ALT Scotland SIG Meeting

The ALT Scotland SIG, which both Martin Hawksey and I are involved in, is holding a meeting this week on Thursday the 20th at Glasgow Caledonian University from 10.30 – 15.30. Registration for the event is now closed, however there are still a few places available so if you would like to come along please drop Linda Creanor a mail at l.creanor@gcu.ac.uk.

The agenda is as follows:

10.30 – 11.00 COFFEE/TEA and registration
11.00 – 11.10 Welcome and overview of the day (Linda and Joe, including introductions to steering group members)
11.10 – 11.40 The Coursera experience (Christine Sinclair, University of Edinburgh)
11.40 – 12.10 Open Badges (Grainne Hamilton, JISC RSC Scotland)
12.10 – 12.40 How does Open Education impact on practice in Scottish institutions? (Discussion groups + plenary feedback)
12.40 – 13.20 LUNCH
13.20 – 13.30 Update on ALT (John Slater, ALT)
13.30 – 14.00 ALT’s ocTEL Mooc experience: designing the platform (Martin Hawksey, CETIS); the tutor/participant view (Linda Creanor, GCU & Grainne Hamilton, JISC RSC);
14.00 – 14.30 Open education and the Scottish Qualification Authority (Joe Wilson, SQA)
14.30 – 15.00 Key issues for ALT-Scotland SIG members (discussion groups)
15.00 – 15.10 Summary and actions for ALT-Scotland SIG
15.10 – 15.30 COFFEE/TEA/CAKES

Bye bye Amber!

She’s probably going to kill me for writing this but what the hell….Amber is leaving JISC at the end of the week and I can’t let her go without a send off! I’ve known Amber professionally for more years than it would be polite to mention and to be honest I can’t actually remember where she was working when I first met her, though I think it was pre-Becta. I do remember being really pleased when she joined JISC because she had a reputation for Knowing Her Stuff and for really understanding technology from a teaching and learning perspective.

I’ve collaborated with Amber on a number of JISC programmes and for the last three years we’ve worked together with CETIS colleagues Phil Barker, R. John Robertson and Martin Hawksey to provide advice and guidance on digital infrastructure to support the JISC HEA Open Educational Resource Programmes. It’s been an immensely rewarding experience. Although the UK OER Programmes are not “about” digital infrastructure development per se, they have fostered some really innovative technical developments such as the OER Visualisation Project, the CETIS OER Technical Mini Projects, the JLeRN Experiment and the OER Rapid Innovation Programme, all of which, to a greater or lesser degree, are a result of Amber’s vision and willingness to take risks.

Over the last three years Amber has also become an influential voice in the global open education debate. One of the things I have always admired about her contribution to discussions is that she has an enviable ability to ask the right questions, to synthesise complex and often conflicting issues, and represent a wide range of views without ever loosing sight of her own perspective. Some of the posts she has written for the JISC Digital Infrastructure Team blog have been important markers in the development of the UK OER Programmes.

Above and beyond her undoubted technical expertise, I don’t think it’s too far fetched to say that Amber has been a really positive role model for other women working in a domain where female colleagues are still rather under-represented. She is immensely patient and understanding, and I personally feel that I have benefitted enormously from her support and encouragement. She’s also really quite silly and is immensely good fun to work with.

The last project Amber, Phil, Martin and I worked on was a booksprint earlier this autumn. The aim of the booksprint was to synthesise the technical outputs of all three years of the UK OER Programmes and to write a book in three days. It was Amber’s idea of course and I have to confess that I really wasn’t convinced we were up to the task. I’m delighted to admit that I was proved wrong. With patient input from booksprint facilitator Adam Hyde we did manage to write our book, or most of it at least, and we actually had great fun while we were at it!

Amber Thomas*

Amber Thomas*

So now Amber is off to the University of Warwick where, among other people, she’ll be working with the lovely Jenny Delasalle who some of you might remember as Phil’s predecessor as CETIS Metadata SIG coordinator. I’m sure we’ll all miss working so closely with Amber but I have the feeling that we haven’t seen the back of her yet! So good luck with the new job Amber and I hope we can look forward to working together again at some stage in the not too distant future.

