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Money Money Money

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Sunday, 31 Dec 2017, 08:53

One thing I love about the modules I teach is that stuff we learn on them is always popping up in the news. On DD103: Investigating the Social World, we start off exploring the topic of money and over the holidays I saw some money-related news items so juicy that instead of just sharing them on my Tutor Group Forum, I decided to write a blogpost about them.

In an early module video about the history of money (in 10 minutes), we find out that money is largely based on trust. Early attempts to link money to a gold standard were abandoned in the 1970s when we finally admitted that as long as we believe in it, money works (The Open University, 2017a).

Bitcoin is a recent development which demonstrates this. As long as we believe in it, bitcoin is just as good as any national currency - but there are huge fluctuations in public trust (perhaps manipulated by those who hope to rake in bitcoin while it's at a low point and then cash in when our trust in it rises again?).

Two newspaper articles about bitcoin - one showing a rise in its value, then another two weeks later shows a crash downwards.

In DD103 we also learn about rights, and particularly rights to territory. (In money we may trust, but I think we all feel more secure if we 'own' property.)

DD103 looks at the efforts of indigenous peoples like the Awa (The Open University, 2017b), the Surui (The Open University, 2017c) and the Dongria Kondh (Bhagwat et al, 2015, pp.149-160), to protect their relationship with the land when logging or mining companies seek to exploit local timber and minerals. Our module material shows how Google maps, the armed forces and state laws are all used in support of local groups against multinational commercial agencies over land rights. This article by the anthropologist and economist Gillian Tett describes thinkers about bitcoin looking to tackle inequality and poverty by supporting peoples around the world in online registration of land rights through blockchain databases.

Article in FT Weekend magazine called 'Blockchain, bitcoin and the fight against poverty'

Among the disciplines covered in DD103 is criminology. An article I saw just this morning hints at a murkier side to bitcoin, which has attracted criminal activity in a number of ways. Not only was this bitcoin executive ransomed in bitcoin - presumably harder to trace than used $ bills, but the article here mentions that the e-currency has attracted considerable cyber-crime activity.

Article about kidnapping of a bitcoin executive - whose ransom was paid in bitcoin.

And finally, I saw this video on Facebook. In one minute, Nas Daily explains how, with a 'broken' economy, citizens of Zimbabwe have managed to develop e-money which is faster and more efficient than the systems we use in developed nations.

There are lots of exciting new stories about 'money' in today's world. The combination of philosophy, geography, criminology, economics, sociology, social policy, environmental and international studies which makes up DD103 helps me understand how 'money' is developing in a potentially cashless society.


References

Bhagwat, S., Jones, N. and Mohan, G. (2015). 'Indigenous lands and territories: mapping the commons' in Drake, D.H., Morris, A., Shipman, A. and Wheeler, K. (eds) Investigating the Social World 2, Milton Keynes, The Open University.

The Open University (2017a). 'The History of money in 10 minutes'  [Video], DD103 Investigating the social world, Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1050377&section=6.1 (accessed 30/12/2017)

The Open University (2017b). 'Our World: Saving the Awa tribe'  [Video], DD103 Investigating the social world, Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1050399&section=4.1 (accessed 30/12/2017)

The Open University (2017c). 'Trading Bows and Arrows for Laptops: Carbon and Culture'  [Video], DD103 Investigating the social world, Available at: https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1050399&section=5 (accessed 30/12/2017)


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Christmas Catchup

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Wednesday, 20 Dec 2017, 17:47

Christmas garland

As the holiday season approaches, students come to one of two realisations - usually one after the other:

  1. Hey, it's the holidays! I can catch up on my studies while relaxing over a plate of mince pies;
  2. OMG! I've only done half my shopping, how will I get my work sorted in time for the holiday - never mind all this reading I'm meant to do for my studies!!!

I know this, because those are the thoughts which went through my mind.

('Tis the season for coughs, colds and flu too - so many students are also having to take time out to recuperate.)

Dreadfully behind on my own studies - as revealed in my previous blogpost - I panicked and began to think I should defer til next year sad However I did the following things and now I am happy to announce that I'm back on track (and have done all my shopping approve)

1 - Get back on the website.

It doesn't matter what you do to get back on. You can post in the Forum to say 'I'm so behind! Anyone-else feeling worried?' You can just watch one of the videos or read one webpage. Don't look at the dates and start worrying about how far behind you are. Get yourself back on your Study Calendar so that you feel like you are back in the saddle again.

2 - Look at the dates

Strong cup of tea in hand, have a cautious look at where you actually are. You may not be as far behind as you fear. (Being one or two weeks behind is very common, BTW.)

Tea in cup with blue chicken and snowy border

3 - Talk

Don't keep your worries to yourself. Have a chat with Student Support Team or your Tutor. Talk to your study buddies on the module Forums, Whatsapp or (if you must!) Facebook groups. Get support and advice. In particular, ask the Tutor if they have an overview of that part of the module - can they give you a steer about the upcoming work. Is there a week where not so much is expected of you? Are there parts you could skim over? Which exercises are essential?

4 - Ask for a one to one support session

If you need help, the university can sometimes pay your tutor (or another tutor, if your tutor can't provide this) to give you an extra support session. If you are feeling worried, ask about this. If you don't ask, you won't get! And it would be far better for you to have a little extra support, than drop out of the module - and perhaps your whole degree dead

5 - Read to write

There is far too much knowledge in the world for anyone to cover all of. Therefore, grownup academics do what we call "read to write". We only read what we need to, in order to write our article or book chapter.

