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Five Years blogging here : time to reflect

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Why is Oxford, with the Oxford Internet Institute and a renowned Education Department not joining the e-learning revolution?

700 years of taking things at their own pace? Their research shows that it adds nothing to their successful and 'elite' model of teaching and research? They don't need to attract students. There can be over 100 applying for every available place.

They do however need to diversify.

It's taken 30 years to tip the profile of the Oxford student from 72% privately educated public school boy to around 49% privately educated and a 50/50 male/female split. By not joining in will they perpetuate the 'Ivory Towers' impression?

There are other reasons to develop massive open online courses, not least to appear open and accessible. The University of Southampton, by contrast, home to Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the only PhD programme on WebScience, have produced nearly a dozen 'massive open online courses' (MOOCs) over the last 18 months. I believe all, or most are on the FutureLearn platform; all are also embedded on the Southampton virtual learning environment (VLE) for students to do to supplement their course work. This I see as an important, valuable and better way to blend the learning experience. It would have been my prefered way of learning, offering some flexibility on the traditional course of lectures.

Is the Open University the only one to have entire degree courses online?

Not a book, not a residential, no face-to-face tutorials either.

By the time I had completed the MAODE, five modules over 3 1/2 years I assumed many other entire degrees, let alone individual courses would be offered in this way. They are not. A MOOC delivering two/three hours of crafted, scaffolded learning a week over a few weeks is demanding enough ... but a module that runs for six months, with 12/16 hours, even 22 hours a week? Though a 'prestige' course the OU MBA programme will spend, I believe, around £3m and three years creating a single one of its modules. These are expected to run for eight to ten years.

How much therefore to design, write and produce five of these, let alone the running and administrative costs?

Is it the right thing to do? E-learning is not a feature film. It is more like a garden; it must change and adapt to the seasons and climate change.

There was no e-learning climate two decades ago; it's the ozone of learning.

FutureLearn prides itself on responding to feedback. I've seen many subtle, responsive changes: several ways through discussion threads like this one which often run to several THOUSAND comments, pooling of creation skills amongst those producing the courses and greatly improving the forms of assessment: quizzes that are masterfully written to teach and to test, tasks for peer review that are part of the learning experience and now opportunities to sign up for a written exam - you pay a fee to attend a test centre, take the exam, and submit your paper. Of course, at this stage the idea of 'Open' is greatly weakened because once again their are parameters and barriers caused by geography and cost, probably also of confidence and familiarity with the formal written exam away from the keyboard and screen.

I reflect, today, on FIVE YEARS of formally studying Open and Distance Education. My blog runs to over 2,500 posts. What next? The same again? I've neither found a home in academia, or in corporate learning and development. Have I studied the wrong subject? I hanker forever to be telling stories. I thought I would successfully make the transition from linear-based video learning and development where I'd worked for some  twenty years, but have not and to rub my face in it the demand for video is finally increasing. Though never again the broadcast like budges we had for multiple cameras and live shoots, for a mini-bus of actors and a director from 'The Bill,' and special effects from The Mill.

I have had my eye on the Creative Writing Course for at least four of the last five years, but felt, for a change, I'd finish something. Instead, I find I am back in March 2006 going through two large 'Really Useful Boxes' which contain the printed off manuscripts of two novels, a couple of screenplays, a TV play and assorted short stories. 

Is this my life? Dominated by a history of making the wrong choices?

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Digital Memory - false prophets, commercialisation based on limited knowledge, an inevitable shift ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 8 Sep 2014, 10:43
From E-Learning V 

 

"It's as radical as looking at the difference between the roots of a tree and the petals of a flower".

 

Thanks for the Memory, In Business.

Peter Day Thursday 4th and Sunday 7th September

BBC Radio 4 

The power of serendipity.

At 21:33 last night my wife called from a rural train station. Apologising for being 'like my late Mum', she said there was something on the radio that might interest me. And so, 12 hours later I am about to listen to this for the FOURTH time. This isn’t because of its academic value per se, rather for its irritation factor. Going by the online monnica of ‘MindBursts’ for the best part of a decade hints at where my latent, longterm interests lie. What a mess and joy ‘natural’ memory can be; I’m yet to see an algorithm deliver credible serendipity. When did my mother last call me in this way? She died exactly two years ago. It would have to be about three to two and a half years ago and most likely would have been Samuel Pepys dramatised for radio, or the hints then of the content that is now flooding the airwaves on the First World War.  Letting that memory fizzle, reform and sink back into my brain. Does this programme trivialise or simply ignore the complexity of the brain? No neuroscientist was interviewed. Shame. 

