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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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Who gets my things after I've taken my life?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:06
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction

As a Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education I will give all kinds of things a go. I've done a few FutureLearn MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). This eight week course on writing fiction from the OU looks like being one of the biggest; the OU pedigree also shows - the thinking and 'broadcast quality' of the video pieces shows compared to material put up by some universities.

Activities, activities, activities I remember someone saying from the OU when it came to designing learning online. This course is a little bit of telling, a bit of doing, that a lot of sharing. You can be thinking up a comment and before you post there can be five or six posts 'land' ahead of you. There are 1000+ responses to a thread. To some this is daunting. To those not used to these environments it may be off-putting. When you get used to it its fine, like going to a huge nightclub in London that's on several floors rather than a mate's part in their front lounge.

In this exercise we watched a clip of a dozen folk going about the daily business; all had feature in the opening piece about writing, so most are 'at it' pen on paper, into the laptop or onto an iPad. We are invited to take a person or moment and invent a story from it. I had never consciously done this before and was delighted with the effect, not trying to figure out what people really are doing, but rather inventing something for them.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 2. From an activity in 'Start Writing Fiction' from FutureLearn

I have a young woman innocently keeping a 'writer's journal' who I decide is writing suicide notes to five or six people; she puts a key from the bunch in each envelope, posts off the letters then kills herself. A bit morbid. I suppose I should now figure out why, and reveal what is behind each key.

Go see.

FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction

See also how a shared, threaded forum such as this can be used to create a vibrant asynchronous conversation with several hundred, even thousands of people. Several things FutureLearn do which would work well here: word count limited to 1200 characters, 16 minutes timed out having posted to edit - then its done. A 'like' button and an easy way to keep abreast of comments left in a discussion you have started or joined without having to try to find it.

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Has much changed here?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 19 Sep 2013, 12:57

I'm delighted to say the the transformation is an enhancement and the improvements are seamless without any loss of what we had before ... a 'bulletin-board-cum-blog-thingey'. My previous post suggested I might have found a bolt-hole without Internet. It hasn't lasted.

I will get Internet access down the road (I had wanted a garden office but this desire became an insummountable barrier at home).

All that it requires from me is something I lack - self-discipline NOT to get distracted by email, which includes updated postings from forums and the likes of Linkedin (let alone a gaggle of family members on Facebook). AOL is the worst as I innocently go to check email and find 20 minutes later I am still clicking through the inviting gobbets of news and sensation that is offered. 

I had hoped to behave like the smoker trying to give up - I'll only smoke other people's fags. A very, very, very long time ago ... I can honestly say I have never smoked a cigarette since I turned 20.

Back to the Internet. Like Television.

Or diet. We are living in an age where self-control is vital. Having not had a TV for several months I was eventually pushed to buy one. Courtesy of Which? we now have a TV so Smart that it probably tells my brother in South Africa who is watching what .... we can Skype sofa to sofa. I just wonder if our antics could be recorded and posted on YouTube? Not my doing but any of the teenagers with the wherewithal just hit a record button somewhere.

In all this hi-tech I DO have a tool I'd recommend to anyone.

I've invested in an hour-glass. In runs for 30 minutes. While that sand is running all I may do is read and take notes. This might be an eBook, or a printed book, either way they are on a bookstand. I take notes, fountain pen to lined paper. What could be easier? The left hand may highlight or bookmark and turn a page, while the right writes?

This works as the filtering process of the knowledge that I am reading and want to retain needs to go through several steps in any case. The handwritten notes will be reduced again as I go through, typing up the ideas that have some resonance for me.

My current task has been 'How Europe went to war in 1914' by Christopher Clark.

I doubt my second thorough read will be the last. From notes I will start posting blogs and going into related social platforms to share and develop thoughts and in so doing be corrected while firming up my own views. I need this social interaction, to join the discussion if not the debate.

Meanwhile I will revisit Martin Weller's book on Digital Scholarship.

However swift the age of the Internet may be he suggests it will still take a person ten years to achieve the 'scholar' level ... whereas John Seely Brown recently reckoned this was now down to five years. i.e. through undergraduate and postgraduate levels and popping out the other end with a PhD in five years.

DIdn't an 18 year old who was home schooled just get called to the Bar?

She graduated with a law degree while contemporaries did A' Levels and finished High School and then did a year of pupillage I suppose.

The intellectual 'have's' of the future will, by one means of another, achieve degree status at this age. The Internet permits it.

School is far, far, far, far, far too lax.

It tends to the median if not the mediocre. Long ago it found a way to process kids as a genderless yeargroup instead of treading each student as an individual ... so let them skip a year, let them stay back a year ... allow them to expand and push subjects that appeal to them.

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Who would you invited to an e-learning dinner party?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 25 Feb 2013, 07:15

They should be living.

There can be only 8 guests including yourself.

I offered my suggestions.

I had Martin Bean at the head of the list, then others such as Dame Professor Wendy Hall from WebSciences at University of Southampton, Professor Sugata Mitra, famous for the 'hole in the wall' experiments with children in rural India, now at University of Newcastle. From Industry I had Kirstie Donelly MBE from City & Guilds.

You get the picture.

I posted this to four groups I belong to in Linkedin.

I'll give it some more time then analyse.

Despite the instructions many are simply putting in:

'I'd invite me!'

While others have picked reality TV show stars and other random celebs.

I'm frankly staggered at people's inability to read the question.

Currently one conversation, playfully suggests, that the previous respondee would be struggling to type because of the length of their painted finger nails.

Do I despair, or simply observe with a wry smile what can be the free-for-all of 'social learning'?

It appears that many people don't read the question, the read the last response and simply tag onto that like its some massive Chinese whisper.

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What do you understand by the word 'curation'? What does it mean in relation to content online?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 26 Feb 2014, 13:01

Fig.1. Bristol Fighter at the Imperial Museum

My understanding of curation is embedded in museums - I overheard the curator of the current Superhuman exhibition at the Wellcome Foundation Museum being interviewed by Aleks Krotovski on Tuesday.

When I took a picture using my iPad a member of the museum staff  politely told me that 'the curator asked that people did not take pictures' (and that the curator was in part to blame as he hadn't wanted the signage saying 'don't take pictures' too prominent) – curator as stage manager and executive producer of a collection of themed objects. The term 'object' itself embracing stills, artefacts, video-clips and activities. You curate stuff in a space and set parameters so that an audience of visitors can get their head around what, in effect, has come the curator's mind.

In the bizarre ways that these things happen I recall, age six at most, creating a fossil museum with ammonites found in the low rocky cliffs of Beadnell, Northumberland.

I was a curator, I brought together a themed collection of rocks, set them out in a room and invited people in – no doubt in the back of my mind imagining the glass cabinets and displays in the Hancock Museum, Newcastle.

Ian McGreggor of the British Museum with his History of the World in 100 objects is a curator - far more so than an amateur's eclectic collection of e–stuff. Or am I being a 20th century snob? Craving for academic elitism that is fast vanishing down the plug–hole as the digtal ocean and equally digital–cloud washes and blows over everything? I search that externalised part of my own mind, an extensive blog 13 years in the writing, for what I've said or stumbled upon before regarding 'curation' and find three entries, one prompted by my intention to attend this session in Bath and feeding off a visit to the De le Warr, Bexhill and the rest from Martin Weller's book 'The Digital Scholar' in which he lists curation as something universities will need to do. On Chapter 12 he has this list on publishing as:

  • Publishing
  • Research
  • Authoring
  • Submission
  • Rejection/modification
  • Publication
  • Dissemination

WHY?