Now I had better go and finish writing the conclusion of our book, otherwise Amber really will kill me ;)

* Picture of Amber gratuitously pinched from Brian Kelly’s Metrics and Social Web Services Workshop report at ukwebfocus.wordpress.com

* ETA Brian has very kindly let me know that the picture above was taken by Kirsty Pitkin, @eventamplifier, or possibly by Mr@eventamplifier! Who ever took it, it’s lovely :)

JLeRN Experiment Final Meeting

Earlier this week I went to the final meeting of the JLeRN Experiment Project ,which CETIS has been supporting over the last year. The aim of the event was to reflect on the project and to provide project partners with an opportunity to present and discuss their engagement with JLeRN and the Learning Registry.

JLeRN project manager Sarah Currier and developer Nick Syrotiuk opened the meeting by recapping the project’s progress and some of the issues they encountered. Nick explained that setting up a Learning Registry node had been relatively straightforward and that publishing data to the node was quite easy. The project had been unable to experiment with setting up a node in the cloud due to limitations within the university’s funding and procurement structures (Amber Thomas noted that this was a common finding of other JISC funded cloud service projects), however all the JLeRN node data is synchronised with iriscouch.com, a free CouchDB service in the cloud. Although getting data into the node is simple, there was no easy way to see what was in the node so Nick built a Node Explorer tool based on the LR slice API which is now available on Github.

Sarah also explained that the project had been unable to explore moving data between nodes and exploiting node networks and communities as there are currently very few Learning Registry nodes in existence. Sarah noted that while there had been considerable initial interest in both the Learning Registry and JLeRN, and quite a few projects and institutions had expressed an interest in getting involved, very few had actually engaged, apart from the JISC funded OER Rapid Innovation projects. Sarah attributed this lack of engagement to limited capacity and resources across the sector and also to the steep learning curve required to get involved. There had also been relatively little interest from the development community, beyond one or two enthusiastic and innovative individuals, such as Pat Lockley, and again Sarah attributed this to lack of skills and capacity. However she noted that although the Learning Registry is still relatively immature and remains to be tried and tested, there is still considerable interest in the technology and approaches adopted by the project to solve the problems of educational resource description and discovery.

“If we are to close the gap between the strategic enthusiasm for the potential wins of the Learning Registry, and the small-scale use case and prototype testing phase we are in, we will need a big push backed by a clear understanding that we will be walking into some of the same minefields we’ve trodden in, cyclically, for the past however many decades. And it is by no means clear yet that the will is there, in the community or at the strategic level.”

In order to gauge the appetite for further work in this area, JLeRN have commissioned a short report from David Kay of Sero Consulting to explore the potential affordances of JLeRN and the Learning Registry architecture and conceptual approach, within the broader information environment.

Following Sarah and Nick’s introduction Phil Barker presented an update on the status and future of the Learning Registry initiative in the US, which I’ll leave him to blog about :) The rest of the meeting was taken up with presentations from a range of projects and individuals that had engaged with JLeRN and the Learning Registry. I’m not even going to attempt to summarise the afternoon’s discussions which were lively and wide ranging and covered everything from triple stores to Tin Can API to chocolate coloured mini dresses and back again! You can read about some of these projects on the JLeRN blog here:

It’s worth highlighting a few points though…

Pat Lockley’s Pgogy tools gave a glimpse of the kind of innovative Learning Registry tools that can be built by a creative developer with a commitment to openness. Pat also gave a thought provoking presentation on how the nature of the learning registry offers a greater role for developers that most current repository ecosystems as the scope of the services that can be built is considerably richer. In his own blog post on the meeting Pat suggested:

“Also, perhaps, it is a developer’s repository as it is more “open”, and sharing and openness are now a more explicit part of developer culture than they are with repositories?”

