and not return to careers like these and are much less likely to take up leadership roles in these fields than in others that have not historically been male dominated. Our everyday lives are increasingly being lived and shaped by IT and the lack of women in the design of these environments is extremely worrying. Not because I think that women are necessarily or inherently different than men but because I think it’s a great tragedy to lose the participation of such a large section of highly skilled individuals in our society with the wealth of knowledge and experience that could change our organisational cultures and output for the better. The reasons that push a lot of women out of this sector are also likely to influence many others to leave or not engage, others who might have a different way of doing things and a different, perhaps more inclusive approach to IT design and regulation. Looking at this is also important because it shows that there are still inherent inequalities and unconscious biases that steer the way in which resources and participation are distributed in our society and by being confronted with this we are forced to look at our own practices and beliefs and how they contribute to these patterns.


How does your own academic work link to the topic of the panel discussion; ‘The role of education in encouraging women to work in technology’

My work focusses on the links between social and digital exclusion. I research how existing patterns of inequality in offline resources such as economic, cultural and personal capital and individual well-being, are overcome, replicated or amplified with the digitisation of our society. An important aspect of this is the patterns of inequality in digital literacy and participation in a range of different online activities and environments. My research focusses on how the social and the digital context influences how comfortable people feel in engaging with ICTs. Thus, an important question for me to ask is how the design of platforms and content leads some people to feel more confident in engaging with digital and in digital environments. But also important is to ask how organisational and social structures influence how individuals see technologies and their own capabilities of and motivation to interact with and on digital platforms.

Sadly, most research to date shows that a replication and amplification of offline inequalities is likely in increasingly digital societies. For example, a recent report we published showed that women are less likely to be able to translate Internet use into tangible offline benefits because of disparities in digital skills levels between men and women (see This is partly to do with differences in confidence but is also likely to be caused by differences in the ways in which appropriate use of technologies are seen by men and women. My work looks at the causes, consequences and potential solutions for these patterns of linkage between social and digital exclusion.


What can formal educational institutions do to encourage more women to work in technology?

Of course one of the things that formal education can do is to encourage more women to study STEM and IT related subjects. Secondary and Higher education should incorporate training in digital skills as a matter of practice across all subjects. It is important that these are not just technical, coding skills but a range of skills that is needed to participate and work in increasingly digital environments (see

However, that will not be enough. Formal educational institutions need to collaborate with external stakeholders to create a society in which technologies are not seen as alien, where in fact they are related to everyday activities and seen as a common aspect of many different activities in our professional and personal lives: a society in which work in IT is not removed from all the other things that we do but one in a range of many options. One of the problems I see is the alienation or ‘technification’ of all things digital and technological. Instead of looking at the application and the usefulness of these technologies in everyday lives, careers in IT are often painted as an amazing world for geeks unrelated to the realities of what people do in their everyday lives. Instead of focussing on what we can do with technologies and how we can design technologies to make our everyday lives better many IT career campaigns focus on the technology and the world of inventors and entrepreneurs which are consistently imagined as white, middle class, middle aged men. A change in this vision of what IT is for and what an IT career can do, is not something that would only encourage women but also a range of other groups of individuals who feel excluded from that world. In addition, formal higher educational institutions can, in their research and teaching, try to change the work cultures in this field by influencing the ideas of people who will work in this field in the future and by making organisations aware of their existing practices and offering practical solutions for change.



Why do you think there is an unequal division of labour within the tech sector, with certain types of tech and management roles filled almost exclusively by men?

This is a hard question to answer, because there is something specific about the tech sector, where women are less likely to return to work after, for example, maternity leave even more so than in other STEM sectors.  Work cultures in IT are often described as gruelling, competitive, long, and socially isolated working lives without much mentoring or support for those who do not fit in neatly.  The Athena Factor report published in the Harvard business review ( shows that work culture is one of the main factors keeping women out of careers in STEM subject, more so than the fact that they are taking on a greater burden in care and household responsibilities and are still lower paid.  I would guess that this work culture is even stronger in the IT related careers and that there is a lack of awareness of what the real causes are of women feeling uncomfortable or unwilling to take up leadership roles within these environments.