  • Accepted practice
  • Academic respectability
  • Reward and tenure
  • Dissemination
  • Curation

I wonder if this following quote gives a sense of Martin Weller's comprehension of the term 'curation' as used in a Web 2.0 context:

'If Boyer's four main scholarly functions were research, application, integration and teaching, then I would propose that those of the digital scholar are engagement, experimentation, reflection and sharing'. Weller (2011).

On a quest to become 'digital scholars' or 'thought leaders' we should, to change one word –engage, experiment, reflect and curate'? The word, used in this, come to think of it, ought also to include 'moderate', even to 'chair' or 'host'.

In 2002 Gilly Salmon, then a lecturer at the Open University Business School, tried to coin the terms e–tivity and e–moderator.

Perhaps then, as these things go, the digital community have not picked up on these terms – instead they have hijacked 'curation'. We are going through a rich phase of redefining and inventing words and understandably they result in carnage and debate. Academics are guilty I feel of sometimes wanting to be the first to coin a word or use a new phrase or word in a new way because citation will mean that they are then quoted for every more. This happens in academic publishing and study, unfortunately 'curation' can leave you wondering about the source. Is 'jumbling together' the content of others from multiple sources even more questionable than turning to self–monitored wikis such as wikipedia?

Weller also says:

'If the intention is to encourage engagement then low-quality routes may be more fruitful than seeking to produce professional broadcast material'. Weller (2011) and 'Low quality individual items because of their obvious ease of production, can be seen as an invitation to participate'. Weller (2011)

Is curation a dirty word? Is curated content reliable? What does it mean in the corporate world?

REFERENCE

Krotovski, A (2012) The Digital Human. BBC Radio 4 (last accessed 22 October 2012)
McGreggor, I (2011) The History of the World in 100 Objects –http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/about/british-museum-objects/ + Neil McGreggor
http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ahow/all
Salmon, G. (2002). E-tivities: the key to active only learning. Sterling, VA : Stylus Publishing Inc. ISSN 0 7494 3686 7
Salmon, G (2002) e-moderation
Stodd, J (2012) https://julianstodd.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/creating-and-sustaining-high-performance-learning-cultures/
Sullivan, A (2000-2012) The Daily Beast
Weller, M (2011) The Digital Human. More from Martin Weller in his blog: http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/Wijekumar, K. J., Meyer, B. J. F., Wagoner, D., & Ferguson, L. (2006). Technology affordances:  The "real story" in research with K-12 and undergraduate learners. British Journal of  Educational Technology, 37(2), 191-209.

 

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Online vs face to face

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 7 Mar 2012, 17:41

I try to concentrate during a face to face tutorial but as a MAODE student who isn't supposed to ever meet anyone I constantly feel that doing this elective offers some vital insights and contrasts.

Face to face is very like the online equivalent ( or should that be the other way around? ) the 2 hours 30 I have spent today could have been an Elluminate Session, with breakout rooms combined with lots said in the Tutor Group Forum.

The advantage online, certainly with the forums, is to have everyone's thoughts and ideas as notes.

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What's better the online tutorial or face to face?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 7 Dec 2011, 12:56

We're asked to consider this as part of the MAODE; it may even be a component of the EMA in H800, yet after three modules I had not experienced a face to face anything - the MAODE (Masters in Open and Distance Education) is entirely (stubbornly?) online.


It has been with trepidation and fascination that I find myself attending group tutorials or seminars, booking in for a Residential School and having to face an exam.

These are part of an elective, a 30 point module that forms part of the OU Business School MBA (Master of Business Administration).


I can say with complete conviction that there is no competition, though evidentially different, both the online and face-to-face tutorial meet the same objectives, albeit with significant differences. Both should be experienced before you pass judgement.


There are pros and cons to each.

Two face-to-face tutorials of two and a half hours each had me in a group of first 16, then 11. We listened a bit but interacted a good deal. I took notes but am still writing them up. Online you talk with you fingertips; I have met up with fewer at a time, six or less on Elluminate, more asynchronously in a forum. There have been threaded discussions of 100+ posts running to 16,000 words or more.


On the other hand, travelling to a tutorial 63 miles from home last week I lost a good piece of the day, caught in a traffic accident going in and a worse one on the M25 coming back. Then again I've had tutor group forums that have been badly attended by both the tutor and fellow students.

Research (Richardson, 2005-2011) shows that satisfaction rates for online or face-to-face tutorials are now matched: electing for or receiving one or the other, from the OU at least, students are just as satisfied.

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Why do some online forums fly while others never get off the ground?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 20 Nov 2011, 18:52
I was in a ListServ group in 2001 that worked, probably for the novelty factor. A decade later and on my fourth module in 22 months I expect all forums to work, most of the time.

What matters?

Plan for success. The learning design, the planning is crucial. There need to be certain cues, milestones, obligations and opportunities.

Have the right tutor. Training and experience is one thing, personality is another. As in real life they must have the educator's desire to support the right environment, whoever turns up and however it pans out.

Be a team player and whether you are completely new to this or an old hand, play your part.

Clock in regularly, and let people know you are around if only to say 'hi' - especially when you have nothing to say - say so! Tip: no one else can tell if you are or have been present.

Give it a go. Be prepared to make mistakes. Ask a fellow student, the responses you get here are always spot on.

Make friends.

(do a touch typing course! This is talking with your fingertips).

Use email, Skype and Google+ too.

Have a 'water -cooler' to chat in your tutor group away from the cut and thrust of course materials.
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Forums - Anderson

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 08:37
They are too labour intensive. Reading and responding involves too much practioner time. Daniel and Marquis (1979) How much of the learning process should be undertaken in independent study and how much in interaction with others?
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H800 WK21-22 Activity 2d VLE vs. PLE who wins?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 20:59

H800 WK21-22 Activity 2d VLE vs. PLE who wins?

  • John Petit
  • Martin Weller
  • Niall Sclater

Stephen Downes – Students own education

· How much do they actually differ in their views?

· What is my perspective?

· Freedom is lack of choice

· Parameters work

· Creativity is mistakes

· Have rules, the mischievous or skilled will break them anyway

· The end result counts.

a) This isn’t a debate. Neither takes sides and the chair interjects his own thoughts. A debate, whether at school, university or in a club, or in a court of law or the House of Commons, is purposely adversarial, people take sides, even take a stance on a point of view they may not wholly support, in order to winkle out answers that may stand somewhere between the two combatants.

b) During the MAODE this might be the second such offering as a ‘debate,’ the last being as weak. What is more I have attended a Faculty debate which shilly-shallied around the issues with at times from an audience’s point of view it being hard to know whose side the speakers were on?

c) As well as deploring the lack of rigour regarding what should or should not be defined as a debate, the vacuous nature of the conversations means that you don’t gain one single new piece of evidence either way. Generalities are not arguments, neither side attempts to offer a knock-out blow, indeed Martin Weller seems keen to speak for both sides of the argument throughout.

When Martin Weller implies that a VLE constrains because ‘There are so many fantastic tools out there that are free and robust and easy to use.’ I would like a) example b) research based evidence regarding such tools, which do offer some compelling arguments, these commercial and branded products have to offer something refreshing and valuable.

Unlike some university offering they are therefore not only effective, but vitally, they are fun, tactile, smartly constructed, well-funded, give cache to the user, are easy to share, champion and become evangelical about, explored, exploited and developed further. Here I compare Compendium with the delight of bubbl.us.

Here I compare blogging in the confines of the abandoned cold-frame that is the Victorian OU student blogging platform compared to the Las Vegas experience of WordPress.

I can even compare how WordPress performs externally compared to the shackled version provided by the OU. On the one hand there is a desire to treat students like sheep; there is even a suggestion in this chatty-thing between Niall Sclater and Martin Weller than OU undergraduates ought to offer the most basic environment in which to operate. Access is an important point, but you don’t develop players in an orchestra by shutting everyone in a hall and giving them a kazoo. And if that Kazoo requires instructions then it deserves being ignored. Having lived with it for a year the OU e-portfolio My Stuff might best be described as some kind of organ-grinder with the functionality and fun-factor of Microsoft DOS circa 1991.

