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Happy Grampa Day

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 20 Aug 2014, 20:20

Fig. 1 Jack Wilson MM with his daughter, Tyne Cot Cemetery, August 1992

I'm sure everyone has a date when they recall a close family member: my late grandfather would have been 118 today. He was born on the family farm in Dalston, Cumberland on this day in 1894. Now that would have been something to get the attention of the news and social media: 118 years old. The oldest man alive celebrated his 111th yesterday and there's a character who still goes into work four days a week in New York - he's 104. If I am not mistaken the oldest person ever to live was a French woman who made it to 126 and only died in the last year or so.

From E-Learning IV

 

Fig. 2. The oldest man in the world ... with more than just one foot in the grave?

Twenty years in a care home? It must depend on the quality of life you have: bed ridden, or like the late Norman Wisdom the life and soul of the party. From about age 86 onwards my grandfather would say, 'I've had a fair innings. His wife had recently died. A decade later he was still coming to 'ours' for Christmas lunch with three sisters in law who in turn were 98 96 and 92 ! They were long livd, frugal, non-alcohol drinking Quakers who kept themselves engage and busy. My late great aunt Mary was doing home visits to 'her old ladies' who were ten years younger than her. This all in the North East (Fenham, Gosforth, Ponteland). 

So, no more 'grampa' (as we called him as children), and no more mum either: she would have been 83. So much for expecting to outline the Queen.

How we mark the passing of a loved one, and what record we have of their lives fascinates me. Who could unscramble the mass of data that we create, or is created on us and digitised in 2014? Has the nature of an personal archive changed? Who has time for it? Can we rely on or get value from an algorithm that seeks out patterns and narratives in a life story as it occurs and once it is over?

In a dozen posts or more here I look at 'life logging' and what it means: for supporting those with dementia, for example, to supporting and gathering a record of value to family and others.

 

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Must see TV

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 18 Aug 2014, 08:39

Fig.1 Great War Diaries

This series, each episode an hour long, features six or so characters per episode, most from episode to episode drawing on their diaries and letters. A lifetime interested in the First World War I am still amazed and thrilled at the stories that are told and the quality of dramatisation. Without any doubt in my mind THIS is the series that our generation will remember in relation to the marking of the centenary of the First World War.

Elfriede Kuhr, featured above, joins us as a 15 year old developing a crush on a German trainee pilot. Born in what is now Poland she went on to marry a Jew and perform in ante-war performances, having to flee Germany in 1933. 

Inspired stuff; though the four universities offering free courses sadly offering little that relates directly to any of this series at all. A lost opportunity. There is a need for a module on the First World War, not niche parts of it, nor a one hundred year sweep from the 1860s to 1960s.

This stunning production, with the highest production values and a budget to match will see many of the actors appearing in movies and TV, with the director surely moving on to Hollywood.

Brilliant

 

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All change on the weather front

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 17 Aug 2014, 10:16

Fig. 1 Sailing on Seaford Bay

Here we go - autumnal weather, socks for the first time in two months, even a jumper and when out on the water waterproofs, spare clothes and a towel.

This squall sent half the fleet in - to shore that is, only one capsized repeatedly. The first race included many cadets, the youngest crew 8 and 11. 

Out on RIB so drenched through. The sea on the other hand is a balmy 19 degrees. Felt like a bath. Time for a dip?

 

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Beware of Phishing ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 15 Aug 2014, 12:33

You'd think I'd be more savvy. Recently I've had an authentic looking email and webpage link from the Inland Revenue suggesting I had a small tax rebate ... only on clicking on links from this that looped back to the same page did I realise something fishy was going on. The recent scam of emails from 'me' came about as I succumbed to what appeared to be an email from AOL saying the storage on my account had reached capacity - plausible having had an AOL account since they took over Compuserve in 1996. WRONG! This was the breach which has seen several hundred emails going to my contact list. AOL have now blocked this. If in doubt phone or text me and judge for yourself. Asking some question like, 'what did we call strawberry sauce on an ice-cream in Beadnell in the 1960s might do it!!'

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New blog post

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 14 Aug 2014, 08:38

Fig. 1 Amongst the many official tributes a personal commemoration of three brothers killed in the First World War

Lewes memorial remembers some 360 names; they've been pinned to specific addresses within walking distance of the memorial. In Southover Ward for the 75th anniversary a book was published detailing the lives of each person - their school record, photo and home and other information, such as playing cricket for the local team or where they worked.

 

Fig.2. Lewes Town Hall War Memorial

Will anyone remember us a hundred years after we have died?

