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The worst of both worlds rather than the best

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 5 Jun 2014, 06:09

 

 

Fig .1. The Dynamics of Doctrine: The Changes in German Tactical Doctrine During the First World War. Timothy Lupfer (1981) Combat Studies Institute

Sometimes the technology lets you down. Here, having tracked down an obscure book I discover that it is only available in 'digital form' - though it isn't. Rather it is a series of 80 photographs, not even scans and these are presented in landscape form too small to read without expanding the page.

On an iPad the pages flips to horizontal unless you lock the screen. To read the text I have to enlarge each photograph one at a time. I cannot highlight, or annotate. I cannot search. I cannot link instantly to any reference or footnote. 

It had better be worth the effort to extract the information that interests me (it will, there is very little on German tactics on the Western Front while there is a mountain on what the British were doing). 

The effort to read this book will, whether I like it or not, make what I read more likely to stick - the effort is more likely to result in stuff going into the deeper recesses of my memory rather than floating on the surface. 

Usually books that have had this done to them are printed out, on demand, and couriered; I have a few. Again, with mixed results, some brilliant and book like, one I have like a bad photocopy on glossy paper.

The error was during the inputting. Some student operative faced with a stack of books to put through the digitising system didn't line this up. Or, perhaps, this has been copied from a microfiche? That would explain why it scrolls from left to right.

Read on.

 

 

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Curiosity Satisfied

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 24 Feb 2014, 14:57

It amazes me how when reading something and pointed to a footnote or reference that if I choose to do so a few clicks and the reference is before my eyes. Reading up on the First World War there are books from 1914-18 that are freely available in digital form - the additional insight is when you glance at such a reference is to wonder why an author chose that sentence or paragraph, often I find there is something far more interesting being said.

All of this has me reflecting on 'interpretation' and how increasingly, because we can, we should, because we can, check up on authors - certainly take them off their academic pedestals as their word is never absolute, is inevitably biased - and sometimes they get it wrong.

There are two kinds of connectedness here:

1) with references the author has used - how selected, why they thought them of relevance or interest (and the authority and credibility of these references)

2) with fellow readers - which, if you want a response, I increasingly find in Amazon of all places. There are always a few people who have picked  through the text, who are willing and able to other a response or to sleuth it out with you.

How does this change things?

The Web puts at anyone's fingertips resources that until recently were the exclusive domain of university libraries - the older, wealthier universities having the richest pickings and broadest range of references. To 'look something up' as we now do in a few moments could take a couple of days. 'Learning at the speed of need' is a phrase I like, used in the context of applied learning in business, but just as apt here.

As a consequence, earlier in their careers, students will have a broader and stronger, personal perspective. And as a consequence there will be more people 'out there' to join an informed discussion. And as a consequence more new ideas will come to fruition sooner and faster. And as a consequence, collectively, or common understanding will grow and develop faster than before.

 

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Book or eBook?

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You’re missing a trick if you're ignoring eBooks.

My experience studying at postgraduate level over the last four years, first with the Open University and now with the University of Birmingham as well is that we need to consider and experience the affordances of both.

I will own the book and the eBook in some circumstances as they offer a different experience and options.

If you are studying a subject in a social context online it helps to be able to share what you find and think as you read. I did this with Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ and found he was reading along through Twitter and my blog. I find where I have the printed book that I take photos of pages, mash these up and then share online – or resort to pen, paper and note taking in the traditional, lonely way. Then there are the huge tomes, some of the history books I am getting through right now that run to 900 pages – it is so much easier to carry around on the iPad. Using an eBook I highlight by themes of my choosing, add notes, Tweet short passages, seek out threads on single characters, link directly to references and post mashups from screen-grabs rather than photos straight into a e-portfolio so that the idea or issues are tagged and ready for later use.

Non-fiction books will become like some LPs of the past – do you want all the tracks or just your choice?

If I can buy 12 chapters of a book for £8.99 on Kindle, when will I be able to buy for 99p that one chapter I need? Speaking to a senior engineer from Amazon over the summer (old friends who moved to Silicon Valley twenty years ago) he wondered if the ‘transformative’ period for books was about to occur, just as it has occurred with music.

There will be a better, personalised hybrid form in due course, several of which I have tried. So far they have been marred by only one thing – poor content, the clickable, multimedia, well linked experience is apt for the 21st century.

Nothing replaces scholarship though , it’s just going to take a while to make the transition.

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Near Field Communication

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 17:14

Where have I been the last coupld of years to miss Near Field Communication ?

Certainly over the last six months I've been reflecting on the desire for some kind of situation-based, intuative, just-in time information-tailored system for applied learning ... and more recently for use in museums anf galleries. I have kids. I go to museums and galleries. The last time I looked we were still being invited to buy audio-guides.

Maybe that explains it. Does a museum or gallery want to diminish the value of its own paid-for services, even to reduce the likelihood of the purchase of a guide or any other sundry books or postcards if you're getting a suitably rich record of your visit for free?