Martin Weller makes the point about tools that might be used this before, during and after their university experience. There is a set of ICT tools covering word-processing, databases, number manipulation, calendars and communications that are a vital suite of skills; skills that some might already have, or partially have … or not have at all. The problem is in the accommodation of this widely differing skill set.

JV Exposure to new, or similar, experience of better as well as weaker programmes/tools, fashion, peer group, nature of the subject they are studying, their ambitions, who they are, how much time they have, their kit, connection and inclinations, let alone the context of where they are going online.

In this respect Martin Weller is right to say that ‘some kind of default learning environment’ is required first of all.

Caveat: You are going to need people to use the same kind of things in order to be able to communicate.

· University blog vs. their own bog.

· University e-portfolio vs. their own portfolio.

· Elluminate vs. Skype.

· Mac vs. PC,

· Tablet vs. laptop.

· Desktop vs. smartphone.

· Paper vs. e-Reader.

· University Forum vs. Linked in or others.

· Twitter vs. Yammer.

Swimming analogy: training pool, leisure pool, main pool, diving pool, Jacuzzi.

Niall Sclater makes a point about a student using an external blog that doesn’t have a screen reader. Do browsers not offer this as a default now? Whilst I doubt the quality of translation I’ve been having fun putting everything I normally look at into French or loading content onto an e-reader and having it read to me on long car journeys. The beauty of Web 2.0 and Open Learn is that developers love to solve problems then share their work. Open Learn allows these fixers to crack on at a pace that no institution can match.

Perhaps issues regarding passwords is one such problem which is no longer a problem with management systems. Saving passwords etc.: Other problems we have all see rise and fall might include spam. The next problem will be to filter out spam in the form of ‘Twitter Twaddle’ the overwhelming flack of pre-written RSS grabbed institutional and corporate messages that should without exception be ‘flagged’ by readers as spam until it stops. I never had a conversation with a piece of direct mail shoved at me through my letter box, or spam come to that matter. Here largely the walled, university environment in which to study, is protected from the swelling noise of distraction on the outside,

Niall Sclater talks about the Wiki on OU VLE, in Moodle ‘comprises what we consider is the most useful functionality for students. The OU ‘cut out a lot of the bells and whistles you find in MediaWiki’. New to wikis I enjoyed being eased into their use, but like a keen skier, or swimmer, having found my ‘legs’ I wanted incremental progressions. Being compelled to stay in the training pool, or on the nursery slopes, to return to by Kazoo metaphor, is like having Grade 5 flute, but having to play with six novice recorder players in Kindergarten. We move on and therefore what is offered should move with us.

Universities fail abysmally to sell their products to their captive audiences.

Commercial products are sold, invitingly to everyone who comes within earshot. There is a commercial naivety and intellectual arrogance sometimes over stuff created that must be great, because it is the invention of brilliant minds … and that its brilliance will be self-evident even if it sits their within its highly branded overcoat waiting for some time to take an interest and take it out for a test drive. Creators of these tools forget that a quick search using some of the terms related to the affordances of the product being offered will invariably produce something more appealing from the likes of Google, Adobe, Apple or Microsoft.

Nail Sclater points out that some students can be confused by too much functionality. I agree. If there is a product that has far too much functionality, it is Elluminate. And even for a library search, it ought to be as simple as the real thing … you go to a counter and ask for a title. Google gets it right. Keep it simple. Others are at last following suit. Or is the Google God now omnipresent?

Martin Weller stumbles when he says that Nail ‘hits on two arguments against decentralised PLEs by

a) Giving three arguments

a. Authentication

b. Integration

c. Robustness

b) He is meant to be in favour of PLEs.

i.e. academics are incapable of debate because they are, to use of Martin Weller’s favourite terms ‘contextualised’ to sit on the fence. A debate should be a contest, a bullfight ideally with a clear winner, the other party a convincing looser.

You wouldn’t let a soldier chose his weapons then enter the fray. There has to be a modicum of formal training across a variety of tools, and in a controlled, stepped fashion in order to bring people along, communally, for retention and to engender collaboration and participation and all that benefits that come from that.

Who at a time of change is going to declare their role, or department redundant? Brought into a new role, Social Media Manager, I feel I will have succeed in 12 months if I have handed over the keys to others, spread some of the glory about. That’s how I see it, a little bit of everybody’s lives. You can wordprocess, you can do some aspect of Social Media. There are other functions though that long ago were circumvented by clever software. Web 2.0 deplores the gatekeeper. It wants to put everything ‘out there,’ enabling everyone and anyone to make of it what they need and please.

Personally I’ve been loading content, text and images, in diaryland since Sept 1999 and have never had an issue with access, yet I have repeatedly found my OU e-portfolio failed, or that while composing a response in a forum the system fell-down and I lost what I was doing.

Nial Sclater argues in favour of VLEs to ensure usability, access, extension to students, common ground on terms of tools, opportunity and form an assessment point of view, use of content too.

While Martin Weller wants to ‘Support’ – an argument for VLEs. (I’ve now made the point several times that Martin Weller seemed unsure of which side he was on, and by personality and from experience, will never take a side in any case).

We DO want people going away being able to use package X. Do we turn out Roy Castle types who can play loads of instruments not very well, or a virtuoso performer who can at least play the cello well?

JP stepping in ‘as my confidence grew I got to know that and my confidence grew across the year as I got to know that and one or two other very limited and well-supported tools’

Nial Sclater’s point that the same tool is required for collaboration and assessment. This applies also to reading the materials provided and doing the activities so that these are the points of reference for assessments (as currently practised). How can a Tutor mark an assessment that is based on vegetables from a walled Victorian kitchen garden, when the student offers flowers grown from seed in a tub? To return to my sporting analogy, how might I judge a person’s ability to swim after 12 weeks if they’ve been learning how to sail?

Parameters have a purpose.

The greatest resistance to a writer is having no sense of purpose, no goals, no parameters, no set pieces, no one to be on their case. A free for all, perhaps as the new London Business and Finance School is finding, is that just giving students the lot and telling them to get on with it is not conducive to a viable learning experience. (Nor do I think it’ll deliver someone is able to work with others).

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Sunday Evenings - some of us are working :)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 15:33

As a swimming coach I have taken Sunday evening sessions for the last three years.

I still work Sunday evenings covering all my social media bases as conversations at this time of the week a far more likely to be quasi-synchronous.

i.e Not obliging you to be present as in messaging, nor as abstract as an asynchronous forum or picking up comments in a blog such as this hours or days after the event.

Indeed I've been communicating with an OU MBA alumni Luke Firth Philidelphia on and off for the last couple of hours.

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H800 WK21 Activity 1c. Web 2.0 Tools for Learning - what I recommend

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Oct 2012, 12:48

JVTVCV%2520SNIP%2520STRIP%25204.JPG

It isn't for lack of overwhelming, immersive and engaging content online, especially 'how to' movies and 'clips' in YouTube, its how you as an individual cope with this inexhaustible choice.

Armed with an 3G tablet and sim card will we find we are learning more on the fly, taking it with us, much of it free, some of it guided and paid for?

Taking advantage of participation (John Seely-Brown), learning on the periphery (John Seely-Brown), vicarious learning (Cox) and if you can get your tongue around it 'serendipitous learning.' (me I think).

I'm finding that 18 months in, and having really started this gig in 1998 when from the agency end we were migrating interactive DVD based learning to the Web, that I of necessity must balance the tools I can play (musical instrument metaphor), compared to those I play with (sandpit, training pool metaphor) ... and I suppose those ones I am obliged to master whether I like it or not (prescriptive tools for work and study - in at the deep end metaphor?!).

