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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - all you need in the learning mix

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 1 Feb 2013, 09:03

JENGA.JPG

I love the beauty of  Jenga. Like Google, it's simple and it works.

Simplicity has a purity about it. Don't knock it. Behind its functionality and its look and feel there will be some hard thinking.

'Keep it simple, stupid'. (K.I.S.S) may be a training cliche but there is considerable truth in it.

I've now had three years here at the OU and here on this Student Blog platform (short of five days, first post 6th Feb 2010).

I've been working on my ideas regarding learning and e-learning design in particular Courtesy of THE OU hosted OLDs MOOC 2013 (Online Learning Design - Massive Open Online Course)

I'm experiencing what feels like undertaking an 8 week written examination - the contents of my brain are being pushed through the cookie cutter.

And out comes this:

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

(Of course I had shut down for the gadgets for the day and was brushing my teeth when this came to me).

The%2520good.JPG

The Good

Learning events or activities, moments that make the participant smile, think, reflect, nod in agreement, understand, be informed and generally feel good about the world and this particular learning experience. Hit them with some of this, as the say so succinctly across the Atlantic - at the 'get go'.

The%2520bad.JPG

The Bad

The effort required and built into the learning. OK, we want them to love this too, and you can if you're 'in the flow', have done your work, have wrestled with what you didn't understand, asked for help, listen to fellow students, gone out of your way to do extra reading and research until you have it, one way or another.

There needs to be assessment.

An assignment is a soft assessment to me - though like everyone I have terrible days when the thing just slips through my fingers like a snowball on the beach. A dissertation or end of module assignment is tougher, but tough and 'bad' in a certain way - like commitment to a triathlon. And a good analogy as working on and developing three issues at 2,000 words a pop is about right. And you won't get far if you leave training to the week before. It's a slow burn.

The 'bad' has to be the written examination.

They have to be hated and feared, and like learning lines for that school play, you have to get it right on the night (or day). And what do you do if you act? You have good lines to learn, you learn and rehearse your lines and you practice, and do a test run or two. The curtains going up is the equivalent of your turning the examination paper over. I feel the fear from a year ago - April 2012. I hadn't sat a written exam in 30 years. All my undergraduate and school-boy fears came back. I used rusty techniques that had last seen service during my first degree.

Bad is good. You want to do everything not to feel like you are naked on stage - a dream we all have when faced with such an 'exposing' test?

The%2520ugly.JPG

The Ugly

Shock 'em. Not scare the witless. Have up your sleeve some smart stuff. Whether an idea or the technology offer a creepy and certainly memorable surprise.

Boring a student into making a fact or issue stick is like throwing mud at a brick wall - it'll stick, it'll coagulate and build up, but is easily washed away in a shower and destroyed in a storm.

Use storytelling techniques perhaps, better still, follow the pattern of a ghost story.

Scare them? I'm back on fear I guess.

We humans are fearful of many things and will go out of our way to avoid, run away or confront our fears. As I said, the idea here isn't to lose your students, but to empathise with them, understand the ugly side of their learning experience then help them confront their worst fears. It is ugly having to tackle the parts of a subject that stink, but inevitably these are the blocks at the base of JENGA.

So can I apply it? And can I go back to bed now?

Which leads me to another theme - we no longer simply bring work home with us, we take it to bed and sleep with it. If this pisses you off then let me introduce you to 'working with dreams'. If you are prepared to get up for an hour in the dead of night, or can flick on a light without invoking divorce then scribble stuff down to catalyse the thought in the morning. Can work wonders, can produce nonsense, can just be some things you need to put on the supermarket shopping list ... or another dream of being naked on the stage, not knowing your lines and needing the lo but all the exits are locked and the orchestra has stopped and you have to say something.

Which, courtesy of the wonders of the mind, has me in the front row of a performance of The Tempest at the University Theatre, Newcastle when I was 13 or 14. Caliban was naked, covered in mud and wearing a prosthetic erect penis.

HORROR!

P.S. And give me 20 minutes searching the Internet and I will be able to name the actor, date the show and possibly even find a picture. Perhaps you'd like to have a go. But before you do so, be very fearful of what the search terms you use might throw up.

