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Mind Bursts

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 6 Oct 2014, 05:49
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Niel Macgregor's 'Germany: Memories of a Nation' 

I've loved this phrase 'mind bursts' for longer than I can remember so find it refreshing when something comes along which for me is expression of what I mean.

Niel Macgregor's 'Germany: Memories of a Nation' takes the massive and complex and makes it interesting and explicable by picking focused, memorable starting points. Every episode makes you think, but the one that got me hooked was on Konisberg and Strasbourg, two cities, once German: Konisberg now Russian as Kaliningrad, and Strasbourg now French.

Niel Macgregor's 'The History of the World in 100 Objects' has received some 33 million downloads!! THAT is a 'Massive Open Online Course' (MOOC) without the need for instructional design or assessment. It is informative, educational and entertaining.

Back to Germany though.

We are all probably used to history taught and written about as a series of chronological events, with historians questing for a truth interpreted through the philosophy and means of their era: Niel Macgregor therefore is using 21st century approaches to deliver his history, but what is so memorable and effective are the exceedingly carefully chosen objects, the considered, interpreted and historically accessible language and his smart, even 'other worldly' intelligent and dare I say it 'posh' voice.

Also an exhibition at the British Museum

More in the BBC Radio Series Producer's Blog


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Design Museum

Why did Britain go to war in 1914?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 27 July 2014, 08:58

Fig. 1. The British Empire - this from 1937, but as apt for the First World War as it is for the Commonwealth Games.

"A handful of belligerent political leaders, primarily in Berlin, but also in Vienna, exploited the murder of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand to pursue their long-held belief in Germany’s need for a world policy ‘Welpolitik’, even the right to world power ‘Weltmachtstellung’ . Their machinations, deviousness , obfuscations and at times ineptitude and delusions , led Britain’s leaders, reluctantly, in August 1914, once all efforts at mediation had failed, and enough of Britain’s divided cabinet could unite after Germany’s invasion of Belgium, to go to war when Germany failed to respond to Britain’s 4 August 1914 ultimatum".

This is the introduction to a 4000 word piece (see attached).

Tutor comments, further re-reading of Christopher Clarke's 'The Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to war in 1914' since and the cornucopia of BBC output, especially the 'First World War Day by Day' by the precise and authoritative Margaret Macmillan over the last three months would lead me to make a significant, though in word count, minor tweak: both Russia and France are culpable. The British Empire, with a world dominating navy on the one hand and a colonial police force of an army on the other, had no desire to enter a war in continental Europe except to honour Belgium neutrality and limit, prevent or curtail German hegemony.

Such adjustments would have tipped the final grade by at least the one point required for a distinction: I'm too belligerent for such things sad 

I had hoped or felt that behaviour of a few in Germany was so reprehensible that it cancelled out what leaders and politicians were up to in Russia and France, nor do I like the title 'Sleepwalkers' as the people who too Europe to war were far, far from sleepwalking - they were risk-taking, power-seeking, agitators. 

Enjoy. Do share you thoughts as we enter the very moments, day by day, that 100 years ago, took Britain and Europe and the World into a war that STILL has consequences today: Syria, Palestine, Middle East, Ukraine ... even little things like Newfoundland giving up independence to join Canada. 

My external look at this period is called 'That's Nothing Compared to Passchendaele' - the phrase my late grandfather used in 1991 when I was watching the TV news on the First Gulf War with him; well into his nineties and a First World War machine gunner and RFC pilot he had strong views on the matter: I took notes. I'm currently working on a comparative history of Passchendaele and the Gulf War.

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The End: Hitler's Germany 1944-1945

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 30 Sept 2011, 13:58
I'd say I'm reading this cover to cover, but it's an eBook that I am reading both on an iPad and Kindle. The Kindle for the bath, outdoors and when driving (I set it to voice snd put in earphones). Why? I enjoy Ian Kershaw; he can tell a good story and waves in almost as much detail as Proust.
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You don't learn to swim by reading a book ... An applied degree must therefore be situated in the workplace?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:17

Too much theory without practice was described by the owner of a successful specialist engineering firm in Germany today as 'like trying to learn to swim from a book.'

