I had an OU Live meeting last night which seemed particularly intense in terms of the demands that I was under. One of the students was having problems with sound so was typing about this problem in the chat box. I was feeling under pressure to support her as I also spoke and manipulated the white board and also tried to encourage engagement from the other students in the group. Sometimes the demands on tutors can be quite extreme when doing OU Live sessions.
Students still seem engaged on the course and there is plenty of useful discussion occurring. I am trying to encourage and support by making my presence felt. There was one unusual reply to a message I posted - "yah". I find it hard to interpret.
The first week was interesting to experience. There were many comments and the discussions seemed to be lively. Many of the concepts were perceptive but the main impression was of energy as there seemed to be postings almost by the minute. I wonder what student responses to such a busy course are.
The course I took as a student (on Corpus Analysis) had many more facilitators and they were more visible as a result. I hope that students do not feel that there is too little presence of the facilitators but they are only human and cannot be present all day every day.
I will be working as a facilitator on the Future Learn MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on presentation skills. If anyone reading this wants to join, they can do so at:
It is free to register for it.
I hope to post some thoughts on how it goes as the course progresses.
Recently finished L185 and E301 for this presentation - time goes so quickly. They are both good courses and students who work hard on them learn a great deal.
It is the centenary of Sun Ra's birth today.
I wrote a post about a documentary about him here:
OU Live is being used for LB160 for the first time this presentation. We had the first two sessions last week. Students in one group needed help getting used to the technology but those in the second group were already familiar with similar systems which meant we could concentrate on the content of the session.
I have commented before on the inspiring commitment of many students and this was underlined again this week by the example of a student who woke up for an OU Live tutorial at 4 am where he lives.
I have been thinking about the roles of the tutor group forums in supporting learners and this seems to be particularly relevant on L185 where learners face more challenging texts for TMA 4 than they had been exposed to before.
It seems to me that the following could help to scaffold them:
- encouraging top down reading strategies
- asking questions
- encouraging learners to use the "collective intelligence* of the group.
The tutorial for E303 on Saturday was quite enjoyable. The students had the opportunity to practise their skills in using the concordancer. However, even more importantly, they had a chance to use it to explore the language and they were able to notice some of the results of different searches.
I decided to try the MOOc on corpus linguistics. For a response to my first week on the course, see http://patrickdandrews.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/initial-impressions-of-corpus.html
Several students have referred to creativity in OU Live sessions. This often seems to occur when switching between chat at the beginning (while waiting to see if other students will come) and starting on the content of the sessions. I would be interested in examples people notice.
The term "intensity" came up in an OU Live session yesterday where some students commented on how busy the tools. They commented on how they were listening, speaking and also writing in the text box as well as reading the comments and looking at the whiteboard.
It is hard for the tutor and the participants to follow some of the strands that are going on. I suppose there is a tendency to ensure that the sessions are seen as being valuable.
(This is an adapted version of a posting on my blog at http://patrickdandrews.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/creative-language-use-in-documentary.html )
I recently came across the Sun Ra documentary "A Joyful Noise". It seemed an interesting time to see it as it provides examples of language use that are creative just as students on E301 (The Art of English) are thinking about creativity in spoken language in preparation for an assignment. It also allowed me to think about my interests in creativity in jazz and language and how they might intersect.
It is, to some extent a companion piece to my posting about creative language in a football podcast . Here are some initial thoughts about creative uses of language in this documentary. These suggest that there is a great deal of overlap between the ways that he presents himself musically, visually and through his use of language.
It is worth providing some contextual information about Sun Ra as this seems to affect the content and the style of what he says in the film. He was born Herman Blount but claimed to have come from Saturn (Cook and Morton 2008) and this is presumably where the name comes from. As a result, many of his compositions have a space theme with titles like "Saturn" and "Space is the Place". There is also an interest in ancient Egypt (and this perhaps reflects the Ra part of the name) as can be seen from the film and song titles like "Sunset on the River Nile". The film also gives a flavour of his music with the mixture of avant garde and rather traditional styles.
