OU blog

Personal Blogs

Design Museum

Mind Bursts

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 6 Oct 2014, 05:49
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Niel Macgregor's 'Germany: Memories of a Nation' 

I've loved this phrase 'mind bursts' for longer than I can remember so find it refreshing when something comes along which for me is expression of what I mean.

Niel Macgregor's 'Germany: Memories of a Nation' takes the massive and complex and makes it interesting and explicable by picking focused, memorable starting points. Every episode makes you think, but the one that got me hooked was on Konisberg and Strasbourg, two cities, once German: Konisberg now Russian as Kaliningrad, and Strasbourg now French.

Niel Macgregor's 'The History of the World in 100 Objects' has received some 33 million downloads!! THAT is a 'Massive Open Online Course' (MOOC) without the need for instructional design or assessment. It is informative, educational and entertaining.

Back to Germany though.

We are all probably used to history taught and written about as a series of chronological events, with historians questing for a truth interpreted through the philosophy and means of their era: Niel Macgregor therefore is using 21st century approaches to deliver his history, but what is so memorable and effective are the exceedingly carefully chosen objects, the considered, interpreted and historically accessible language and his smart, even 'other worldly' intelligent and dare I say it 'posh' voice.

Also an exhibition at the British Museum

More in the BBC Radio Series Producer's Blog

 

Permalink
Share post
Design Museum

Augmented

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 17:15

Imagine a room in which students pick an item from a museum then do this with it on their screens. You have their attention. How do they then take it and create a string of memories that take them through assignments and beyond?

 Imagine downloading ahead of a visit the audio tour for a special show? My visit to the Royal Academy to see the Van Gogh letters had my mother as the audio tour - I wish I'd recorded it. Where we now have ONE voice and script very soon there will be many - then you can choose who you want as your guide.

 

And then imagine an audiotour pinned to locations as you walk around a town, showing you before and after vistas, telling you stories or offering an alternative soundscape. Not if your in a hurry. And if on your daily commute you'll turn yourself into an expert and need to upload your own research and insights. Here the 'Blood, guts and babies' medical tour from the Wellcome Foundation. 

 

And at the risk of getting hit by the next best, take your eyes of the footpath and take a augmented view not just of a shop or cafe, but illustrated history ... London Blitz would be scary, to see a motorbike currier heading towards a bomb crater.

 

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Serendipity of the chance lunch where ironically we shared ideas about social media

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 8 Oct 2011, 13:48

An extraordinary end to an extraordinary week capped by what might have been lunch alone, but at The Hub the chances of a meeting with like minds is always high. (The Hub is the Open University Campus refectory; it sits, as the name suggests between various faculties behind Walton Hall).

I joined OU eCommerce Director Mark Everest and Project Manager Alex Cabon; our enthusiasm tumbled over each other like dogs playing in fresh snow.

Alex was the Student President of AIESEC a remarkable organisation that puts young minds to work, mixing their education with applied thinking (a heady combination, we call it 'practice-based learning' at the OU Business School.

It made me think partially of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, but also of a consultancy service that Oxford students give to local businesses through the Careers Office there, mixed in with The School of Leaders in Poland (a Soros Foundation that Dr Zbigniew Pelzynski established soon after the collapse of Soviet communism).

Mark enthused about video over text - this should be me to camera for 90 seconds rather than 270 words.

I shared my idea for 'WikiTVia' in which every highfalutin wikipeadia entry becomes a video clip while Mark hankered for thousands, or was that hundreds of thousands or even a million testimonials from the OU Community i.e. everyone, 'stakeholders' we would all them, students, staff, alumni ... he mentioned the value of the footage of the plane that landed on the Hudson River, even though it was caught on a mobile phone. Footage of rough quality with an important story or event captured is sometimes referred to as 'Zapruder' after the footage of the JFK Shooting ... production stands count for nothing where the story is powerful.

During the Tsunami in Japan while I watched footage first on BBC News 24, then CNN and finally on NHK English my 12 year old son was watching authentic content without the commentary directly from mobile phones on YouTube. We've got 'citizen journalism,' now for 'citizen TV.' No longer should we be asking people to pick up their pens, rather we should be saying click record on your phone.

I've armed myself with a Sony Flip, yet I've been a broadcast cameraman in my time.

What a Sony 35mm digital camera (movie quality, can be hired for £75 a day!) cannot deliver is the content, that extraordinary story, the narratives of each person's experience with the OU. Often I feel overwhelmed by these personal stories. Anyone can tell their story - I'll interview you over Skype if that helps. Perhaps interviewing requires skills and patient, there are craft skills to shooting, editing and lighting a 'film' (which we still call them).

My role in bringing these stories to the screens of smartphones, iPads, laptops, TVs and the like occurs every time I reach for a digital recorder (sound or sound and pictures), but in the coming months will be me and a BAFTA nominated cameraman.

Have you got a story to tell?

(63137)

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

The value of voice recognition software

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 7 Feb 2011, 14:05

I have in front of me a script for a video production dated 1986. I could have typed it in by now. However, I have twenty of these to do and if I want to digitise 2.5m words from old journals and letters I may need something faster than typing it up or scanning it in.

Dagon%20Speaking%20Naturally%20Software%201.JPG

Voice recognition seems to be the answer and this seems to be the product.