P.P.S. It may have been David Suchet, with Juliet Stevenson or some such as Aerial. The performance was in 1974, possibly a precursor to the RSC doing a Newcastle Tour every March at the Theatre Royal and Gulbenkien. It may have been Jim Carter. Or none of these!


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500 years of Lewes Old Grammar School, so what do they do? Close the High Street and march around town in costume

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 24 Oct 2014, 08:29

A school parade through Lewes. This is Lewes. This is normal.

I've been marching around in fancy dress for 12 years either as a Confederate Soldier or an early 18th Century Pirate.

Does Lewes produce more historians per head of population than other towns in the UK?

I wonder because all this activity must have an impact, especially on the younger participants. I took over 200 photos this afternoon, and spent a lot of time getting close ups of the 3d 'Banners' that were paraded through town.

The detail and craftsmanship impressed.

The entire set could be used as multiple pegs into the 500 year history of England ... and beyond, this is afterall the town of Tom Paine.

This on the day Scotland starts its yes campaign for independence and I happend to be reading the chapter in the Norman Davies book 'The Isles' on the extraordinary mishaps that resulted in the union of England and Scotland in the first place.

Scotland had gone bust financing an attempt at empire building in central America. I favour independence. Of the 62 ancestors I can trace back to the 18th century one was Irish, and some 50 from Scotland, the rest from the North East or North West of England.

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One day at a time, one year at a time, each decade of his life

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 18 Jan 2011, 18:49

1976 – 1983 -

I could keep going to Jan 2011. Like a returning diarist the New Year offers hope and a desire to record what goes on, though some of the tougher times would make better reading.

Reading this I could imagine a character who comes out of a coma with the New Year's Fire Works but nods off again by February 1st. There's a thought. There's a screenplay. There's another year or two of my life lost inside my head ...

January 5th

1976
Got up late, had bath, watched T.V. XXX and I were sent to our rooms, I couldn’t care because I had records, radio, typewriter, crayons etc: Watched TV. Cycled, Took down Xmas decorations and tree. Dad rang. No Tuesday. Didn’t mind. Used to him. Watched heart surgery on Horizon.

1977
Up at 8ish, breakfast with XXX and XXX, get stuff and leave dead on 9. Smash ice on pool. Wait for Mum 15 mins. Dad going to a meeting at Middlesbrough. Home, nothing changed, odd pieces of money from Aunties, chess from Uncle XXX. Still haven’t got rec: player, get record from Realm Records. No money though. Try to get rec: players in Town. Talk to XXX, bath, hair, TV, fall to sleep.

1978
Sleepy – read book. I, Claudius, Robert Graves. XXX at King’s Cross. XXX gets off to school. Phone me at 12 – stopped – continued. Very persistent, glad I answered – to meet XXX in Town. Tell her about disco – couldn’t get her Mum’s permission. Wonder town, Sit in restaurant for an hour left at 5. Danced at GRC with XXX

1979
Tell Mum were coming home on Sat. Train + XXX, Have People’s ringing P about a Top hat. Must try and get all my gear back somehow. More interesting XXX, in bed most of the day, XXX and more XXX and more comments about XXX with XXX.

1980
Felt ill in morning and up early and bath, Breakfast with XXX, late so not for XXX and Dad. Drift round Paris, stop at Cafe, then Louvre for the rest of the day. Late lunch and Eiffel Tower, slowly drive to Le Havre – pouring, Find Taverne Basque and have beautiful end of hold French meal., Mostly ski-estates on ferry, only Fiji for XXX.

1981
Strong wind – cleared snow and filled bus with Japanese (took photos of us). Clear Maison Rose, returned and sat in Cafeteria, Told off by Mme R as though I didn’t work. V. little to do so just got bored. Skied. Binding lose and broke twice. Up button lift and x4 the Telecabine (great) just starting to get legs (met XXX) – deadly, clean ski room/chocs for XXX (bleeper went) able to go early (7.10pm) really needed it as was most chattered.

1981
Hate the near depredation of the customs having to look through the boot. Expectantly. Dad missed a turning. As I did. He blew up. Rain and floods became snow at Appleby. Wanted to dash on to Newcastle to see XXX. After mean. Burst tire outside Appleby. A66 closed to Brough so drove via Brampton and straight to XXX’s. Being quite Telly ... Andrew XXX. Out for Midnight hedge, soaked but fun came in late and nicely ‘til 1.00 great to be back.