Look at the upcoming assignment question. See if the Student Notes have guidance on essential material you should cover. Focus on reading that, and skim the rest.

You're probably enjoying your studies, and reluctant to skip over parts of it. However remember that you can access your module website for a couple of years after you finish, so you can go back to bits you missed when you have caught up and passed the module.

(If you have to do this, make sure you keep up on any study skills exercises supporting your developing academic skills.)

6 - Remember: If a job's worth doing ...

it's worth doing badly.

Sometimes we just have to take five on part of a task in order to get the whole thing done.

Get something written, submit what you can, ask for an extension or find out if any of the assignments on your module are 'substitutable' (means you can still get a few marks for them). You may not get the Distinction grade of your dreams, but you will have practised writing the assignment as you were meant to, and you will get good feedback to build on for the next piece of work. You may surprise yourself. Don't throw away 'good enough' just because you wanted 'practically perfect in every way'.

7 - have rest, and eat nice things.

When we are tired and stressed we work more slowly and get more anxious, so keep well rested. You don't have to eat chocolate - but I often find it helps tongueout

Picture of text books and different kinds of chocolate. Handwritten text saying 'Things are getting worse. Send chocolate.'


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No A 4 U - lecturing off-line

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Sunday, 17 Dec 2017, 13:29

My own teaching is 'blended learning'. Students have a mix of online material, text books, face to face and online tutorials and opportunities to chat in forum posting. About 80% of the material is online and I work hard to get my students to go online.

Recently a friend came to me with the opposite problem.

I used to teach in traditional universities too, so I felt considerable sympathy with my pal. He teaches Physics in the States, and his students sit in the back row, checking out Facebook and even chatting on their mobile phones. A colleague of his had passed some handy research papers his way which showed that 'multi-tasking' leads to poor grades, as the researchers politely call it - or rudely 'phubbing' your lecturer in spite of their efforts to raise your grade and improve your academic knowledge, as my friend might call it. (I used other language on the one occasion this happened to me.)

Useful though it was to definitively know this, and it was great fun to cite a paper called No A 4 U, my friend was in need of a practical means of getting his students to stop checking their phones and pay attention to him.

Should he make an impassioned 10 minute plea to the students - referencing this and other studies which evidence the grave consequences of their careless phone habits?

Should he institute a confiscation policy and take phones away at the door?

In one lecture series I taught, I used to put a slide up at the start of the lecture with some relevant information on it. Keen early bird students could read this/watch the video clip/listen while the others shuffled in and found a seat.

I started the lecture series with Lily Allen's F**k You. I explained that Ms Allen is in a tradition of song-writing including 2 Tone, in which efforts were made by song-writers to transcend skinhead racism of the time. I hoped that would gain the students' attention, and help them understand that 'Race and Ethnicity' is not just some dry dusty academic subject.

I suggested my friend imitate this tactic. He could just put up a slide with the relevant advice on it for his students. He could leave it up for 5 minutes while they settled in their seats, then put up his lecture slides and teach as normal.

My friend loved the idea and gave me permission to share the slide I threw together for him:

Powerpoint slide with smiley using mobile, and 'no use' sticker over it.

PS In response to a helpful suggestion from Simon Reed in the comments, I've attached a new version of the powerpoint slide. It has a video from YouTube embedded in it showing what may happen to you if you use your mobile phone in some lecturers' classes ... big grinevil


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The best laid plans of mice and mums ...

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Sunday, 10 Dec 2017, 22:03

In my previous blogpost, I proudly set out what I called my 'project life balance plan'. Naturally, this attracted the attentions of the Gods and Goddesses, who promptly threw the divine equivalent of poo at it mixed

Poo emoji

  • I had planned for two loads of marking, I managed to acquire a third load.
  • I noted the workshop I had to attend, but forgot about the five loads of laundry I would have to rush through in order to ensure that my child had enough shirts and PE kit for school the following week, as I would not be there over the weekend to do this.
  • One of our cats went AWOL sad, and turned up at 5.30 am the day before I left for Glasgow approve (After I had spent hours sticking up posters round the neighbourhood - of course.)
  • The workshop didn't quite go as I had thought it would mixed, in fact it took me about a week to recover from it and figure out how to write up the notes dead
  • And there was a family emergency which led to me having to spend the afternoon driving to a nearby city, then back in the middle of rush hour - narrowly missing a three car pile-up off the motorway and screeching into my personal parking space with just 10 minutes to go before the first of the two tutorials I had to teach that night was due to start dead dead

In fact, this part of my plan originally looked like this:

Gannt plan showing tasks

And now it looks more like this:

Gannt plan as above but with extra tasks and large brown splotches on it

mixed Yes - time for working through the second block of materials and preparing TMA02 (which we are supposed to share in draft form with our fellow students) has been severely truncated.

At this time of year, I keep a sharp eye out and circulate my students gently enquiring if they might be a little more behind in their studies than they would ideally like to be? They usually say: "Yes, but there is the Christmas break coming ..."

I know that in spite of their good intentions, they are very unlikely to switch off Mariah Carey or It's a Wonderful Life, and log in to their study calendar. I suggest we do a session identifying what they could skim and what they really need to concentrate on, then they can have a break - and start the New Year all set up and ready to go.

I'm not sure I can skim any of my own study materials mixed I get the impression most of it involves going online and sharing my ideas with my fellow students. Plus, in my own TMA01, I didn't properly define one of the key terms tongueout (stop laughing DD103 students! big grin), and now I'm going to have to scrap my intended project and write a whole new one.