I've been familiar with the oddly named, though brand creating 'Dragon Speaking Naturally' since it came out. Now I feel a need. I doubt it'll solve an OU H800 essay crisis, though often reading something out loud is the best test of its sense.

Dagon%20Speaking%20Naturally%20Software%202.JPG

Any recommendations or warnings?

I could also skip the writing/typing process entirely and turn into text what I record verbatim, for example, poolside coaching or teaching to inform fellow coaches. They can have it as a podcast and/or as text.

My aim is to find ways to get the contenst of my mind

On verra.

With all the production materials, scripts, schedules, budgets and other plans it feels retrograde to be taking a linear video production and turning it into a Power Point style presentation, but this is the plan. And to treat this as the penultimate draft before segments are replaced with video and interactive and assessment components are added.

DSC00727.JPG

The topic is The Great Picture which illustrates the struggle Lady Anne Clifford had to keep an inheritance her father bequeathed to his brother Henry during his lifetime for a cash sum, so denying his then 15 year old daughter what she considered to be her rights. The painting is dated 1646.

I have the permissions to use pictures of miniatures and other portraits dated from 1986 which I'll have to renew, including the lute music copyright. I own photographs of the picture I took between 1974 and 1990 and have broadcast quality video footage of the picture too. I also have and this replica which I've just photographed on the top of the piano where the figures are the size of Ken and Barbie rather than life-size.

The Voice Artist who 'played' Lady Anne will be replaced simply because I want to re-conceive it so that 'Harry Potter style' all the figures in the painting (and the painitings of paintings) tell their own story.

We'll see.

And this is simply an exercise to see if I can make the Adobe eLearning Suite 2 software I picked up at Learning Technologies sing.

 

 

 

 

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 7 Feb 2011, 16:39)
Share post
Design Museum

Come Fly with PDP !

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jul 2012, 07:58

I had an interview in London that by fortuitous timing ties directly into the H808 ECA (end of course assessement) that I have to complete and upload in the next 13 hours. What is more, every part of the MA in Open in Distance Education with the OU would have some application to the role for which I'd applied. Personal Development Planning (PDP), the subject of the ECA, would be imporant too, indeed it is a vital component of 'learner-driven' or 'learner-centred' education. Successful, engaged, pumping PDP is at the heart of e-learning - people must be motivated to take the initiative, to drive their learning while others support them in every way they can with appropriate resources, many of which will be 'electronically enabled,' i.e. 'e-learning'.

I have a draft of the ECA written, the choices of evidence have been made, collated and labelled.

I've already uploaded a draft so feel confident that the ETA system will handle whatever else I do.

I had the file, rather more chunky printed out and clipped into an Arch-Lever Folder than on a memory stick or zipped on the laptop so that I could review it on the train journey in and out of London. I like paper; things need to be expressed in other ways that via a QWERTY keyboard. It helps to talk, to discuss, to animate your thoughts with your hands even ... as we shall see.

On the way into town I find myself sitting with a friend who is 18 months into the Creative Writing course at Sussex Univeristy and was having a second interview with a literary agent; our respective career paths were shared. He is a professional photographer who has an online resource of stock photos targeted at UK Councils. I don't look at the ECA.

The interview, like so much I now do, is duly reflected upon, though for reasons of privacy not here as an open blog. This debrief, this self-assesment, served a dual purpose, at the front of my mind, of course, is the possible outcome and responses to the interview. And notes on how and where I felt it went well, or not so well, for future reference and to judge what improvements I might make when attending such interviews in future and how to compose my written thanks when I reply.

I recognise the purpose and value of reflection and make the time to do so

At the back of my mind, of course, as we talk, is the ECA.

Coming to the end of the interview process I felt compelled to share this sketch to add conviction to my belief that Personal Development Planning is 'at the heart of things'.

f1a749e0e8e2fe72ed06794383f7f981.jpg

I did this earlier today to get a handle on how in one shot I now see PDP, not as a self-contained 'do it and move on unit' at the start of a course, but at the heart of what you do: at the beginning, the end, everything in between ... and beyond. (And yes, you should hear Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) saying it!).

It was somewhat evangelical of me, but I feel passionate about it. I believe it as a consequence of my own personal experience and from others who take this approach.

Reflection with a second person can help; it is natural that my wife would take an interest in the day's events. This is invaluable, and is a form a assessment. However, where I find I become increasingly animated regarding PDP is that I felt I still hadn't got it right, that had I seen myself in that meeting what was I doing with my hands? What else was I trying to express? Sometimes recording an interview to look over it afterwards has advantages. You need to be winkling away to find ideas and inspiration.

I'd mentioned life-long learning, that PDP can benefit both your career, how you organise a hobby, even family life.

And then I remembered this:

My interpreation, visualised, of what life-long means from H807.

4ee8ecb0ed3cd82e948ab0f7fc2bbd1b.jpg

The problem I have with my sketch of 'PDP at the heart of things' is that it loops back on itself, there is no suggestion of improvement, of advancement.

I toss around further ideas like a board game, the PDP process being, for example, what happens every time you 'Pass Go' in Monopoly. Then I imagined climbing up a helter-skelter, or fairy-lights around a tree. I thought too about Kolb's cycle of development ... and then, as I was standing up waving my hands about I got it ... a great analogy would be of a glider catching a thermal and rising in a series of circles.

'A load of hot air.' My wife remarked, laughing.