1983
Man rip to find out what I will to – to Hexham Infirmary with Mrs XXX and Granny and XXX, Plaster off and re enraged badly diagnosis by a seemingly drunk Dr XXX was to leave them alone. Work at 4.00 TV & XXX home to change before Tuxedo junction and had to get trews from Jonathan XXX, Mike XXX, Simon XXX, Rob XXX etc home to a bath end of dear but climb into bed for XXX v had the mattress from XXX’s room and on floor.

and on, and on, and on ...

Meaningless to non-participants (or should that read combatants) but most of these notes bring back the events of the day to me. Try this with a clear object in mind, studying a course with the Open University, a speculative project you want to bring about, clearly know when and what to keep private ... even write it in a book rather than online. Though I don’t think anyone has read anything I’ve locked online.

But do it. Even 50 words a day adds up over a year. And after a year it might inspire you to write 100 words a day. That's how I got going age 13 years 6 months. Exactly like Adrian Molehouse.

At family gatherings, several big ones are due in 2011, I am known as the archivist, I have the stories too, memories passed down to me of brothers and sisters growing up, but also of our long gone ‘ancient aunts’ who would all be 105+ by now. Photos of them too, old double 8mm film, me at my christening, photos of a World War 1 machine gunner, another an RFC bomber pilot.

Memories can be treasured. They should be treasured.

It doesn’t diminish the genre of keeping a diary to do so online, or to share some of the content with others, or do what the internet is great at doing – ‘Chunk’ your stuff into bite-size pieces; some of the above looks like a Twitter, keep to 250 words for a blog, but do it every day.

If words aren’t your thing load a picture a day, just one of many you may have snapped that will remind you of this day forever.

I listened to a busker sitting on Cliffe Bridge, Lewes yesterday afternoon.

Great, Passionate, Rough, Poignant. Thinking about it I wish I’d gone over and asked if I could take a snap, or video him on the phone for YouTube. I’ll do so next time I see him.

That would have nailed the day for me.

Then tag it. I have a tag fetish going. I do try to use the same word, but it looks as if I try to make up something different for the same thing, which rather spoils the purpose. Though I do rather like the ridiculous, tumbling, cascade of words and typos I have going in my tag clog, list thingey (another technical term that is a natz less technical that ‘stuff.’ all if which are eminently quantable to, of or by someone or something somewhere.

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The use of narrative in e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 15 Oct 2012, 10:28

I fully buy into the idea of using narrative in teaching.

Without the pyrotechnics of e-technology some imagination from a well informed agent, perhaps assisted by a scriptwriter, could produce a script that is engaging, a journey from which a learner may deviate if something so intrigues them, a pattern with a beginning, middle and end that everyone can follow.

‘Teachers use narrative to teach children difficult concepts and to bring structure to the curriculum.’ Egan (1988)

REF

Bruner (1996.97) ‘Meaning Making’

  • spontaneous inclination to engage in a dialogue with material
  • to improve some form of organisation upon it
  • to make comparison with it

REF

McCloskey, D.N. (1990) Storytelling in economics

Bruner, J.S. (1996) ‘Frames of thinking: ways of making meaning.’ In Olson, D and Torrance, N (eds) Modes of thought. Explorations in culture and cognition, pp. 93-105.

It has been shown that experts in any field tend to embody knowledge in the form of narrative.

Schon, D (1983) The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action.

‘Stories are the method by which people impose order and reason upon the world.’ Fisher. (1987) REF Fisher, W.R. (1987) Human communication as Narration: toward philosophy of reason, value and action.

‘By framing events in a story it permits individuals to interpret their environment, and importantly it provides a framework for making decisions about actions and their likely outcomes.’ Weller. (2009:45)

The framework is the logic of the narrative, the logic of the plot, the role-play of the protagonist (you the learner), the battle you have with antagonists (concepts you can’t grasp) supported by your allies (the community of learners, your tutor and institution) leading to a crisis (the ECA or exam), but resolved with a happy ending (one hopes).