Poo emoji 

So-o-o, I am at that crunch point which many of my own students are at: Withdraw, Defer, Stagger on? thoughtful

I'm not going to give up on this thing. I enjoy it too much! I might have to defer, if any more divine poo hits my plans. I will give it a good go first, though wink

Poo emoji at the end of a rainbow

First thing to do, is sign onto the Study Calendar and check out how far behind I actually am mixed I put this off for a while, but eventually I get my courage up with one of the mince pies a student brought to yesterday's tutorial. (Yes, that is how messy it is round here - sometimes it's a choice between studying and tidying.)

Computer open at StudentHome with cup of coffee and mince pie

Phew! that's not so bad. I do have to tidy round now, so the kiddo and I can put up our Christmas decorations some time before Easter. But if I can get a couple of hours in tomorrow morning and some time on my 'day off', I might get back on board in time smile

(If I struggle, I'll have a good chat with Student Support before making any final decisions.)


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Plan to Succeed

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Thursday, 26 Oct 2017, 06:09

As an experienced researcher with decades of project management under my belt, I plan my work without even thinking about it. I often get by without even writing my plan down, but for a course of study, you are far better off making a proper written plan.

Open University modules are already carefully planned, with assignments designed to gear you up in gradually accumulating skills areas so that by the end, you have been gently taken on a journey to higher academic abilities. To some extent, you can rely on the plan laid out in the module. However - 'real' life has a bad habit of poking its nose in and making a fine mess out of the module's carefully laid out plan.

The module I'm currently studying has a brilliant way to help me: writing a plan is part of the first assignment. There is a link to this short, free course from OU Business Studies about project planning, in which we are shown Gannt plans. If you have got time to spare, this course is well worth working through. If you are short of time already, you could just sketch out a plan for yourself on a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet as I've done here.

This is my Gannt plan for my studies.

Excel spreadsheet laid out as a Gannt plan

(The free course provides a Gannt plan in a pdf, but my pdf reader will require an expensive upgrade before it will allow me to edit pdfs, so I decided to draw up my Gannt plan as an Excel spreadsheet.)

Well, that all looks great! Ah, but, what about 'real' life? I have gone back over my plan to put in points showing where I might have peaks of work or want to take extra time off to cover a school holiday.

Another Excel spreadsheet laid out as a Gannt plan

I can see that just before TMA01, I have got two loads of marking due in. I am down to give a workshop right afterwards too, for which I will have to do some preparatory work. Looking at this Gannt plan, I can consider doing my workshop preparations now so they are out of the way, and putting in some early work on my own TMA01 (such as writing the plan bit of it!), then I will have time to do my marking and check my TMA before putting it in. If I am coming up to the dates for marking and still have a lot of work to do on my TMA, I can ask for an extension in good time.

I am actually going to work on a more sophisticated plan in the OU's software application Compendium. I was hoping to just run that off and show it here in this blogpost. When I started, however, I discovered that it will take me a little while to re-learn how Compendium works. (I used it previously on the e(LATE)D course I studied, but have mis-remembered it as being very easy!) I have therefore had to adjust my Gannt plan to show that project planning will take longer than I had first supposed. (I want to use Compendium because it's designed for planning teaching projects. I think it will be useful to me later on, so it'll be worth putting in the time to learn how to use it properly.)


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A 'real' student!

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Monday, 9 Oct 2017, 14:08

Golly, I feel like a real student today! smile

Not because I sneaked up early to read an article for my studies, and have managed to cram in an hour or so's studying with one eye on the bedroom door of my torpidly slumbering teenager, the other on the clock so I get onto cooking Sunday lunch in good time and a third eye on the Student Forums in case any new students are posting and I can chat with them approve (All new parents develop this useful body part shortly after maternity/paternity leave expires sleepy)

Today's exercise in the Study Calendar involved posting on OpenStudio. My own students can have a go at this if they want, but I have eschewed it til now because

  1. There is no time/payment allocated for it in my contract, and I am working overtime as it is;
  2. It looks like a clunky Instagram, I couldn't see why the students couldn't use Instagram instead.

However it is a compulsory part of my own module so I must get on with it. (I can see really that it's helpful to have a dedicated and protected web space in which we can explore doing this stuff, rather than being let loose in the wonderful world of Instagram. Anyway, my daughter has forbiden me to join Instagram and said she won't Friend me on it if I do mixed - makes me wonder ...)

Another reason I don't like OpenStudio, is that as soon as you open it you see a sad face and it says you have 0% participation. Well, like - I just got here! Give me a chance! I can't participate, anyway, because in a bid to get ahead before my own students start handing in assignments I need to mark for them, I have raced ahead on my own module and nobody else has posted anything on OpenStudio I can participate in. So! Yah boo angry

Screenshot of OpenStudio participation bar

Honestly, I just felt like shutting it down and going away again as I wasn't sure where to post my material or what to call it, whether I was allowed to create a new 'set' or what.

However, I suddenly remembered - I am a student approve I am not the all-knowing Tutor who is supposed to know everything about life, the university and everything (42, in case you were wondering - Adams, 1979). I can get it all wrong, post material by mistake in the completely wrong box, and my all-knowing Tutor will go in and put it right. She will probably even send me a soothing message saying "Great work, good to see you getting on with things in good time, by the way - you shouldn't put your work in that box, you should put it in this one."

