A Year in the Life of The Dyslexic Professor (52/52 or 100%)!

I’ve made it! 52 blogs over 12 months = A Year in the Life of The Dyslexic Professor

Download PDF with hyperlinks

Download PDF in Dyslexie Font

Of course, this is a moment to look backward and forward. Backward, to the highlights and unintended consequences and forward to ‘so what‘ and ‘what next‘? What started, 12 months ago, with a single blog, has ended the year as a commitment to start a movement.

I have learnt two things about blogging:

  1. They are intensively personal and, at least for me, cathartic.
  2. People read them!

As a slight digression, this reminds me of Julie and Julia

So, by good foresight or good luck, I feel liberated and empowered and connected to fellow Dyslexic Activists (people with dyslexia and non-dyslexics passionate about the value people with dyslexia bring to our society).

I have moved from seeing my dyslexia as a disability to a learning difference and now a superpower, which guides my next steps … to quite literally turn the perception of dyslexia on its head. The question is not, ‘How do we support people with dyslexia in schools, colleges, universities, prisons and workplaces‘ to ‘How can we attract people with this dyslexia superpower‘.

This is in essence, a call for valuing diversity. Not because of a law or to do the ‘right thing’ but because it produces results for both parties – a win-win – better organisations and happier people.

It’s time to ‘commit oneself to a course of action about which one is nervous’ or put simply to … take the plunge! 

Or as Mary Oliver expressed it so profoundly in the last line of ‘The Summer Day’ … Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Very best wishes


Dyslexia Superpower Syllabus: Answers on a postcard (51/52)

In this penultimate blog, I am asking a simple question whilst knowing fully well the answer is complicated – or at least I hope it is!

What should be included in a course designed to help people, both with and without dyslexia, develop their picture thinking skills?

Of course, I’m using ‘picture thinking’ as shorthand for visual, spatial thinking that enhances problem solving.

What do you think?

Answers on a postcard by commenting on this blog or just email me at

As a starter for 10, please see below some of my suggestions for ‘Envisioning 101‘ for first year undergraduates and delivered over 10 weeks:

Week 1: Introduction
Content: Module structure, pedagogy (flipped classroom and MOOCs), assistive technologies, expectations, formative feedback and summative assessment.
Format: Workshop, ability assessment 1.

Week 2: Developing your creativity
Content: Ideation and innovation skills.
Format: Workshop
Reading: Burstein, J. and Andersen, K. (2012) Spark: How Creativity Works. Harper Paperbacks.
Video: a) Julie Burstein, b) Janet Echelman, c) Amy Tan
MOOCDiscover how to shape your world with innovation

Week 3: Picture thinking
Content: Visual and spatial thinking skills, how to draw, mind mapping.
Format: Workshop, poster presentations.
Reading: a) Brand, W.,‎ Pieter Koene, P., Ars, M. and Verheijen, P. (2017) Visual Thinking: Empowering People & Organizations through Visual Collaboration, Bis Publishers. b) Scriberia (2017) How to Draw Anything, Quercus Editions.
Video: a) Temple Grandin, b) Sunni Brown, c) Neil Burgess
MOOC: Big Data: Data Visualisation

Week 4: Understanding multiple perspectives
Content: Empathy, listening skills.
Format: Workshop, acted case study, role play.
Reading:  Krznaric, R. (2015) Empathy: Why It Matters, And How To Get It, Rider.
Video: a) Joan Halifax, b) Jeremy Rifkin
MOOC: a) How to Read Your Boss, b) Social Enterprise: Business Doing Good

Week 5: Working with others
Content: Team-working and networking skills.
Format: Workshop. Lego game.
Reading: Sinek, S. (2017) Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t  and (2016) Together is Better: A Little Book of InspirationPortfolio Penguin.
Video: a) Nicholas Christakis, b) Howard Rheingold, c) Tom Wujec
MOOCManaging People: Engaging Your Workforce

Week 6: Communicating your ideas
Content: Presentation skills.
Format: Workshop, individual presentations.
Reading: Anderson, C. (2018) TED Talks: The official TED guide to public speaking, Headline.
Video: a) Chris Anderson, b) Nancy Duarte, c) Julian Treasure
MOOC: Persuasive Communication: What Makes Messages Persuasive?