And yes, I could imagine giving a presentation and a heckler saying exactly that - so I'd have to have a reply prepared. (Be prepared for anything)

With this in mind I set to work.

Earlier this week I threatened to photograph myself standing next to the family washing-line with my evidence pegged out. This is how I said I would make my choices and write the assignment. As it was raining instead I got a roll of wall-paper backing paper and stuck it to the bedroom wall with masking tape; I would draw my washing line. I have just taken this down and taped it virtically.

At the bottom I draw this.

bcf13c7d5e943bded0d7569befcbd350.jpg


Then I go for this.

 

JFV PDP Cycle as thermalJFV PDP Cycle thermal close up


In a live presentation I would draw this from scratch on the largest sheet I could find, talking my way through it, seeking input, offering explanations.

As a video-asset I would lock off an overhead camera and draw it onto a sheet of A3 paper, possibly over a lightbox, and then use EFX to speed it up. I would then add a voice over.

There are many other ways to play with it to varying degrees of simplicity (authenticity) or ellaboration. Not least by using stock footage of a glider or Condor or some such catching a thermal with labels tagged onto the video archive footage as it played out. Indeed, going from the basic sketch it might be better still to invite course particpants to create their own expression of this PDP as an ascending cycle - say playfully spinning around in front of camera with a balsa-wood model glider with the person's name on it! Fun is good. Originality is good. Personalisation is good. This makes it memorable without needing it as an APP or an electronic alert.

The conclusion I find as convincing as the process.

The process here includes reflection, blogging, collaboration ... and could in due course include video, podcasting, presentation and moderation.

As I was able with ease to add every aspect of H808 onto this simple diagram I felt I had reached an important point, not least vindicating my methodology that might look as if it is depends on technology, but does not. Often the route to get an idea from the mind into the public domain is via face-to-face discourse, a few movements of the arms, then reaching for pen and paper.

This diagram can be draw it up differently depending on the context.

This implied versatily suggests it effectiveness.

PDP as indicated here suggests a set period to repeat or revist the process ... this ought to be expressed to occur every quarter, rather than after every cycle as suggested here with loops that might represent a typical OU unit of two weeks and the activites one engages with along the way.

A productive day then.

 

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Getting away from it ... not quite

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jul 2012, 13:55

A journey across the country to visit family. I find my 85 year old father-in-law translating some Polish to complete a voice over for YouTube clip the Warsaw uprising. This his son tells me is recorded onto his Nebook and edited using Audacity.

For the next hour we discuss how leadership migh be taught online.

He is 85 today. My wife and celebrate 17 years of marriage. I reflect on knowing the family for 26 years, a younger sister introducing me to her older brother being introdcued to the parents and then some years later discovering there was another sister with whom it turns out I deveoloped a soft spot.

After dinner I sit with my sister-in-law's partner, who lectures/tutors fine art, art history and philosophy. It is well after midnight before we tire. I had thought of pressing the record button on the digital recorded I have with me; tomorrow. I recall that their use of technology so far includes little more than tutorials by mobile phone; which has its conveniences.

He put the kibosh on my thinking regarding the commercialisation of education which I conclude is fine for corporations where you are an employee and the company is the client, but not for the freedom to think what you please, indeed without the scope to innovate how would be progress.

Or something like that.

I suppose had I recorded the lengthy discussion I could at least quote him correctly.

But wouldn't recording such a discussion have sullied it?

 

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Neil Anderson, Friday, 31 Dec 2010, 21:15)
Share post
Design Museum

H808 activity 8.1, Podcasting

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 18:44

A few words on Interactive Spaced Education from Firle Beacon on the South Downs.

Dr B Price Kerfoot

Dr Price Kerfoot trained at Harvard Medical School and Oxford and then elected to spend two years not in research, but in developing educational tools.

Dr Kerfoot took a simple learning problem, the failure of his urology students to retain enough of what they learnt and went looking for a fix.

Medics are used to cramming for exams, testing themselves with question cards, so Dr Kerfoot wondered if this method of 'spaced learning' could be shown to have educational value; it has a history. Research with Harvard students showed that it could work so a programme was created that would develiver sets of questions to students by email with links to a website that would set multiple choice questions.

Students would learn and be tested at the same time.

The results, written up in various journals, have proved to be encouraging; the platform is now available to others to exploit.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

New blog post

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 25 Dec 2010, 06:55

I was woken at 5.30am by the neighbour's boiler. This has been going on since October 19th. Either they move their boiler, or we move house. There is no other reason why I'd be up this early having come to bed after midnight.

Had meant to blog on e-learning in relation to the history of the TV Chef.

There was a piece on BBC Radio 4 around 11.30am 24th December on the TV chef, their books and now their Smart Phone Apps. We had clips from Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson and an interview with a guy from Random House.

The ulimate 'how to' books, e-learning or e-training when it migrates to the web and to mobile devices? Voice controlled so you don't get gravy in your keyboard.

Has no one hear of printing off?

The point is made about the Cookery Book market having to adapt. Apps are the way forward.

Are Apps the way forward to e-learning across the board?

Micro-chunks of learning to your smart phone or in tray?

I see a feature for the likes of Interactive Spaced Education as well as doing a couple of courses here to try out the system (again), I will start producing my own content for this platform in the New Year.

Happy Christmas

(Staggered that neither the 12 or 14 year old are up opening their Christmas stockings ... we've had a decade of early mornings.)