And I will have learnt how to do it properly. After all, that's what being a student is - learning stuff. As I often say to my own students, the post-postgraduate module ZZ999 I am Already Perfect has not been written yet.

approve

PS, I let my daughter go on Instagram without my supervision because adult friends of mine are Friends or Followers or whatever of hers on there, and I will hear about it almost before it happens if she is getting into any trouble on there.

Reference:

Adams, D. (1979). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Pan Books.

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Top Tips for Studying

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Monday, 9 Oct 2017, 14:09

I am a social anthropologist by training, and so whatever I'm doing, I am always observing it too, and making little mental field notes.

As I gear up for my own studies (see my Student Blog - which is an example of a blog being used as a Learning Journal), I'm seeing how I go about that and what tips I could pass on to my own students about studying.

My top tip for years has been If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing badly. As a busy mum myself, I have often had to just put something in that I knew wasn't anything like my best piece of work. But if you put in nothing, you get nothing. I have managed to get countless students through their first set of studies by telling them to just put in an unfinished draft, or scrappy bit of writing which they think is not good enough. It's not usually good enough for a Distinction (although that has happened once or twice!) but we get through the module, get a Pass mark and are able to go on with the next set of studies - and a better understanding of how to manage study time. That's a far better outcome for everyone than failing altogether because you didn't want to show your tutor something that wasn't 100% perfect.

Course certificate

Certificate of Completion for course where I only got through by sometimes submitting draft assignments, late - but I did it!

Time management is one skill that students often say they want to improve. To manage your time, you do have to have time to manage - which is not always the case if you are studying and working while bringing up three children, a small dog and some guinea pigs, plus popping in to make sure your elderly parents are OK.

Remember that 'time management' doesn't mean getting everything in on time - the university will sometimes allow extensions to your assignments. Make sure you talk to your tutor about these (negotiating proper support is part of proper time management). Think too about a good time of day when you will be able to put your head down to your studies for a couple of hours. (More in this blogpost, although if you read my whole blog you'll see there were plenty of occasions when I had no time at all and had to put aside my own studies. I am therefore very sympathetic to my own students about time management wide eyes)

Read to write - the world is full of knowledge. There is so much already written about everything that nobody can read it all. Grownup Academics therefore do something called 'read to write'. We focus on the things which are directly relevant to what we are going to write about. When you start reading a block of material, read the assignment question first. That way, you can make focussed notes as you go along, rather than reading everything, then reading the question, then going back over all the materials to see what was most relevant.

Photo of online assignment page - with mug resting on laptop keyboard

I didn't wait til Weeks 5-6 to read this, I read it right at the start. I will go back through it again, carefully, in Weeks 5-6.

Skim read, read and read ahead - I quickly skim over the whole of a week's work, then I go back and work through it slowly - doing the exercises. When I have finished working on an exercise, I quickly re-read the next bit of material without doing the exercise for that part. I'm thinking about the exercise as I get on with my day, and when I go back to do it, I am well geared up for it.

Screenshot of study activity with advice note


Have you got any top tips for managing your studies? Share them in a comment here, or in a thread in your Student Forum. 

smile

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Nodyn o'r droed Cymraeg

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Tuesday, 26 Sep 2017, 18:02

As I progress my Masters' studies (see my student blog), I have not forgotten my Welsh smile I mean ... I have forgotten quite a lot of what I learned, but I have not forgotten to keep learning. Little by little, it starts to stick in my mind - as long as I practise.

I started on the OU's free course Discovering Wales and Welsh. I keep my Welsh up by listening to Learn Welsh with Will videos while I make the packed lunch and breakfast in the morning. The side benefit of this is, my daughter can see me learning.

The main reason most children in Wales resist learning Welsh (which they are obliged to do by law), is that their parents, and also peers, are openly scornful of them having to do so.

I want my daughter to be positive about learning Welsh because:

  1. She will have to do a GCSE in it anyway, so she might as well do her best at it.
  2. It's good practice for her other GCSEs, to do the one in Welsh.
  3. Welsh is a fascinating and beautiful language.
  4. It's spoken all round us, and so it's easy to practise it - one of the most important things in learning well, and especially in learning a language.
  5. It's good to learn any language, as this encourages your brain in maths and logic processes. One that is markedly different from English, like Welsh or Latin or Mandarin, is particularly good for stretching your brain rather than something only a bit different like French.


Welsh flag

(By UnknownVector graphics by Tobias Jakobs - Open Clipart Library, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=355609)

When I was a kid, my mum stood up in school and asked why we were not able to learn Latin, and as a consequence I got to study Latin at O level. I have really enjoyed knowing a smattering of Latin. I have a better chance of eventually speaking Welsh properly, as it's hard to find someone to converse with in Latin.

I practise with the waitresses in my local cafe, and also with a friend on Facebook. (I know that if you chat about your studies outside class, you are likely to do better.) I am proud to announce I have been able to sustain a conversation in Welsh on Facebook (partly with the use of Google translate).