Week 7: System thinking
Content: Holistic thinking skills.
Format: Workshop.
Reading: Checkland, P. and Scholes, J. (2009) Soft Systems Methodology: a 30-year retrospection, John Wiley & Sons.
Video: a) Eric Berlow, b) Peter Checkland, c) Tom Wujec
MOOC: a) Systems Thinking and Complexity, b) Logical and Critical Thinking,

Week 8: Problem solving in practice 1
Content: Learning through case study of significant organisational challenge.
Format: Workshop, group presentations.
MOOCUsing Creative Problem Solving

Week 9: Problem solving in practice 2
Content: Learning by responding to big societal challenges.
Format: Workshop, group presentations.
MOOCUnleash Your Potential: Global Citizenship

Week 10: Reflecting on your experience
Content: Learning through reflection of theory and practice.
Format: Workshop, personal poster presentations, Ability assessment 2.
Reading: Thompson, S. and Thompson, N. (2009) The Critically Reflective Practitioner, Palgrave.
Video: Diana Laufenberg
MOOCLearning Online: Reflecting and Sharing

What do you think? What have I missed?

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superhero or Survivor? (50/52)

This week, nearly a year from ‘going public’ as an academic with dyslexia, I was asked two questions I found difficult to answer.

Firstly, What have you achieved, as a person with dyslexia, to this point in your life – being widely acknowledged as a leader in academia, business and the community?

And secondly, What would you say to your eight year old self struggling to understand why others around him could read and write whilst he was increasingly being labelled stupid and lazy?

Whilst the questions were asked separately, I now realise the answers are inextricably linked and help explain why I decided to Chair the Board of Trustees at NUWord (See – Dyslexia Superpower: A new dawn)

My answer to, What have you achieved? Was, I have survived – I am a survivor of dyslexia.

This immediate and heartfelt response says much about my journey through education and work – and is so often heard from people with dyslexia – success is to survive. I went on to explain that as a dyslexic, I live in a hostile world full of words and with the constant fear of exposure. So, to survive each day is a big achievement and far from any notion of public recognition or superhero status.

But, said the questioner, you have achieved so much – what would you say to your younger self? That mere survival is all he has to look forward to?

Therein lies the critical  flaw in my position. To survive is not enough – we need also to hope. So, that is the message for my younger self – the hope of a better future, to reinvent dyslexia not as a disability or even a difference but an advantage. This is the mission of NUWord.

Ask me again, What would you say to your younger self?

I would look that boy straight in the eye and say, You have been born with a great advantage. Nurture it and it will be your true superpower and it will help all around you to have richer lives.

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superpower: A new dawn (49/52)

Yes, a new dawn! But, why am I so positive on this rather damp morning when sunshine is but a distant memory?

I was in London yesterday evening to join the board of the new charity focused on flipping dyslexia from disability to ability, through learning difference to superpower – NUWord – registered charity number 1174809. I was further delighted to be appointed to Chair the Board of Trustees.

And, now the hard work begins …

In the next year we have to invent the business model that will fund the core NUWord team who will work with our strategic partners to deliver transformative opportunities to people with the gift of dyslexia to help them develop their superpower. We need to be in every school, every university, every prison and every workplace.

We want to:

  1. Develop a free NUWord positive dyslexia assessment and learning programme for children in some of our most challenging schools
  2. Develop a free online NUWord ability test to help anyone identify their superpower
  3. Develop free NUWord learning programmes to take this superpower to the next level
  4. And finally, launch our first NUWord campaign to highlight the organisational advantages of recruiting people with a superpower!

Of course, diversity, or more specifically neurological diversity, is at the core of this vision. Put simply, the best organisations celebrate diversity.

And now to recruit the NUWord community of Dyslexia Activists …

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superpower: Amazing People (48/52)

With just four blogs to go until the ‘Year in the Life of The Dyslexic Professor‘ is complete, I thought I would highlight someone else’s work. More specifically, that of Kate Power and Kathy Iwanczak Forsyth, who both have children with dyslexia.