Any advice on how to deal with the neighbour's boiler?

As podcasts go, I guess they have come of age when the Pope gets in on the act.

BBC Radio 4 iPlayer for the Pope's Podcast

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Course overlap H807, H808, H800 ...

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jul 2012, 13:29

I had thought as I did H807 that it would be good to do again, that it was all happening too fast, not just relearning how to study, but knowing how best to function in this online environment.

Frank Coterell-Boyce reflected on what an advantage he gopt doing year 6 over in primary school because he was too young for Secondary School. It is extraordinary how empowering it is to feel on top of a subject.

As it turns out there is overlap between H807 and H808; for the most part I am grateful. On the other hand I wonder if I couldn't have done this MA in a year and done 20-30 hours a week instead.

Still, this is a chance for me to make choices regarding the plethora of tools and platforms available. This is the problem, having hundreds of software packages and apps that may or may not make a contribution to a piece of work I may, or may not, at some stage prepare (probably not) and deliver.

I'm surprised how on a second or third go with Skype, Google Docs and Skype that you can feel at home with them and share what they do with others. I translated a swimming coach's CV on sports credentials from Catalan to English using Google Docs this morning. Extraordinary.

I already upload to Flickr and Facebook, and YouTube. I blog anything between 1,000 and 10,000 words a day. I walk around with the means to photograph anything, video anything or record notes on anything all of which can be easily uploaded to a myriad of mostly free platforms.

And if people want me on a mobile device that easy for them to set up.

But what is the contents of my mind worth?

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Podcasting - flick record any old time and see what you get?

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jul 2012, 13:46

It seems counter-intuitive to drive 160 miles to record a Podcast but I will reflect in due course on why this was better than recording a Skype conversation. We recorded onto a Netbook through the mic on a headset while cooking dinner.

This produced audio that was remarkably satisfactory to my professional ear. (I did six months as a sound engineer with a broadacast TV crew once upon a time).

Ian (a director and e-learning 'guru') and I last worked together in 1998 on the launch of the European Stock Exchange EASDAQ and were 're-united' by LinkedIn about five weeks ago.

I need to recognise after thirty years in 'the media' that even recording good sound has been reduced to pressing a button. All the effort we used to make to get 'clean' sound is now redundant. The microchip has given recording devices a brain that filters out the extraneous sound.

We recorded onto Audacity; I will clean up the 'noise' as I would a photograph using Adobe Photoshop.

I'll also edit down as we covered four or five topics ... in as many hours.

We discussed collaboration online, e-learning, video production, podcasting and his intentions to compete in an Iron man in Abu Dabi next March, also his e-lerning work in Abu Dabi.

My visit was in part to spend an hour coaching him in the pool. So we do a podcast my fixing the Front Crawl in a reasonably competent adult swimmer who will have to swim for about 90 minutes in the Gulf waters before doing the mega-cyle and a marathon run.

We've known each other since our teens and have made 30+ videos together and a few short films too.

Would this exercise have been better had I prepared questions?

For us to have jotted down some possible responses?

For the recording to have been done more formerly in a quieter setting?

Should all audio tracks be supported by text? Which may make the audio redundant?

I recall the audio we listened to in week 1 of Robin Goodfellow et al, and having transcribed what they had to say would quite frankly have preferred a Twitter from each instead of a few minutes of audio waffle.

Do we afford waffle credibility by recording it and posting it online for comment and for posterity?

My concluding thoughts?

Forget polish, only content matters.

Somewhere in this podcast (to follow eventually) we dicuss the 8mm footage from 'the hill' shot by Zapruder. He had no skill at all with the kit, or any craft as a camerman, but the event he caught on camera was the shooting of JFK. The 'Zapruder Effect' describes film (or audio) that may be of poor quality, but the content of such importance it doesn't matter.

I think we've reached the stage where audience and listeners don't give a monkeys for 'professional production standards' so long as the content is of interest.

A role for Podcasts in E-learning? Absolutely.

The three hours I recorded of a machine gunner from the First World War can now be made available for everyone to enjoy. Forever?

Or will his voice become lost in the several hundred (or thousand) recordings of other veterans?

On verra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Nicholas Keene, Thursday, 16 Dec 2010, 08:16)
Share post
Design Museum

H808 Core activity 4.1: Multimedia as evidence

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 12:34

How can you create and store evidence of your engagement with different media in the following types of activity on H808?

Contributions to online discussion

  • Select and export to MyStuff
  • Screen Grab. Date and name.
  • Export to word, cut and paste. Store on hard drive.
  • Note any references, when accessed and URL
  • Cut and paste into PebblePad
  • Title and tag for easy search at a later date


Personal blog postings or comments on others’ blogs

  • As above
  • Or leave them where they are with links to the page(s) concerned.


Contributions to the course wiki

  • Link to course wiki where current content, history and edit history can be viewed.
  • Screen-grab of edit page
  • If not self-evident highlighter tool of contributions made (though this is hardly the point, its a collaborative effort, what your left with on the screen may be minimal if your contribution was to edit) i.e. the history of participation is more important than words you may 'claim' as your own (which you can’t and shouldn't - you wouldn't have written them if you hadn't been prompted by others ... and ohters might have written it if you hadn't) by the end of the thing,


Notes and informal reflections written by hand

  • Scan, label, store and back-up (as above)
  • Turn hand-drawn mind maps into bubbl-us or Compendium documents.

