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Time to reflect on 'Start Writing Fiction' with the OU and FutureLearn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 19 Dec 2014, 09:33
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. The writer's path ...

The eight week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) I have just completed 'Start Writing Fiction', with the OU, through FutureLearn merits, like all learning experiences, a period of reflection. How do you look through posts across some 80-100 'threads' with anything from 143 posts (final thread, final week) to over 7,500 posts (fourth thread, first week) ? You have to filter, but these filters are dependent on your participation throughout because the key filters are: 'my comments' and 'following'. These in turn, isolate from a massive thread, the comments you have left, starting a thread to the main discussion or commenting on points made by others. While 'following' picks out those, all of them, whose thoughts and contributions you have enjoyed. You can also pick out 'most liked' - though with likes ranging from 0-4 with 1 like the median, this sift hasn't anything to offer. And you can prioritise 'Activity' i.e. select in reverse order across all posts in an activity those that are most recent.

Thus armed, if you can give it the time, you can work back over the battlefield of minds that has been this last two months; it feels like a 60 degree credits 7-8 month slog packed into a very, very long weekend - it has been that intense (I've let it be so).

Whilst the activities could be done in three hours a week at a fast jog, what takes far longer is a) writing a piece for peer review - 300, 500 and 1000 words were the lengths of submission and b) reading, replying, following and learning from the mass off comments in what are sometimes huge discussion threads with thousands of responses where some of have skipped through the entire 8 weeks course in a few weeks, and others, like climbing onto a moving walkway, are still, just joining. 

I can write 1,500 words in an hour. However, 500 from a day of writing, takes ... all day. And it is generally this 500 which is worthy of keeping and could lead to publication.  I have learnt the value of reviewing the work of others - all standards (I've been at all standards and can migrate with ease between them). I am reading fiction strategically -I did this with efforts to write TV series and Film scripts (I have a writer/director credit for a short film on Channel 4). It is so useful, as you get a feel for the genre you are writing, to read some of the very best in that genre. It makes sense really. How have other authors successfully tackled time-travel, war, fairies ... horror, romance or sex. And then writing itself. Setting time aside, focusing on that for hours uninterrupted to give you creative side a chance to come out. And then, from that, edit ruthless to those ideas, phrases, descriptions and characters that meet a set of criteria. It's tough. If it wasn't everyone would be a published author.

I may forget to take my phone with me, but when I go anywhere I have an A6 size notebook and pen. Like Louis de Bernieres I take a bath and use this time to read fiction! No iPad. Fewer showers. Currently reading 'The Time Traveller's Wife' and 'Never Ending Story'. 

When I get up, very early, I flick over two hourglasses: one is 30 minutes, the other an hour. I like the 'reward' of getting 30 minutes in. I may forget where time is going after an hour or so. 2,000 words a day ought to be about right. Less happens. More happens. Then the rest of the day takes over - often until the early hours of the following morning. I read over a few pages before I go to sleep and sometimes the Muse rewards me in the early hours ... or torments, or deserts me. 

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C is for Connectedness, Comments, Curation, Collaboration and Constructivism

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 30 May 2014, 07:44

  • Comments
  • Grainné Conole
  • Connectedness
  • Constructed Learning
  • Cognitive Learning
  • Communities of Practice
  • Curation
  • Cognitive Overload
  • Collaboration
  • Complexity Theory
  • Constructed Knowledge
  • Csicksentmihalyi
  • Creative Commons
  • Crowd Sourcing
  • Cox
  • City & Guilds
  • CREET
  • Composting

Connectedness, Comments, Curation and Collaboration are interrelated: you get 'connectedness', a George Siemens coined term, as a result of curation (putting content online) which garners comments and thus creates collaboration. Comments bring like minds together and the learning experience is enhanced as a result. 

Prof Grainné Conole would be in any 'who's who of e-learning' along with a couple of dozen others. Follow her blog, read her many books and papers. I can't think that there is an MAODE module where she does not have an influence.

I've added cognitive overload as a warning really; some modules and e-learning tries to hard. Less is best. I love Rosetta Stone as a language learning platform as it keeps it simple - like playing with coloured bricks, whereas some modules I have done become unduly complex, with too many 'optional' activities and extra reading which simply adds to the complexity. Our educators are there to make choices for us.

Csicksentmihalyi isn't taught in the MAODE modules, though he ought to be. I came across him in an MBA module on creativity, innovation and change. Csicksentmihalyi coined the phrase 'in the flow' and neatly explains that balance between boredom and stress that is cured by further learning and training so that we are challenged and progress.