There is stylised repetition throughout much of the documentary and this occurs in short extracts but also at the level of the whole film. In terms of repetition at a local level, there is an example after about 5 minutes. Here, there is a call and response passage where Sun Ra speaks with his group repeating what he has said (e.g "I have many names" "many names"). This is a rather unusual version of how repetition can be used creatively as part of pattern forming (Carter 2004). He also repeats "I have many names" like the poetic repetitions of many poems.There is thus a kind of foregrounding due to grammatical and semantic parallelism (Maybin and Pearce 2006). This foregrounding seems to have the effect of making the viewer think about the importance of names. The names seem to be presenting a particular identity and the identity seems to be presented as complex because the names are varied and unusual.
His asserted identity as a complex and enigmatic man is reinforced by a pun. He says "Some call me Mr Ra. Others call me Mister E". This seems to also refer to "mystery" and this seems to be more obvious in the way that his band members repeat the word. Here the pun seems to reinforce the enigmatic image presented by his name, the music, the clothes. It seems that here the language used is working in conjunction with other aspects of how he presents himself. This seems to have parallels to Eckert and McConnell-Ginet’s (1999 in McCrae and Swann 2006) observations about how language use combines with other features to present identity.
He again uses a pun at about 11.15 minutes. He makes the link between history and his story. His story is also contrasted with my story. It is possible that this is related to his identity as a "Black American" musician (Cook and Morton (2008) refer to this in their discussion of his supposed origins) and the ways that much history taught in schools does not reflect the history that is relevant to his life. This identification with Black America reappears at about 19 and a half minutes when he comments that he sees "The White House" but does not see "The Black House".
The theme of history/his story is repeated at the end. He consciously repeats "They say that history repeats itself, they say that history repeats itself, repeats itself. But history is his story. It's not my story. What's your story?" Interestingly, this rather artfully repetitive language comes just after an infectiously repetitive tune. These repetitions of themes throughout the documentary perhaps seem to reflect the ways that musical themes are used to provide structure to music.
At around 17 minutes, it is the Egyptian interest that comes to the fore and there is again a particular use of repetition. He sets up one idea before giving a different perspective as he says "Somehow ancient Egypt is thought of as a kingdom of bondage but it would be better to say the kingdom of discipline". This seems interesting in several ways. One is that it reminds us that politicians and PR consultants can use euphemisms to show unpleasant details in a more favourable light. Secondly, one of his most famous compositions is called "Discipline" so it raises the possibility that this is the discipline being referred to.
There is also a metaphor (Cameron 2006) when he says that the" stones speak through vibrations of beauty". Although many metaphors can be stale, this one does not seem to be and seems to be part of the general language play of his comments (Cook 2006). This language play becomes more apparent when he plays with "ocracy" endings (around 23:30). Mythocracy seems to be a neologism. Interestingly this is followed by some very "free" music. Both the word and the music seem to have a schema refreshing role.
There are intertextual elements (Maybin and Pearce 2006) as he says "We hold these myths to be potential, they hold their truths to be self evident but our myth is not self evident because it is a mystery. I am not part of history, I'm more a part of the mystery, which is my story." Here he seems to be referring to the Declaration of Independence and his own punning of "mystery/my story". So, the references refer back to a knowledge that he assumes the audience has as well as what they have seen earlier in the film.
These are just some initial observations on how the language used in this film have a relationship with the musical and visual elements. Sun Ra seems to use language to reflect the identity he has created for himself. Much of the language seems to refresh the schemata of the viewers/listeners. There also seem to be parallels between the use of language and the music he plays with references to the past but also to the new (as in the coining of new forms such as "mythocracy"). There are repetitions and revoicings of words and ideas that also seem to reflect the way that jazz tends to work through musicians improvising around themes.
Cameron L (2006) "Metaphor in Everyday Language" in Maybin J and Swann J (eds) The Art of English: Literary Creativity Basingstoke: Palgrave
Carter R (2004) Language and Creativity: The Art of Common Talk Abingdon: Routledge.
Cook G (2006) "Why play with language" in Maybin J and Swann J (eds) The Art of English: Everyday Creativity Basingstoke: Palgrave.
Cook R and Morton B (2008) The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (Ninth Edition) London: Penguin.
