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Meaning making through metaphor

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Metaphors teach us to think and well chosen can, with some caveats, initiate and stimulate meaning. The educator, Gráinne Conole, Professor of Learning Innovation at the University of Leicester often talks of 'metaphor for meaning making' in our efforts to unravel and explain the complex. However, metaphors have an inbuilt bias: their creator. It is helpful to talk of a 'tree of life' when it isn't? Is it OK to teach it to Junior School Kids in the knowledge that they will be given a more complex visualisation, explanation and metaphor as graduate students? Should we talk of a 'War of Drugs' as if beating a disease is a conflict, when actually it is collaboration and aspiration that leads to communities accepting vaccines ...

What do the educators use and what do we participants remember from the courses we do: flat vocabulary, more complex vocabulary, classification schemas or models or metaphors? I hazard a guess that we remember indiscriminate moments of insight from a comment here, a visualisation, a comment, a shared point of view ...

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Making up e-words

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 04:11

Why is it so easy for English speakers to create words if one doesn’t exist.

‘Web-based learning’ or ‘e-learning’ ?

Which do you prefer?

Does it matter so long as we have a good idea of what it means and entails.  ‘e-tyres’, which I saw ten minutes ago on a van, confounds the logic of 'e-mail' or 'e-forum', it is easy to understand its meaning - ‘buy tyres here online’ (rather than ‘electronically enhanced tyres.’) But when was English ever logical?

The ‘Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language’ talks about word-building or ‘compounding’. This is possible we are told because of the way the Old English vocabulary builds up through the process of affixation and compounding.

A prefix I wasn’t aware was one is ‘to’ as on the English prefix we see in ‘today, towards and together.’

One from my home town, so clearly embedded in its Danish roots is ‘gan’ as in ‘go’ which is used on Tyneside as in the Geordie for go home ‘gan yem’.

The readiness to build up words from a number of parts is a feature that has stayed with English ever since.

In English we tend to concertina words, to simply them. If it can be understood in one syllable, then this works best of all.

Most English vocabulary arises by making new words out of old ones – either by adding an affix to previously existing forms, altering their word class, or combining them to produce compounds. Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language. (1995:128)

Common affixes are:

un-
de-
hyper-

I think there has to be something poetic, something logical, simple, immediately understood and that rolls naturally off the tongue. Web-based learning, web-based training, web-based virtual asynchronous communication ‘Web/VAC’ have had their day (a decade even, 1995-2005). We will ‘google’ forever – no need here for e-search (was that ever used?) and 'to yahoo; would not do. Or e-encyclopaedia when we had Britannica Online and now have Wikipedia.

Never hyper-learning, though if we create the holy grail of game-like learning for the current generation of net-savvy, game-savvy, texting, blogging, social-networking kids then ‘hyper-tivity’ could be exactly what would describe their engagement. I watch and listen in to my son’s antics on the X-box, using Skype, online to the world, organising games, while clicking through web-pages for the latest ‘cheat’ and viewing YouTube ‘how to ...’ Training or Learning?

Terms can be made to change their word class without the addition of an affix – a process known as conversion nouns from verbs – verbs from nouns.

‘e’ isn’t a prefix, it’s a compound of ‘electronic and/or enhanced’, that has been abbreviated to ‘e-‘.

Does it matter?

If it is in common usage and it is understood then whether it follows a rule or a former pattern or not means nada. The great thing with English is that anything goes. What counts is whether people adopt a word and if it sticks. and gets into everyday usage.

‘A compound is a unit of vocabulary which consists of more than one lexical stem. The parts are functioning as a single item which has its own meaning and grammar.' (Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language. (1995:120)


REFERENCE

Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language. 1995

 

 

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How hot are we?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 30 Aug 2010, 12:33

'By looking at written words, and especially those that have been highly valued, we can take the temperature of the society in which they were produced.' Hitchings (2009:124)

Many new words are coined working and existing online.

If they guage the temperature of society then who are we to:

  • google
  • e-stalk
  • e-learn
  • ping
  • podcast
  • twit and twitter

e-mail(my British born and raised 12 year old son calls the 'post,' calls 'letters through the door,' 'Mail.'

