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The Power of Stories

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Olympic Skier Lindsay Vonn with her bruised/broken arm in a sling

Ten years ago I started a student blog at the behest of the OU as part of the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE). This was my second go at this having started nine years previously with the MAODL (Distance Learning). 

I came from corporate training. Coming from teaching might have been more appropriate, and teaching in Higher Education in particular. I thought the outcome would be back into industry, whereas it has instead been a route into Education. It might have lead to research. I did prepare a PhD thesis and took this to Southampton.

Events closer to home have me reflecting on the power of story, no matter how or where it is expressed. We are highly tuned in to pay attention to a well told drama.

Our drama lately has been a broken arm (not me) and the unexpected knock on effects and lessons learnt in relation to the medical systems and approach in France and the UK, to being freelance or working fulltime, and a wake up call to what it takes to care for someone. 

The story of this break and its consequences is shared with friends and over a few days it finds its own shape. You learn how to retain attention as one event and its consequences and all the subsequent decissions that are taken, and their consequences too. Let alone the other brickbats that get thrown your way to complicate it all further.

And the conclusion is?

Count your blessings

Smile and get on with it

Remember your friends and family as they remember you

Be prepared for this and worse happening

And in relation to learning?

Holding a students attention

Providing engagement which has a purposeful direction

Letting people draw their own conclusions

Listen to feedback and add this to the lessons being learnt

The vitality that comes from a story with emotional appeal, crisis, pain and laughter, consequences and outcomes. 

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Exploring the World of Social Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013, 11:04



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Find it here: Smashwords

There can be no better recommendation to read a book than when its author spots you as a like-mind and invites you to read.

I am halfway through Julian Stodd's 'Exploring the World of Social Learning' and am keen to spread the word to those like me who are studying for a Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) - particularly in H807, H808 and H800 we are asked to learn collaboratively and go understand the dynamics of shared learning spaces online from this blog-cum-bulletin board platform, to student tutors groups and break-out cafes. You may even have made it over to the Open University Linkedin group (go see).

I not only find myself nodding in agreement but better still in Web 2.0 terms I find I keep wanting to pause to explore a thought or theme further, the subject matter embracing learning, social learning and e-learning - while drawing on a professional corporate learning and development background, which makes a valuable change from an academic perspective on social learning in tertiary education.

To do this I return to this my open to all e-portfolio-cum-blog to search for what I have thus far picked up on social learning, learning theories, forums and so on. And to do the same in other people's blogs as hearing these familiar voices helps make better sense of it all.

I should add a grab here of the couple of dozen books I have read in, on and around 'social learning' - I put 'Exploring the World of Social Learning' alongside:

'The Digital Scholar' Martin Weller

'A New Culture of Learning' Douglas Thomson and John Seely Brown

'From Teams to Knots' Yrjö Engeström

'The Now Revolution' Jay Baer and Amber Naslund

via a solid grounding in educational theory that you'd get from Vygotsky's 'Educational Psycology'.

An alternative to, or addition to reading about social learning in an academic papers, that are by definition are several years out of date, rate MySpace above Facebook and fail to mention iPads or Smartphones in the mix.

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H810: Accessibility

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 26 Aug 2012, 08:46

Past experience tells me that being able to apply daily practice to the module is helpful. I've not been in this position for 3 of the 4 modules I have so far completed, however, for H810 I not only find myself working for an e-learning agency, but had a long discussion today about accessibility in relation to the e-learning we produce for one of our clients. The problem surrounds Flash and video - how best to make such interactive content accessible. The simple answer is a word document, or possibly a reversioned earlier expression of the module in PowerPoint. Screenreaders don't cope well with complex interactivities, which sometimes aren't even chronological being more of a 'journey of discovery'.

There needs to be an understanding of the needs of disabled learners so that this is written into the brief and the right kind of accommodations are made - if only to allow readily available software to do their job zooming frames, adjusting backgrounds and fonts to make them easier to read for dyslexia or partially sighted, while making the job of a screen reader easier for those with more severe sight disabilities.

At some point their is surely an inevitable compromise between the requirements of the DDA, the needs and expectations of the client (in relation to their mission or brand too) and cost.

Images

  • Those with a learning purpose require description.
  • Those for visual effect probably do not
  • Charts that are integral to the learning require description.

Are pages compatible with industry standard software such as JAWS?

Keep it simple

  • Word

Decades ago working in linear video we brought in a presenter who would sign in front of a blue screen (later green, these days possibly just a white infinity curve) while the projected the video played through.

Supporting workbooks could be offered in various forms.

A facilitator would be on hand - the learning was blended.

The best chance of getting it right is when the audience is primarily a distinct disability group form whom the project can be tailored and certainly seeking their expert input.