Conole (2011) invites us to use 'metaphors for meaning making'.

I always have, often visualising these metaphors. Just search this diary on 'Metaphor' to see what comes up. Also try words or phrases such as 'traffic light', 'nurture', 'gardening', 'swimming', 'spheres of influence', 'hub', 'serendipity' as well as 'water' and 'water-cycle'.

I therefore offer the following:

Linkedin (For Forums, like this, in groups and networks)

Wordpress (for blogging, sharing, wiki like affordances, training, updates)

iPad (or Tablet) (Whilst PCs and Laptops have considerable power and versatility

Twitter (only for niche/target live discussions or quasi-synchronous conversations.

The rest of it is 'Twitter Twaddle'

Spam of the worst kind being pumped out by pre-assigned links as CoTweets or random disconnected thoughts. This is killing some forums where RSS feeds of this stuff overwhelms any chance of a conversation).

I've seen two Forums killed, temporarily I hope, by this stuff, the largest victim being the Oxford University Alumni group.

I believe it is simply the case of a new moderator niavely permitting Twitter feeds in on a discussion, ie. having the conversations between 30 disrupted by the disconnected chattering of 300.

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Exposure or participation?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 16:30

Glass%2520Skull%2520dreamstime_l_6494214.jpg

The idea of and value of 'exposure' has been debated since the early days of blogging.

I could call up entries from my blog in 2001/2002.

The feeling, amongst those of us who felt like blogging pioneers, was that by opening up we shared our common humanity and in many respects become less lonely souls as a result (not that I didn't need additional companionship being happily married to my soul mate with two small children at the time!). The press picked this up as scandalous and novel.

This kind of blog is a genre in its own right amongst the thousands of genres on 120 million + blogs.

I question any need for us learners to 'open up' in this respect. Indeed for most of the last module I 'hid'behind an image of an MRI scan (something I might return to). I see no need to reveal who I am, my face, age or gender. In this environment what counts (or can be discounted) are these words.

In terms of our relationship with the tutor, I would expect in a Summer School, or if attending the Oxbridge style one-to-one Tutorial, that a relationship could/might form.

Indeed, attending by father-in-law's 70th and then 80th and even his 85th I've been impressed by the 100s of former students who turn up. Some guy.

I don't think (their names already escape me) want me as a friend, or a friend for life ... though as a colleague for sure.

 

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H800 51 Wk11 Why this is like talking with your fingers

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Dec 2011, 06:03

As it is a bank holiday and the first in many years that I recall being sunny, I find I am getting online for an hour or two at dawn to do some stiudent work and write this. Then I walk the dog along the River Ouse or up on the South Downs and the day is mine/ours.

Painting the porch sad

Then nodding off in the sun with a course book or two, a couple in print, a 2011 publication from John Seely Brown on the Kindle.

How, when and why blogs and threads work or fail is the topic of conversation.

I used to treat forums and assignments, optional or otherwise, as the weekly essay - something I had to do whether or not I engaged with others. I would also take part on a whim, responding to some entries, and happily letting the conversation drift off topic. Length was no object either. I lurked in other tutor forums too, making the time to follow how what ought ostensibly to be the same conversations could be very different indeed - some very active, some dead.

A year on I am more strategic.

I would like to be sharing the learning process, contributing to the conversations whether I can help or not, whether I am seeking answers or asking questions. The Cafe and General area serves a purpose to take 'over spill' though it functioned best in H808 where a moderator management the supplementary activities.

Gilly Salmon's 'E-moderating' has a good deal to say on this.

It is worth owning,. not simply to read cover to cover, but to have as a reference. I may not like the term 'e-moderator', but 'moderator' is, however diminishing or disparaging to a Dphil, the main function here. It could be carried out by a postgrad student, even an animated undergrad.

What matters is engagement.

Someone may need to act as the 'eyes & ears' for the group until it is established. Introductions have to be made, conversations started and moved along ... if anyone is rude, they should be quietly put in their place; if anyone is being like a door-mouse, they need support.

'The essential role of the e-moderator is promoting human interaction and communication through the modelling, conveying and building of knowledge and skills'. (Salmon, 2005:4)

There isn't a structure, no more than there is in a car or coffee bar.

The structure comes about from the people and activity in it. This is shaped entirely by the behaviour of the participants. 1) They have to turn up 2) Someone has to have something to say 3) Some of us need to be going around like a host, 'making polite conversation', 'networking', even introducing people. It IS a social gathering.

Tutor is a better term. It is valid.

Indeed the beauty of working online is that you can recreate the essence of an 'Oxbridge Tutorial', that privilege one-to-one, or one to two or three, that is the weekly essay read out and discussed.

Discussion is the key.

The tutor DOES NOT need to be a subject matter expert. See my interview with Oxford Senior Lecturer Dr Zbigniew Pelczynski.

Whilst the tutor cannot keep waving pixie dust over a group that simply does not gel they ought to try, especlally in the first weeks and especially with students new to this set up.

Why I participate in some forums and not others.

Often because someone else has started the ball rolling, and often. I will be the first if I have a need to get through the week's work and no one else has made a start. I may fret about covering all bases giving my response too much thought ... and therefore resulting in something overly long. Not easy to adhere to but I try to set parameters; 250 words typical, 500 words an absolute max after that think about offering it as an attachment.

It can be like chosing a restaurant!

You want to go where there's some buzz already, though not so much that you feel you will never be able to join in the conversation.

The reality is different.

This is an asynchronous beast. If I come in late I may read every post with care before I respond, which can result in a long response. People should feel just as comfortable simply answering the question, ignoring others at first .. or just reading the last couple of posts and responding to them.

It is tempting to respond to someone in a DIFFERENT tutor group if they say something strong; you're not supposed to do so! I might quote them in my own group. There have been times when lifting the thread of catalyst that got them going in another group will do the same in your own.

How my input is affected by the way the forum is structured.

At Harvard they use as system called 'Rotisserie' in some asynchronous threads/forums which, like playing pass the parcel (or pass the microphone) require people to take it in turns to say something. No harm there! No all the time, but for ice-breakers and specific, important threads it may work very well. Everyone has something worth saying, our differing perspectives are a vital part of the experience.

I'd like these threads to be presented very differently, as cards placed around a table. This sounds like a step towards a Virtual World. I just don't 'see' conversations as lists or 'toilet roll scrolls' from top to bottom, rather they should be in a circle at least, in a spiral at best.

It matters that activities have been designed that get people engaged without the need for a tutor all the time.

'Structured, paced and carefully constructed e-tivities reduce the amount of e-moderator time, and impact directly on satisfactory learning outcomes, adding value to the investment in learning technologies'. (Salmon, 2002a)

Do I behave differently in face-to-face tutorials?

I'm the student who says they understand but the tutor will see that on my face it says 'I still haven't a clue'. I will stop asking questions. Here I will ask more often, then start asking elsewhere, within h800, even beyond the Masters in Open and Distance Education. I'm still asking people how to visualise the learning process in threads, forums and blogs away from here.

Face-to-face people don't need to put up their hand to ask a question, you can read the person, you can tell if they are anxious to join in at some point. You don't need 'rotisserie' as people do take it in turns. Someone will act as the chair, even is there isn't one nominated. Think of us like the Village Elders taking it in turn to reflect on an issue.

Seeing that someone else has already made an effort to answer the week's questions I decide I can and should make the effort to do the same. It is easier to reply to the questions and ONE response than the question and 16 responses! i.e. I like to be second, or third to comment, rather than first or last. No good if everyone is hanging back. Perhaps between us we should nominate someone to go first each week!!!

