University of Central Lancashire


The End of an Era 4

This week I’ve been throwing a few things from my office away: stuff, mainly student assignments, that I don’t need to keep anymore.

I’m what they call a senior lecturer here in the UK, according to Wikipedia that’s an ‘associate professor’ elsewhere, and for that reason I’m involved in marking student work. Old assignments used to get stored centrally, but a few  years ago management decided that we should store them in our office1. We only need to keep them for a few years, then we can get rid of them. During my clear out session I came across some of the last type written feedback sheets I made.

Yes, the assignment is to programme a pencil museum (using PHP, AJAX and MySQL). Parts are pixelated for privacy

Our feedback sheets used to be spaced just right for typewriters2 and used carbonless copy paper. They have since been replaced with new feedback sheets that don’t leave space for feedback.

The real feedback is on the pages with code, this is just for the cover page

To celebrate the end of the typewriter friendly era in my place of work I thought I show you how these sheets looked like (cropped for privacy reasons). I sometimes used them with a portable typewriter I bought second hand in the 1980s, but most times feedback was handwritten.

  1. You might think that means we have less space, but management also took our printers and our waste bins away, so that gave as a cubic metre of extra space back. []
  2. but unfortunately no one else I knew seemed to make use of this feature, or if they did it was before my time, i.e. before I joined in 2001. []

Microsoft’s Pen

In the sixteen years I’ve been with my current employer my computer has been replaced a few times, but this is the first time the new hardware1 came with a pen. The new pen even has an eraser at the end.

I guess there will be even fewer chances of marking student assignments with pen and writing feedback with pen or typewriter (our feedback forms used to be spaced just right for use with typewriters, a remainder of the past).  Let’s see whether I’ll like using this pen as much as my analogue pens -I doubt I will2.

  1. Of course not the latest model, but the one from a few years ago, with the smallest RAM and storage configuration on the market []
  2. Maybe because this is quite a low spec piece of hardware the line you draw doesn’t seem to follow the tip if you move fast []

Pencil Pot Of The Month – March 2017


Description: A mug with a Shakespeare quote – outside red and inside white.

This is how the other side of the mug looks like.

Price: Unknown

Material: Ceramic

Further information: My employer has an Open Day today, so I’m at work1 and have just noticed that the table next to ours has pencils as freebies (we have luggage tags, ball point pens etc) that are presented in a nice mug.

  1. …instead of being at home marking the assignments I have to return on Monday 8^/ []

Fountain Pen Calamity 2

This morning, when I went to the lecture theatre to give a class for my second year undergraduate students, I made an unusual discovery.

Someone forgot two vintage gold-nibbed fountain pens on the computer station. Shock!

Well, one of the fountain pens is not in such a good state, but it is still a gold-nibbed fountain pen. The other pen seems to be in great shape for its age.

I took them to my office, have checked the timetabling system and have emailed all staff who used the room in the last week in the hope that these treasures can be reunited iwth their rightful owner.

I had had lost my fountain pens I would be devastated, so I hope the owner can be found soon.


Visiting an Arabic Calligraphy Workshop 4

A few weeks ago I went to a calligraphy workshop. My first ever. I found out about it when one of my students, who knows I like stationery, told me that a calligraphy workshop will be held on the premises of my employer (a university).

The student told me that the workshop was organised by the students’ Islamic Society, so I assumed it would be Arabic calligraphy, but wasn’t sure and couldn’t find out more online.

Well, I went there and it was Arabic calligraphy after all. As I don’t know anything about Arabic script I thought this would be an opportunity to learn more about it. When I asked I was told that the workshop is suitable for someone who doesn’t know Arabic.

I paid my £3 fee, but it all turned out a bit different than expected. I expected to use tools somehow similar to a dip pen and parchment, but instead, we wrote with colour markers on easel pads. I am still not sure how Arabic calligraphy works. Someone wrote with a board marker on a white board and we copied that sentence again and again. The idea was that you vary the look of the letters (if that’s the right word, are they called letters?) to look good ..but as I don’t even know how the letters are supposed to look like I wasn’t sure how they can be changed or varied while still staying recognisable to someone who can read Arabic.

No idea whether this looks good or not.

It was an interesting experience, but it would be nice to make these events more inclusive by making them less of a ‘you copy down what’s on the board’ exercise and giving some explanations about the writing system.

I wonder whether there’ll also be Western calligraphy workshops in the future.