Who am I to correct him.

As Hitchings points out, all words assimilated into American become words used by us Brits and English eventually.

The very fact that more people speak English on the Indian sub-content than in/on or around the British Isles implies that the English language is secondary to culture and nation-hood.

It amuses me to learn that'gotten'is of these isles 200 years ago, so not an Americanism, but olde English in every day use. Alongside words such as 'trash.'

Indeed, reading Hitchings, alongside some Norman Davies (The Isles) you come to wonder for how long an English  language was set, culturally or by national or cultural boundaries.

The more I understand about how these 'Isles'were populated the less I feel we have had a settled language, let alone a 'people.'

We are everything and everyone who settles in these islands; I welcome them. As South Africa falters perhaps this mutli-lingual, mixed-race, compost heap of folk should adopt the 'Rainbow Nation' tag?

As Hitchings point out, in a study of London primary schools they found that 300 different languages are spoken. A dear friend is the Head Teacher of school where she can run off the 27 languages spoken in a single class of Year 5s.

A good thing. A positive thing. To embrace, to celebrate and engage.

 REFERENCE

The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English. Henry Hitchings. 2008

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E-words and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 26 Aug 2010, 13:20

I've just negotiated my way into the OED online dictionary and have had my mind exploded.

Amazing. Thrilled. Delighted.

My quest is to share views on the word 'activity' and whether its reversioning to 'e-tivity' is justified beyond some kind of quasi-academic brand-speak to sell a book and a concept.

'Activity' is first cited in 1530. Kicked off-line in 2001.

Let's campaign to support these words rather than having them digitised into oblivion.

Let's use our booted heels to hack the 'e-' barnacle from words that deserve better. That stand alone. That have a meaning that is only diminished by adding 'e-'.

Let's ditch the unnecessary e-attachments.

Meanwhile, I'm off to lose myself in the OED where words are nutured like rare beasties kept alive, breeding and happy in a Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

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E-words. E-terms. E-lexemes.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:22

Inspired by The Secret life of words. How English became English. Henry Hitchings (2008)

‘Communications is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from?’
Hitchings (2008)

Whilst ‘where words came from’ is the premise for ‘The Secret Life of Words’ it is much more: it is a history of the people who spoke English. It is a refreshing take on a chronology of events. We learn history through words for warrior, through the Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin word for the same thing ... and through the words the English language has so easily accommodated from across the globe. It is a fascinating journey, one made pertinent to someone studying on the cascading wave-edge of the digital ocean that is ‘e-learning’ with the frequent coining of new terms.

For a description of the way the English language functions (or mis-functions) I love this:

English is ‘Deficient in regularity.’

From James Harris (c1720) in Hitchings (2008:1)

It is exactly the kind of thing a teacher might write in red pen at the bottom of a school-boy’s essay.

This is another way of putting it. English, ‘this hybrid tongue’, as Hitchings calls it. Hitchings (2008:2)

A tongue that re-invents itself, twists and transmogrifies at every turn.

A couple of decades ago I recall there being suggestions that the English language would splinter into so many dialects, creoles and forms that a speaker of one would not understand the user of another. The opposite appears to be the case, that ‘core English’ has been stabilised by its myriad of versions. Users can choose to understand each other or not, to tolerate even celebrate their differences or to use difference to create a barrier: think of the class divide, the posh voice versus the plebeian, one regional accent set against another, or an accent from one former British Dominion compared to another.

‘Words bind us together, and can drive us apart.’ Hitchings (2008:3)

How is the Internet changing the English Language?

What impact has Instant Messaging, blogging and asynchronous communication had? Can we be confident that others take from our words the meanings we intend? As we are so inclined to use sarcasm, irony, flippancy and wit when we speak, how does this transcribe when turned into words? How can you know a person’s meaning or intentions without seeing their face or interpreting their body language? Must we be bland to compensate for this?