'Online learning calls for the training and development of new kinds of online teachers - to carry out roles not yet widely understood'. (Salmon. 2005:10)

REFERENCE

Salmon, G (2005) E-moderating. The Key to teaching and learning online.

AND FINALLY, I relate to this, also from Gilly Salmon's book:

'Consider this medium as like talking with your fingers - half-way between spoken conversation and written discourse.' (Hawkridge, Morgan and Jeffs, 1997, quotes in Salmon 2005)

 

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H800: 47 H800 Week 8/9 Activity 7 Cloudworks 'Swim lanes' for learning design,

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 14:23

It is one thing to contribute to a flash debate, it is quite another to embrace the Cloudworks platform.

There is only one way to test the water, and that is to get in. We talk of 'swim lanes' for learning design, I like every platform, every social network, business network or here, educational network, to be a visit to another pool, a lido, indoor or out, leisure pool or training pool.

They need to know who you are, you have to sign in. Then you have to change, get in, and give it a go.

So I am for the umpteenth time adding a profile picture and a profile, tagging, finding favourites debates and linking to people.

It all takes time.

Online you control time. Intensive engagement might move things along ... on the other hand, it may irritate those who've been here a while.

It should take time.

Find the rhymn of the place, observe when and where there is a buzz. Identifiy the 'champions,' come in on the periphery, pick up a thread, join in tentatively, give it a go here and there.

I make a contribution to a Flash Debate on the futre and threats to universities

Universities will flourish as they become part of the mainstream and engaged with the world, rather than distinct from it. Relationships with governments, industries, schools (for future students) and alumni (for past student) will develop and become continual, rather than passing. Student cohorts may look the same on the ground, but in the virtual world will be broader and deeper, technology and systems allowing a greater diversity. Not all institutions will have the ability, whether through lack of financing, the burden of their past and costs, to be flexible and change. The overall impact will be of an evolutionary change, though for some it will be a fight for survival.

BRANDING

Established, motivated, well-supported and well known colleges and institutions, where there is strength as a brand, as well as financially, in their governing body and from alumni will thrive. They can afford to exploit the changing circumstances (and they can’t afford not to). Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Bristol, UCL and the OU are not about to go under. On the other hand, new, complacent, poorly supported, little known educational institutions where the sources of income and grants may be narrow or uncertain, with weak leadership and ill-established (or disloyal) alumni will fail.

BUSINESS

The opportunities to flourish are extraordinary; the global demand for tertiary education with tens of millions of people from Asia, for example, seeking higher education over the next decade means that there is a growing and hungry market if you have the right ‘product.’ Education is a business, whether the model is that students are educated for free or pay part of the fees, cash flow matters. Retailing has been in constant flux, from the high street to out of town shopping, with national and international brands dominating, and then online shopping cornering certain markets, from books to electronic goods. Retailers have had to change the mix, where they locate and what they sell. Universities are less agile and less prone to the vicissitudes of short-term purchasing decisions, but the impact on them of new technologies is no less profound. Negotiating their way through this will require skill, the most vulnerable institutions will fail.

QUALIFICATIONS

Letters after your name differentiate you from other candidates for a job or promotion. Where there are many applicants for the same position where you studied, indeed, who you studied with, will matter. It helps to study under the best in your field. It depends entirely on where you wish or plan to go afterwards, where and if a position or job requires a certain qualification, and if a qualification from one or another institution has greater perceived or actual value. However, as those with experience of the job market will tell you, it is how what you have been taught is applied and how you relate to other people, that will determine your success.

CAMPUS BASED vs DISTANCE LEARNING

Technology is blending the two: increasingly students are opting for this, to be campus-based, but to take advantage of the technology to better manage their time or support their learning. Far from being the death-knell of the traditional university, new technologies will assist in their finding ways to develop and support a broader and deeper student body. Participation and collaboration, socialising away from the screen, is a vital component of the university experience for those coming out of secondary education – the demands and expectations of a mature student are very different. How people get on, how they work together, is a vital lesson that a campus based university offers. Whilst increasingly our online experiences are as ‘real’ as everything else we do, it is how and if we can work as a team that will decide how we progress. The student experiencing this will better know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and suitability for different career paths.

CHANGE

Like retailers, manufacturers, broadcasters, publishers and the post office, we are in a period of significant change, new technology was already having an impact, the economic down turn has aggravated this, obliging some forcing other institutions to act. How this change is managed will decide who survives and who struggles on. There is a fine line to tread between innovating early, or too late, changing wholesale or piecemeal. The wise institution not only spreads its risk, but also casts its opportunism just as wide as spreading your bets covers you in a world where nobody knows what will work or not. Libraries, one of the draws to a campus-based university, cannot be as influential as hundreds of millions of texts become instantly available in digital form. Senior lecturers and researchers should be employed for their ability to communicate, support and rally students around them, not simply because of the paper they are working on. Students will demand more if they feel it is the cash in their pocket that is buying what the institutions offers. Errors, failings and shortcomings of a person, a module or course, can be spread through online reviews and will decide their fate. New blends of courses will invent themselves where a student feels able, supported through e-learning, to cherry pick, even to study simultaneously quite different subjects. Cohorts, if on the ground still that 17-23 year old age group, will become far more diverse, with groupings formed by mutual interest in a subject. Life-long learning, already apparent in some professions, will become more common place as people recognise the need to refresh their understanding of some topics, while gaining new skills and additional insights.

Am I responding to a thread, or like the second or third speaker at an Oxford Union Debating Society getting up to say my piece?

And if I sit on the fence, what kind of debate is that?

We should be obliged to take sides, THAT would be a debate, otherwise it is a conversation, another online tutorial.

Thus far Cloudworks is like a new swimming pool, refreshing and full of opportunity. To thrive, let alone survive, it needs people coming down to swim, to jump in, to train, to meet ...

And once you have your regulars, keep them coming back.

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H800: 47 Cloudworks

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 25 Nov 2011, 15:04

Cloudworks%20Grainne%20Conole%20GRAB.JPG

Grainne Connole is  the 'star turn' in Cloudworks. She is Oprah. This is a channel, a network, a show. To stand out, let alone to be attractive to users, it requires this kind of 'ownership.'

This 'online filing system' is weak because of how it is presented NOT for what it does and can do.

It has the potential to be a social educational campus/network. The key is to overlay ALL assets with an image of the person who composed the material, i.e. the entry into the content is the person or if not an image, then at least the opportunity to add a 'book cover/sleave' i.e. something visual, relevant to the content, personal and engaging.

Facebook has the right balance between form and functionalty. There is a caareful balance of  personalisation and prescribed layout/design. (Like a good TV channel, you know where you are when you're in Facebook).

Often I see ideas screaming out for the input of a designer

Here I mean a visualiser, an art director kind of designer, someone who can take the excellent functionality, the problem solving, engaging, satisfying programming/sites - and add some feeling.

We are emotional beings, we respond and are motivated for subjective reasons. We chose one thing over another because we 'like' it, not necessarily because it is better than another product or service.

In time it won't just be an art director that is required, you'll need a producer

... someone who can run the 'channel' as a living entity, as a live-show, that will include video. Am I describing the librarian of the 21st century, an 'asset manager' who is not working in the City of London?

If you give the new bubbl.us a go I promise that some of the things it does, and how it looks, makes it a joy. Every time you create a new node or bubble it automatically offers a different, though matching, graded shade of the previous colour.

(Six months ago it was more child-like - you deleted a bubble you didn't want and it bursts into flames!  Now they fade away like mist on a Spring morning).

There is a war going on out there.

Make yourself attractive. People haven't time to compare sites, they'll just run with what looks right and if it delivers they'll stick with it.