Kate and Kathy (amazingdyslexic) have just produced a delightful, at least in my opinion, book called: The Illustrated Guide to Dyslexia and Its Amazing People.

It is written, or rather illustrated, with children with dyslexia in mind. I will discuss the content in a moment but what struck me was the cover (below left). If I were to publish a book entitled  Year in the Life of The Dyslexic Professor, its cover might look a little similar (below right)!

The book takes the young reader, or more correctly, the young picture thinker! From explaining what dyslexia is right through to the amazing people with dyslexia, their charateristics and to the jobs they do – including:

All are fine examples and a message of hope for younger (and older!) dyslexics. I am privileged to be increasingly meeting more amazing people with dyslexia. It really is a wonderful experience to meet other dyslexics – I hadn’t realised how isolated, from other dyslexics, I have become – probably part of a protective mechanism.

The book also responds to the need of non-dyslexic parents to explain the dyslexia to their children with dyslexia. I had been struck by the number of colleagues in academia who have thanked me for my blogs because they have been so worried for their dyslexic children and are very happy to share the idea of the dyslexia superpower with them.

I’ve already shared my thoughts on the collective noun for people with dyslexia – perhaps a flock or even a gathering. But,

How many dyslexics does it take to change a light bulb?

10, one to replace it with a low-watt LED lamp and 9 to imagine a brighter future!

Sorry :0)

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support


Dyslexia Superpower: Conferences and the success of the iPod (47/52)

Following on from last week’s Dyslexia Superpower: Reflection, projection and the success of the iPad blog, I wanted to consider complexity and how we can access information in a world overflowing with information.

So, let’s start with the iPod. More specifically, what became known as the iPod Classic (2001-14). I am part of a generation that expected to be able to access music on the move. It was the Sony Walkman cassette player (1979-2010), which achieved this for the masses and remained in production for 3 decades! It was simply a small cassette player with batteries and headphones – but it was also so much more! However, for this blog it was merely a stepping stone to the iPod – a truly mass music mobile device. But, what enabled the iPod to emerge and replace the Walkman in its entirety?

The storage capacity for digital hard drives and rechargeable battery life were both increasing rapidly and together these laid the foundations but did not provide the solution. It was the scroll wheel, and then the click wheel, which made accessing “1,000 songs in your pocket” a reality. A simple interface to masses of content – literally access to 1,000s of songs at the spin of a wheel. In other words, simplicity in a world of complexity. Interestingly, Steve Jobs, the driving force behind Apple during this period, is thought to have been dyslexic – although this hasn’t been conclusively confirmed.

It seems that accessing new information in the digital age couldn’t be easier – just type your query into Google! But one very ‘old school’ way of doing this still seems to survive – if not prosper … conferences!

I attended two conferences this week:

  1. Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) Annual Conference in Birmingham at which I delivered a ‘Using digital technologies to support business engagement’ workshop – the output of which I expressed as a blog, ‘Eight steps to digital heaven for Business Schools?‘ The conference had a professional focus with keynote speakers informing delegates on best practice and current events relevant to the Higher Education sector – such as ‘The role of business schools in enhancing the UK’s productivity, innovation and competitiveness‘.
  2. Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) Annual Conference in Belfast at which I was a panel member on the 40th Anniversary Plenary Session. The conference had an academic focus with researchers and practitioners presenting their research, which was selected through a peer-review process of conference papers.
ISBE 2017 40th Anniversary Plenary Session

What struck me about the conferences was not the quality of the content, in both cases this was high, but rather the social interaction – what we could call social networking. The discussions between the presentations, often over refreshments, enable new and old members to interact, quality to be mediated, friendships to be renewed and, of course, job opportunities to be exchanged in whispers!

The ISBE conference also provided a platform to launch a new textbook! Exploring Entrepreneurship 2nd Edition co-authored with Prof Richard Blundel and Prof Catherine Wang and published by SAGE Publications.

Exploring Entrepreneurship Book Launch

All this serves to highlight the need to blend the digital with the physical. Perhaps it has never been more important to understand complexity. Fortunately, the repositioning of dyslexia from a learning difficulty, through a learning difference to a learning advantage or superpower is very timely and will help to unlock the full potential of 1/10th of the population.