Just as it is important for us to forget as a learning process and challenge, should society forget, filter or edit? Does commemoration in glorify war with its nationalistic, militaristic and religious connotations?

 

 

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Fig.1 Buyer beware!

Have you come across this? Every so often a book is priced outrageously. Do some people actually buy at this price?! Is it an error? Is it a deliberate error that improves the ranking of an item or a seller on Amazon?

I've been buying ex-library books for 28p +P&P. 

Like old VHS cassettes there are books being 'dumped' - some are out of print gems that have not been digitised so you get to reference directly a book that has been cited rather than relying simply on what others have thought. 

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I never saw the resemblance to Robin Williams

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 14 Aug 2014, 08:46
From Profile Photos

Fig.1 Mork and Jonny

Promoted to being a 'school prefect' in my late teens and required to keep a line of 11 year olds in order during assembly I repeatedly heard mutterings of "Nanno Nanno" : 'Mork and Mindy' was on TV at the time and I supposedly looked like the main character. Only by doing that thing that Robin Williams did with his fingers when greeting Ork would this lot be satisfied. That was1979. 

35 years later I'm in the Senior Common Room at the University of Birmingham and a fellow graduate student asks "Do you know who you look like?" (we'd obviously got bored with talking about the First World War). I tell the above story. Whether or not hair or glasses or smirk are similar I am a) not as hairy b) not funny c) six inches taller d) manic, but never depressed e) English ... though I am inclined to play the fool from time to time. 

I'm polite when people say 'do I know you?'

 

 

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Obsessive behaviour in the family?!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 14 Aug 2014, 08:42

Fig.1. Habit, boredom or an obsessive nature? 

I match the clothes pegs to the item going on the line. I've done this for years and dropped it into the conversation like a confessional at Sunday Lunch. My wife and daughter became very passionate about it - saying I always got it wrong. They in turn confessed to going out and changing the pegs around if I had made a mismatch of colour, or peg type. It appears that the wooden pegs should go with the yellow items, not the yellow 'soft' pegs. We never have enough white pegs and no black pegs at all.

My response to this discovery is to deliberately miss-match all the pegs and then see who is first to go out and change them. 

It goes beyond this too - on how I put items out individually, or hang them over the line sad*

Can you imagine what life is like indoors?

Because no satisfactory system can be agreed upon the preference is not to put anything away at all: clothes, dishes and books come to mind.

Is there a gene for this kind of thing as it comes entirely from my wife's side: a combination of a desire for order, an inability to throw anything away and disagreement on each other's systems.  My mum had a simple answer: if it didn't have its 'place' it went in the bin; the house looked forever like a show-home where no one lived, but at least you had a reason to get the vacuum cleaner out as you could find more than a patch of carpet to use it on.

With autumn approaching the dryer will be used.

Oh shit. I've just noticed its raining and I've just put the washing out. Now. Do I tug everything off and leave the pegs on the line (my wife), take it all down and bung it in the dryer ... or just leave it in the hope that the sun and wind later in the day will still do its work???!

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Av Speed 39 mph

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014, 11:10
From E-Learning IV

Fig. 1 M25 traffic - on a good day

This was for a 135 mile journey, mostly M23, M25 and M40. I've done worse : 27 mph the same journey. Sometimes you wonder whether to take the car out or not. Crawling around the M25 has become my recurring nightmare : you've got to plan for lengthy delays with a tank of fuel, water and grub. At least I had our teenage son with me so I got to hear and ask about a substantial part of his iTunes playlist. And an automatic - a few years of stop starting in jams made me a convert. I'll have a self-driving car please then climb in the back to sleep, read, watch a movie or go online.

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Av Speed 39 mph

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 12 Aug 2014, 10:52

This was for a 135 mile journey, mostly M23, M25 and M40. I've done worse : 27 mph the same journey. Sometimes you wonder whether to take the car out or not. Crawling arounf the M25 has become my recurring nightmare : you've got to plan for lengthy delays with a tank of furl, water and grub. At least I had our teenage son with me so I got to hear and ask about a subdtantial part of his iTunes playlist.

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A must, must listen .... Samuel Pepys

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This BBC Radio 4 drama serial has now run for three years. We are coming to the end I fear as Samuel Pepys gives up his diary. Hasving caught many, if not most of the episodes over the last few years I found this one the must stunning, memorable and relevant. It simply confirms what I have always felt about people, whether we shift in time or place: we are fundamentally the same and will pass through a series of mishaps and moments that become our lives. So tender this one, with Kris Marshal and Katherine Jakeways beautifully bringing to life a laugh out loud, cry to the core script from Hattie Naylor. I can't wait for the TV series and the movie. DON'T ever bother with the diaries themselves - in translation from his code they are what most diaries tend to be - routine and dull with occasional moments of naughtiness and disaster that are lost in the bulk of the text. Hattie Nayloy has revisioned it as a poignant and funny 17th century soap.