I love mistakes, such as this one from Hitchings:

Crayfish ... ‘its fishy quality is the result of a creative mishearing.’ Hitchings (2008:4)

Age ten or eleven I started to keep a book of my ‘creative mishearings’ which included words such as ‘ragabond,’ instead of ‘vagabond.’ I love the idea of the ‘creative mishearing,’ isn’t this the same as ‘butterfly’, shouldn’t it be ‘flutterby’? And recalling a BBC Radio 4 Broadcast on Creativity with Grayson Perry, ‘creativity is mistakes.’

Mistakes and misunderstandings put barbs on the wire strings of words we hook from point to point, between arguments and chapters. We are fortunate that the English language is so flawed; it affords scratches and debate, conflict and the taking of sides.

An American travelled 19,000 miles back and forth across the US with a buddy correcting spellings, grammar and punctuation on billboards, notices and road signs. His engaging story split the reviewers into diametrically opposed camps of ‘love him’ or ‘hate him.’ (Courtesy of the Today Programme, the day before yesterday c20th August 2010)

‘Our language creates communities and solidarities, as well as division and disagreements.’ Hitchings (2008:4)

My test for the longevity and acceptability of a new word coined to cover a term in e-learning will be twofold:

Can, what is invariably a noun, be turned with ease into a verb or adjective?

Might we have an Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin word for the same thing. We like to have many words for the same thing ... variations on a theme.

And a final thought

Do technical words lend themselves to such reverse engineering? Or, like a number, are they immutable?

If they are made of stone I will find myself a mason's chisel.

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Words. A call for simple English.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 26 Nov 2011, 15:55

'Communication is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from?' Hutchings (2008)

The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English

Words matter to me very much

Their purpose is to communicate.

We are all prone to use jargon, and the first time we use it we feel we belong that tribe. Academic writers are prone to the greatestmisdemeanours - they not only invent their own words, but they like to show off their command of words you/we have rarely come across, or they misappropriate words from other disciplines and force anew definition upon them.

Books on words appeal to me.

If Open Learning is to appeal to the broadest church, then clear, simple, language is required.

If you spot any polysyllabic bibble-babble, please do share.

Or is that me committing this very crime?

One long word, and another long word that might be of my own invention. My apologies.

So why use one word with many syllables which few people understand, when a sentence of short words would do a far better job?

Obfuscation or communication?

Showing off or joining the throng, who are your students.

And have I just done it again?

What I mean to say is, 'it cannot help learning if a writer puts in a long word that they and their colleagues understand that the majority don't.

Clear English, is simple English; anything more can be unnecessarily confusing.

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Grayson Perry and Rose Tremain on Creativity

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 26 Oct 2011, 07:45

I meant to share this at the time of the broadcast a month of six weeks ago. Life and an OU TMA got in the way.

Please offer your thoughts and share

These are notes, things I picked out, some reflection on my take on all of this. Perhaps we are like minds? Perhaps not? I'm trying to make sense of it ... I'm not saying I've made sense of it here or in a hundred or more posting on a similar theme that I have made online over the last decade reading the likes of Stephen Pressfield, Norman Mailer and Ben Okri, even David Ogilvy) who amongst many creatives have chosen to share their wisdom with the wider world.

To be successful and creative is a rare thing, it isn't simply a result of luck or talent or endeavour ... a mind might be able to self-regulate and focus once it has found its medium and voice, but just as helpful are those around you who create parameters, who set deadlines, who chase you with a stick or reward you with a carrot.

In this BBC Radio 4 broadcast Grayson Perry explored the myths and misconceptions of creativity.

What does it take?

Like all things, hard work and single-mindedness.

From my point of view I see myself as a Catherine Wheel that has been lit and fallen of its stand - I spit and twist, sending out ideas all over the place. Not the best way forward.

The Myths and Misconceptions were:


  • The Eureka Moment (Spoke to Terry Pratchet)
  • Anyone can do it (Spoke to Rose Tremain)
  • Drugs are good for you. (But not for Satre)
  • A bid mad
  • Britain's got talent (Spoke to Hussein Shelian)
  • Creative Genius
  • Need to have suffered an early trauma (Ray Talis)


We are reminded the 'creativity' is a central part of the UK economy.