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superpower: Reflection, projection and the success of the iPad (46/52)

It’s been another varied week for me in academia. One that served to highlight the superpower of reflection, projection (picture thinking, visual thinking or just envisioning) and resulted in a flashback to the launch of the iPad in 2010! [See Steve Jobs at 08:40]

Monday – was all about reflecting on someone else’s research. I was the external examiner for a rigorous PhD thesis which was robustly defended at the viva examination. The subject was small businesses’ capabilities to manage alliances that develop international opportunities and the candidate’s ‘defence’ was excellent. Like all good viva examinations, it left me with a profound feeling that, at that moment in time, the candidate knew more about their subject than anyone else. Difficult to explain but you know it when you see it!

Tuesday – saw the successful start of our Executives in Residence initiative, which brought together a dozen senior executives from a wide range of industries and sectors – including Brian Gregory,  Jackie Daniel [STOP PRESS Jackie is Chief Executive at Morecambe Bay Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust cited in this week’s Economist], Leasil Burrow and Sean McIlveen to name but four. A great opportunity for us to learn from others’ experience and help us develop our executive education and professional development programmes and think through the potential impact of our research. I’m really looking forward to working with this committed group of ambassadors for Lancaster University Management School.

Thursday – was a chance for a little more personal reflection with long-arranged leave which happened to coincide with a beautiful day of autumnal sunshine in the Lake District.

Friday – saw the recognition of months of academic and industry endeavour with a campus visit by Sir Charlie Mayfield (Chair of John Lewis Partnership and Productivity Leadership Group – bethebusiness). Lancaster University Management School has worked hard with Industry to co-develop the Productivity through People programme to help address the productivity dilemma. This programme serves to highlight the ‘anchor institution’ role proposed by Sir Andrew Witty  in Encouraging a British Invention Revolution (2013).

The PhD thesis, Executives in Residence and Productivity through People are all about the ability to think big – and that’s the link to the launch of the iPad in 2010. After a decade of Microsoft promoting the concept of a Tablet PC, it was Apple that launched the game changing iPad. But, why was the iPad so successful?

I remember delivering, with a practitioner, a two-day innovation course, in early 2011, to executives of a global electronics company and asking the question, “Will the iPad be successful?” The participants were fairly evenly split. I argued that the two key differences were, iTunes and the App Store. The former provided a popular platform for accessing digital content (music and video) and the latter provided an open platform that supported the innovation and creativity of programmers. And critically both offered a revenue model which rewarded the providers of content and apps. Of course, there might be other explanations.

More interestingly, my thoughts on the iPad in 2011 demonstrate the ability, so prevalent in dyslexics, to swivel between reflecting on the past and projecting into the future. Not a bad ability to have in any organisation!

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superpower: Sally Gardner (45/52)

I did wonder whether I should just post this rich picture as a blog and give no explanation. But, the blogger in me couldn’t resist adding a few words!

Sally Gardner, is an award-winning author for children and older readers and a dyslexia activist. Sally says, “At eleven I was told I was word-blind. This was before anyone mentioned the un-sayable, un-teachable, un-spellable word dyslexia, which, hey-ho, even to this day I can’t spell!”

Sally is the founder of NUword a new charity committed to flipping dyslexia from being perceived as a disability to being an advantage.

The rich picture was drawn after listening to an inspirational and moving workshop delivered by Sally at University of the Arts London. Sally explained how our education system failed her by focusing on what she couldn’t do rather than her amazing ability (superpowers!) to think in pictures – what she called cinema thinking or picture thinking.

You just need to read some of her books, and having met Sally recently I’ve done just that, to see the creative power of cinema thinking or picture thinking in writing truly engaging books for all ages.

I won’t attempt to explain my rich picture of Sally further. Just look carefully and see what you can see!

Inspired by Sally’s commitment to change the perception of dyslexia, I’ve just agreed to be a trustee of the NUword Charity. Of course, I don’t know what I have let myself in for … or do I?!

