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How to plan an essay

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Sep 2014, 12:02

 

Fig.1 A mindmap using the App 'SimpleMinds'

You try all kinds of different approaches, software and apps. You can any of this on paper (I often do), even working on a mindmap on a whiteboard. Practice, and pain, taught me the way that works for me. Ahead of the deadline with the bulk of the reading done I assemble and sort 'the facts' and 'issues'; I'd liken this to taking a large bundle autumn leaves and sorted them out by colour and leaf type. Then I create a mindmap.

SimpleMinds is free - the basic version does more than enough.

My habit is to keep it under 12 'themes' so the 'clock face' is a starting point for the mindmap, not best practice according to mindmap aficienados but what works for me. Six to eight 'tendrils' is probably about right. If I can be bothered to so so that I'll re-order all of this to that in chronological order I have the topics to write about. Any set of these links can be 'closed', which in effect means that you are looking at the introduction. It is no more than a doodle so few of my mindmaps are finished: the above is enough to work from, it's not going to illustrate the essay.

Of course, talking about 'how to write an essay' is one thing: sitting down and getting on with it is quite another.

The first draft is always the hardest. Get them out of the way and hopefully it's then just a case of editing. It takes far longer than you could imagine. I repeatedly used to run out of time and wished I'd got down to it earlier. If you're really brave you might write a version under 'examination conditions' - you, three hours and a blank sheet of paper. You can be surprised at how much 'the Muse' will deliver to your fingertips and there'll be little else that you write that will be so fluid.

Bonne chance.

Various tips, hints and guides on this kind of stuff are hereabouts on the brilliant OU Student platform

Yes, it does help to read the thing out loud! The pain is to listen back and realise that at times you're not making sense sad Re-writing is pain, pain, pain. 

The final thing (click the link for a larger version)

From E-Learning V

 

This can also be exported as a wordfile with the sub-menus creating a set of logical sub-headings. Depending on the density of the mindmap you may end up with too much, or too little information on which to build an essay. It also rather depends on the length of the assignment.

The other thing I do is to TAG content here from a module that could be used in a pending TMA. When you select that tag you may then export the assembled notes and entries you've gathered over a few weeks - with comments too. Again, you can end up with 8000 loose notes for a 4000 word assignment, but its a start.

Any kind of engagement with the content is better than none?

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Design Museum

My Personal Learning Environment

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 11:49

I should look back at how this has changed over four years. Taking on more technology took a while. I remember the days of printing off. Then I migrated to an iPad and constantly looked at ways not to come offline ever. Now I mix it all up: I use a white board, I doodle in a notepad and I shift between devices as everything is done in Google Docs.

I have some favourite apps:

  • SimpleMinds
  • Studio

And load perhaps 50-100 pictures to Picasa Web Gallery every day ... there are over 2000 images and screen-grabs from the MAODEs alone. And far too many pictures of the dog hiding when I take her for a walk.

My only bete noire are the ruddy cables you need to supply power to the kit; I went away for a few days armed with iPad and Macbook Air but forget the charger for the laptop. The iPad cable feels as if I am packing a coil of rope - it ways more with the plug and takes up more space.

My test over the next couple of months is when I set off for a month to Belgium, France and the Alps. Will I hanker after a robust broadband signal all the time?

 

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H818 TMA01: Concept Board using a Mind Map

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 16:23

 

Fig.1. SimpleMinds+ concept board/mind map for H818 TMA 01

Sometimes it is too much fun. Actually writing the assignment is such an anticlimax. Sometimes the tool offers too much. SimpleMinds (Free) does the job more the adequately. Here I got mesmerized by the ability to add pictures ... which might be a visual aide memoir but are unecessary and unlikely to make it into the assignment. Though I do believe in illustrating the thing if I can. However, given the module I'll have to be very sure indeed where I stand on the creative commons for any images used. There's a mash-up here from a publicity piece on the Musem of London using an application called Studio - I ought to attribute both. There's a photo I took in the Design Museum. To confuse the visitor some parts of this show permitted photography, some didn't - this did, but I don't know on what basis. In the centre there is a compex SimpleMind of my own on 13 learning theories (there are possibly only five or six, but I stretched the thinking a bit) I ought to have a creative commons licence on it of some kind so that a) I receive attribution b) there is no commercial use c) there is no chopping it about. ie. CC attribution, no commercial, share alike?