Film-makers, naturally, but also documentary film-makers, bang on about the ‘narrative’ and the ‘story.’

This is how facts, whether naturally linear or not, need to be presented, if an audience, or a larger part of that audience, are to be suitably engaged by a topic.

Some months ago there was a news story concerning how much could be expressed in 40 seconds – BBC Radio 4, Today Programme. Any recollections?

Three experts were called and in turn tried to explain:

1) Bing Bang

2) String Theory

3) The Offside Rule in soccer

Bing Bang was pure narrative, like Genesis in the Bible, with a clear beginning, middle and end.

String Theory had a narrative in they way the theory came about, and just about got there.

The Offside Rule didn't even started well, then got hopelessly lost in ifs and buts and maybes. (I got lost at least. Coming to all three equally ignorant I only came away with full understanding of one, some understanding of the second, and barely a clue with the Offside Rule)

The use of scenarios:

  • as a device for determining functionality
  • as a means for engaging users in the stakeholder’s consultation

Having spent too considerable a part of my working life trying to write original screenplays and TV dramas I am versed in writing themes and strategies, storytelling in three acts, with turning points and a climax, antagonists and protagonists.

I use software like Final Draft and Power Structure.

These tools could as easily be used to compose and craft a piece of e-learning. Perhaps I’ll be given the opportunity to do so.

Narrative … is a useful means of imposing order and causality on an otherwise unstructured and unconnected set of events, but it also means that some detail is omitted in order to fit into the narrative, and other factors are only considered in the limited sense in which they can be accommodated with the narrative.’ Weller (2009:48)

Writing a narrative, for a novel or screenplay, is to some degree formulaic.

Is design of e-learning as straight-forward?

A decade ago it looked complex, five years ago with HTML code package in plug-ins and excellent ‘off-the-shelf’ software coming along the process appeared less out of reach.

Today I wonder if it is more matter-of-fact than some make out?

Addressing problems, devising a plan (a synopsis, then a treatment), threading it together … maybe its having it operate apart from the tutor or lecturer or teacher is what concerns you (teachers, lectures, profs). You are the ones who must learn to ‘let go of your baby,’ to have an actor or presenter deliver your lines. Once, and well. Or write in a team, as writers on a soap opera.

It works to follow the pattern rather than break it.

It strikes me that in e-learning design there may be only a few structures to cover most topics – really, there can only be so many ways to tell/teach/help someone understand a concept … or to do something, and remember the facts, the arguments and concepts … to be able to do it, repeatedly, build on this and even develop an idea independently to the next stage or level.

There is little meat on a popular documentary

There are micro-narratives and their are journeys, some more literal than others, for example, currently there’s a BBC documentary series, ‘The Normans’ and the third or so series of ‘Coast.’

From an educational point of view, what do audiences ‘learn’ from these programmes?

Can they typically recall anything at all, or do we/are we semi-conscious when watching TV, leaning back, not leaning forward, mentally as alert as someone smoking a joint. (Apocryphal or true?)

Try reading the script, try transcribing what is said and look at how far it goes.

Not very far at all.

Such programmes/series can be a catalyst to go to the website or buy the books, but otherwise the information is extremely thin, predictable and ‘safe.’)

If only links could be embedded into the programme so that as you view the programme relevant pages from the Internet wold automatically be called up.

Do you watch TV with a laptop?

Many do. Traders can manage several screens at a time, why not as mere mortals too?It becomes more engaging when you field of vision is nothing but screens, on topic. My preferred way of working is to have two screens, two computers, a mac and a PC, side by side. They do different things, they behave in different ways. I have a team of two, not one.

The medium may introduce a topic or theme, but there is little meat on the bone and we can be swayed by:

  • bias
  • the view of the author/presenter/channel
    • (commissioning editor)
  • negative or positive

(For any longer list of concerns take a course in media studies.)

And if its on a commercial channel there are interruptions for adverts, while even the BBC chase ratings.

Even seen a lecturer take a commercial break

How about the some rich e-learning sponsored by Lucoxade, Andrex or Persil?

This is how schools receive interactive cd-rom and online websites ‘for free.’

REFERENCE

Weller, M. (2007) Virtual Learning Environment. using, choosing and developing your VLE.

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