Apprenticeship in Germany run for 3 1/2 years of which 8 months a year is practical. The remainder of the year they go to a special school. 'If you  only learn theory it is like learning swimming from reading a book so you need both.' Leonardo  Duritchich, Chief Technial Water, Sief Steiner Pianos.   The Today Programme, 27h36, Wednesday 17th  August.

I agree, though when it comes to swimming, there are some great books made all the better in electronic form. This is 'The Swim Drill Book.'

Putting into practice what you learn, learning construction rather than simply knowledge acquisition; I believe this to be the case with something like The OU Business School MBA, something I needed each time I started businesses in the 2980s and 1990s.
As a swimming coach it matters that you swam competitively and/or still swim. A flightless bird cannot teach a bird to fly. So engineers learn through doing, often from apprenticeship. Junior Doctors need to put in the hours, solicitors start as trainees, the list goes on. It is particularly the case in the TV business where after starting as a trainee producer I was happier with kit, shooting, editing and drafting scripts, learning my trade, something that an a degree had not prepared me for.

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Serendipity of the chance lunch where ironically we shared ideas about social media

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 8 Oct 2011, 13:48

An extraordinary end to an extraordinary week capped by what might have been lunch alone, but at The Hub the chances of a meeting with like minds is always high. (The Hub is the Open University Campus refectory; it sits, as the name suggests between various faculties behind Walton Hall).

I joined OU eCommerce Director Mark Everest and Project Manager Alex Cabon; our enthusiasm tumbled over each other like dogs playing in fresh snow.

Alex was the Student President of AIESEC a remarkable organisation that puts young minds to work, mixing their education with applied thinking (a heady combination, we call it 'practice-based learning' at the OU Business School.

It made me think partially of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, but also of a consultancy service that Oxford students give to local businesses through the Careers Office there, mixed in with The School of Leaders in Poland (a Soros Foundation that Dr Zbigniew Pelzynski established soon after the collapse of Soviet communism).

Mark enthused about video over text - this should be me to camera for 90 seconds rather than 270 words.

I shared my idea for 'WikiTVia' in which every highfalutin wikipeadia entry becomes a video clip while Mark hankered for thousands, or was that hundreds of thousands or even a million testimonials from the OU Community i.e. everyone, 'stakeholders' we would all them, students, staff, alumni ... he mentioned the value of the footage of the plane that landed on the Hudson River, even though it was caught on a mobile phone. Footage of rough quality with an important story or event captured is sometimes referred to as 'Zapruder' after the footage of the JFK Shooting ... production stands count for nothing where the story is powerful.

During the Tsunami in Japan while I watched footage first on BBC News 24, then CNN and finally on NHK English my 12 year old son was watching authentic content without the commentary directly from mobile phones on YouTube. We've got 'citizen journalism,' now for 'citizen TV.' No longer should we be asking people to pick up their pens, rather we should be saying click record on your phone.

I've armed myself with a Sony Flip, yet I've been a broadcast cameraman in my time.

What a Sony 35mm digital camera (movie quality, can be hired for £75 a day!) cannot deliver is the content, that extraordinary story, the narratives of each person's experience with the OU. Often I feel overwhelmed by these personal stories. Anyone can tell their story - I'll interview you over Skype if that helps. Perhaps interviewing requires skills and patient, there are craft skills to shooting, editing and lighting a 'film' (which we still call them).

My role in bringing these stories to the screens of smartphones, iPads, laptops, TVs and the like occurs every time I reach for a digital recorder (sound or sound and pictures), but in the coming months will be me and a BAFTA nominated cameraman.

Have you got a story to tell?


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