Letter of Support from Tim Fawns

Dear Tenure and Promotion Committee, TRU,

Re: Impact statement for Brenna Clarke Gray

I am a Senior Lecturer in Clinical Education at the University of Edinburgh, with specialist expertise in online and hybrid education. I am Co-Director of the MSc Clinical Education, a world-leading postgraduate programme whose students are healthcare professionals, based around the world, who teach other healthcare professionals. I am also Director of the international Edinburgh Summer School in Clinical Education, a course lead within the Education Futures MSc, based in the Edinburgh Futures Institute (an ambitious new initiative aimed at leading development of approaches to complex societal challenges), and a tutor on the world-leading MSc Digital Education.

I am pleased to write an impact statement on behalf of Brenna Clarke Gray, explaining how various aspects of Brenna’s work have influenced my own. Brenna’s writing on care, vulnerability, precarity and ethics in relation to students, teachers, learning technologists and others involved in online learning (e.g. 2020: The End Is the Beginning, and Yet You Go On; The University Cannot Love You: Gendered Labour, Burnout, and the Covid-19 Pivot to Digital) is some of the best I have ever read. It has helped me to make sense of my own experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic and those of others whose challenges need to be considered in educational design, procurement, policy and day-to-day practice. Brenna does not shy away from expressing emotions in critiquing the many things she sees as problematic, while also promoting and pushing for where hope can be seen. I have found myself showing more vulnerability and care in my own writing, such as in the introduction and conclusion chapters of our recent edited volume Online Postgraduate Education in a Postdigital World: Beyond Technology, published at the end of 2021 with Springer. I have recently cited Brenna’s work as part of an invited paper to a special issue of Educational Technology Research and Development on postdigital teaching capabilities with Lina Markauskaite and Lucila Carvalho, due to her rare insights into how the work (and knowledge and ethics) of digital education is distributed across a range of stakeholders.

As valuable as Brenna’s publications have been to me, however, they are not, in my opinion, the most valuable aspect of her work. For me, Brenna’s less tangible contribution to wider discourses of care in digital and online education (e.g. via Twitter, her influential blog “digital detox” and recorded presentations) have been hugely impactful on my thinking and that of others around the world. As one example, organising the #AgainstSurveillance teach-in led to a coherent and powerful portrayal of the harms of online proctoring that achieved global reach and moved the conversation forward in appropriately critical directions.

I would be happy to provide any additional information should that be required.

Yours faithfully,

Tim Fawns
Senior Lecturer in Clinical Education
MSc Clinical Education Co-Director
Edinburgh Medical School: Medical Education
University of Edinburgh