For 17 years I actively contributed to this. My wilderness years, the last eight, have resulted in very little output (if that means getting it out of the front door). I stack it. I'd prefer to see these ideas compost and die than give my ideas to the world.

It is essential that creativity has institutional underpinning.

How will this manifest itself with the cuts to arts funding now being proposed by the coalition government in the UK.

or is it necessary. Whilst education in the UK has its faults it nonetheless appears to favour and permit the individual so that talent can develop. This must be the state system, private schools are a sausage machine for exam results, they have to be given what parents are forking out.

'Creativity is mistakes.'

Says Grayson Perry, he has this carved into concrete across the mezzanine floor of his studio. You try, you fail, you try again. I would like to suppose I haven't tried hard enough to fix my failures (or what I perceive as failures). At time though I feel if I keep on trying I would eventually strip back a 90,000 novel to a few words.

Imaginative power is 'looking, looking, looking' to which Rose Tremain added, it is 'listening, listening, listening.'

I'm a looker, so I don't know how I've ended up writing.

You can never be fully relaxed on holiday.

I do, but sailing and skiing do occupy your head if you fall off cliffs and like to race dinghies. Moments of near-death are exhilarating, as those times the elements sweep you along.

I hate the computer as a writing tool, this facility to edit does me no favours. yet a writer Grayson interviews said the computer allowed him to write, that until then he had no way to start straight in with a few thoughts, some scenes (like episodes in a film), and assemble it all in a non-linear way.

I've worked so hard with programmes like Power Structure and Final Draft but somehow always tie myself in knots trying to add or remove a character or scene or changing the ending or beginning.

'Letting go at the end - that's as good as it will get.' Says Rose Tremain.

A year of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and my last session was driving me to 'finish something.' I can, but there needs to be someone with a stick harrying me along, a reward at the end would help, reassuring words along the way too ...

My notes here (a month or so after the broadcast) say something about 'investigating in a way that is new and aiding their creativity by giving them love and boundaries.'

I would run with a lover, with the intensity of an unfulfilled affair. Something to make the heart race. I once spent a day drawing a girl I lusted for ... she was happy to be naked for me. I compelled myself into a state of denial without able to control my arousal. It all went into the drawing, the excited, confident marks across the page.

What about the University of East Anglia Creative Writing Course?

I've locked at the details and would be applying for 2011. Don't have the money. Anyone want to sponsor me? In return for a percentage of the royalties that would of course come about a year or two later?

Pretty please?

Or the MA in Fine Art at Sussex University?

'A life's work without any expectation of reward.'

My wife caught this line and said that was me. She should know, she's not had much out of me these last eight years. The novels I promised to write were written, but are considerably short of an edit I would send out. I would need to shut myself away from everything for 12 weeks.

Do you have somewhere I could hide?

Exam conditions six to nine hours a day, seven days a week. Not any man made disturbance - nature I can tolerate, nature I love. A hermitage on Farnes island would do, a ski lodge up a mountain pre-Season. somewhere. An empty barn, drained swimming pool, decommissioned nuclear power station.

Impulsive ideas that I run with:


  • A chess set made out of branded bottles of water.
  • Every ski run in the Ski Resorts of Val d'Isere and Tignes reconstructed as transects showing their true length and fall.
  • A short film about watersprites living in a public swimming pool
  • Story ideas galore for TV series or film.
  • A 6ft canvass of Lewes Castle in the snow from a series of photographs that could have been taken 800 years ago.

'When you are creating something you are drawing on so many parts of the brain.'

This was in response to someone with an MRI scan who claims to have identified creativity. It doesn't work like that, indeed, the creative mind goes more slowly ... it takes it times over these connections. It thinks, how else could it ever deliver anything original?

So when yo relax, you let go, that is when you have your great ideas. I resolved the ending to a story I haven't touched for three years on a dog walk so long I found worried messages on the mobile phone I had left in the car. My mobile is rarely on.

'The distressful bread of the day to day.' Said Rose Tremain.

Did I get that right?