See Visualising the Learning Design Process, A. J. Brasher, below.

See Information is Beautiful, David McCandless.

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H800: 45 Week 8 Activity 2 (Parts 1, 2 and 3) Tools for Learning Design

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 5 Oct 2012, 23:18

PART ONE

This is how I develop a Creative Brief ... this happens to be an MAODE exercise on Learning Design.

As a video producer this is the idea I'd sell to the client.

I'd then work with a coach and group of swimmers to set the scene and milk it.

This is the kind of thing corporate clients use to teams of 10,000 employees. This is also how I go about writing scripts, sometimes adding drawings, cut-outs from magazines and photos. Nothing hi-tech at the thinking stage ... which gives people more freedom to contribute.

A whiteboard marker pen on unforgiving wallpaper backing paper (30p a roll in from the reduced bin!). Stuck to the kitchen door.

PART TWO

The Forum Thread deserves as Swim lane of its own with as much activity into it and Elluminate as I have put here into a blog/microblog.

How%20much%20changed%20when%20printed%20arrived%20COMPENDIUM.jpg

Often I find a dedicated thread such as e-Learning Professionals is more likely to guarantee a response to something I say; the reason for this is simple, they have thousands of active members.

There are reliable statistics to say what tiny per centage of people are happy to write, read, comment and contribute. 1% to write, about 4% to comment. This has to be reflected in forum activity too, however much it is required by the course. I've missed out blogs other students keep, and the links back and forth to these.

You'd be surprised how much goes on in the background.

I've found myself working things through with people in different tutor groups, who did the module a year ago ... or who have nothing to do with MAODE but have an answer. Which reminds me of the fantastic diagram drawing tool dia. How does Naughton’s journalistic point of view compare to those of an academic?

I worked through it alone, blogged about it and offered thoughts and replied in the tutor forum.

The degree or blogging I’ve put forward reflects what I consider an invaluable addition to taking part in Forum Threads. You express what you think, ‘stream of consciousness’ into your own blog, edited to140 character for Twitter than take part in a Forum where some back and forth discussion should come about.

The other invaluable form of participation is through a conference call – as Jonathan Swift said, ‘I don’t know what I mean until I have heard myself speak.’

This is akin to a treatment outline for a video. The script in our case is the ad-libs and verbatim responses of student and input from the tutor. I like the idea of swim-lines and can imagine the Tutor online as a coach, rather than a subject matter expert, as a guide and mentor.

The reality is that such rapport develops with fellow students.

It is a shame that there isn’t more continuity through your original cohort. I have used the Compendium to share projects, using the layers to attach documents and have another contribute. For a simple mind map I like bubbl.us, otherwise I’m as likely to do a sketch and photograph it to share … or draw directly into a paint/draw package such as ArtPad using a stylus and Wacom board. Like all tools you need to have a clear use for it, rather than playing in a sandpit. To be able to collaborate in a team people need to be familiar with and using the same software/platforms.

Compendium can be used as a basic mind-map or flow chart and with experience be used for much more, as an e-portfolio of sorts.

It is overly prescriptive. Tools need to be intuitive and follow common practices regarding buttons and outcomes. For a first draft I prefer marker pen on paper, followed by bubbl.us.

As Beetham’s Chapter 2 (Activity 2) points out learners will find their own way through a task regardless. We understand things differently, draw on different experiences and come up with our own metaphors.

Whilst I go with the ‘Swim Lanes’ analogy, I often think the reality is like a Catherine-wheel nailed to a post in the rain.

Should an exercise such as this be addressed in a way that has so scientific connotations? It is surprising how easy it is to share the narrative of a linear activity in a multitude of ways. A simple set of numbered bullet points, perhaps worked up as a presentation. As a board game, one step taken at a time. Or a set of activity cards. You can talk it through by counting five activities off on your fingers. I'll do one of these in the truly, joyful, brilliant www.bubbl.us and post it to my ou blog and extracurricular blog' 'My Mind Bursts' which in turn is fed to Twitter 'jj27vv.'

Make one of these mind maps, then change your mind and be tickled with the way the 'node' or 'bubbl' behaves . Go see! This and a list of wonderful tools from an H808 student who is a primary school teacher in Thailand. Work should be fun, especially learning design. After all, if you don't enjoy it, how do you expect your future students to behave?

PART THREE

Bubbl.us has gone from toy to a grown up tool with layers and the opportunity to add sound, images (stills and moving) and no doubt much more, none of which I have had time to try.

The old bubbl.us was like playing with kid's party balloons and when you deleted a balloon (or node) it blew up and burst into flames. This new version still does some magic to the eye, fading away like a mist, also when you save melting into the background like a rainbow of ice melting.

An extraordinary delight to the senses and apparently of far more practicle use than I credited it with a few months ago.

 

33pxxlo_New-Sheet.jpg

 

Click on this and it takes you to Picassa Dropbox. You can then enlarge it, save the code and help yourself. I think all the images I've put into this OU identify album is 'open to the public.'

Seeing this all again I am reminded of my inspiration David McCandless.

By working on this a few more times an art director or designer would turn it into a thing of beauty; it is this level of inspiration that sells ideas to committees, colleagues and others.

People buy into ideas. People like to be inspired.

The pedagogy must of course be sound, the right offering of activities, outcomes and learner flexibility and support is the OU magic mix.

P.S. Don't imagine I was familiar with any of these tools until I started the MAODE in Feb 2010, most of everything I now use I was introduced to by someone here.

PART FOUR

Add the role of the Tutor.

Get in a designer and make it a thing of information beauty.

Sell it internally and externally.

Schedule, produce.

Watch what happens and adjust accordingly.

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New blog post

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 10 Mar 2011, 16:44

Forget the needle in a haystack, this is worse.

Taking feed from Google Alerts, Linked In to various groups and vicarious bookmarking relevant blogs and newschannels I now find I am skim reading 100+ topic specif emails a day.

My reaction to this is to work faster, to skim reader quicker to cut, paste or screen grab on a nod anything that I like but need to give more time to ... later.

Though I've never been a comodoities trader that is how I feel, as if all this information is shouting at me for attention. From the hubub something must be percolating upwards, some sense of shifts and movements. I feel like a guy with his ear to the ground listening for the tremors of Web 2.0 as it transmogrifies into Web 3.0.

If you can't handle Web 1.0 don't bother, you're approaching it from the wrong end. Start at the end and once you can keep up glance back at what went before.

And these are the text based conversations

I've had two hefty meetings today already that spun around personality types, behavioural issues, the changing landscape of learning (the complete demise of libraries both the physical kind AND the digital) as everything gets atomised and washed away into the digital ocean.

And how so much of what makes us human is translated into online behaviours but cannot and does not replace the need for social interaction if and where you want to 'make friends and influence people.'

We may do a lot online, we may do everything online, but a face to face meeting will always be more emotional charged and emotional responsive. Which matters. We have to negotiate our way through a life of emotional responses however objective we think we are or need to be.

For the third time in a decade I find my blog persons splitting and multiplying. I don't think I'll be able to handle, even if I lay out a set of hats I can put on and take off I just find that they all start becoming a blur with the danger that these are not silos. One has already converged as e-learning, fiction and reading which makes reasonable bedfellows. Like books on the same wall, though too easily like paper filed in the wrong folder.

We'll see. It will attract some readers, put others off and maybe intrigue my regulars who clearly find something of interest. Indeed I'd suggest that variety has its value however quixotic.

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H800:8 Activity 2 Reflection on Day One, Week One!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 18 Oct 2014, 16:04

H800:8 Activity 2

Rather than a stiff, post-graduate and academic tone and choice of words I found the introduction to H800 engagingly informal and personable with everything covered: the practicalities as well as emotional response the task ahead. I find this a significant shift from H807 which had little introduction and was presented more like a piece of self-managed distance learning – you’ve signed up, here’s the door, enter and begin. I wonder if this is a sign that the OU is following the trend towards more informal learning practice?