McCrae S and Swann J (2006 "Putting on the Style" in Maybin J and Swann J (eds) The Art of English: Everyday Creativity Basingstoke: Palgrave
Maybin J and Pearce (2006) "Literature and Creativity in English" in Goodman S and O'Halloran K The Art of English: Literary Creativity Basingstoke: Palgrave
As I tutor on the Art of English course, I am always interested by the topic of creativity. A few incidents in the "Muscle Shoals" film struck me.
One was that Aretha Franklin had been recognised as a talented singer for some time before she was successful but she seemed to work in an inappropriate genre for a long time before she really found the type of music that enabled her to really create. There was an incident in the film where many musicians were trying things out and getting nowhere until the keyboard player made a breakthrough. I suppose this was the creative spark that the others needed. So, it was a cognitive spark but needed to be done in a social setting.
There has been much discussion recently about the hiring of unqualified teachers in state schools eg http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/20/nick-clegg-david-laws-free-schools The discussion seemed to reach a new height of absurdity last night on Newsnight when Tristan Hunt seemed to say quite clearly that he disagreed with it and Jeremy Paxman kept saying he was unclear.
I would not be happy for my son to be taught by an unqualified teacher for the following reasons:
1 Teacher training courses seem to provide useful training for teachers - I know I was much more competent after doing a PGCE. This does not mean that teachers are perfect at the end of it (they never are) but the fact of having done the course gives skills and experience that will enable them to develop further afterwards.
2 A teacher who is not motivated enough to do a teacher training course is not likely to be a particularly well motivated teacher in terms of thinking about pedagogy.
Still finding some problems with students' sound quality although they report that my sound quality is good.
My first experience of OU Live today (an E301 tutorial). Overall, it seemed quite similar to Elluminate but more people seemed to have problems with sound quality. However, this might have been chance.
I recently revisted two places and I had contrasting impressions of the ways that minority languages were/were not being maintained.
The first place was Guangzhou, which I had first visited in 1987. At that time, it seemed very much dominated by Guangzhou dialect rather than Putonghua. Now, it seems that the Guangzhou dialect is heard less although it is common in some contexts like restaurants.
The second place was Toulouse where I was struck by the use of dual dialect road signs and underground announcements althhough I did not hear much dialect use in the streets. Perhaps my experience was too limited as I doubt there would be such a promotion if there was not much use of or interest in the language.
I attended a short talk by Ronald Carter at the OU in Milton Keynes on Wednesday about an e-language corpus that is being developed.
The University of Nottingham and CUP are developing the Cambridge and Nottingham e-language corpus. So far, the corpus has one million words but it will be developed further. They are looking at twitter, blogs, discussion boards, emails and SMS.
It was argued that e-language is very significant with 10 billion emails and 300 million tweets sent per day. The nature of the language varies greatly with blogs being more writerly (high density of nouns, adjectives, prepositions and articles) and SMS very like spoken English (high use of pronouns, adverbs, verbs and interjection) with Twitter more towards the writerly end. He suggested (and this seems plausible to me) that blogs and Twitter are relatively public and this is why they are more formal.
There does not seem to be much published about this at the moment. A quick google search suggests that some publications are on their way.
I have recently downloaded this to my phone and iPad. It seems quite useful although not all of the modules I teach seem to have content available. I would have thought it would be most useful on tablets.
I had my first problem accessing Elluminate for some time yesterday. I eventually solved it by using internet explorer rather than Firefox but it is strange this should have happened when it worked fine on Wednesday.
Due to circumstances, I had two Elluminate sessions on the same day last Saturday (one should have been a face to face tutorial but was changed to Elluminate as the venue was closed and many students would have found it difficult to get to Bristol anyway with the transport chaos).
It was very much more tiring than a similar amount of face to face teaching would be and the intensity of Elluminate teaching was very apparent.
I did a session on Elluminate for E301 on Sunday. I had a lot of positive feedback on this. The session perhaps seemed quite dynamic because it was so well attended.
Again, there was quite a mixture of students who have attended Elluminate before and those for whom it is new. This provides me with a dilemma in terms of how simple I keep the structure of the session. I decided not to use breakout rooms because I thought they might intimidate the newcomers if some people seemed so much more at ease.
Would any of the students who attended like to add their perspectives?
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