15 Minute DramaThe Diary of Samuel Pepys, Episode 5

Sam and Elizabeth are enjoying the sights of Paris, when Elizabeth is suddenly taken ill.

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Get on with it!!!!!

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From E-Learning IV

 Fig. 1 You have sixty minutes. 

I also have one, three and thirty minute timers. I use sixty when I simple MUST get a few hundred words down on the page. I use one minute as a kickstart that can see me happily working away two or three hours later.

This is for some fiction writing. I know that the most crucial thing is to sit down and get on with it. Without distractions. I don't allow myself distractions during this hour. My usual way of doing things is summed up in two words 'anything but ...' Typically I will prepare, research, think about it, jot down some notes ... even sleep on it, even, in fact, especially in the middle of the day.

I've got four or five hours in the bag. I need to lay down a couple more today.

 

 

 

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Escape

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 7 Aug 2014, 07:02

Fig. 1 Five Lasers, like butterflies

Helming the boat that set the buoys for this race (it's called 'Ark') I got this shot and likened it to butterflies in the back garden. I so wanted to be out there competing in the race and juggling my inabilities to control the dinghy, but got a thrill from this moment all the same with this imbalance of boats. One getting away, the others heading towards the buoy.

My turn next week.

I've done 12 hours on a 'pond' in various winds on a Laser so feel ready for the sea, and ready for bruises, muscle pain, a dunking: ready too for managed risk: I will have on a wet suit and lifejacket. I will have a pouch containing an inhaler (asthmatic) and water.

I like danger. I need the physical and mental thrills I so enjoyed in my 'youth'. I prefer a challenge. I want to be hit with a stick and offered a carrot. The OU equivalent of the written exam and recognition of success: TMAs are too infrequent for essay writing to become a way of life, whilst EMAs lack the danger and challenge of an examination.

'Ark' is a bit of a tug, a diesel engined quasi-fishing vessel on which the day's race buoys are kept - hunking great things on a long length of rope with a chain and anchor attached. It has a VHS radio so you call back and forth to your harbour of departure and the Race Officer in the clubhouse and RIBS in the bay.

Seven years since I was last on the thing I had with me a cushion I grabbed from the sofa at home not thinking why I did this ... until in the chop I recalled how I had broken my coccyx training to do this when I had bounced off the rubbery side of the RIB and landed on the anchor: twice. Broken coccyx. Imagine how they test for this in A&E? Basically someone prods you up the arse and if you scream there's a problem. This problem then turns into 'there's nothing we can do'. But here's a rubber-ring you may like to have to sit on for the next six weeks ... or don't sit down????

You live and learn, or rather learn through giving things a go until you can get it right enough.

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Testament of Youth

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Fig. 1. Kit Harington stars in Testament of Youth

It's a good time to read Vera Britain's autobiographical story set during the First World War - based on the movie trailer we're in for a treat next year when this comes out. There's no escaping the hundredth anniversary of WW1 so go with the flow I say.

'Study a period in history until you can hear its people speak' said the historian E H Carr - correct me if I paraphrase, I've struggled to find the page in his 'What is history'. These days you study in a period until you can hear its people speak and write a screenplay (or radio). 

 

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The naughtiness of Sam Pepys

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 5 Aug 2014, 11:52

Fig.1. Sam Pepys - the 17th century 'Alfie'

The devious and duplicity of Samuel Pepys has him with two different ladies this week, both times trying to dodge his wife and keep his man servant Will otherwise occupied while he ... I forget the phrase, but it sounds more like eating a second portion of cake. Having followed this since 2011 I have to wonder if there will ever be a CD or Podcast. Catch this final series in the next 7 days.

Wonderfully evocative, better than any TV miniseries from Netflix, Blinkbox or Amazon Prime. Just as visual. Not so violent. Far more rauncy.

Samuel Pepys

 

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That's Nothing Compared to Passchendaele

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 5 Aug 2014, 17:35

 Fig.1. British Soldiers struggling in the mud - The First Gulf War (early 1991)

1) The cool, calm and quiet of the early morning - my work space.