I find it odd the way I now comprehend and relate to something that is said because I’ve experienced it, whereas before it would have registered simply as something I’m yet to do. All I’m talking about here is Elluminate or Skype, talking one to one or in a group to people whose personalities and interests you may only have some hint of from what they say and how they say it (and how often, and when). We reveal so much in our voices; our humour, mood, age, gender, where we grew up in our formative years (or not, which says something too). As someone who has for many years taken an interest in character and how it is revealed by these things I cannot help but think that I am taking part in some online improvisation.

By doing, we normalise it.

Speaking to people via the Internet is just a four/five or six-way conference call … with, synchronised computer diddling. The other week I met people I had only ‘met’ through the OU Blog which demystified and normalised the process (about time too). Blogging from 1999 it felt weird to find yourself hearing a person you’d spoken to for years, or to see them as they are rather than how you had them in your mind’s eye. Which in part explains my continued us of an MR scan rather than a mug shot (though there are plenty of these scattered through my OU blog). This was in part informed by some research on role play in online learning.

On reaching the end of H807 I felt I wanted to do it all again, that I’d missed a great deal, at times en missed the point.

On settling into H808 I found that what I needed to repeat was the way to work collaboratively online and to make some choice tools sing; this happened, so I got those parts of H807 I need over again. Entering H800 I look at any hint of repetition in a positive way, as a chance to pick it up again, engage a bit more, understand a bit more, perhaps even to take the initiative, and most certainly to guide or propose ways forward for others. The shocking thing is to feel that this is not the same person at the keyboard who was here a year ago. I have fire in my belly, a sensation that was my motivation in my teens, twenties and thirties. Where this will take me is another matter!

How people learn remains my fascination; the better I understand this, the better I will be able to apply it. This is primarily an intrinsic motivation – I find it extraordinarily rewarding to find ways to help people be the best that they can be, to create opportunities, to point them in the right direction or to offer support myself as a non expert tutor, or on a few topics as a subject matter expert myself. The short term reward is their progress; if I am paid to do this because I do it well, this is a bonus and would and in part does, allow me to be better, and more comfortable at it still. Even a roof over one’s head, food, the means to get around, the means to get online and bills paid is an achievement in the 21st century.

2) The MA is letters after my name (my second), so the cumulative benefit of the MAODE is the confidence, supported by the work undertaken to take on contracts, or to transition from agency work into working in-house.

My relationship to fellow students, as with a team in the real world, is far more one of contributing, sharing and experiencing this together.

Personal Development Planning came to the fore in H808; from this I recognise my need here to take the lead as someone who is on his third, not his first module. Already I hear myself thinking about how collaborative exercises have over the last 12 months either failed or succeeded. Someone has to take the lead, though this can and should be a ‘baton’ that is passed between those who during that period are most available to keep the kettle boiling, or the ball rolling to mix metaphors and trip myself up in the process!

I already use external blogs and forums extensively, something that has developed over the last 12 months.

I also feel that I participate actively online with a number of communities. Increasingly, as I would have hoped I am being proactive, setting up forum threads, leading interest in a community blog, even presenting potential projects to sponsors … and having a high profile job interview.

3) Therefore, the outcome for me in H800 is either to have a professional e-learning project financed and in production, or to be contributing to the learning and development needs of a global enterprise on contract or as an employee.

4) I hope I will start getting some of the IT basics right. To feel comfortable online with the fundamental tools of receiving and creating content.

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H800:8 Missing the bus

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 18 Oct 2014, 16:25

Fellow students are expressing understandable views regarding the way forums work; I wonder what the answer is?

If everyone is an active participant you could miss a day and find you are 40 thread behind the conversation. If you, understandably, are away for several days (work, holiday, crisis, illness) you could be 100 threads and 40,000 words behind.

I wonder if the approach, using an analogy I've already suggested regarding whether or not you speak to fellow commuters on a train (or bus) might be (or should be) to ignore all but the last 20% of posts, pick up the thread here and continue.

What I know you CANNOT do is try to pick up a thread that has gone cold; you may feel you want to respond to the way things developed since your departure ... but everyone has moved on, may feel the question/issue has been dealt with and may not even come back to look at this page.

Over the year I've commented on lack of entries in blogs and threads from fellow students; the issue (an exciting and interesting position to be faced with) in H800 2011 may be the opposite - along comes a cohort that does Facebook and Twitter and may keep a blog, who can type at a million miles an hour and feel they have something to say.

How therefore to manage this explosion of content?

How about we ditch text in favour of a 3 minute webcam 'update.'

Then again, 40 missed threads x 3 minutes equally a heck of a lot of viewing!

 

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Come Fly with PDP !

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jul 2012, 07:58

I had an interview in London that by fortuitous timing ties directly into the H808 ECA (end of course assessement) that I have to complete and upload in the next 13 hours. What is more, every part of the MA in Open in Distance Education with the OU would have some application to the role for which I'd applied. Personal Development Planning (PDP), the subject of the ECA, would be imporant too, indeed it is a vital component of 'learner-driven' or 'learner-centred' education. Successful, engaged, pumping PDP is at the heart of e-learning - people must be motivated to take the initiative, to drive their learning while others support them in every way they can with appropriate resources, many of which will be 'electronically enabled,' i.e. 'e-learning'.

I have a draft of the ECA written, the choices of evidence have been made, collated and labelled.

I've already uploaded a draft so feel confident that the ETA system will handle whatever else I do.

I had the file, rather more chunky printed out and clipped into an Arch-Lever Folder than on a memory stick or zipped on the laptop so that I could review it on the train journey in and out of London. I like paper; things need to be expressed in other ways that via a QWERTY keyboard. It helps to talk, to discuss, to animate your thoughts with your hands even ... as we shall see.

On the way into town I find myself sitting with a friend who is 18 months into the Creative Writing course at Sussex Univeristy and was having a second interview with a literary agent; our respective career paths were shared. He is a professional photographer who has an online resource of stock photos targeted at UK Councils. I don't look at the ECA.

The interview, like so much I now do, is duly reflected upon, though for reasons of privacy not here as an open blog. This debrief, this self-assesment, served a dual purpose, at the front of my mind, of course, is the possible outcome and responses to the interview. And notes on how and where I felt it went well, or not so well, for future reference and to judge what improvements I might make when attending such interviews in future and how to compose my written thanks when I reply.

I recognise the purpose and value of reflection and make the time to do so

At the back of my mind, of course, as we talk, is the ECA.

Coming to the end of the interview process I felt compelled to share this sketch to add conviction to my belief that Personal Development Planning is 'at the heart of things'.

f1a749e0e8e2fe72ed06794383f7f981.jpg

I did this earlier today to get a handle on how in one shot I now see PDP, not as a self-contained 'do it and move on unit' at the start of a course, but at the heart of what you do: at the beginning, the end, everything in between ... and beyond. (And yes, you should hear Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) saying it!).

It was somewhat evangelical of me, but I feel passionate about it. I believe it as a consequence of my own personal experience and from others who take this approach.

Reflection with a second person can help; it is natural that my wife would take an interest in the day's events. This is invaluable, and is a form a assessment. However, where I find I become increasingly animated regarding PDP is that I felt I still hadn't got it right, that had I seen myself in that meeting what was I doing with my hands? What else was I trying to express? Sometimes recording an interview to look over it afterwards has advantages. You need to be winkling away to find ideas and inspiration.

I'd mentioned life-long learning, that PDP can benefit both your career, how you organise a hobby, even family life.