Reflecting on the experience of the Sharing Paradata Across Widget Stores (SPAWS) project Scott Wilson reported that using the LR node had worked well for them. SPAWS had a fairly straightforward remit – build a system for syndicating data between widget stores. In this particular usecase the data in question was relatively simple and standardised. The project team liked that fact that the node was designed for high volume use, though they did foresee longer term issues with up scaling and download size, the APIs were fairly good, and the Activity Streams approach was a good fit for the project. Scott acknowledged that there were other solutions that the project could have adopted but that they would have been more time consuming and costly, after all “What’s not to like about a free archival database?!” Scott also added that the Learning Registry could have potential application to sharing data between software forges.

Another area where the Learning Registry approach is likely to be of particular benefit is the medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine domains where curricula and learning outcomes are clearly mapped. Susanne Hardy and James Outterside from the University of Newcastle presented a comprehensive use case from the RIDLR project which built on the work of the Dynamic Learning Maps and FavOERites projects. Suzanne noted that there is huge appetite in the medical education sector for the idea of JLeRN type services.

Owen Stephens made a valuable contribution to discussions throughout the day by asking particularly insightful and incisive question about what projects had really gained by working with the Learning Registry rather than adopting other approaches such as those employed in the wider information management sector. I’m not sure how effectively we managed to answer Owen’s questions but there was a general feeling that the Learning Registry’s open approach to dealing with messy educational data somehow fitted better with the ethos of the teaching and learning sector.

One issue that surfaced repeatedly throughout the day was the fact that Learning Registry nodes are still rather thin on the ground, although there are several development nodes in existence, of which JLeRN is one, there is still only one single production node maintained by the Learning Registry development team in the US. As a result it has not been possible to test the capabilities and affordance of networked nodes and the potential network scale benefits of the Learning Registry approach remain unproven.

Regardless of these reservations, it was clear from the breadth and depth of the discussions at the meeting that there is indeed a will in some sectors of the HE community to continue exploring the Learning Registry and the technical approaches it has adopted. Personally, while I can see the real benefit of the Learning Registry to the US schools sector, I am unsure how much traction it is likely to gain in the UK F/HE domain at this point in time. Having said that, I think the technical approaches developed by the Learning Registry will have considerable impact on our thinking and approach to the messy problem of learning resource description and management.

For further thinky thoughts on the Learning Registry and the JLeRN experiment, I can highly recommend Amber Thomas blog post: Applying a new approach to an old problem.

OER Technology Into the Wild – Call for Comments

The OER technology directions book that Amber, Phil, Martin and I drafted during a book sprint at the end of August is now almost complete. We even have a title!

Technology for Open Educational Resources – Into The Wild. Reflections on three years of the UK OER Programmes

We’ve spent the last few weeks, polishing, editing and amending the text and we would now like to invite colleagues who have an interest in technology and digital infrastructure for open educational resources to review and comment on the open draft.

We’re looking for short commentaries and feedback, either on the whole book, or on individual chapters. These commentaries will form the final chapter of the book. We want to know what rings true and what doesn’t. Have we missed any important technical directions that you think should be included? What do you think the future technical directions are for OER?

Note that the focus of this book is as much on real world current practice as on recommended or best practice. This book is not intended as a beginners guide or a technical manual, instead it is a synthesis of the key technical issues arising from three years of the UK OER Programmes. It is intended for people working with technology to support the creation, management, dissemination and tracking of open educational resources, and particularly those who design digital infrastructure and services at institutional and national level.

The chapters cover:

UK OER projects from all phases of the Programme are encouraged to comment, and we would particularly welcome feedback from colleagues that are grounded in experience of designing and running OER services.

There are three ways to comment on the book:

  1. Email your comments either to Lorna at lmc@strath.ac.uk or Amber at a.thomas@jisc.ac.uk
  2. Create a booki.cc account here, and then add your comments directly to the “Contributed Comments and Feedback” chapter here www.booki.cc/oer-tech/contributed-comments-and-feedback/
  3. Post your comments to you own blog and send a link to Amber or I, or add it to the chapter page above.