The idea of meritocracy and choice in career progression in these industries is strong. The idea is that if you don’t make it to the top it’s because you were either not dedicated enough, did not have that bright idea or because you made a choice not to. I find the idea of choice particularly problematic, if it is really free choice why is it that certain groups of individuals in our society are much less likely to take up careers and proceed up the ladder in the tech sector than in other sectors? There must be more structural, cultural factors that explain this.


What can organisations that employ people in technology do to change the unequal gender participation in and division of labour in technology field?

This goes back to what I commented on before when discussing what formal education can do, there needs to be a change in work culture and a serious effort needs to be made to understand what really causes drop out amongst certain groups such as women. Quota’s and targets of getting more women into leadership positions are one part of it but this needs to be combined with a serious look at why these paths are not naturally taken or open to women and other groups. Quota’s help because people are more likely to hire and feel comfortable around people like them and are more likely to apply to positions and feel like they belong in environments that are not homogenous in a way that’s different from who they are. More transparent promotion and mentoring processes within companies are a fundamental part of this alongside reviews of working practice and clear action points to improve the culture.

Dr Ellen Helsper is Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor Media and Communications Department LSE
Email:  Twitter:@ellenhel

The NetworkEDGE women in tech panel discussion will take place on Wednesday 20 May at 3pm in R01.  LSE staff can book places via the online training system. Guests are also very welcome to attend and can book a place by emailing  For those that cannot attend the discussion will be recorded and livestreamed onto this blog.


Women in technology panel for NetworkEDGE

‘The role of education in encouraging women to work in technology’

We are delighted to announce that following the success of our NetworkED student entrepreneur panel discussion we will be holding a ‘women in technology’ panel discussion on Wednesday 20th May at 3pm in R01.
The recording from the panel discussion can be viewed on the LTI Youtube channel


Read about the panel members below

Ellen HelsperPanel Chair, Dr Ellen Helsper is Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor in the Media and Communications Department at the LSE. Her current research interests include digital inclusion and literacy; everyday production and consumption of digital media, mediated interpersonal communication; and quantitative and qualitative methodological developments in media research.

The three main research projects she is involved in at the moment are the From Digital Skills to Tangible Outcomes Project, longitudinal World Internet Project, a European Commission Project in relation to Online Advertising and Children, and the EU Kids Online project.  Ellen holds Visiting Scholar positions at NYU Steinhardt’s department of Media, Culture and Communications, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and the University of Twente’s Media, Communication and Organisation Department.  Read our Q&A with Dr Helsper.


julia DaviesDr. Julia Davies works in The School of Education at The University of Sheffield where she is also the academic lead for Technology Enhanced Learning in the Faculty of Social Sciences.  Julia’s research focuses on the intersections between literacy, language, technology and learning.  Taking a broad view of literacy her work has included studies of people’s uses of social media, the ways in which technology affects their view of themselves and the world they live in, and the implications of these things for education.



Cornelia_04Professor Cornelia Boldyreff PhD, FBCS, FHEA, Visiting Professor, University of Greenwich

Professor Cornelia Boldyreff lives in Greenwich and is a Visiting Professor and part-time lecturer at the University of Greenwich in the Department of Computing & Information Systems. She was previously the Associate Dean (Research and Enterprise) at the School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering at the University of East London from 2009 – February 2013.

Cornelia gained her PhD in Software Engineering from the University of Durham where she worked from 1992; she was a Reader in the Computer Science Department when she left. In 2004 she moved to the University of Lincoln to become the first Professor of Software Engineering at the university, where she co-founded and directed the Centre for Research in Open Source Software.

She has over 25 years’ experience in software engineering research and has published extensively on her research in the field. She is a Fellow of the British Computer Society, and a founding committee member of the BCSWomen Specialist Group, a committee member of theBCS e-Learning Specialist Group, and chair of the BCS Open Source Specialist Group. She has been actively campaigning for more women in STEM throughout her career.

Together with Miriam Joy Morris and Yasmine Arafa, she founded the start-up, ebartex Ltd, and together they are developing a new digital bartering currency, ebarts.


sue black buckingham palaceDr Sue Black is an award-winning computer scientist, radical thinker and passionate social entrepreneur who excels at bringing people together to solve complex issues. She’s a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Computer Science at University College London, an associate at DSRPTN an all female technology and digital consultancy, and a mentor at Google campus for mums. Sue is a champion for women in computing, and founder of BCSWomen and #techmums, a social enterprise which aims to empower mums and their families through technology. Sue is well known for her successful online and offline campaigning and activism around digital social inclusion and Saving Bletchley Park. Sue is a frequent public speaker, a social media-holic, mum of four and soon to be grandmother.