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support

Dyslexia Superpower: Envisioning a better future (44/52)

After last week’s call to test for the positive characteristics of dyslexia (Dyslexia Superpower: Testing times), I have been struggling to find a single word that could capture all these positive skills – and therefore the title of a programme, course or module that could help develop them. I felt that dyslexia superpower (apart from being two words!) carried with it the negative connotations of dyslexia and seemed a bit lightweight for serious study.

The word needs to recognise i) problem solving, creativity, innovation skills; ii) big picture, visual, spatial thinking; iii) communicating ideas; iv) empathy, teamworking; v) systems thinking; vi) using assistive technologies; vii) selling the superpowered you! And, I’m sure much more …

Professor Rod Nicolson would call most of these unconventional thinking. However, this doesn’t really work for me – it’s not positive enough.

Then, whilst planning for a workshop I delivered to entrepreneurs considering the opportunities for their businesses from the low carbon economy (there was even a UK Government strategy published this week – The Clean Growth Strategy), I realised the word was … envisioning!

Let me explain.

Envision is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as, “imagine as a future possibility” or by Cambridge as, “to imagine or expect that something is a likely or desirable possibility in the future”. Possible origin in 1827, “endowed with vision.” I noticed Microsoft even have an Envisioning Center!

So, does envisioning capture all the positive characteristics so often found in people with dyslexia and also sound like a desirable skill non-dyslexics would like to acquire?

Could you imagine taking a course on envisioning and, at the end, being able to communicate your vision of a solution to a problem or plan to address a challenge?  What if the essential criteria for your next job included – ability to envision a better future!

I wonder how you could assess the course or demonstrate your ability to envision a better future?

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support


Dyslexia Superpower: Testing times (43/52)

There is much to be said for a professionally supported dyslexia diagnosis. In the UK, it’s actually a requirement that a Dyslexia Assessment is performed by a specialist teacher (with an APC or HCPC) or Educational Psychologist. Once diagnosed as having dyslexia schools, universities and employers need to respond with appropriate support that meets the Equality Act (2010). No wonder so much store is placed on an official dyslexia assessment.

However, this comes at a price – the British Dyslexia Association offers diagnostic assessments for £450 (+VAT) with a specialist teacher and £600 (+ VAT) with an Educational Psychologist. This automatically prevents much of the population from accessing an assessment and reinforces the ‘middle class‘ label associated with dyslexia assessment. Is there an alternative?

If you are not looking for an official dyslexia assessment, you could consider screening at a fraction of the cost. Nessy provide a range of screening tools including a free online dyslexia questionnaire for 5 to 7 year olds and a more detailed assessment from £10 per pupil. The latter covers: i) Visual Word Memory, ii) Auditory Sequential Memory, iii) Visual Sequential Memory, iv) Processing Speed, v) Phonological Awareness and vi) Working Memory and takes 20 minutes to administer. Do-IT Solutions provides Dyslexia+ Student Profiler for HE/HE students and adults, which takes about an hour in a one-to-one assessment and costs £25 per person. CognAssist provides a digital assessment tool for older learners, which covers: i) Verbal Memory, ii) Non Verbal Memory, iii) Literacy, iv) Numeracy, v) Visual Information Processing Speed, vi) Executive Function, vii) Verbal Reasoning and viii) Non Verbal Reasoning and takes 30 minutes to complete. These are essentially rules based assessments.

But, let’s start from a different perspective …

If dyslexia is a superpower (learning advantage), then it could be useful to test for characteristics that positively indicate for this superpower – such as: big picture thinking, visual thinking and spacial thinking in order to further develop these abilities. But, why is this important?

By screening for the positive attributes associated with dyslexia and developing these further, an individual immediately gets recognition for there abilities and chance to excel at these. Remember our society needs these skills – Dyslexia Awareness Week: Survival of the Species. This week saw the Nobel Prize for Chemistry awarded to Professor Jacques Dubochet who describes himself as dyslexic and was in the team that invented cryo-electron microscopy, which images the molecules of life.

Just, imagine if our society was able to identify everyone with this superpower and focused resources to help develop it to the full.

Nigel LockettThe Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support