But why on earth keep all of this stuff?! At what point deos the storing and collating of assets become a neurosis or obsession? What matters is the end result (though not apparently in learning). Once was a time you teacher or tutor knew you were doing the work a) you turned up b) you wrote the essays c) you could talk intelligently on the topic in class and tutorials d) you passed exams e) you submitted a thesis. Do we know need a webcam grab to prove we are sitting at the coputer? An image of us in a library taking out a book?

Examples of formal writing (TMAs, reports, etc.)

  • Copy and paste into MyStuff
  • Upload into MyStuff as a file
  • Put in a file on hard drive.
  • Back up specific folder and/or hard drive

Extracts from PowerPoint presentations

  • Screen grab, date and label.
  • Note any references.
  • Cut and paste selected slides, content and notes.
  • Download the entire PowerPoint presentation and flag the slides/notes that are of interest
  • Store as above. (hard drive, zip, url link, as animation/movie in YouTube)

Extracts from audio presentations

  • download as MP3 files
  • transcribe and store as text
  • store online or offline as a podcast
  • Store or link in podcast host such as Podbean

Extracts or screen dumps from websites or video presentations

  • download to desktop
  • store in any of a variety of video playback tools

Link to YouTube favourites

  • link or add to Flickr
  • Cut and paste URL with dashboard into your blog or elsewhere online.

Comments from peers and tutors

  • Attached to the saved document where the comment(s) occur as a file or cut and paste into MyStuff
  • Downloaded onto hard-drive and saved/backed-up to zip drive.
  • Save/export selection into MyStuff, label, include access date and tag.


Extracts from published sources (images, newspaper/magazine stories etc.).

  • Linked or flagged in proprietary webpage
  • downloaded as text or saved as HTML
  • Scan and load as JPEG in any photo gallery (Kodak Easy Share, Picasa, Flickr, Tumblr etcsmile




 

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Oct 2010, 08:08)
Share post
Design Museum

The e-learning professional. (v. long)

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 31 Jan 2013, 06:23

The podcast H808 e-learning SMEs.

(Makes them sound like a prog rock band of the 1960s. Perhaps they were?)

[V. Long version here. 4,000 words +. 1,000 or under in H808 Tutor Forum.

Edited versions in the next 24 hours/couple of days in EduBlogs at www.mindbursts.edublogs.org]

Week One

I may be a professional swimming coach (amongst several things), but my head coach told me ‘I think too much.’ Think less and get the athletes to do more. Keep it simple. If there is any context however where thinking is the currency, literally if we are talking professionalism, then the more I think the more professional I become.

(Or not).

Many would say that a 3,000 word blog entry is 'unprofessional.'

I call it shared reflection, the 'uncut version.' It is the outcome of over five hours thinking on the topic. Hours banked. Ideas turned into cash. By definition when I have made two years worth of regular deposits I may call myself and even be defined as an 'e-learning professional' with the MA to suggest I have joined that club, and a job that for the remuneration I receive makes me a professional rather than a wishful thinking wannabe.

It is unprofessional as a post-graduate student to be flippant and/or verbose.

A professional would keep this down to 500 words, yet I am stretching it to 3,000. The uncut version. Reflection in action. My mind at work. Not the athlete sharing a few ‘mots justes’ after a successful race, but the race itself and all the training before hand. The choice words, bullet point form only with an abridged commentary goes into my Tutor Group Forum. Under 250 words there, is my targert. Under 1,000 words per OU blog had been my thinking too. Blown that then.

Watching the TV I fall asleep.

Listening to the radio (i.e. any audio) I do something else - I’d be distracted anyway, I have to.

In an effort to get into my head the points being made by OUr E-learning Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) I first read the transcripts provided and then listened to the podcast while reading the text.

What shocked me was how much I had missed.

I do less than skim read it appears, all I must do is to look at patterns and shapes. No wonder I learn so little when I do nothing more than read.

Lesson learnt?

This isn’t an 'airport thriller' I can read at break-neck speed chaisng the protagonist as he is in turn chased; this requires a different kind of reading.

It requires effort.

I must work with the text, make notes. Just highlighting choices words and sentences isn’t enough either. Effort I can do. It is consistent effort unless I am working under exam conditions where I struggle. There is always something more interesting to read.

Historically, when successful academically, it has been a huge effort and very time consuming for me. I have to take notes (long hand). Then I have to take notes on the notes. I have to make lists, take quotes and re-order the material. I may still not make sense of it. I need to chase up a few references. I need to find my own patterns. I need to discuss it. Argue about it, agree and disagree. And then, gathering up a wad of papers and scraps of paper the whole lot needs to compost for a few months. Then, and only then, might I start to ‘get it,’ and have something constructive and original to say.

Do any of us have this kind of time anymore? Did we ever?

(My late father, my daughter and a friend, a partner in one of the world's leading law firms, all have/had photographic memories. They would have read the transcript and been able to pick out its salient points after the first swift reading. Not so me, not so us?)

The process you see playing out here is an attempt to mulch the content, slow cook it and hope that I can achieve something in five hours that would normall require five months.

Keep cooking.

The second time round with the SME podcast I first worked with the text, highlighting points and generally trying to get my head around it. If you’ve come across Jakob Nielsen’s ‘Writing for the Web,’ this is what I did – isolating sentences and ideas, creating headings, sub-headings and bullet points, in a word ‘chunking. In fact, I begin to get close to doing what Richard Northridge recommends in the ‘OU Guide to Studying’ (1990) note taking, creating concept cards and then even looking for links and patterns in the text itself.