Grayson Perry talked about his Inner Shed.

I have my inner shed, what I need is a 'room of my own.' It's hard to be creative perched on the end of the marital bed in a tiny room that is stacked to the ceiling with possessions that call for occupancy of a house twice the size.

Fretting over the non-blog affordances of the OU Blogging environment I have moved to EduBlogs where you will find me under 'Mymindbursts.'

Should institutions such as the OU ditch their own platforms and assemble the best off the shelf offerings in one place? What this environment lacks is personalisation, as well as stats, friends, freedom to add apps and plug-ins and all the rest of it.

This is a De Dion Bouton in the age of the E-type Jag.

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'e-learning' I'll accept, 'enculturated' I loathe.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 14 Aug 2010, 16:06

“Debates around terminology and definitions often generate more heat than light with their length and ferocity almost indirectly proportional to their usefulness.” Weller (2007:4)

Whilst true it is difficult to accept another person’s definition of an invented word whose meaning shifts constantly and means different things to different people.

“It was through the rise of the Internet that the ‘e’ prefix came into popular usage, and in line with e-commerce, e-business and e-government, it is the internet that is really the defining technology in e-learning.” Weller. (2007:5)

If it is the case the Internet (capital ‘I’ anyone?) is the defining technology of e-learning, then it isn’t e-learning, it should be i-learning. Or was that term nobbled in the 1980s for ‘interactive’ learning.

What about www-learning?


It’s suitably polysyllabic to appeal to the academic community and no more unpronounceable than some of the terms academic writers feel it necessary to construct.

‘E-learning. Any learning experience that utilizes internet-related technologies to some extent.’
Weller. (2007:4)

Imagine this definition blown into a party balloon then let loose into the atmosphere of cyberspace; it will buzz about who knows where until it loses itself in the multitude of tools ‘out there.’

Will we reach a stage where we return to the more established global term ‘learning?’ that would embrace all these Is, Es and Ms.

Or as Weller, it’s not worth the trouble, just run with it, as we must run with podcasting and iPod, iPads and googling and so much more. Banned though should be the polysyllabic babble that academic writers prefer to use in favour of a couple of words in plain, unpretentious English.

The word I loath more than all, too often used by certain authors with abandon in relation to e-learning, is ‘enculturated.’

I don’t think much of ‘situated’ either.

REFERENCE

Weller, M. (2007) Virtual Learning Environments. Using, choosing and developing your VLE

It is the holidays, so this norming I read Michael Faber's 'The Fifth Gospel.'

Fun and quotable. And this easy and quick to read. A 3 hour train journey would do it.

Over the previous few days I have read Stephen King's 'Cell,' which begins like a text book, 'throw them out of the aerolpane' thriller but turns into such daftness I skim read the last half at great speed. You must admire his hutzpah.

Over the previous week I have not been enjoying Simon Schama's 'History of Britain' as I feel I'm getting too much of him and not enough history (He's very good on Caravagio though) ... while Andrew Marr's 'The Making of Modern Britain' at least had some micro-factoids to interest in a journalist sort of way.

Then I found my old copy of Norman Davies 'The Isles' which I read a decade ago and plan to read again ... followed by his History of Europe.

Unsure why I'm trying to pack my brain with such stuff, but it is in part due to my mind being re-awoken from a period of slackness courtesy of the OU.

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The importance of Face-to-Face (from the OU, 1990)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 8 Oct 2011, 15:07

From the Good Study Guide – (OU) 1990 by Andrew Nortledge.

p65 ‘Where the lecture comes into its own is in helping you to understand how the ideas in the subject work. The lecturer can ‘project; meaning into the words for you. The sense of the word is signalled through tone of voice and embellished with gestures and fluid expression.’

A gem I fell upon serendipitously when my daughter emptied her bedroom of childhood books, including this one, sent to her rather hopefully by her grandfather when she was 12.

The relevance here is on why face-to-face lectures and tutorials will continue to have such an important role to play. Maybe fewer of them (per student) so that a far larger student cohort can be taught and managed, but necessary all the same.

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