(p.s. up in the middle of the night with allergic rhinitis, waiting for medication to kick in. A pain, but far less troublesome from being kept awake with asthma).

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Design Museum

B822 Techniques Library : Random Stimuli (Dali Champagne)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 19 Apr 2012, 09:04

IMG_0212.JPG

B822 Techniques Library : Random Stimuli of Various Kinds

1) Identify what it is you want ideas for.

2) Grab an idea from a paper, from looking out of the window, or by throwing dice. (In our case the facilitator had a collection of odd items for this purpose).

3) Connect this idea back to the issue, if necessary using Free Association or Excursion.

4) If it doesn't work try something else.

Could pick a fixed or specific element of the problem and do the same.

* Select grammatically appropriate stimuli: noun+verb, adjective+noun, but make bizarre combinations (which is how David Bowie often wrote song lyrics).

* Deliberately do something different, or speak to someone new or travel home in a different way.

* Allow the idea to incubate while going about your normal day.

CASE STUDY

We took a business problem and defined this in a way that was clear.

WRITTEN UP ON FLIP CHART

Various items were picked out from a selection brought to the workshop by the tutor for this purpose. He picked out a small, smiling lobster ornament as the stimuli and passed it around.  We then played collective word association writing our word onto a PostIt note that the facilitator then put onto a set of double doors.

Once we had around 70 ideas and we had fairly exhausted our thoughts we stopped.

The role of the facilitator was to ensure that everyone offered ideas, that no one dominated. Collectively we put the words into groups and labelled these groups.

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We took ONE theme and put it on a triple A1 sheet of paper.

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We drew, collectively, a mind map still trying to generate ideas.

Finally, from these ideas the person whose problem it had been was invited to see if any answers had been offered.

The solution that was of most interest was indeed something that would not otherwise been thought of.

REFERENCE

Whiting (1958), Taylor (1962), de Bono (1970), Rickards (1974) and VanGundy

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Debunking the mindmap

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 28 Aug 2011, 10:20

I Loved this offered by fellow OU Student Clive Hilton yesterday (see his entry below)

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Mind maps can be such twaddle.

For a few days I taught Tony Burzan in Secondary Schools; the best mind map wasn't a mind map at all, it was a football field.

I was not invited to continue with my efforts to teach memory tricks and cheats after that my second only effort to occupy 40 Year 9s.

Another blog, another day ...

An eventful seven hours or so. Despite the need for an essay plan, bullet points or an ordered list.

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I tried to write a TMA from a mind map and got myself as ludicrously tied in knots as it is with unlinked threads and a failure to group the content; a Venn Diagram would have worked better. Which is a point as applicable to the software that creates these things, know your tools and choices and make them. Sometimes the old, simple ways work best. Essays and assignments, like a narrative, are linear.

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My A' level Geography teacher Mr D.Rhodes of the Newcastle R.G.S had the best approach.

An essay should look like a flower

  • six petals = six ideas
  • the stamen = the topic
  • the stem = the introduction and conclusion.

DSC00352.JPG

A shorthand doodle at the end of an essay would often feature such a flower with ONE huge leaf until I got the picture.

An essay plan or treatment, unlike a mind-map, requires effort, concentration and thought.

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Sunday 12th September 2010

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 14 Sep 2010, 14:54

Some of the software I am trying to get my head around:

  • Outllook
  • Zoho
  • Compendium
  • Learning Clubs
  • Word (2002-2010)
  • Skype
  • Google Docs
  • Mahara
  • Peeblepad

COMPENDIUM 09.15 12th SEPT 2010

Having created the contents for a map inside my home page I cannot figure out how to save it or to create another map. Listing through the movie, or screencast, or animation, or whatever you want to call it, I pick up, at last on the concept of a map being like a folder so by typing M I get a map (or folder) in which to build my content. Of course at first I do not simply type m, I type CTRL 'm' as I expect it to function in this way. Wrong, just type the letter 'm'. So, one step forward, three steps back, four steps forward and I get theresad

With a Map open, it being a folder, I hazzard a guess that my first experimental Knowledge Map can, through drop and drag go into this Mapfolder. Wrong. No probs. I spent 30 mins thinking it through, I can delete it all and start afresh and do a better job of it second time round. Just as well this isn't a real job.