NFC, QR codes and the ubiquitous Smart Phone must in time give way to wearable technology, the wrist band with a chip in it that I got at the 'In Flanders Fields' museum Ypres is the first step towards something bigger and brainier. The wrist band with a memory stick embedded in it from the University of Birmingham was a lost opportunity too - it should have been loaded with a 'good bag' some software, a piece to camera from the head of department and maybe an eBook to get us going. 

In the past, and still, pen on paper, sometimes with coloured felttips, is the main form of 'user generated content' for students - apt as they will be assessed by writing and colouring in. This needs to be replaced by UGC that uses the devices they have in their hands - their images, typed in text (or voiced) with annotations and mash-ups. 

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Print versus the eBook

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 17:10

Fig.1. The Pity of War (1999) Niall Ferguson. Same page/location.

Unless someone can offer me away around this I have found myself, after reading, highlighting and adding notes to an eBook that the only way I could properly cite it would be to purchase a print copy. This I did for £1.86 exclusing p&p. Cheapest of all would have been the library, but getting it sent from an outlying library then not being able to locate my library card ... 

Even for £1.86 I will not annotate the printed page. I'm loathe even to break its back ... some 500 pages takes some negotiation. 

I have long taken the view that the amount of effort required to pull together your thoughts does more good than harm in the long run - I've engaged with and 'constructed' my personal understanding of what is being said here rather than on a whim highlighing pages in the eBook and never giving them a second thought. Matching up the Kindle Location to a page number has had me jumping back and forth.

Is there an easy way to do this? I find I look for tables and charts, or references (that are standard in both formats) near to the 'search' I\ve done in the Kindle book. Indexing is crude, the difference between throwing a dart or a kitchen knife at a target across the room.

In one made moment of 'blending' the approaches I thought I could buy two paperbacks, tear out the pages and wallpaper them to the garage wall, then use coloured string and such like to seek out all the links like some murder mystery investigation.

OTT (Over the top).

Will printed books soon seem as archaic as a codex or papyrus?

The highlights and notes in the eBook have been less useful than I had hoped. They were just jottings, moments that hinted at a need to give something further thought - more detailed notes would need to come on a third read through. I've managed two.

The book is chunky, a thicks as a telephone directory. You get NO impression of size with an eBook, not the weight, presence of page numbers.

I need to play around with it further still. I do wonder if after all there is real educational value, savings and practicality to loading an eReader with standard texts. A student has no excuse if that term's books are on a device in their bag. What is best practice with use of eBooks in post compulsory education?

 

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It took me a year ... no longer, 18 months. Even longer than that, two years, to recognise what it took to get consistently high marks.

I couldn't fathom what people were doing.

Is it a formula? Or just application? Is there a method? Whatever it takes until you feel confident you know what is going on ... so read, read again, ask questions. Then going and read something else. Disagree, agree ... sleep on it. Then, ever so slowly it starts to dawn on you. This is what they are on about. I am prone to read well beyond the listed resources though, picking through papers until I find the one that speaks to me - the voice that expresses it in a way that has ressonance. And I am prone, within reason, to get the book that is cited in a paper I like ... so a collection of second handbooks under the table and a larger collection of eBooks. eBooks I read faster, highlight and take notes as I go along, then migrate notes and quotes into a Google Doc. I kid myself when I have a lot to read that it is different on the Kindle, the iPad or on the TV size screen that is ... well the TV (but my computer too).

A couple of weeks ago I took the TV and put it in the shed. One of those things the size of a pedal car.

No one misses it.

Everyone is on a screen elsewhere in the house. We stream movies. We use BBC iPlayer.

I don't miss clicking between channels looking for something to watch, finding nothing much but glued to the thing for a few things all the same.

Movies?

Ironclad

That's the way to do Medieval!

A week away in April and I still haven't recovered my old rhythmn. Nor will I. Instead of bloggin I have every conceivable thing to sort out with the house and garden. Somehow both were abandoned for three years - I wonder why that was?

The lawn was so bad I needed an industrial strimmer. The lawnmower I bought in 2007 is still in its original packaging in the shed.

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The Perfect Man

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 3 Nov 2011, 08:54

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I stumbled upon 'The Perfect Man' about a Victorian body-builder physical well-being guru while reading and researching 'The Magnificient Mrs Tennant' by the same author. This is my second read; these books are dense with detail, in this case from diaries and hundreds of letters.

The%252520Perfect%252520Man%252520EUGEN%252520SANDOW%252520Snip%2525201.JPG

'Bulging in all the right places' says one reviewer from the FT (of coure) of 'The Perfect Man'.

David Waller, a former FT Journalist, has an uncanny nack of telling a vivid story while packing it with the kind of detail you'd require to study postgraduate history (which he did, while keeping up the day job). Whilst Mrs T is still only available in print form, 'Mr P' as I am calling it, will be available as an eBook. The beauty of this is to then link instantly to all the resources.

I guess I'm studying the wrong MA. I wish all academic thomes could be such an good read, the mix of narrative with the resources/references woven in. I've looked at the History modules.

Would I be able to study an MA 1820-1920 for example?

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