Please note your name and affiliation, clearly with a url to your blog or online profile if possible. All feedback and commentaries will be credited to the original authors. The deadline for comments and feedback is the 31st October.

We currently have a designer working on the text and once we have received and collated the commentaries we will publish the book as a free to download ebook under CC BY licence. There will also be an option to purchase a print-on-demand hard copy of the book.

Into the Wild

Into the Wild

If you are interested on commenting or providing feedback, but would like further information, please don’t hesitate to contact Lorna at lmc@strath.ac.uk. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Social Media and the School Sector

Yesterday I went along to one of the Social Media Week events that are taking place all over Glasgow this week. So while Sheila was on one side of the city presenting at the Education Online “Mini MOOC”
session, I was on the other side listening to Ollie Bray talking about Social Media and New Technology in Education. In this instance the education domain in question was the school sector and, although I have very little experience of this domain, it was interesting hearing about the affordances and challenges offered to schools by social networks and media.

Ollie began by suggesting that the aim of education strategy should be to make young people resilient and agile to change, and that this is of ever greater importance as technology is increasingly driving the pace of change. The way children use and respond to technology, even the language they use, is changing rapidly. Take for example different interpretations of the word “friend”. To most adults a friend is a person they know and trust and interact with in the real world on a personal level, to many young people a friend is a more casual online acquaintance. (Tbh I think the distinctions are much more nuanced than that, but the point that technology is driving language change stands.)

There is a tendency for school to ignore the impact of technology on youth culture and to underestimate the ability of technology and social networks to enhance and facilitate learning. Many schools block social networks, such as twitter, facebook and YouTube and ban children from taking mobile phones into the classroom. Ollie argued that rather than clamping down on pupils’ use of network technology, schools should be making greater use of social media as it is socially and culturally relevant to pupils and to society. He then went on to highlight some innovative examples of the use of technology and social media to enhance children’s learning experiences, through real time collaboration and formative feedback. I particularly liked the kids in the classroom in their pyjamas, skyping pupils in Australia to learn about time zones.

At several points, Ollie came back to the value of social networks for showcasing and disseminate children’s school work which, particularly in secondary schools, tends to remain in the classroom in jotters that no one ever sees. Children can use social media to share their school work with people they care about in their lives, and who may have little chance of connecting with their education.

Unfortunately many education authorities are afraid of opening up social networks within schools and, as a result, are depriving children of rich digital media experiences and learning opportunities. Control needs to be devolved to enable individual head teachers to decide on the level of access that can be allowed within their schools.

As is so often the case, many of the reasons given for not allowing children to engage with network technology, have more to do with social and cultural factors than with the technology itself. Ollie noted that the most common reason given for banning mobile phones in the classroom is that teachers say they do not want pupils taking pictures of them. However this is a problem that relates more to class room management than to technology per se. Similarly, while teachers and parents have legitimate concerns about their children’s safety online, surely the best way to teach pupils to manage their privacy and identity online is to open up social media sites within school and teach them how to mange their privacy settings in a safe and supportive environment.

It struck me that much of what Ollie was talking about was media and digital literacy, although he did not use these terms. While to some extent I can understand the sector’s fear of social media and open networks, I also believe that schools have a responsibility to teach children how to safely interact and engage with the myriad new communication channels and the all pervasive influence of network technology on their lives.

I have very little experience of working in the school sector, however my limited engagement with my daughter’s primary school in Glasgow really did highlight for me just how divorced some schools can be from the potential of social media. I tend not to get involved in PTA activities, but I did attend one school strategy planning meeting earlier this year. The school’s website is sparse to say the least, and those involved in running the site argued that they simply didn’t have the time or resource to be able to update it regularly. I suggested that rather than asking for volunteers to write regular news updates for the school website, why not have a school blog that teachers, parents and children could all contribute to. The guy running the discussion looked at me aghast before asking “But who would control it? The kids could write anything!”