And then I remembered this:

My interpreation, visualised, of what life-long means from H807.

4ee8ecb0ed3cd82e948ab0f7fc2bbd1b.jpg

The problem I have with my sketch of 'PDP at the heart of things' is that it loops back on itself, there is no suggestion of improvement, of advancement.

I toss around further ideas like a board game, the PDP process being, for example, what happens every time you 'Pass Go' in Monopoly. Then I imagined climbing up a helter-skelter, or fairy-lights around a tree. I thought too about Kolb's cycle of development ... and then, as I was standing up waving my hands about I got it ... a great analogy would be of a glider catching a thermal and rising in a series of circles.

'A load of hot air.' My wife remarked, laughing.

And yes, I could imagine giving a presentation and a heckler saying exactly that - so I'd have to have a reply prepared. (Be prepared for anything)

With this in mind I set to work.

Earlier this week I threatened to photograph myself standing next to the family washing-line with my evidence pegged out. This is how I said I would make my choices and write the assignment. As it was raining instead I got a roll of wall-paper backing paper and stuck it to the bedroom wall with masking tape; I would draw my washing line. I have just taken this down and taped it virtically.

At the bottom I draw this.

bcf13c7d5e943bded0d7569befcbd350.jpg


Then I go for this.

 

JFV PDP Cycle as thermalJFV PDP Cycle thermal close up


In a live presentation I would draw this from scratch on the largest sheet I could find, talking my way through it, seeking input, offering explanations.

As a video-asset I would lock off an overhead camera and draw it onto a sheet of A3 paper, possibly over a lightbox, and then use EFX to speed it up. I would then add a voice over.

There are many other ways to play with it to varying degrees of simplicity (authenticity) or ellaboration. Not least by using stock footage of a glider or Condor or some such catching a thermal with labels tagged onto the video archive footage as it played out. Indeed, going from the basic sketch it might be better still to invite course particpants to create their own expression of this PDP as an ascending cycle - say playfully spinning around in front of camera with a balsa-wood model glider with the person's name on it! Fun is good. Originality is good. Personalisation is good. This makes it memorable without needing it as an APP or an electronic alert.

The conclusion I find as convincing as the process.

The process here includes reflection, blogging, collaboration ... and could in due course include video, podcasting, presentation and moderation.

As I was able with ease to add every aspect of H808 onto this simple diagram I felt I had reached an important point, not least vindicating my methodology that might look as if it is depends on technology, but does not. Often the route to get an idea from the mind into the public domain is via face-to-face discourse, a few movements of the arms, then reaching for pen and paper.

This diagram can be draw it up differently depending on the context.

This implied versatily suggests it effectiveness.

PDP as indicated here suggests a set period to repeat or revist the process ... this ought to be expressed to occur every quarter, rather than after every cycle as suggested here with loops that might represent a typical OU unit of two weeks and the activites one engages with along the way.

A productive day then.

 

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Should I be sharing this here?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Jan 2011, 07:09

Nearly three hours after sitting down to work on the ECA I have blogged ONE only of the two ideas in my mind (expressing them takes considerably longer than simply having them). The good news is that this effort has developed my ability to use Artpad and a tablet to do a sketch and share it, to link articles from New Scientist and my entries to various versions of me. I have contributed to the Tutor Group and H808 Course forums, and so no doubt confirmed my approach to the ECA, which is still 9 days away ... and grabbed, cut or loaded five or six items into my OU eportfolio, which I still trust will be successfully transmogrified into something better during the course of 2011 without content being lost. I really do not want to give a week to transferring over 1000 pages ... one at a time. Currently nothing will export by the routes supplied.

I'm not ADHD but I am easily distracted, drawn into a web of my own making as I click here, there and everywhere to achieve some simple goal.

However, I am grinning from ear to ear because my brain is buzzing with ideas; I like it this way. I'll keep the blog on quantum evolution 'til tomorrow. Meanwhile I have to have a haircut, and decorate a wall in my wife's study so that when I am on Skype to New York this evening I don't look as if I've just got out of bed ... which is of course how anyone looks if they work from home and call this work.

The thing is there are relevant voices speaking to me from all kinds of directions.

I relish the LinkedIn E-learning 2.0 forum threads that pop up all day; they are read, some deserve a response, or at least being snatched for future reference. And when I want to achieve something with an image, audio or video, I will stick with the software, or ditch it for something else, until I get the outcome I desire.

So am I learning, even if the contents of my head must wait while my fingers play.

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Forum discussions in Plenck

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 13:33

Why do the Plenck 2010 forums work?

Many themes. It is your choice to join. Updates are sent to your email. You read and add, return to the parent, and comment.

They are seasoned e-educators and lucid. It is more jamming around a piano.

You have three hours in which to return to your post and edit, add or delete.

People don't question the set up, they just get on with it. Do we write about what it is to put words onto a sheet of paper with a pen? Or do we say something?

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Ping-Pong, Pass the Parcle or Observer?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 08:41
There are three types in an OU Forum: those who play electronic Ping-Pong and respond to most posts; those who play pass-the-parcel, unwrapping when they believe it is their turn and the observers - possibly the most adult and astute of all; they listen, though they may never say a thing. Are we aware of their presence though? Do they leave crumbs? Is some algorithm logging you attendance somewhere?
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A forum is not a tutorial, yet it aspires to be so

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 5 Oct 2012, 23:07

A forum is not a tutorial, yet it aspires to be so.

The tutor is afforded no more privileges than any other contributor, democratic, but hardly giving them the attributes or affordances of the 'chair.' (Although I’m sure they have some useful control and buttons behind the scenes!)

A tutorial works best one-to-one (like therapy), face-to-face, or in a small group, say six at most, discussing in an synchronous environment.

(James Turner, Policy Director at the Sutton Trust suggested supplementary tutoring of school students one-to-one was most common, two-to-one worked even better because of the collaboratory experience. BBC Radio 4 10.00 Tuesday 7th September 2010, Accessed again 16.00 Saturday 12th September 2010)

You get a cue from the tutor to speak or contribute while body language and human politeness typically results in each person making contributions. Often the person who says nothing for long spells has the most insightful contribution because they have been listening.

I respect the person who says nothing the most – they have the most to say.

Twelve or more is a class. This is an e-classroom.

Easy to define as such, just consider the numbers.

I have taught classes of forty+ in secondary schools and taken ‘classes’ of sixty (with assistance) in an eight lane swimming pool. Numbers mean something, one to one is perfection, with two to one you lose nothing (and academics suggest you probably gain).

Moving up from this ... a tutor group in the real world might be six.

No surprises when things don’t work so well, whatever the affordances, or excuses of asynchronous learning/messaging when there are groups of twelve or more.

Asynchronous forums are not a listening environment, nor due to the limitations of an OU Forums affordances and attributes does in foster the kind of discussion you'd have in real life.

A suggested improvement would be:

1) Put the tutor in the chair and have this position reflected in the layout of and the way message 'tumble' into the forum.

2) Compress or concertina all messages by an individual so that the 'weight' of their message, either the frequency of contribution or length is not given prominence. i.e. the short, infrequent post has equal weight with the more verbose or frequent contribution. This mimics real life.

3) To make all things equal the images files and silhouettes are reduced in size, to a pinpoint if necessary. Their only relevance is to identify who is speaking or who spoke, in which case our names would do. I’d just as happily pick a character icon from the Monopoly or Cludo, my gender, face, mood at the time of the picture etc: are not only irrelevant but they are probably counter to my usual stern disposition.

4) Use something like Harvard's 'Rotisserie' system, deploy games and other events tactically i.e hosts/tutors and other strategically deployed postgraduate and/or PhD students are invited in from time to time to make a contribution.

Some suggestions. Some ideas.

 

 

 

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