Lesson learnt?

This takes time and requires effort. I’m not great on effort. My modus operandi is (or has been) to take in volumes of material, but if this is only at a surface level no wonder I am often more frustrated than informed.

Lesson learnt?

Less is more. Rather than chasing a reference, another report or book, I need, at first, to ensure that the text I have in front of me has been dissected, not consumed, not afforded nothing more than a passing glance, but pulled apart, then reconstructed.

Lesson learnt?

Effort

Not the expected outcome of this simple task – my faltering approach to learning laid bare, but a valuable lesson at the start of the module.

At last I’m listening to the podcast.

I made myself think, made myself listen, I 'sat forward' (the technical term for interacting, for engagement.) I made myself read and take notes, made me list the contrasting ideas, the arguments for and against, the justifications ... and to cluster these ideas and adjust my own thoughts accordingly based on my experience.

I had something to think about as I listened.

Do I have anything in common with these e-learning professionals in relation to assumptions and aims?

  • Do I have different understandings of what it means to be an ‘elearning professional’?
  • Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?
  • The profession of teacher?
  • The profession of a university lecturer or academic?
  • The profession of a trainer or staff developer or a human resources developer in private corporate bodies?
  • Is there an elearning professional?
  • And should I be describing my job as that of an elearning professional?

My short reply, given my background in sports coaching, is simple.

  • If you are paid you are a professional.
  • If you are the athlete and not paid you are an amateur.
  • If you’re the coach and not paid you are a volunteer.

Therefore, if someone is good enough and experienced enough (or simply good at selling themselves and their ideas) – and they are remunerated for their efforts, then they are a professional.

Rebecca Addlington is a professional athlete. Bill Furness, her coach, is a professional too.

At my swimming club all the swimmers are amateur, though some through bursaries to pay for County and Regional development training are by definition quasi-professional as they are receiving benefits if not in cash, then in kind. Some of the coaches and I do not define myself as a swimming coach; it’s a hobby that’s got out of hand.

I have ‘put in the hours.’

(Which I can qualify by saying I have put in the appropriate hours. i.e. time will not make you a professional, the enduring focus of your efforts will)

One of the key themes of the podcast made by each of the speakers is that a professional has put in the time.

They have put in the effort, gained experience that is directly or indirectly relevant to their e-learning expertise – and by dint of this expertise (and being paid by the OU, for books and reports, lectures and workshops too perhaps) they are all professionals.

At the swimming club many of us (its the biggest club in the South of England) have earned our places through years of experience, gaining qualifications and attending regular courses (CPD) to retain a licence to teach or coach aquatics. Many of us, paid or not, can call ourselves 'professionals.'

Just as I’ve reduced my core thought to that of the contract between a professional and an amateur, by picking out the ideas of each speaker and doing something similar a number of interesting points regarding what it means to be an ‘e-learning professional’ emerge.

In this see-saw of ideas the protagonists have a habit of changing places.

By defining professional we should also think what it means to be unprofessional.

I’ve allowed this dance to play out as it leaves me with an image of a professional being circled by the professional wannabe, the unprofessional (as yet), the layperson, the naive, virgin student. A mass of non-professionals clamoring around the few.

The points and arguments frequently fall into another diametrically opposed set: the qualitative vs. quantitative, an objective point vs. the subjective, a value judgment vs. the facts. Everything overlaps - a Venn Diagram of the points would show sets within sets.

Adrian Kirkup

· Amateur vs. Professional (there are many highly ‘professional’ amateurs)

· Ineffective vs. effective.

Robin Mason

· Hasn’t done it for long vs. been doing it for a long time

· Undergraduate vs. PhD (A sub-set of the above)

· Hasn’t put in the hours vs. has put in the hours (more of the same)

· Immature vs. Mature (a variation of the same. Though professionalism is not a consequence of maturity)

· Inexperienced vs. Experienced.(Experience that takes time to acquire, and a certain manner to be effective)

Gill Kirkup

· A new field vs. an established field. (Disagree. Though a new field of subset of a professional activity would be definably professional).

· New vs. Established. (as above)

· No established standards vs. abides by general and specific received standards.

· Acting alone or part of a professional association.

· Part of the UK Higher Education Academy or not. (a subset of the above)

· Part of a legitimate community or not. (as above)

· Committed vs. Uncommitted.

· Respectful vs. Disrespectful.

· Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice. (successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective)

· Juvenile and professional vs. professional only if matured. (as Robin Mason)

· Unlicensed vs. Licensed.

Robin Goodfellow

· Genuine vs. not genuine.

· Unrecognised vs. Recognised.

· Inexperienced vs. Experienced.

· Independent vs. tied (to government or a business).(disagree)

· Technical foundation vs. no technical foundation

· No need for a label, e-learning professional vs. professional enhancer. (strongly agree)

Chris Jones

· Takes time vs. no time.(as Robin Mason and Robin Goodfellow. You have to put in the time to become a professional. Which I guess applies as much to the professional criminal, as the Professional lawyer. Little p, Big P- see below)

· Part of the mainstream vs. Specialist. (disagree)

· ‘Lone Ranger’ and early stages of innovation ... vs. early majority and established (themes of Rogers)

· Enthusiasts vs. the not interested. (strongly agree)

· Society and the professionalisation of modern life (quotable)

· Sport in the 20th century and professional vs. amateurs in sport

· Traditional and modern professionals

· Autonomous vs. dependent

· Trustworthy vs. (spin/PR/Branding/Agenda)

· Not part of a trade association or governing body vs. part of such an association

· Generalist vs. specialist

· An outside vs. part of something

· Formalised standards vs. none

· Unmonitored vs. monitored

· Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?