Although I found Ollie’s talk interesting and engaging, and admirably focused on the pedagogic value of technology and social media, I would like to have heard more about practical steps that schools, teachers, parents and pupils could take to start changing the attitudes and policies of education authorities who block access to social media and who regard social networks as a distraction at best and a threat at worst.

I did tweet from the event but unfortunately the presentation had an improbably long hash tag. The organisers did apologise for the hashtag’s impracticality but unfortunately it was only onscreen for seconds and I didn’t have time to catch it. I just used the general #smwgla tag instead.

Bye bye Kavubob!

Today we wish a very fond farewell to R. John Robertson who is leaving us after six years working with JISC CETIS to emigrate to the US of A.

John joined the CETIS team at the University of Strathclyde in 2006 to take up the post of Repositories Research Team project officer. Coming from Strathclyde’s Centre for Digital Library Research, John made an invaluable contribution to RRT. In addition to participating in the Repositories and Preservation Programme synthesis, John was also the lead author, along with his UKOLN colleagues Julie Allinson and Mahendra Mahey, of the influential report An Ecological Approach To Repository And Service Interactions.

After the JISC Repositories Programmes ended, John took on the role of Technical Support Officer for the new JISC / HEA Open Educational Resources Programme in 2009 and it’s here that he really made his mark. John went on to support all three OER programmes and has personally interviewed every single project, (apart from one or two that disappeared into the ether), recorded their technical choices in the CETIS PROD database, and synthesised the outputs in an important series of blog posts. He also participated in the regular online Second Tuesday seminar series, attended all the programme meetings, contributed to scoping the technical requirements of the programmes and assisted in marking the numerous proposals received.

John has been tireless in promoting and disseminating the OER programmes and projects through a wide range of channels including JISC events, international conferences, academic papers, social media channels and of course his own blog, which quickly became required reading for anyone with an interest in open educational resources. In fact as Rowin’s recent post reviewing CETIS Year in Blogging showed, it was one of John’s OER posts that attracted more readers than any other.

Over and above his “official” role, John has been an enthusiastic and approachable member of the JISC community who was always available to answer questions or queries from projects and programme managers alike or to drop everything and dash off to a meeting at the other end of the country or even the other side of the Atlantic.

The Inimitable KavubobIn addition to supporting the OER Programmes John has also maintained a watching brief on the Learning Registry project in the US. John has been instrumental in communicating the potential impact of this initiative and disseminating regular updates to JISC and the wider community.

Above and beyond all that, John has been a respected and popular member of both CETIS and CAPLE, where has has also made a significant contribution to the academic life of the department. Equally importantly, he also proved to be a gracious and enthusiastic host at our irregular office soirees!

I know we’ll all miss John enormously but we wish him all the very best for the future and will look froward to following his adventures via twitter. Whoever happens to be successful in recruiting John will be very, very lucky indeed. I am quite sure we haven’t seen the last of @Kavubob!

OER Bookmarking Mini Project Update

Following on from last week’s CaPRéT OER Technical Mini Project update we now have a progress report from Paul Horner of the University of Newcastle’s OER Bookmarking mini project. The project, which builds on the Dynamic Learning Maps initiative aims to:

1. To develop a non-proprietary social bookmaking service to enhance resource discovery across the community. This will be designed specifically for OERs.
2. To provide an openly available and well documented API, enabling 3rd party systems to access and add to the resources and associated ‘paradata’.
3. To pilot the API and system in Dynamic Learning Maps. This will harvest resources for specific topics and add descriptors and links to these within personal and curriculum maps.

In a recent post to the oer-discuss jiscmail list Paul explained:

We’ve done quite a bit of development work so far – we’ve setup the Django project; we’ve modelled the database; we’ve written the create/read/update/delete scripts for bookmarks, playlists and tags; we’ve sorted out authentication (by OpenID, Twitter and Facebook); and we’ve put in place the mechanisms to add comments and rate bookmarks. Hopefully over the next couple of weeks we’ll have finished the main bookmarking tool, and then we’re going to start looking at the API. Our code is in a repository at Bitbucket, but it’s currently only available to our development team because it’s not really ready for public consumption (yet).