  • My friend posted: "How are you today?" in Welsh
  • Me: Gwych! Mae'n braf heddiw in Cymru. (Great! It's fine today in Wales. Luckily I had just done the video on 'weather'.) 
  • My friend's friend posted: "Where are you?!!!"
  • Me: Caerdydd big grin (This is the Welsh spelling of Cardiff.)
  • My friend posted a GIF:

Singing in the Rain gif (three people in yellow coats in pouring rain)

  • I wrote: Ffasiwn Cymreig! (Welsh fashion - Welsh is phonetic so if you just say the first word without thinking about it, you won't need my wonky translation big grin)


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Beginning my studies

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Yesterday the module website opened to view, (although studies don't begin until 7th October). I couldn't log on yesterday, as my own students were submitting their final piece of work so I was anxiously looking out in case anyone needed support and advice wide eyes

Today I logged in to my StudentHome page. I found out who my tutor is and made sure I did three things straightaway.

  1. Go on the Student Forum and make contact with other students. I know from my own efforts to support students that one of the things which helps them do better is chatting with other students (see attached summary of a research study on students working in groups).
  2. Look through the tutorial dates, note them in my diary and book in.
  3. Read through the Assignment Guide and the assignment questions. I am always surprised when my own students say they were too scared to read ahead and see what the upcoming assignment questions are. Open University assignments are usually designed to build on each other, so if you have looked ahead and know what will be coming up, you are better able to use the early assignments to develop towards the final assignment. Plus, if you are unsure about anything, you can make sure to ask your tutor about it good and early cool

If I get time later on, I will make an early start on reading through the module materials. There is bound to be a point later on when I am bogged down in child-illness, cat-crises, marking or some other act of nature and haven't got as much time for my studies as I'd like. I will try to get ahead of the game in preparation cool

Apart from that, I plan to live as much like a 'real' student as possible, having plenty of drinks tongueout

Cup of coffee and stick of 'gin & tonic' rock.

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The Associate Lecturer as Student

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Monday, 11 Sep 2017, 11:02

This autumn I am starting a module on the Masters in Online and Distance Education. I do, of course, have substantial practical experience in online and distance education - as I have been teaching for the Open University for over ten years. While doing professional development (on the e-LATE(D) and Tutor Moderator courses), I enjoyed reading up on the pedagogic theory behind my teaching and even writing up some of my work.

If I am not careful, the ironing, washing the floor, playing with the cats, watching cat videos on Facebook and ferrying my daughter to her after school clubs can take over my life. Like all of us, I need a community within which to find support and challenges so that I can continue with this scholarly activity. I hope that the Masters degree will provide a learning community within which I can further develop my thinking and practice in online and distance education.

To begin with, I have been getting into the swing of learning by doing a less important subject over the summer. I started doing some Welsh courses, with the OU's free short Open Learn module: Discovering Wales and Welsh. I used some YouTube videos on Welsh too, and have learned to say: "Great!" and "Interesting", and some other handy phrases. I wasn't very good at signing in to do my Welsh studies every day but I started to get myself into the habit.

Now I'm setting aside time each morning to study. Once I have made sandwiches for my daughter, and breakfast, fed the cats, done any necessary floor washing, I have decided to put in an hour or two on my studies every working day. There isn't very much to do yet, so I just sign into my StudentHome page and explore for ten or twenty minutes, check out the Forums and then do some other learning activities before getting on with my day.

Many of my own students are New to the Open University. I sometimes think that the main lesson they learn on the Level 1 modules I teach is how to learn. They come to a better understanding of the amount of time they need to put aside for their work, and when is the best time in the day for them to do this. Many of them start by putting aside a whole day for studies, but find that this lovely large block of time can quickly get colonised by other activities. I recommend them to do their studies in a 'little and often' way: short bursts of time every day, rather than one whole day in the week.

At a recent Day School, one of the students was someone who herself advises people on time management. She gave us a good tip: the best amount of time for most people to do work is 90 minutes: that is the optimum time for humans to concentrate. I mean to do good bursts of focussed study, but not to let these drag on. It can lead to shoulder and back problems as you crouch over your computer for long periods of time, and if I do 120 minutes today, and get tired, I might be put off from doing any studying tomorrow. If I do 90 minutes today, and 90 minutes tomorrow, I will do 180 in total.

Screenshot of powerpoint slide on Time Management

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Once More Unto the Breach ...

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After a trying Christmas, I have finally been able to spare a bit of time again for my Fellowship application/writeup about using the Student Forums to support better referencing.

Re-reading my previous e-tivity writeup, I realise it's completely unsuitable for the purpose as it stands. I am not going to procrastinate any longer undertake a proper scholarly review of literature in the field, as if I do that, I will never get the damn thing in. I have got a couple of good articles and I can say I am going to do the proper scholarly thing as part of my application for Senior Fellowship - or whatever the next stage of the HEA is called.

I have found a little set of articles which talk about Voice and Dialogue (and Silence) in referencing practice. They are from tutors who work with students for whom English is a Second Language (ESL), so they are also often dealing with other cultural approaches to writing. They understand our own attitude as culturally situated - not as if we are Jedi battling the Dark Side of plagiarism. The Western (these articles are North American) way is middle class as well as white, and so their reflections are useful to me in thinking about how my more working class students might view referencing.

As well as these, I have got some articles from the module I'm teaching on Education and Equalities, which also talk about Voice and Dialogue.

I'm starting to be reminded of Bakthin's writing on dialogism, which I drew on in my PhD to explore how a poem by a black lesbian writer created Voice. This seems like a promising path to hint at exploring for the future although I must be careful not to get lured off to the Dark Side of procrastination by these thoughts!


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Starting the reading for my Applaud application

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Monday, 28 Nov 2016, 13:05

For several months I have had to put aside my application for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (being conducted through the university's Applaud programme), owing to a sudden upsurge in work.

