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The Power of Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the conclusion is?

Count your blessings

Smile and get on with it

Remember your friends and family as they remember you

Be prepared for this and worse happening

And in relation to learning?

Holding a students attention

Providing engagement which has a purposeful direction

Letting people draw their own conclusions

Listen to feedback and add this to the lessons being learnt

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

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58 today

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I was 39 when I first signed up for an Open University MA in 2000. It was the MA in Open & Distance Learning. Having taken and not completed one module I picked this up again in 2010 and completed an MA in Open & Distance Education in 2013.

A further degree in British History of Britain and the First World War has followed. I am the Digital Editor for The Western Front Association. 

I am a Green Party Town Councillor and the Head Coach at a local swimming club. So a busy life that also includes involvement with the local sailing club and life drawing.

 

 

 

 

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On blogging. It isn't for the most part. Thoughts on my own future tracks

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 6 Mar 2014, 12:18

I posted my first content to an 'online journal' - no one called them blogs way back then, on the 24th September 1999. I've been at it ever since - every day for at least the first four years then I reviewed my practice, split into a number of parts and specialised. I also took an MA in the next best thing 'Open and Distance Education' (MAODE). So, yes, blogging fascinates me. Twitter as a 'microblog' is not - it is chatting. And many so called blogs are actually something else too - corporate marketing brochures, magazines, radio shows, TV channels, photo dumps and galleries. For me, and those of us writing in 'Diaryland' over a decade ago a blog, like a diary, is something you kept up every day, reflected your daily life and was largely secret: you wrote amongst friends rather than to an audience. This meant that they remained authentic, deep, even 'in confidence'. Has all of that been lost? I wonder. 

What we have here is either a 'learning journal' or 'an e-portfolio' - that's if you want to attach it directly to your studies. Because of it's odd nature and history it is also what was once called a 'Bulletin Board', indeed, I had a go of an early one right here - sort of, that as on a Masters in Open and Distance Learning module in 2001. It really was posting to a bulletin board, a sentence or two attached to any others that were going up. More like an early version of a Student Forum.

Having said all of this, as a direct result of just completing H818: The Networked Practitioner  (EMA away last night). I plan to review, refine and redirect my blogging behaviour. Here it will be business as usual, though only if my relationship with the Open University is continued in some capacity or other (I got up early to do some application forms). Beyond these 'walls' I will professionalise my blog on e-learning and post continent aimed squarely at practitioners - for educators, on learning. I do think the 'e' is redundant regarding e-learning, indeed the 'm' from mobile learning is redundant too. Currently at 'My Mind Bursts' this will go into the fledgling 'Mind Bursts' which will go live once I've got 100 of my choicest posts in there. Or, 25 ... my 'A to Y' of learning, named so courtesy of the Open University where you will find the Computer Help Desk has no 'Z', so don't think you can look up 'zipping files' as I did while struggling to post an EMA. The response I got back was characteristically obtuse. 

The blog I stopped posting to on swimming teaching and coaching (I did for ten years as a direct consequence of taking my kids down to the pool eleven years ago) gets more views per day than any of my other blogs - go figure! It is useful. I answer direct daily questions. The biggest 'seller' is the 45 minute lesson plan for teaching or coaching swimming - I have all strokes, all stages and all problems addressed. That should tell me something. More at the catchily named 'Coaching and Teaching Swimming'.

This by the way is called 'reflection'. I should have Kolb's Learning Cycle spinning through my head right now. I don't. My head is fudge and I need the coffee that is brewing on my desk,

The other blog, 'That's Nothing Compared to Passchendaele', which requires and deserves tidying up started out as the memoir of my late grandfather, a machine gunner in the First World War - the only one who survived it would appear. Actually, in 1992 there was a 75th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Ypres) and there were four of them. One was an ammunition carrier. The other two were machine gunners, you could tell from their thumbs - like the beak of a spoonbill, squished flat from periods of anxiety pressed against the triggers of a Vicker's MKII Machine Gun. Like the swimming thing I need to hone this down to a resource of value - just his story, his words (over three hours of interviews) and photographs with references which would do the historian in me proud.