Very often the BBC and Peter Day et al get it right, but here the researchers and writers have got horribly lost, like a kid on their first visit to a fairground they have run about picking up hifhafultiing fag ends, being impressed by trivia, while occasionally calling in an academic or business big hitter. My concentration lapses on each time of listening after 15, then 20, then 25 minutes. The FIFTH and SIXTH listening my start in the middle. What these programme need, regardless of accessibility needs, is a transcript. I could have got this in a couple of sittings by listening to Peter Day while reading the transcript.

There is value in imperfection. There is value in being irritated by a programme. Had this been a lecture I would have had a list of questions at the end, I may even have heckled or muttered my annoyance along the way.

What a hotchpotch.

There are problems of audience, intent, journalist sensationalism, taking such a random and ranging set of examples and setting them as if they warrant or deserve to share the same platform. 

It begins with something that would have a live audience listening to a stand-up comic nodding in agreement: our no longer having phone numbers in our head. Why would we try to recall the complex and the trivia, an area code as a name with and three digit number, say Wideopen 3119 (my home phone when I was a kid) is easy; not so easy, especially after repeated additions and alterations are the lengthy and multiple contacts we have today. And what was wrong with the pocket address book in its day? It wasn't a case of remembering a phone number, so much as remembering where we'd put our address book.

Technology is there to manage our memories. Luciano Floridi

"It's as radical as looking at the difference between the roots of a tree and the petals of a flower".

This is the man who should have carried the programme; instead we get a soundbite at the start and another at the end. As bookends his profound thoughts barely tether this piece. Perhaps it just tries far too hard to cover everything in a myriad of ways and ends up trying to catch smoke rings in its fingers?

We hear from:

Evernote: set up six years ago, a series of digital tools to help people remember everything. Research. Communicate. To visually communicate what you mean. Phil Libbin,

Timehop set up by Jonathan Wegener. The idea is to milk what people put into Facebook. He has big financial backers. Timehop replays a day at a time a year ago, ten years ago, drawing from Facebook. He suggests that ‘old is awesome’. Aimed at getting users, not revenue. Will make money ‘when the time is ripe’. I find it dubious and ethically immoral, even inept naive views of how people want the serendipity of forming and reforming their own memories. His game plan can only be to sell to Facebook. I quit Facebook recently and doubt I will ever return. Far, far, far to invasive and exploitative, and for me, distracting and addictive.

d3i, set up by Oliver Waters. He used to keep a ‘journal’ from ten up to university. So what. Millions do and many for far longer, and in a directed way, say keeping minutes of business meetings led to Linkedin. The key, he thinks, is not keeping the diary yourself. WRONG. D3i is dependent on the nonsense and ephemera that people put into Facebook. a) this Facebook dependence is dangerous and limiting b) a fraction of people are digitally literate or even care, or care to use social media very much c) students, by way of example, are shown to distinguish between their social, digital and student academic lives. My tip is to perhaps keep a dialy log, or diary. Perhaps restrict to a learning journal if you are studying. Or write a travel log for a trip. I have great fun looking at a diary I kept just for a French Exchange I did in my teens. Another for a gap year job in the alps for a season. 

Memoir. Lee Hoffmann. He suggests there is value in the trivia of social media. Such as sitting with a grandchild and they ask how you met and you show them rather than tell them. This is horrid. Far better to learn to tell stories and learn to listen to the story teller. Snapping away at the trivia of the day. Gross failing to understanding the nature, quality and accruing and sifting quality of storytelling. A few memories as a child of sitting on my grandfather's knees while he talked about the First World War would be reduced to ... her son, watch the video while I go and do something more useful with my time. Poppycock. If you take the human out of memory then it is counterproductive.

Rather

Improve what we have. All text with voice, all voice with transcripts, all video with text and audio grabs …. I’m unconvinced that the commercial operators have much understanding of how memory works. The company they failed to spot is QStream, which in a far more tailored, and valuable way, works with our propensity to forget to aid memory creation in the brain - which is where you need the information if you are to do anything original with it. 

