On Sunday morning, I started reading Doug Belshaw’s newsletter and the first lines hit me a bit unexpected. Dai Barnes had passed away. I never met Dai and I only knew him through the TIDE podcast which he and Doug had been recording since 2015. I don’t think I ever missed an episode. It was easy for me to relate to Doug and Dai through their conversations. If you’ve never listened to it, the podcast is an unscripted conversation in which Doug and Dai exchange ideas and thoughts about anything that goes on in tech, especially if it relates to learning and teaching, sometimes productivity.
Listening always made me feel like I was part of their conversations. The humour, the ‘thinking out loud’, the critical perspectives on tech, often mixed with genuine enthusiasm and interest in this world – Dai had a talent of conveying that, intentionally or unintentionally. It feels strange somehow to say or to write this, but the news of his unexpected passing hit a nerve. I hope that his family and friends find time to grieve. I hope they find time to celebrate Dai as the genuine, authentic, caring, respecting, gentle, thoughtful, and witty man that he seemed to be. At least, that has always been my impression of him through the podcast. When I started listening in 2015, the TIDE podcast was the first time for me to think: I want to do this as well. Dai and Doug made podcasting seem unpretentious and authentic. They never took themselves too seriously and yet talked about serious issues, they approached bitter topics with some humour and sensitivity, without a script. And that’s what I took away, and started podcasting myself, very much copying the format and the structure of TIDE, to some extent at least. I am mentioning this because it shows what an exceptional teacher and educator Dai (and Doug, of course) was. Putting himself out there, giving examples, but also (in this case probably not knowingly) encouraging others to try it out for themselves, to fail and to learn. There were plenty of podcast episodes that were hard to listen to because either Doug or Dai tried out something new, because they tested new software or new equipment. The next episode was always the most interesting for me. Dai would have a good laugh about his and Doug’s errors, explain what had happened, apologise for the inconvenience and move on, having learned by ‘failing’ in public and being completely okay with that. Thank you both for this!
I only know this very small fragment of Dai Barnes and can hence only imagine what other people will take away from having known him, having worked with him, learned from him, talked to him, argued with him. From where I am, it seems like his passing has left quite a gap. My deep and heartfelt condolences to his friends, his family, his colleagues and his students. Dai made a difference to the world of many. Thank you.
In the process of writing this, I found out that I was not the only one with the feeling of somehow knowing Dai to some extent, without having ever met him. Tim Klapdor found beautiful words to describe this feeling and, yes, I shed some tears as well.