2) The dog rolling over on her bed and wagging her tail for a bit of TLC

3) A pot of coffee

Set to go. iPad open on a Kindle eBook on the First Gulf War; Mac Mini in Google Docs. Working on something my grandfather said in 1991 when watching a documentary on a DLI private in Saudi Arabia waiting to enter Kuwait during the First Gulf War : 'That's Nothing Compared to Passchendaele', he said regarding the regional news programme from BBC's Looks North. Was it nothing like the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres July - November 1917) or more similar than different? Scale and technology were different, operation and tactics different due to the technology and lessons of previous conflicts, mud for sand ... but a soldier when hit by shrapnel or loses a mate feels the same pain. And there was mud too (see above). There mistakes and the wrong kit. 

The remark was pointed at the individual soldier's lot. BBC Look North were doing a profile of a 'day in the life of a private soldier of the Durham Light Infantry'. It was when looking at the man's rations and gear that my grandfather, by then in his 94th year, said this. It's had me thinking ever since, not least since the plethora of 'soldiering' we are getting and will get during the Centenary Commemorations of the First World War. 

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Fancy windsurfing today? Check Windguru.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 5 Aug 2014, 17:32

Fig. 1. Windguru

I'm always amazed at how much information can be put onto a screen; here, Windguru gives you in a glance the weather and especially the wind forecast in relation to windsurfing and kite boarding - strong winds are vital. It is just an aid to forecasting, though I have found it remarkably accurate, that wind strengths and directions do in reality shift pretty much according to the forecast. This greatly assists with planning a sailing trip - too strong or too weak and I keep away.

 

 

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1914 Evening

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 5 Aug 2014, 17:30

 Fig.1 Screengrab from a news report style presentation on why Britain went to war 100 years ago / at midnight tonight.

I stumbled upon all of this quite by chance. Who'd imagine the BBC Parliamentary Channel would produce an evening of documentaries, talks and lectures. Former foreign secretaries reflect on the important role Edward Grey in 1914 took to keep Britain out of a continental conflict. I hope it's all on the iPlayer as every word is worth sharing. 

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Just a distraction?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 3 Aug 2014, 08:00

Fig.1. Tom Dailey winning Commonwealth Gold

Tom Dailey talks about his bid for a medal the the Rio Olympics, about distractions like school and TV work, and also his desire to do a course, such as Spanish. 

"Because I'm not doing any school any more and I haven't got any TV shows, possibly I want to start a course in Spanish, sociology, politics, something like that, just to keep my mind away from it.

"If your mind is constantly on diving, it will melt. It's always good to have a distraction from it."

It sounds like he should be introduced to the Open University; there were a few Olympic competitors on courses a few years ago. What could be more flexible?

Is it a distraction? Is studying complementary to the day job or daily life?

Any other competitive athletes out there?

I'm still with the OU for a couple of reasons:

  • 1) I love learning and the OU method and platform
  • 2) Anything to keep me away from the TV is a good thing
  • 3) In the case of French I've always wanted to, and at one stage needed to crack written French.

 

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Web Literacy Map

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 10:51

Fig. 1. Mozilla Webmaker Digital Literacy Map

Learning online for a degree means that over a number of modules, sooner rather than later, you are likely to master a number of these digital literacy skills; the more the better. 

Navigation, search and credibility and vital for any student. Can you find your way around the web and the OU library, the student forum and Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Can you search elsewhere for credible results - remembering to tag and cite these. 

You may never need to code, but other 'building' skills are important; the basics of this blogging platform for a start, remixing and re-blogging and accessibility issues. 

Connecting might be the most important skill and habit to acquire: sharing, collaboration and community participation are what make the OU learning experience so special. 'Connectivity' is considered to be the learning theory of the 21st century; that by taking part, connecting and commenting you and others benefit from insights gained, mistakes corrected, problems solved, issues understood, theories tested ... 

While 'openness' is a state of mind that takes a bit of getting used to; some make feel it is 'exposure' or compromising their privacy. Others simply prefer to get on with a task alone, and therefore with less disturbance. You can see that I am an exponent of openness and connectivity. 

 

 

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New blog post

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Fig.1 So much for trying to grow broccoli

I thought picking them off would do. Now I've used a chemical spray sad So much for trying get nature to manage my veg patch. There is no cost saving whatsoever; the plot is too small. There are fresh veggies which so far appear in gluts. I can only assume that each year I'll learn and understand a bit more, and every year have to deal with quite different seasonal weather conditions. 

What is this? Cabbage white? What's the answer?

 

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Did everyone speak fluent english a hundred years ago with a foreign accent?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 10:53

Fig.1. Images from my Google Pics gallery

We are collectively being tipped into a centenary marking of the First World War where all 'foreigners' speak english with an accent; we have German, Russian, French ... we have Serbian and Austro-Hungarian 'english'. We even have Americans voiced by English actors speaking ... english with an American accent. So how do we spot the lads from Newfoundland? Not then part of Canada, but a sovereign state? And from the Indian subcontinent the difference in accents and language from a multitude of sources?