Twitter: @Dr_Black Web: Blog:


KaskaDr Kaśka Porayska-Pomsta is a Reader in Adaptive Technologies for Learning and an RCUK Academic Fellow at the University College London Institute of Education, London Knowledge Lab.  She holds a Joint Honours Masters in Linguistics and Artificial Intelligence and a PhD in Artificial Intelligence, both from the University of Edinburgh.  Her research focuses on developing adaptive interactive environments for learning and communication that are underpinned with user and context modelling capabilities, especially in relation to users’ affective and motivational states.  She has close to 15 years of working with users, including with children and adults with and without special needs, using participatory design methods and of developing intelligent technologies for real world use. She has also first-hand experience of using knowledge elicitation methods, of working with practitioners on finding the best ways in which to embed the new technologies in the existing educational practices and in identifying the added value of digital intelligent technologies in supporting learning in different contexts with diverse user populations.   In her research and practice, Kaśka’s key focus is to strike a balance between the needs of learners and pracitioners in real educational contexts and the design and engineering considerations related to creating and deploying Intelligent Learning Environments.


Watch the recording of NetworkEDGE Professor Sonia Livingstone 25/02/15

Powerpoint slides from the presentation: Sonia Livingston @ NetworkEDGE – Slides

Tweet your questions and join the debate #lsenetEDGE



NetworkEDGE 25 February 2015 – Sonia Livingstone on developing social media literacy


Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE is the LTI NetworkEDGE speaker on Wednesday 25 February at 5pm in Ro1.

She will presenting on ‘Developing social media literacy: How children learn to interpret risky opportunities on social network sites’.

Powerpoint slides from the presentation: SocialMediaLiteracySoniaLivingstone

Watch the live stream below

Tweet your questions and join the debate #lsenetedge

Professor Livingstone’s discussion follows on from our NetworkED seminar with Dr Leslie Haddon on children’s use of phonesand is timely considering the announcement from the BBC today that that ‘more than half of children in the UK have done something “risky” or anti social online’ based on results from the BBC Learning Poll of 2,000 11-16 year olds.

As professor Livingstone outlines below:
“The widespread use of social networking sites (SNSs) by children and young people has significantly reconfigured how they communicate, with whom and with what consequences.  Drawing on cross-national interviews and informed by the tradition of research on media literacy, I will discuss the idea of social media literacy.  The empirical material reveals a social developmental pathway by which children learn to interpret and engage with the technological and textual affordances and social dimensions of SNSs in determining what is risky and why.  Their changing orientation to social networking online (and offline) appears to be shaped by their changing peer and parental relations, and has implications for their perceptions of risk of harm.”

Reserve your place on the staff training and development system or by emailing  All our talks are live streamed for those who can’t attend and a link to the live stream will be available on this blog.

Professor Livingstone discussed her work on children’s rights in the digital age with the department of Media and Communications you can view the Q&A on the Media Policy Project blog.

Watch a video interview with Professor Sonia Livingstone below.



Meet Matthew Connelly, our upcoming NetworkEDGE speaker

Philippe Roman Chair in History anProfessor Matthew Connellyd International Affairs 2014/15, Professor Matthew Connelly, is teaching ‘Hacking the Archive – HY447’ this academic year. He is currently a professor in the Department of History at Columbia University. In our first 2015 NetworkEDGE seminar on 14th January, Professor Connelly be talking about his course, which uses big data from various International History databases and teaches students new tools and techniques to explore various the vast array of material available online. Students are encouraged to rethink historical research in the digital age as older primary sources are increasingly becoming available online alongside newly declassified information and ‘born digital’ electronic records. The seminar is free to attend but places are limited so will need to be reserved via the staff training and development system or by emailing  All our talks are live streamed and recorded for those who can’t make it.

I caught up with Matt to find out more about his innovative course and his fascinating historical research and asked him a few questions.

Jane: I’ve heard a lot about digital humanities – can you tell us what this is and why it might be a useful way of approaching the study of a subject like history?

MC: “Digital Humanities” is an umbrella term that can be summed up as the use of computational tools and visualisations to assist in humanities research and presentation. Though there are common practices, tools, and methodologies for doing this across disciplines, history as a subject is particularly suited to these approaches. In fact, I believe it will become increasingly important in years to come.