I have felt just like my own students! pleading a mixture of work-related, family-related and medical reasons (I had a chest infection as well), as I explained to my students that I would not be quite as quick as I usually like to be over marking their assignments. My HEA Fellowship application was actually delayed because my two referees were put under pressure at work too, and didn't have time to do the references.

In the meantime, I felt I should bump up my mostly drafted application with some fresh reading so I did a desultory Google Scholar search for relevant articles. One of my colleagues also mentioned a highly relevant article she had written in a powerpoint presentation. I put these into a list 'for later'.

Much later! I realised that my plan to do my application and other personal development work on Thursday was just not happening. I am always telling my students that setting aside a special day for studying is not a good way to manage time, and I have found this out the hard way myself. I am switching to trying to read an article per day instead.

That habit also takes time to get into! Today I had to rush off to the supermarket at first light as my daughter revealed late yesterday that she had forgotten she would need a pepper, a courgette, some sweetcorn and frozen peas for her Home Economics class. However, mindful of setting a good example to my students, I did try to do some reading a bit later in the day.

I spent about fifteen minutes trying to track down my colleague's article. The internet link she provided in the powerpoint took too long to download. The OU online Library disclaimed any knowledge of the journal in which she had published. I guess I will have to ask her to email me a copy! sad

I moved on to one of the Google scholar articles (one of the few relevant ones I managed to pick out of a big list of irrelevant ones!). When I looked it up in the OU online Library, I inadvertently found out that their search engine will throw up all articles with relevant terms in their titles and key words, so I found a few more articles that way approve

By now I was a bit tired and time was pressing on, so I just carefully put the details of a couple of the articles in my newly formatted Annotated Bibliography (more on this soon). I think I will have a cup of tea after all that!

Cup of tea and slice of cake

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Breaking out of the Breakout Room

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Thursday, 10 Nov 2016, 14:01

Although I have already got the more advanced eLate(D) certificate, I decided to do the three week Tutor Moderator course as well.

approve

Picture of certificate for Tutor Moderators Module

To be honest, I didn't learn very much new, as I am already very experienced in online tutorials and forum moderation. However I got to 'chat' with colleagues about online teaching skills on forum groups, and to polish my skills so it was worth sparing time for the course.

I was particularly pleased that at last I got a firm grasp on how to set up a 'breakout room' in online tutorials. (This is where you split students up into small groups during an online tutorial. We like to do this as it means the students get the chance to talk to each other instead of just listening to our Wise Words.)

Picture of owl in mortar board standing on a pile of books.

I had an upcoming tutorial which an unusually large number of students had signed up to - ideal opportunity to practise my breakout skills cool

My colleague suggested we start by putting a couple of discussion questions to the students:

  • What have you found interesting, useful, challenging?
  • Have you been able to relate this to your own professional situation?

I did feel a slight qualm and wondered if the students might take up a lot of the time answering this in turn. However we both agreed that what we really want is for students to use this rare opportunity to hear each others' views, and I think both of us are more used to students pretending that the dog ate their microphone (really, a student did once claim that) than being willing to speak up in online tutorials so we thought not many would join in.

It was a huge success, as most of the students took the opportunity to make a considered answer. They spoke about different aspects of the reading they had been doing, showing each other that there are many ways to approach this. Having spoken up at the start, they then had the confidence to ask many other questions about their upcoming assignment, saying things like:

  • "I find the terminology difficult."
  • "Me too!"
  • "So glad you said that."

(We tutors admitted that we sometimes find the terminology difficult ourselves! after all, this is a postgraduate module.)

The students had spoken for about 35 minutes at the start of our (one hour) tutorial. It was quite hard to have the confidence to just let them go on talking, instead of leaping in and wresting back control of the tutorial so we could deliver our scripted slideshow. However I still think it did much more for the students to hear each others' thoughts than if we had lectured at them. We ran through the remaining slides at a brisk trot, and promised to answer any questions on our Tutor Group Forums.

But ... I never did get to practise my fantastic dazzling breakout room skills sad

Oh well, I am a great believer that technology should enhance, not drive, your teaching.

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The Constant Student

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Saturday, 8 Oct 2016, 07:29

At our regional staff development event, I had the opportunity to talk to an advisor about getting Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) with the university's support. I have been trying to figure this out for two or three years, with various life events preventing me from getting on with it, so I was delighted to hear that a new fast-track system has been set up to support Associate Lecturers (ALs) in doing this. Applaud provides us with a mentor, forums and other means to discuss how best to go about this.

Chatting with an advisor first was very helpful. She was able to tell me that since I have a ready-made dissertation which I can edit and put in for my application, I should go straight for Fellowship of the HEA, not hang about doing an Associate Fellowship first approve

I found getting onto the Applaud programme very easy. Unfortunately, you need two referees for the Fellowship application and the university were just starting what proved to be a monumental task of changing over the way we organise our tutorials. Both my referees were snowed under with work. I was actually also quite busy, so I pretended that only because of the references, I wouldn't be able to put my application in quite yet and deferred to the November presentation.

I did do a Google Scholar search for articles about 'teaching referencing' and 'online forum teaching', to bump up the literature review section of my dissertation and came up with a few (about which more soon).

Screenshot of google scholar search terms

I was very busy making sure my B presentation students (start in February) finished off their final module assignment, and then setting up for my J presentation (starts in October). Also coping with some 'interesting' problems thrown up by the new ways of organising our tutorials thoughtful. I had an opportunity to apply for a peer support programme to work with other ALs. I was disappointed to be knocked back - especially on the grounds that I hadn't yet done the 3 week Tutor Moderator programme. I explained that the 10 week eLate(D) programme, which I have done, is generally regarded as more rigorous, but it was too late by then, I was just on the reserve list.