City & Guilds I've added as with their acquisition of Kineo, an e-learning agency, they have become a global learning and development provider online as well as off. The OU has baulked at being a global player, pulling out of Europe and resisting developing further afield. Other players, Phoenix comes to mind, are becoming global universities.

'Composting' is an odd one without explanation - it is my term to describe the need for space in learning, that whatever it is you learn takes time to bed down. It matters to me that students take two to three years to master their subject. The modular nature of OU courses may be convenient, and the 'end of year' or 'end of course' exam largely avoid, but I feel this is a significant loss. The final written exams, by their nature, galvanise your effort and pull your thinking together and produce a lasting effect. 

Communities of Practice

Wenger (1998) identifies three essential features:

  • mutual engagement

  • a joint enterprise

  • a shared repertoire.

Engaging in practice over a period of time develops a shared repertoire of practices,

understandings, routines, actions, and artefacts (Wenger 1998).

Participation in communities of practice is not only about learning to do, but as a part of doing, it is about learning to be (Lave and Wenger 1991)

Firstly, it shifts the focus from teaching to learning and the practices the learner engages in (Adler 1998).

Secondly, it recharacterises the role of the teacher as not primarily being a holder of knowledge but an expert in the practices of a subject based community. The teacher exemplifies for the learner how to legitimately participate in these practices.

Thirdly, as a situated theory of learning it helps to explains the issue of a lack of ‘transfer’ of knowledge from school to non-school contexts (see Evans 2000; Lave 1988; Lerman 1999, for a discussion of this issue).

Fourthly, it recognises the intimate connection between the ‘subject’ practices and the pedagogical practices and therefore helps us to understand why different pedagogies not only influence the amount that is learned but also what is learned. The acquisition (Lave 1988) or representational model (Seely Brown and Duguid 1989) of learning in school contexts distinguishes between what the students are to learn or to ‘acquire’, and the means by which this learning occurs. A division is made between subject and pedagogy.

Fifthly, it highlights the extent to which educators are not imparting knowledge nor even only helping their students to engage in particular social practices but rather to become particular types of human beings. Thus it opens avenues of inquiry to understand learners' patterns of identification and non-identification with schools mathematics (see for example, Boaler 2000)

The community of practice model, based on the metaphor or actuality of apprenticeship learning identifies three basic positions that participants take up.

These can be referred to in the following way:

  • master/old-timer/expert,

  • journeyman/established-member/adept,

  • apprentice/newcomer/novice.

REFERENCE

Adler, J. (1998) "Lights and limits: Recontextualising Lave and Wenger to theorise knowledge ofteaching and of learning school mathematics." In Situated Cognition and the Learning of Mathematics, ed. Anne Watson, 161-177. Oxford: Centre for Mathematics Education, University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies.

Boaler, J. (2000) "Mathematics from another world: Traditional communities and the alienation of learners." Journal of Mathematical Behaviour 18, no. 3: 379-397.

Boylan, M (2004) Questioning (in) school mathematics: Lifeworlds and ecologies of practice PhD Thesis. Sheffield Hallam University

Herting, K (2006) Balancing on a thin line - Thoughts from a study of Swedish voluntary leaders in children’s football. AARE’s 36th Annual International Education Research Conference Adelaide Australia November 27 -30 2006

Lave, J, and Wenger.E (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lemke, J. (1997) "Cognition, context, and learning: A social semiotic perspective." In Situated Cognition: Social, Semiotic, and Psychological Perspectives, ed. David Kirshner and JamesWhitson, 37-56. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Lerman, S. (1998) "Learning as social practice: An appreciative critique." In Situated

Cognition and the Learning of Mathematics, ed. Anne Watson, 33-42. Oxford: Centre for

Mathematics Education, University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies.

Seely Brown, J, and P. Duguid. (1991) Organisational learning and communities of practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation. Accessed November 2000. Available from http://www.parc.xerox.com/ops/members/brown/papers/orglearning.htm.

Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Conole, G. (2011) ‘Stepping over the edge: the implications of new technologies for education’ in Lee, M.J.W. and McLoughlin, C. (eds) Web 2.0-based E-learning: Applying Social Informatics for Tertiary Teaching, Hershey

Conole, G. (2004). E-learning: the hype and the reality. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 12

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1975). Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: Experiencing Flow in Work and Play, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 0-87589-261-2

Despite the rhetoric of the content industry, the most valuable contribution to our economy comes from connectivity, not content’. Lawrence Lessig (2008:89) CF Andrew Odlyzko ‘Content is not King’.

Calvani, A. (2009). Connectivism: new paradigm or fascinating pot-pourri?. Journal of E-learning and Knowledge Society, 4(1).