Paul also called for help in naming the system

The Bitbucket repository uses the imaginative name ‘oerbookmarking’, so any suggestions would be gratefully received!

You can find out more about more about “OER Bookmarking” and download a copy of the project plan from the website here.

Capret Test

John’s blog:
This post is to briefly capture some of the discussion around the warm up act – our attempt to help the workshop participants, think about some of the different challenges that arise when managing learning materials. Both to help those participants coming from a more general repository background think through any possible differences which managing learning materials might make to their practice and systems, but also to remind participants of the different requirements which emerge from different types of learning materials.
John’s JISC CETIS blog | reflections and news about open educational resources, ed tech, standards, metadata, and repositories

Source : http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/johnr/

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

Author: R John Robertson

Phil’s blog:
I tested Caprét on a single page, my institutional home page and on this blog. To enable Caprét for material on a website you need to include links to four javascript files in your webpages. I went with the files hosted on the Caprét site so all I had to do was put this into my homepage’s (The testing on my home page is easier to describe, since the options for WordPress will depend on the theme you have installed.)
Testing Caprét

Source : http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/philb/2011/08/17/testing-capret/

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Author: Phil Barker, JISC CETIS

Phil’s homepage:
My main interests are supporting the use of learning technology at Universities, particularly through supporting the discovery and selection of appropriate resources. My main areas of work are approaches to resource description and management, open educational resources (OERs) and the evaluation of computer based resources for engineering and physical science education.
About Phil Barker

Source : http://www.icbl.hw.ac.uk/~philb/

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/

Author: Phil Barker

Mary Lacy, the female shipwright

Something a bit left field for Ada Lovelace Day this year as the woman I’ve chosen to write about was born 75 years before Ada herself, and I’m perhaps stretching the definition of “technology” a bit. Allow me to introduce Mary Lacy, the female shipwright, whose contemporary autobiography written in 1773 has recently been republished by the National Maritime Museum. Lacy is an astonishing woman by any standards. In her introduction to the autobiography Margaret Lincoln of the NMM writes:
The Female Shipwright

“In an age when women did not serve in the armed forces or train to become qualified shipwrights or set themselves up as speculative house builders, Lacy did all three.”

And what is even more remarkable is that she did it all independently while disguised as a man.

Lacy was born into a poor working class family in Kent in 1740. She grew up as a self confessed wayward child and was put into service by her parents in an attempt to curb her unruly behavior. At the age of nineteen, following an unhappy affair with a young man, she appropriated a suit of her father’s clothes, assumed the name William Chandler and ran away from home. On arriving penniless and hungry at Chatham Dockyard she joined the crew of the newly built HMS Sandwich, a 90 gun second-rate ship of the line. Lacy knew nothing of ships, and much to the amusement of the other men mistook the open gun ports for a large number of windows. Chandler was taken on as apprentice and servant to the ship’s carpenter, a volatile man who beat her and appropriated her wages. Lacy however didn’t hesitate to stand up for herself and when challenged took on one of the Admiral’s boys in a fight. She records that she came off with “flying colours” and that she and the boy “reconciled to each other as if we had been brothers”.

Lacy served aboard the Sandwich and later the Royal Sovereign from 1759 to around 1764, enduring the extraordinary hardships of life as a rating during the Seven Years War. During this time the Sandwich was stationed on blockade with Admiral Hawke’s fleet off Brest. The ship was returning from blockade duty when the French fleet broke from Brest resulting in the Battle of Quiberon Bay. Lacy writes of the engagement but adds that “…our ship had no share in the battle for we were at the time in Plymouth.”

Following the Quiberon engagement the Sandwich was ordered to the Bay of Biscay where Lacy notes:

“I must here observe, that a person who is a stranger to these great and boisterous seas, must think it impossible for a large ship to ride in them, but I slept many months on the ocean, where I have been tossed up and down at an amazing rate.”