· Little ‘p’ pr big ‘P.’

Jonathan Vernon (moi)

· Doesn’t look the part vs. looks the part.

· Lacks form vs. has form.

· Self-taught vs. ‘done a course.’

· Qualified (with the piece of paper to prove it) vs. Unqualified (however expert they may be).

Some thoughts on the points identified above

It is worth reflecting on Robin Mason’s point about ‘putting in the hours.’

The suggestion that genius and expertise requires 10,000 hours of effort is no urban myth. A study carried out at the Berlin Music Conservatoire identified three groups of graduates. Asked to estimate how many hours of practice and playing each student had put in since picking up an instrument they were then divided into three distinct categories: up to 4,000 hours, up to 8,000 hours and up to 10,000 hours. The first became teachers, the second category got places in orchestras whilst the tiny number who had put in 10,000 hours (takes around 10 years to do this) were most likely to be the solo artists, the concert pianists, the mavericks, the Vanessa Maes and Mozarts. Whilst all these categories are professionals, they are paid for their skills, the use of the word ‘professional’ to distinguish those who are expert, who have attained a certain standard, would in my view apply to the musicians who have made it into a top orchestra – with the soloists in a category beyond the ‘professional.’ Our ‘OU H808 E-learning SME professionals', given the decades of thought they have put into what we now define as ‘e-learning’, have been part of this ‘orchestra’ of professionals for some time, and who knows, we may have a Mozart amongst them. Personally, I've not read enough from any of them yet to know any better. I look forward to hearing what they have to say and how they say it.

Interestingly, Robin Mason returns repeatedly to a theme of time passing, of gaining, requiring or acquiring maturity of thought. Though I feel as if I am clutching at ideas in an amorphous cloud here, my sense is that whether it is professional with a big P or a little p, that the word ‘maturity'; might say it all.

What does maturity imply?

Growing up, lessons learnt, age, growth, adult hood, a way of behaving, able to fit in and contribute to a community and so on.

I disagree with Gill Kirkup

If I have understood her correctly regarding her suggesting that only in an established field is something professional whilst in a new field this is not possible. We can all think of (or at least imagine) an unprofessional ‘professional.’ The corrupt lawyer, the doctor struck off the medical register, the TV food expert who is not a doctor at all (and so a sham professional).

In 2000 I would have defined myself, as some of the panel here would have done, as what is now termed an ‘e-learning’ professional. After fifteen years in corporate communications, training and learning, creating linear, then non-linear and ultimately web-based materials the companies and government department for whom I worked through various production companies had to see me as ‘professional.’ I hadn’t done the post-graduate studying, but I’d learnt through observation and experience (first carrying video kit into the changing rooms of a nuclear power plant age 17 assisting with a training film for BNFL at Sellafield).

Interestingly, I don’t currently consider myself to be an e-learning or a learning professional and even with the MA I hope to gain in 2011 I will by my own definition not be a professional until I am being paid for my expertise.

To use a horse-racing term I lack 'form.'

I'm literally out of the race (for now).

Being studious here and building my confidence is part of the plan to regain the 'professional' tag.

Does a barrister on retirement cease to be a professional lawyer?

Socio-econonmically he/she would still be defined as a 'professional' would they not?

I agree however, very much, with Gill Kirkup’s views regarding ‘respect’ and her definition of an e-learning professional within the academic community.

Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice.’

(This, for me, successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective. i.e. you can be a professional Professional).

I disagree with Robin Goodfellow’s view that a professional must be independent vs. tied (to government or a business). If we look beyond e-learning professionals and academia it would be quite wrong to say that someone is not professional simply because they represent the interests of an organisation or government department, let alone are being paid to take a certain stance or have a strongly held view (left or right wing politically, religious or atheist and so on).

If nothing else, I believe I have shown above that there is a natural dichotomy, if not a debate even an implicit conflict, between views on whether a person, or institution, or field of study, can be defined as professional or not, worthy of study or not.

It is engagement in such a debate where a professional proves their credentials.

A professional is a match for anyone, whilst the unprofessional would not play by the rules, make excuses, bow out...

Dare I imply that all the above are differentiating between the educated and uneducated?

Is it so black and white? Students at school, scholars as Edwardian’s would have defined them, and undergraduates, graduates too, in terms of education can never be defined as ‘professional.’

Or can they?

The government pays students to go to college, to stay on in secondary school after the age of 16 – does not this make them pros, like a boy of a similar age getting paid to play football in an academy, they literally ‘turn pro.’

I agree with Robin Goodfellow that there is ‘need for a label’, that what is currently the e-learning professional may be the ‘professional enhancer ‘of the future if the UK HE Academy has their way (though I doubt the term will stick). Just as Robin was (we were) once web-based learning professionals, or learning professionals, or professionals in education...