When I saw that there were some spaces in the Tutor Moderator programme, I decided to go for it, so that I couldn't be knocked back for not having that qualification as well. It's true that I am so busy I didn't even have time to clean up the cat sick on my kitchen floor last night dead but I'm sure I'll fit in the studies somehow. How hard can it be? big grin My students do it all the time.


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Survivor photo

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Thursday, 15 Oct 2015, 22:10

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Certificate of course completion with ribbon saying 'social media ninja'

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New blog post

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Awww, we are nearly at the end of the e(LATE)D module. sad I'm really going to miss going on the study calendar, checking in with people and reading about e-tivities and online pedagogy.

When I started the module, there was a questionnaire to fill in designed to help you see if you had time to undertake it. I didn't have time to fill that in so I just signed up anyway big grin. In retrospect I see I probably shouldn't have done the module at this particular time, when I am in the middle of teaching a brand new module, my daughter was just finishing primary school and going up to secondary and I had my nephew (with profound special needs) staying on his annual holiday with me. I am so glad I didn't put it off, though, because I would have been sorry to go another few months without the understanding I've gained from the course.

I was done for speeding once, and sent on a speed awareness course. I grumbled that the course wasn't for good people like me, who only occasionally tipped over the speed limit. When I got there I found it was exactly for people like me as it was designed to help good drivers stop the occasional over-enthusiastic use of the accelerator.

e(LATE)D was like that. I know a fair bit about the internet (not as much as my eleven-year old of course), and am a regular user of forums. I thought e(LATE)D would just be a way of rubber-stamping my knowledge. What I found from the start was that it was a great opportunity to reflect on my teaching online and provided many many opportunities to think about my academic praxis as an Associate Lecturer. 

Computer and cub scout top with badges (The E-Learning Mum)

Although I've been a mature student and know from the inside many of the anxieties my students experience, I haven't been a student on a distance learning module myself. Going on the course helped me see e-learning through the student's eyes. I became quite sad when I fell behind a couple of weeks and felt I was missing out - how often have I complacently reassured some student that it's OK to skip a couple of things. When I was in the situation of having to do so, I really didn't want to!


Book cover "What the Best College Teachers Do"

The module is well designed with the inclusion of pedagogic literature. As usual with OU modules, building blocks for writing assignments are set out for you, interspersed with activities which develop skills. e(LATE)D was a great opportunity to consider how to teach, and the principles around which to design teaching. I have a better understanding now of how the modules I'm teaching have probably been designed. I am keen to go and read Ken Bain's work in more depth, and explore further the distinction between social constructivist and critical learning pedagogies.

RSS icon

Of course, there was nudging towards using online applications which I had always meant to get my head around but not quite done yet. I will master the RSS feed one day! I am nearly there with it now, LOL. (I'm wondering if I can use it to make a list of e-learning academic journals, and what has come out in their latest issues. Or would de.licio.us - now 'delicious' be better for that?)

Diagramme of e-project

Writing out my e-tivity (see blogposts below) was an excellent opportunity to reflect carefully on a teaching activity I had always wanted to incorporate into my modules. I got great feedback and support from the others on the module.

I also got to read their write-ups of e-tivities, and this was very helpful to me in considering how I write and how I can improve my own academic writing. I got some excellent ideas from their e-tivities, which I hope to translate onto my own module next year (duly referenced, of course!).

I did think I would get my head around the key technologies (apps?) which are 'trending' in the academic e-world right now. But what is 'hip' today in e-learning is no longer 'bae' tomorrow. (At the time I post, the adjective 'bae' meaning 'cute, adorable, my bae-by' is so cool you can't even google it but by the time you read this it will probably have been overtaken by something else.) I learned more about a lot of apps I'd wondered about, and I found out about new ones. Most of all, I learned to keep looking and exploring in the internet world.

I was inspired by the opportunities e(LATE)D offered to develop my understanding of e-learning and of pedagogies in general. It was an entry point to the literature in my professional field. I mean now to look for opportunities to join communities where I can continue the conversations I have begun on best praxis in e-learning.

Perhaps that is the best end result of a course, that the student emerges not with a body of dry knowledge, soon to be outdated, but as a 'deep learner' (HETL interview with Bain in 2012). Someone who has been able to access 'learning [that] has a sustained and substantial influence on the way they will subsequently think, act, and feel'. 

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Give and Take in Peer Feedback - e(LATE)D TMA Stage 3

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Having written my assignment, I was to submit it to a fellow Associate Lecturer/student on the e(LATE)D module for feedback. Contrary to the gentle supportive reminders on the Study Calendar that, like our students, we may feel anxious about getting feedback, I was very keen to have some dialogue about what I was writing. It can be easy to start feeling like a tutor on a desert island when you teach mostly online. It was pleasant to hear back about my work instead of just putting wise words out on other people's work, like messages in bottles.

Dessert Island (Iles Flotantes)

(Pictured above, a dessert island: Îles Flottantes)

I got good advice from my peer commentator, although she took a more formal approach and I suspect may have been a bit guarded in what she said.

The person whose assignment I was to feed back on had not contacted me, so I was gleefully thinking I'd get to skip that part of the workload. However luckily in the Online Tutorial another student said she had not managed yet to get feedback and I leapt in to offer to do it for her.