There will be a lot of 'ditching of babies' - there will be a good deal of painful unknitting of layouts and extraction. 

Are these blogs? Actually no. I ought to think of them as books and give them the professional focus that is required before you can go to print.

And finally, a blog on the use of Quick Response codes in education. This as a consequence of H818 and the ten minute presentations we gave a couple of weeks ago.

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Quality Assurance in e-learning production

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 10 Jul 2012, 02:07
Quality = fitness for purpose

Looks right

Works

Stands up to cost-benefit analysis

This is from a book that came as the box of resources in 2001 when the MAODE was called a MAODL and the term 'e-learning' hadn't come into common usage - we called it 'online learning', or 'web-based learning' and in practice meant 'migrating content to the Web' which as an interactive DVD would typically fail to upload or play thus for a decade web-based learning was a poorer cousin of the bespoke DVD with 3D animations and oodles of specially commissioned video.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 20:02

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I read this last in 2001; I was on the Masters in Open & Distance Learning (as it was then called).

Whilst there are hints at e-learning the closest this gets to interactive learning is the video-disc and the potential for CD-Rom. Actually, there was by then a developed and successful corporate training DVD business. In 2001 the OU sent out a box of resources at the start of the course. 16 books and a pack of floppy discs I recall to loud 'ListServe' or some such early online collaboration tool.

 

The nature of evaluation


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Evaluation Stages

  • Identify an area of concern
  • Decide whether to proceed
  • Investigate identified issues
  • Analyse findings
  • Interpret findings
  • Disseminate findings and recommendations
  • Review the response to the findings and recommendations.
  • Implement agreed actions.

There's an approach to everything. When it comes to evaluation it helps to be systematic. At what point does your approach to evaluation becoming overly complex though? Once again, think of the time and effort, the resources and cost, the skill of the person undertaking the evaluation and so on. Coming from a TV background my old producer used the expression 'pay peanuts and you get monkeys': skill and experience has a price. Evaluation or assessment, of the course and of the student (in the UK), of the student in the US.

Improvement as a result of evaluation (Kogan 1989):

The idea of summative versus formative evaluation i.e. the value of the course to achieve a task vs. aspects of the course that can be addressed and revised.

Anthropological vs. 'agricultural-botanical'.

Illuminate evaluation. People are not plants. An anthropological approach is required: Observe, interview, analyse, the rationale and evolution of the programme, its operations achievements and difficulties within the 'learning milieu'. Partlett & Hamilton (1972)

CIPP (Stufflebeam et al 1971) evaluation by:

  1. Context
  2. Input
  3. Process
  4. Product

CONTEXT: Descriptive data, objectives, intended outcomes (learning objectives)

INPUT: Strategy

PROCESS: Implementation

PRODUCT: Summative evaluation (measured success or otherwise)

UTILIZATION: None, passive and active.

CONCLUSION

 

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There are other ways to quote from this chapter:

  • Handwritten and transcribed
  • Reference to the page but this isn't an e-Book.
  • Read out loud and transcribed for me using an iPad or iPhone
  • A photo as above.

Does the ease at which we can clip and share diminish the learning experience? Where lies the value of taking notes from a teacher and carefully copying up any diagrams they do? These notes the basis for homework (an essay or test, with an end of term, end of year then end of module exam as the final test?)

GLOSSARY

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REFERENCE

Daniel, J (1989) 'The worlds of open learning', in: Pained, N (ed) open Learning in Transition, London. Kogan Page.

Partlett, M and Hamilton, D (1981) 'Evaluation as illumination: a new approach to the study of innovatory programmes. Originally published as a paper 1972 for University of Edinburgh Centre for Research in the Educational Sciences. in: Partlet, M and Dearden, G (eds), Introduction to Illuminative Evaluation: Studies in Higher Education, SRHE, University of Surrey, Guilford.

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