January 9th, 2015|Events & Workshops (LTI), NetworkEDGE, Teaching & Learning|Comments Off on Meet Matthew Connelly, our upcoming NetworkEDGE speaker|

The new copyright exceptions – what do they mean for LSE staff and students?

I <3 2 read by Kate Ter Haar

I <3 2 read by Kate Ter Haar

In 2014 there were a series of amendments to the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act in the UK, following The Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property. The final wording of the exceptions were subject to wrangling between the bodies representing authors, publishing, music and film industry and those representing libraries, museums and the cultural heritage organisations. However, we finally in June and October saw the amendments passed in parliament. In addition, just a month or so ago the Intellectual Property Office launched a scheme to licence ‘orphan works’ (which are works that where a copyright owner cannot be traced).

My role at LSE is to provide advice and support to staff wishing to use materials online to support their teaching, which often involves discussing issues of copyright. In October I attempted to summarise the main changes to the law on a copyright amendments webpage. However, I appreciate that copyright is not everyone’s favourite topic and sometimes not the easiest law to understand. In this blog post I’ll explore a few of the new exceptions and what they might mean in practice for staff and students at LSE.

December 5th, 2014|copyright, Ed-Tech news and issues, NetworkEDGE|Comments Off on The new copyright exceptions – what do they mean for LSE staff and students?|

Open data & education – hacking the archive

Our NetworkED seminar with Marieke Guy on 26 November was on open data in education. Marieke gave a broad overview of the topic of open data, discussing the different ways that open data is currently being used, who is using it and how it could be used in the future. Marieke gave lots of interesting examples of projects that have used open data and pointed out various open data tools such as Histropedia which allows users to timeline and tag data from Wikipedia or which allows HE institutions to sharing educational equipment and facilities.

One of the most interesting aspects of the talk for me was the idea that we should be doing more with open data in the classroom. Marieke advocated using real data sets in teaching and learning as a way to engage students and get them to apply concepts, theories and critical thinking to real world issues and to help them develop their digital literacy skills. This leads in nicely to our upcoming NetworkEDGE seminar with Professor Matthew Connelly which will be on ‘hacking the archive’.


Professor Connelly will be talking about his course ‘HY447 – Hacking the archive’, which uses big data from various International History databases and teaches students new tools and techniques to explore various the vast array of material available online. Students are encouraged to rethink historical research in the digital age as older primary sources are increasingly becoming available online alongside newly declassified information and ‘born digital’ electronic records.  Interdisciplinary research is becoming more essential with academics collaborating across disciplines and with the broader public in order to mine extensive amounts of online data.

Matthew will be speaking at NetworkEDGE on Wednesday 14 January 2015, at 5pm

networkEDGE.fwThe event is free to attend but places are limited so will need to be reserved via the staff training and development system or by emailing  All our talks are live streamed and recorded for those who can’t make it.

See the slide share of Marieke Guy’s presentation here: and go to the LTI Youtube channel for the video of the event and to watch previous NetworkED and NetworkEDGE seminars.



Beyond institutions: Stephen Downes at NetworkEDGE

Yesterday I attended our new series NetworkEDGE: The Future of Education online, because we live stream (and record) these things and therefore I could. We were lucky enough to have Stephen Downes inaugurate, and I watched, listened and tweeted along.

(I’m ambivalent about tweeting during talks. Tweeting is great for note-taking, sharing, interjecting, pondering publicly, chatting with others in the audience while keeping an eye on the main speaker. But it’s hard work, difficult to do well, and distracting from careful listening. It helped to have seen the slides beforehand, as Stephen posts them on his site.)

Downes shared his utopian anti-institutional view of education with us and that’s the kind of thing I lap up. He pleaded for “learning beyond institutions”, towards personal learning in a networked world. This is the impression I got: here’s a dedicated anti-establishment guy, who despairs at the capitalist ideology at the core of education; who dislikes that learning is now an industry; who thinks that most educators waste time and effort in their attempts to improve their teaching, their learning. Wasted, because it goes towards improving essentially capitalist systems, structures, models, even though these fail us (us = the learners, the educators) time and again. How much better to smash our educational idols, and to break away, move away:

  • Move towards learner autonomy.
  • Move towards anarchic learning, based on no models, no systems, no traditional ideals.
  • Move beyond institutions and towards self-organised networks of learners.