Things need to be called what they do or are. When is a folder not a folder? When its a map. But it isn't a map, it's an electronic flip chart, or organiser, or plannogramme. It isn't a map in the Ordance Survey sense of the word. Though is it a Mind Map. (Didn't someone try to trademark the term?)

I press on.

I do expect this. Learn a bit. Have a bit of a go. Delete. Try again.

I take the project I developed in H807 and type in the 'Learning Problem' and put this at the core of building a response, not the assignment, but the way forward to seek financing, assemble a team, budget, schedule and then produce a piece of e-learning.

I rock 'n roll between the Knowledge Map I am constructing and the instruction in the Screencast Movie. I have seen that there are several of these, so will inch forward taking instruction, giving it a go, and hopefully producing something of use by the end of it. The test will be to send it to a.n.other for their input.

Making a Start. The second time.

  • Type M to start a folder/file thingey
  • Stuff includes:
  • Pro Nodes and Con Nodes
  • 'Populating' nodes with uploads, links and type notes/lists.
  • Questions
  • Ideas
  • Arguments
  • Linking ideas
  • Connecting up 'fragments' or 'ideas' (stuff, or assets, or nuggets)
  • Bringing in ideas (from folder and files, various types/formats)

 (As I'm in the process of migrating folder from my ancient iBook to a second hand PC laptop the 'assets' I might attach/enclose at this time aren't available. This 'dual existance' on MAC and PC can be resolve by using another e-learning tool - clouds. These assets, strategically chosen and appropriately protected, out to be online. Like I guess several hundred photographs that are currently 'shared' between Kodak Eashare (new version) and Flickr ... as well as Face Book.)

COMPENDIUM 11.45 12th SEPT 2010

Already feel I am creating a Map in Compendium that collates my thinking to date in a single page of links rather than a 2,000 proposal or a Power Point Presentation.

My immediate dilemma is starting to realise how Compendium could be used for several other projects that became hopeless tangled over the last decade. These are speculative writing and TV or film production projects. For instance, 'The Watersprites' is a photojournal that in part tells the story as well as identifying intended locations for shooting. It is also a shortfilm on YouTube. It is also a synopsis, more than one treatment, a handful of characters and a few too many scripts that would benefit greatly from this approach. I can see that by being reminded visually of where a project is going, parameters are set and a logical outcome is more likely.

Knowledge Mapping contains the fireworks and permits them.

  • Assigning tags
  • 'Harvesting' tags from one map or many
  • with a nod to Mac users (probably the presenters prefered platform)
  • But how to save? Can I assume this map will still be there when I come back?

I like the way a problem or tentative proposal can be thought through and shared without it needing to become what may on appearanve read like or look like a finished document.

COMPENDIUM 15.30 12th SEPT 2010 Part Two

I needed the break. The fact that I am playing more with the Knowledge Map I have created rather that listening to more 'how to movies ...' is a positive sign. The fact that I have pulled out a set of A1 card and laminated overlays of a presentation I gave a fw weeks ago ... is a positive step. I think I can create electronic, digitally enhanced versions of these on Compendium, the 'retro-fit' part of the learning process, but the end result something I can then share with colleagues.

I think with these A1 sheets I will photgraph them (far too large to scan) then create an overlay in Adobe Photoshop which in turn will be one of a series of slides in Power Point.

These in turn will be linked and expanded with Compendium so that at each step furthe information can be drawn upon. This is a five year/six year plan so we'll be coming back to it repeatedly using it to guide decissions as well as to provide evidence. (This is swimming, our National Governing Body, the ASA want all clubs to achieve then retain a national standard for best practice. We hold three accreditations and are aspiring to a fourth).

Tidying up a Knowledge Map with an 'arrange.'

With my example 'control R' turned an organic, flowing chart of links into a hideous 1960s string art thing that didn't read well at all. In other cases it doe work well, it depends rather on how well developed your thinking is. 

Organising the world the way you think about it

I like the sound of this ... which is good if you want to create something original (which I do), but is somewhat harder if you are trying to conform, i.e. to follow a pattern expected by others (for examples in an assessment). Even a Hollywood Movie ... there are certain prescribed patterns and expectations.

 

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