Lacy experienced even more boisterous seas during a terrible two day hurricane which struck the English Channel in 1760. The Sandwich survived with seven men downed and sprung main and foremasts. However their sister ship Ramillies foundered with the loss of 675 men and only 25 survivors.

Life at sea soon took its toll on Lacy and by her early twenties the continual cold and wet brought on inflammatory rheumatism, a recurring condition that hospitalised Lacy several times.

In 1764 Lacy finally secured an apprenticeship as a shipwright at Portsmouth dockyard. Her trials were not over however. She appears to have been apprenticed to a series of irresponsible masters who once again appropriated her wages and neglected to provide her with the bare necessities.

“It may with very great truth be said that Mr A____’s house entertained a very bad set of people. I had not been long with him before he turned me over to another man to pay his debts; and when I worked that out, was again turned over to a third: so that shifted from one to the another I had neither clothes on my back nor shoes or stockings to my feet; notwithstanding which, I was frequently (even in the dead of winter) obliged to go the the dock-yard bare-footed.”

Lacy’s life was not without entertainment however. She had a veritable string of sweethearts of whom she writes candidly and unashamedly. She even notes with some pride that:

“As I was frequently walking out with some of them, the men of the yard concluded that I was a very amorous spark when in the company of young women.”

And indeed she was!

Lacy achieved her certificate as shipwright after seven years apprenticeship in 1770 enabling her to earn an independent wage. In 1771 however Portsmouth dockyard was ravaged by a terrible fire, as a result of which the shipwrights had to work “double tides”. The long hours and hard labour aggravated Lacy’s rheumatism to the point she could no longer work and was forced to seek retirement as a Superannuated Shipwright.

It seems inconceivable now that a woman could serve undetected in the close confines of a man-of-war for such a long period, however the Royal Navy was desperate for able bodied men at the time, whether willing to serve or no, so few questions would have been asked. In a chapter on Lacy, Suzanne Stark author of Female Tars also notes that, living in such close confines, ratings were accustomed to turn a blind eye on all kinds of goings on. When Lacy’s sex was eventually revealed by a female “false friend” her male colleagues are unperturbed and continue to treat her as the shipwright they know. It is also notable that when rheumatism finally made it impossible for Lacy to continue working at the dockyard she applied to the Admiralty for a pension under her own name. The application was granted and Lacy was paid a substantial pension of £20 per annum.

Lacy’s biography concludes with her marriage to one “Mr Slade” however historians have cast doubt on this event. Stark suggests that the marriage is a fiction to make Lacy appear more respectable to contemporary readers. Lincoln has found no record of Lacy’s alleged marriage however she has traced

“Mary Slade of King Street, Deptford, who we can take to have been Mary Lacy, moved into a new double fronted house in Deptford with Elizabeth Slade in 1777. This house was at the centre of a terrace which she built herself….The terrace survives in part at Nos 104 -108 and 116-118 Deptford High Street…It seems likely that she used her pension of £20 p.a. as security for a mortgage…She lived for another twenty years…after her death “Mary Slade” was described as a “spinster and shopkeeper”….it seems probable that Lacy took Elizabeth Slade’s surname to pass as her sister.”

A remarkable end for a remarkable woman.

Lacy wrote and published her biography at the age of 33 and her account of her life is inspirational, candid and refreshing. While she shows contrition for her youthful waywardness and acknowledges that she would have spared herself a life of hardship had she listened to her parents, she is unapologetic about the life she lived and path she chose. I believe Mary Lacy is easily worthy of commemoration on Ada Lovelace Day and who knows, perhaps Ada even read her biography herself!

Further information
Lacy, M., (2009), The Female Shipwright, National Maritime Museum.
Stark, S. J., (1996), Female Tars: women aboard ship in the age of sail, Constable.
And a podcast by Margaret Lincoln of the National Maritime Museum celebrating the republication of Lacy’s biography: The Story of Mary Lacy.