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Livewire with Brightwave

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 23 May 2012, 06:48

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I have no reason to plug these guys but as an e-learning practioner I want to try and engage with everything 'out there'.

I was fabulously impressed with this service and totally sold on the benefits of blended learning, of doing it live, synchronously with a highly professional, amusing and sparky moderator and equally passionate fellow students.

This is how to learn on line.

Though I appreciate that this level of intensity is unsustainable over the duration of a module, it is nonetheless what the once fornightly Elluminate session ought to be like.

It doesn't require bells and whistles. The platform is simple.

The human interaction is key. We learn best from each other with the right mix of the knowledgeable and the ignorant who are keen to learn.

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Use of video in elearning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 06:34

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What role does video play in elearning? What role does AV or video play in digital communications?

A simple question shared on Linkedin and picked up by a West End Production company led to my joining four producers for what became a two hour conversation yesterday. I based this conversation around a mindmap created in Bubbl.us, something a fellow MAODE student introduced me to over a year ago. (We were comparing tools, such as Compendium, for creating visualisations of learning designs).

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I had thought about dripping ink into a glass of water to make a point: that digital content dripped into a digital ocean quickly dilutes, that binary code of text, images, video and sound can be melted down and mashed up in many ways. I wonder if an ice-cube in a G&T would have served the same purpose?

It is of course a metaphor, the suggestion that anything goes and anything can happen.

(I find these mind maps a far easier way to share ideas. It is non-linear. It is an aide-memoir. I'd put it online in Picasa and in a blog rather than printing off. I had expectations of calling it up on a huge boardroom screen, instead we struggled with a slow download in an edit suite. Sometimes only a print out would do. There wasn't an iPad amongst them either).

We discussed the terms 'e-learning' and even 'e-tivities' acknowledging that as digital activity is part of the new reality that online it is just 'learning' and that an 'activity' is best described as such.

Video online can be passive, like sitting back and watching a movie or TV. To become an activity requires engagement, sitting forward, and in most cases tapping away at a keyboard (though increasingly swiping across a touch screen).

'Sit Back' or 'Sit Forward' are phrases I recall from the era of 'web-based learning' a decade ago, even interactive learning on Laser Disc and DVD in the early 1990s.

There is science behind it, that learning requires engagement if stuff is to stick: watching a video, or a teacher/lecture is likely to be too passive for much to meaningful. The crudest activity is to take notes (and subsequently to write essays and be examined of course).

Here I am saying 'anything goes' that a piece of video used in learning may be short or long, with limited production values or 'the full monty', the kind of conference opener or commercial that are cinematic with production values and costs to match. We differentiated between 'User Generated Content' and 'DIY', between the amateur working alone and someone being guided through the craft skills of narrative story telling using video. I cited various examples and our our plans to bring alumni together over a weekend, to introduce TV production skills, hand out cameras and a sound kit (though some would bring their own), then based on responses to a creative brief, a synopsis and treatment, even a simple script, they would go away and shot then edit something. These pieces should have a credibility and authenticity as a result.

The kind of outputs include the video diary and the 'collective' montage with contributions from around the world linked with some device. A recording (with permission) of a web conference may meet the same criteria, embedded on a dashboard to allow for stop, stop, replay. A couple of other forms of 'user generated content' were mentioned, but neither taking notes nor recording the meeting I have forgotten. I use the negative expression 'corporate wedding video' for the clips that can be generated by teams who haven't had the training, or lack the craft skills.

For the presentation I had spun through a dozen video pieces and grabbed screens as I went along, key moments in the presentation or some trick or approach that I liked to illustrate a point: text on screen, humour, slip-ups denoting authenticity and so on. Put online and embedded in a blog these images were a form or mashup. The images could be collated on Flickr. Whilst a piece of video on YouTube can be embedded anywhere a person wants it, this content in various ways can be reincorporated. Not a bad thing if links of some kind are retained. Providing a transcript and stills are ways to facilitate quoting from the piece, for getting the conversation going on a social platform. This depends of course on the client brief, whether there is a wish, let alone permission, supported by the right Creative Commons choices, to see content shared.

We discussed external and interal communications, the difference between content for the Internet or an Intranet.

We also discussed the likelihood of people to participate in this way. I like the simple split between 'Digital Visitors' and 'Digital Residents', between those who look and those who touch, those who observe from time to time, compared to those who take an active role. I quoted Jakob Neilsen and his 95:4:1 ratios between those online who simple browse or observer (what used to be pejoratively called lurking), those who rate, like or comment and the 1% who create the content.

Forrester Research have taken this further though this isn't something I took them through:

  • Creator
  • Conversationalist
  • Critic
  • Collector
  • Joiner
  • Spectator
  • Inactive

 

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REFERENCE

Salmon, G (2002) The key to active learning online. (accessed 24th March 2012) https://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde8/reviews/etivities.htm

 

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