Having to do this was very helpful. In order to give a professional level of feedback, I had to closely read the Learning Outcomes for the assignment. When I read them in order to write my assignment, I'm afraid I skipped quickly through them just skimming them sufficiently to get the general idea! I was under a lot of pressure and running about a week late (you are only supposed to have five days' extension).

That was a lesson to me in how students approach their work! since I had always naively assumed they at least read the assignment instructions carefully several times. I did used to get a bit puzzled by some of the elementary errors I would spot and wonder which set of instructions they were following mixed

So now I am poised to re-write my assignment, with my peer commentator's feedback and a clear idea of the Learning Outcomes, LOL. It has been most helpful to read someone-else's assignment and see how they approached it. I have looked at others posted on the Forum too. 

I've found it helpful writing this blog, as there were some things I covered in my write-up which I can now feel I have written about more appropriately elsewhere (such as the mind mapping planning stage of the work). I felt I ought to include them, to show I had done the legwork for the assignment - like mathematicians writing out the whole equation not just the answer. However I would rather write a clean account of the e-tivity I am attempting to develop.

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Mind mapping - e(LATE)D TMA Stage 3

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Friday, 31 Jul 2015, 06:43

Personally I have never got on with mind-mapping. Spider diagrammes make me want to get out my feather duster and clean that mess off the paper so I can write. I know that the livelier minds of my students can be visual or aural rather than textual so I always pretend to draw one in order that they understand how visually mapping out their ideas could support their thinking, but secretly I just write a list. Grocery shopping, To Do (cat to vet, rake lawn, don't forget to pick up child from school), Report on Social Deprivation and Education, it can all be done by The List. And then you can use the list as your Contents. Although not for the To Do tasks.

However, using mind mapping online tools was part of the game on e(LATE)D so I heaved a sigh and got on with it.

First we were to try out FreeMind. I felt very much welcomed as there is a large note at the bottom of the FreeMind instructions already saying "Did FreeMind make you angry? Write a complaint." I put my ideas into FreeMind, while telling the cat to stop complaining, I would take it to the vet in a moment, and it looked like this: 

FreeMind diagramme

Well, that is not even pretty! What about some colours and stuff, chaps? Sorry, but that really didn't do much for me.

On to the OU's own mind mapping software: CompendiumLD. My mind map there looked like this:

Compendium diagramme

OK, at least it has some colour, I suppose.

I did find CompendiumLD had value. It is designed not just for free-thinking mind mapping but for planning teaching. I found it helpful that it suggested I make particular nodes for Tasks and Outputs. It enquired tactfully who was supposed to complete these Tasks: Tutor or Student?

I don't really think using these tools used up as much time as I felt, I think they were actually quite speedy. I'm just very impatient with mind mapping, LOL, whereas if I have a chunk of text in front of me I will sit there all day, ignoring the plaintive cries of my hungry cats and child. ("Just have some crisps and sweets. And feed those damn cats.")

CompendiumLD is not valuable for presentation purposes, IMHO. I expect you can see that some of those Nodes have notes attached, but these don't readily open up for others to see. If I was going to seriously mindmap and present, I would use Prezi. Although I hate mind mapping, I adore Prezi. That shows you how super duper good it is. It is intuitive and for very little effort, you can make a set of presentation slides which look stratospherically amazing. You can muck about with all kinds of designs for your Prezi slides, and I do like that. It feels like being back in the sandpit at kindergarten - but with Einstein and Newton making models of time and motion. (I said it feels like that! What you actually produce in there is between you and your conceptual framework.)

OK, now I better take the cat to the vet. Back at you shortly with more reflections on my e(LATE)D TMA e-tivity development process! wide eyes

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The Aims - e(LATE)D TMA Stage 3

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My main aim - boost referencing ability for Level 1 students approve

  1. Referencing is a key study skill. I often see students get lower marks than their astute analysis deserves because they don't provide proper citation sad
  2. Referencing supports the academic 'voice', encouraging students to write:
  • Succinctly;
  • In a way that is directly engaged with the thinking and the evidence they are exploring;
  • With more authority.

A secondary 'affordance' - encouraging the students to do more forum posting.

This encourages student-student learning fostered by tutor support ('scaffolding'), rather than student-tutor learning.

Answers by other students, or the tutor, will refer to module materials where help on referencing can be found - encouraging better student-course content engagement, and better awareness of less obvious material in the course content.

The activity will support students in becoming independent deep learners, as Ken Bain recommends. cool

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Starting off - e(LATE)D TMA Stage 3

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Friday, 31 Jul 2015, 07:20

Luckily I had an activity in mind which I had long wanted to develop. I have always been passionate about teaching good referencing practice. (This is partly because it took me a long time to get my head around referencing!) I also love Forum posting.

Combine the two! What could go wrong. approve

Since I was mid-way through a module, I decided to test my lovely e-tivity live. approve

thoughtful well, that certainly was an interesting experience. As they say of e-teaching, serendipidous learning should be welcomed!

I teach in two cluster groups, so had the benefit of seeing how things go wrong work differently with different groups of students.

Group #1 - student immediately posts complicated secondary referencing example.

Group #2 - a student posts reflections on alphabetical listing in the full references, about which there is conflicting advice in the module materials. Another tutor and I cross-post (at the same time) further conflicting opinions and enter into a messy dialogue which may lead to students disengaging from the thread. 

Watch this space!!! wide eyes


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