Big P, little p (Chris Jones) is the most memorable expression of an idea in relation to the professional Professional that I take from this and a worthy talking point. And 2,500 words in I could sum it up with a Twitter count.

Professional is an adjective and a noun.

Anyone can be described as ‘professional,’ (adjective) by dint of their behaviour and experience, however to be a ‘professional’, (noun), various criteria should be met. Depending on how your measure up, by Chris Jones’s definition, you are either Big or Little P.

(I can think of other categories where a similar way of looking at things could be applied, for example, ‘engineer’. The person who fixes my washing machine may call himself an ‘engineer,’ but Isambard Kingdom Brunel was an ‘Engineer’. A sports psychologist is no longer allowed to call themselves such, they are sports scientists. So Psychologist, if not professional, not has a legally binding form of expression and use).

I disagree however with Chris Jone’s view that Professionals (big P you notice) have to be specialists whilst implicitly, if they are professional at all (little p) they are not, or unlikely to be so if they are part of the mainstream.

Or do I?

(I'm changing my mind as I write this, reflecting on a matter tends to do this. You twist yourself in so many knots and then find you are looking in the opposite direction - and happy to do so)

Onwards

Is there an implicit elitism here that makes me uncomfortable, an obvious them and us?

As a Professional I am not ‘part of the mainstream’ ?

Yes, that’s it.

You see the ‘mainstream’ is the population, everyone, in the universe that we are discussing. Professionals are of the mainstream, of society, even if they are a subset community within the broader community.

The likes of Richard Dawkin and Stephen Hawkings are 'professional Professionals' by their engagement with the world, not because of an elitist, hide-themselves away hermit like attitude to knowledge acquisition. Do Simon Schama and Neil Ferguson fall into the same category of professionalism?

Be published and damned, broadcast and be damned even more?

But you don't have to be famous to be Professional (though I dare say you'd cease to be professional if you became infamous).

Or have I been making a mistake through-out this internal debate ... this reflection – that we have always only been discussing Big P professionalism ONLY as part of ‘the whole thing,’ i.e. the specific category of the ‘e-learning Professional’ and just as this time round I haven’t given a moment’s thought to ‘e-learning’ as a term, I have nonetheless unnecessarily dissected the term ‘professional.’

I’m yet to click through the OED online.

I daren’t. It may be my undoing.

Back to my idea of a Venn Diagram.

If ‘professionals’ is the universe then we have two subsets, Professionals (Big P) and professionals (little p) (the noun only). Far smaller, and intersecting both these sets, we have ‘e-learning.’ There are in e-learning little P and Big P professionals.

Still with me?

But there are also non-professionals, and even  the unprofessional to consider. Can they also be defined as Non-professionals (Big N) and Unprofessionals (Big U).

Final thoughts

Might a professional be defined as someone with 'qualified confidence in their field?'

Not finished yet

I've got a Venn Diagram to draw, some visualising to do.

Can a loner be a professional?

I enjoyed Chris Jones's point about the ‘Lone Ranger’ that in early stages of innovation there are maverick, loners having a go at something new way ahead of anyone else - think Dr Emmett Brown in 'Back to the Future' tinkering away at the construction of a time-travelling automobile. Are such people professionals or even professional? Does this 'odd-ball' behaviour disenfranchise you from the professional community, even if you have the mind the size of a planet?

A consultant escapes the hospital ward for a couple of years to undertake research. Just because they are beavering away on their own, being a 'Lone Ranger' doesn't disqualify them from the category of 'Professional,' (Big P), or even 'professional Professional' (little p, Big P).

Dare I suggest that our panel of e-learning experts are 'professional e-Professionals' ?

I don't even begin to delve into the thinking behind innovation diffusion. This is an entire module in its own right. It is called 'Innovations in E-learning', or H807 for short.

For more read 'Diffusion of Innovations' E.M.Rogers. (2005) 5th edition.

Nor am I going to teach the definition 'e-learning.'

Is there a professional 'look.'

Forgive me if I make a comparison here between the need for barristers to put on the appropriate garb in court and so look Professional with a big p, compared to those wishing to be called professional and seen as Professional who don't look the part. Poolside as coaches it is expected that all teachers are appropriately dressed in the club colours and well groomed - this looks professional. There was once a time when teachers wore a jacket and tie, so looked professional like fellow professionals such as lawyers and doctors. Don't academic look the part, 'look professional' in their gowns and mortar-boards?

And having addressed 'looks' can someone sound 'professional?

Think how a director chooses actors to play a role. Look at Michael Cane in 'Educating Rita,' is this the stereotypical professional Professor?

Another discussion, but coming from corporate communications we have been through exercises of using authentic presenters (people who work at the place) compared to buying in 'professional' presenters. To do justice to the message in the TV medium the professional broadcasters were far better at putting over the points the client wanted to make.

As I said, another discussion, a different thread.

P.S. It would be unprofessional to post such a long entry into a tutor forum, where a 500 word, even a 250 word version will be posted (the bullet points, or just my thoughts on the key bullet points ... or just where I strongly agree or disagree).

Lesson Learnt ?

Professionals put in the time and effort, and follow rather than ignore guidelines for the community in which they operate.

It strikes me that academics, like creatives, are more interested in reputation and recognition than money.

Is it not striking that not one of our panel mention it?

Can you be a professional without it?

And what about spelling and grammar?

The ability to communicate. Have I mentioned that. Can the professional spell?

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 5318815