It's all compromise and accommodation

It's very much the BBC perspective: which as the ONLY public service broadcaster the world has tries so hard to represent everyone. I have my say here - Jonathan Vernon on Hastings 1918

WBC anyone?

The World or Globe or Earth or ... whatever 'Broadcasting Company'?

For all or any failings the effort, transparently at least, to strive for 'truth' based on evidence of what is going on.

The Open University has been, was and should take the lead. I wonder, with concern that the legacy of Michael Bean has been to trim back too hard and so diminish us to a voice from the corner of the empire.

I hope the next Vice Chancellor will be a global figure. Bill Clinton comes to mind. 

'Read in a subject until you can hear the people speak'.

E H Carr.

It has taken a forty years but I feel I have the voice of the soldier of the First World War - and the officer, and the girlfriends and mothers at home.

 

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Peace in pieces

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 10:58

Fig. 1. Poster commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima for Japan, 1985. Ivan Chermayeff, de la warr pavilion, Bexhill.

Trip FIVE to this exhibition, this time with my brother-in-law, is imminent. What I adore about exhibitions here is that they are 'bitesize' and smart; they are a perfect 'mind burst'. They are the ideal repeat show too as with each visit you see more, and see differently ... and are influenced of course by the person you are with.

The right image says what each viewer sees in it.

This idea naturally translates into any and every conflict we see today: MH17, fractured and not yet stuck together, the Middle East utterly smashed into dust - I have this visual in my head of Hanukkah Lamp, the smoke from which forms a fractured map of Israel and Palestine. 

From E-Learning IV

From a learning point of view to start with a poster such as this is to follow Robert Gagne theory of learning design; also the natural skill of storytellers and good communications: get their attention.

 

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Learning from mistakes

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 11:04

Fig.1. It felt like this even if it didn't look like this.

I capsized four times this afternoon. The first I got over the side of the dinghy and righted without getting my feet wet; it is six or seven years since I did this crewing a Fireball. Even in a wetsuit the English Channel is cold enough early in the season. The second time I floundered into the drink and the mast ended up embedded in the mud - I had to be rescued. Ominously I'd been out all of six minutes. Was I up to helming a Laser in a Force 6 with a full sail? It took another 90 minutes before the next dunking; I was tired, cramp in one calf, both thighs shaking. By now I'd just about figured out how to wrestle with the gusting wind. I was also trying to get my hands swapped over effectively on ever tack and to keep my feet from being tied up in the mainsheet. Another hour before the fourth capsize: a propper dunking in which I fell overboard rather than the boat capsizing - I was grinning for ear to ear: still am. Like Tantric Sex? Hours of holding off the inevitable then wosh-bang-wallop. It's the most fun I've had in ages. This sudden burst of enthusiasm for sport delivers on many fronts: exercise, fresh air, thrills, a mental and physical challenge ... a modicum of risk and much more to do and learn before I take to the sea. In 10 days, potentially, I have my first club race. In the sea. With waves and tides and other boats. Unlike the brain, my muscles now need a day at least to recover - I feel like I've been on the rack.

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Preach to the converted

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 11:27

 Fig. 1 My big sister and me

'Preach to the converted' is the mantra of advertising; increasingly it should the mantra of e-learning. Give potential students what they want in a way that they are already open to. Don't force feed platforms and tools that are foreign to them, nor pander to the book, pen and notebook when by its very nature if you are learning online you are in front of a computer screen. Blended learning is how it is. Increasingly there is no 'e' - it is simply learning in the 21st century.

'Preach to the converted' ties into the need to know who your students are - in all their diversity. There's a bunch of personas used by the Open University to help with this. We're a handful of shifting types across a spectrum of some 12 personas. This helps educators design for hidden, massive audiences.

Fig.2. The Santorini Museum

Big Sis and me both wanted a book from the Santorini Museum.  

We'd done the Akrotiri excavation and did the museum in our separate ways (family event on the island with people arriving at different times and staying in different place. When we met up we agreed immediately at the frustration at no having a shop at either location. You whet your appetite on a subject are ripe for a bit more. I even started looking for a two week course on Archaeology in Future Learn. No book. Not much of a website. Ample content with each artefact. 

Visitors to museums are converts; not just easy to sell postcards and tea-towels too, but ready to learn and suckers not just for 'the book', but just as prepared to come to the talk, even, these days, to sign up to a taster course.

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