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning,9(3).

Connectivism: Its place in theory-informed research and innovation in technology-enabled learning

de Waard, I. (2011). Explore a new learning frontier: MOOCs. Retrieved from Learning Solutions Magazine website: http://bit. ly/mSi4q

Bruner, J. (1986). Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Driscoll, M. P. (2000). Psychology of learning for instruction. 2nd ed. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Cobb, P. (1994). Where is the Mind? Constructivist and sociocultural perspectives on mathematic development. Educational Researcher, 23 (7), pp. 13-20

Fosnot, C. T. (1996). (Ed.) Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Jonassen, D. H. (1992). Evaluating constructivist learning. In T. M. Duffy, & D. H. Jonassen (eds), Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Association.

Piaget, J. (1985). The equilibration of cognitive structures. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (1999). Instructional Design. 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Von Glaserfeld (1992). Constructivism reconstruction: A reply to Suchting. Science and Education, 1, 379-384.

Vyogtsky, L. S. (1979). Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behavior.Soviet Psychology, 17 (4), 3-35. (Original work published in 19-24).

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychology process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Original published in 1930).

Wertsch, J. V. (1992). L. S. Vygotsky and contemporary developmental psychology. Developmental Psychology, 28 *4), 548-557. Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (Original work published 1962).

 

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Blogging

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 14 Mar 2011, 15:53

This site had the right idea 11 1/2 years ago.

Diaryland%20Your%20INFO%20GRAB.JPG

Has everyone else been copying? A decade ago this was a novel way of doing things, where you all joined in, read each other's stuff.

It is striking that so much of this has the attitude of Web 2.0 an expression that was coined until 2001 or 2002.

Diaryland%20Log%20In%20List%20GRAB.JPG

 

In this community pairing up with a designer was de riguer. There wasn't the expectation that someone would have the mindset and desire both to write and design. This form of participation has been lost with the development of free templates picked from galleries. You don't have a relationship with the designer for a start ... discussing what you would like and their suggesting what they can do.

And most profoundly of all, and better than anything I've come across since, you create and control your 'buddy list' and learn who, most importantly, is posting on a regular basis. Bird of a Feather do flock together ... the most important criteria of all is that those who write want to be with others who write.

Diaryland%20Buddies%20MARCH%202011%20GRAB.JPG

You learn to spend as much time reading and commenting on the diaries of others. You also learn to respond when they post, which you can do here.

I thought I was doing well to reach 10,000 entries. There are some who have 20,000. A group I established had some ground rules: minimum entry 1,000 words. This was to distinguish us from those who thought keeping a blog was about posting a single line.

Web 2.0 in 1999?

It has the hallmarks.

The profound shift we writers had to make was to stop posting copyright notices on every word we posted.  How often I've been plagiarised is another matter. Posting story ideas ... then not writing the story may be daft.

Join. Still free. Still there. Still loads of fun. Inventive. Open. Extraordinary.

And one of the few orginal online diary platforms around. Live Journal and Word Press followed some years after.

 

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Why comments may skew your blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 12 Jan 2011, 05:53

90% of people only read a blog, 9% occasionaly write leaving 1% to do it all.

If you get 1 or 2 comments you may have what, 90-180 readers? With better stats that offered here you can validate this. All skewed by the distinct narrowcasting of an OU Blog, as we are in theory writing to our tutor group or course cohort.

So why might comments skew the content?

Who are this 1%? If they are being negative or abusive (never here of course), they are flaming. In my experience you will never placate or please them, only pour oil on their self-hate, attitude or whatever is going on. They may be cutting and pasting the same nastiness in dozens of blogs.

Other comments I feel are akin to a wave from a friend who I've noticed across the road. I like this. I'll let people know I am reading them, out of politeness, but also to encourage them. If I've read them once, I'd like them to write more and read again.

Comments, if you are chasing the stats, will skew your blog to the extreme views these commentators are expressing, or to the particular parts of the blog they find attractive.

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Spam - none here, ever!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 14 Sep 2010, 15:41

Working with a number of other blogs one thing that strikes me that has to be of enormous worth by committing to the OU platform is the lack of spam.

This may be a basic set up, but it is good at the thing that matters most - permitting the generation of and sharing of content.

Without adverts popping up, spam (deviously written to look like a genuine comment you will find) and the impression that the provider really does want you to upgrade.

What matters in a learning environment are the comments of one or two, perhaps regular readers ... whose blogs you read too.

(whether ot not you care to say 'hi' or comment)

You do not need a presence on a commercial website with a readership of millions to share your OU learning experience. In any case, you'll be lost like a needle in a stack of needles.

Content should be King.

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