(“Smash”, “idols”, “beyond” – of course Downes is no Nietzsche, but there is a certain Nietzschean sentiment in his ideas).

“The right model is to do away with models” he told us. – this is an idea I can get behind, a nicely phrased aporia, along the lines of “O my friends, there is no friend”. Now, one might argue that Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall, which Downes referred to, is itself a model, Mitra often suggests so: that’s why he was able to translate the idea from rural India to schools in England. His model is anti-institutional, it seeks to depose the teacher, but it is still a model. Like Downes, Mitra is interested in self-organising systems – and where you have systems, you have a model! The point is that there are no standards or rules which apply consistently or work universally and at all times. This is a good thing to bear in mind. Standards (rules, regulations) are always exclusive, limited and limiting. They hinder innovation, stifle creativity and reduce everything to sameness. We need people like Downes to remind us of this. We need to be asked that we do away with ALL such rules, so that at the very least we might discard some of them, and re-introduce autonomy into our sector. As he told us later “Autonomy, rather than control, is essential in education”. This is as uncomfortable an idea for institutions as it is for the individual. Control is something we desire (if not need), whereas autonomy can often be disquieting. However, some claim, control is an illusion anyway, so we might as well move away from trying to control our learners and allow them their autonomy.

I agree with many of Stephen’s principles, even if I do so at my peril (i.e. by sort of wishing the hand that feeds me would whither and die). Wouldn’t an anarchic utopia be fun? Yes it would. Will it happen? Not any time soon. Still I applaud Stephen for demanding it.

But I don’t agree with everything he claimed. Take his starting assertion that “pretty much anything works better than the traditional lecture method” – it’s neither true nor very scandalous. (But it is a standard opening in ed talks these days.) I learnt a lot from Stephen Downes’ lecture yesterday, and I know that discussing an article or blog post of his instead would not have worked better; it would have worked worse. Naturally, he addressed the irony of him lecturing (a full 90 mins!), but suggested that the lecture itself was secondary to its becoming  a resource to be shared. Yet my engagement was greatest at the actual time of listening, and throughout I wished I had been in the room with others. Yes, I agree that his lecture was “about creating the opportunity for dialogue and interaction” and that it served this purpose well. But surely this is what all lectures (can) do. No one working in education seriously believes that learning is about remembering, about recall. Yes, assessment practice tends to reward recall, and thus it places value on it, but this is what is fundamentally wrong about assessment practice, it is not evidence that we think learning is recall. Call the paradox a logical error, do not extrapolate that it shows a greater truth about our values.

Secondly, at some point I started to wonder if Downes equated learning too much with reliance on resources. Resources (and tools to create and share these) are central to his connectivist MOOC, as are the connections between learners and the conversations they have. But I missed a closer inspection of that elusive thing, ‘learning’. Sure, he reminded us: “content is only the MacGuffin” (think Maltese Falcon), there to move the conversations and relationships along, and he insisted that “learning is the conversations that happen’ – but this is not quite clear or useful enough for me. Learning cannot all be conversation, and often it benefits from leadership too. Autonomy and self-organisation are all well and good, but I’ve overheard serious conversations so dumb they’d blow your socks off, and they could have benefited from an expert gently pointing out that what had just been discussed was a) factually wrong and b) badly argued. But where does such expertise come from in self-organising networks? Also, in Downes’ self-organising networks, won’t the “filter bubble” prevent networks from being properly diverse? Won’t these self-selected online communities, be obstructed from benefiting from ethnically, socio-economically, politically different perspectives?

Finally, I am skeptical about his over reliance on technology. I tweeted a question to that effect, and he did his best to answer, but he thought I was worried only about “what happens when the lights go out” and reassured me that there are bigger threats (authoritarianism, big corporations – I know that, they too are technological systems!) than running out of fossil fuels. Rather, I meant to ask what effect our over-reliance on technology might have on our way of being: our relationships, attitudes and social behaviours. I don’t share Downes’ optimism about technology. I think it is important to evaluate our use of it critically at all times, and question its proliferation, especially in education. I imagine Downes doesn’t disagree with proper critical questioning, but I nevertheless suspect that he thinks technology overall is a boon.

And that’s fair enough.