The Problem

The need to filter and forget, far better to enhance or support memories that have value, rather than those that do not. So much is missed in this programme. The fundamental background understanding of memory and how and why we forget. 

We hear from:

Peter Baron, Google. He's asked to talk about European Court of Justice ‘take down’ law and the legal and social need to forget things like spent court convictions. 

European Data Protection Law

Then there's a thing called 'Chronicle of Life'

Facebook and Flickr, so long as they are profitable.

And someone called Milan Chetti, of Chief of Research at HP, Boston Maschatucets.

If I can spell these names correctly I'll find them online, see what the have to say and re-invent this piece for my own understanding of the situation. I ought also to revisit anything I've tagged: life logging, memory, forgetting and so on in here.

All this will take time that I'm prepared to put in to write an article, if not a paper. 

One of the profound impacts is that the memorisation process of the human brain has been altered already … constant reliance on mobile devices has hurt our short term memory as mankind, while digitisation of events over time can help recall and improve out long term memory. So short term memory being carried by devices, while long term memory is enhanced. So we forget directions and phone numbers as our devices do this for us, storing contact details and getting us from A to Z and home, while deeper.

Ki Commenenti - Chronicle of Life. To store data forever.

Spelling anyone?

What about life logging, what about problem solving, such as dementia, even assisting at school and in the workplace. The answer is smarter, personalised and mobile and AI.

If it can be done, it will be done.

Luciano Floridi (misspelled on the BBC website) again ... 

Innovation, Legislation … but understanding lagging behind

Reshape huge chunks of our lives in ways we haven’t understood.

From E-Learning V

 

Floridi uses the metaphor of sediments and layers, a better analogy, as it starts to create in the minds eye a complex environment, though as connected information, digital content changes as associations, reviews, use and comments accrue. I made the connection to Hjulstrom's Curve as I was helping my son get his head around this for A' Level geography last night. I dug out my own Geography text books but found nothing on Hjulstrom. This came from a considered search and selection online. I started to teach my 16 year old son how to do a more academic search online. His approach lacks so much finesse it is shocking. A few minutes of my TLC and we find a brilliant short video from an Irish Geography teacher that put it all so very well.

The programme annoys me because from Peter Day and the BBC you expect a far higher degree of scientific even academic certainty rather than something that is part the One Show for radio. Luciano Floridi of all those we hear from is the one to track down as he does what the very best academics do; they take the  complex and try to explain it based on sound research and a depth of experience that few of the others have.

A memory isn’t static, now is it tangible, it is a chemical construct of the moment that the human brain reinvents every time we recall a memory. All that we have experience since that event formed a memory impacts on how we recall it. To preserve an aspect of such an event digitally can never be a ‘memory’ : a photograph of your child’s third birthday doesn’t include the smell of candles and chocolate cake that reminds you of your own eighth birthday, or in my case that my father never attended a single birthday, not my birth, not my 21st … he turned up to say he was leaving. No figuring that. And immediately indicating how a memory is a shifting entity and if you think about it for long enough it is probably very personal.

Just because you can, does not mean it has value. For centuries people have kept diaries, but how many are a Samuel Pepys or an Anne Frank? It is the record of events so much as the interpretation and voice of the author sharing memories and consequences of these events. 

My rant not over. This is a subject that fascinates me. 'Mind Bursts' as a thought has been my external blog for seven years and with hints of something on the horizon I bought the dot com last year. 

The problem now, compared to ten years ago, is finding amongst millions people to talk to about this. Finding like-minds used to be so, so much easier before the Internet got out of hand and now deluges us with stuff, with too much commercialised and gamified content that gets in the way. 

If you listen to the end then perhaps 2020 will be the end - there won't be enough electricity generated in the world to store this digital content anymore. Hopefully it'll all implode, there'll be a massive clear out, and no doubt there'll be a healthy re-invention or return to books and photo albums.

Meanwhile, my memory-support system called this e-learning journal, blog, portfolio thingey offers up the following. The value of these tagged posts is that they are my interpretation of ideas from months or years ago that will trigger an aggregation or assimilation of fresh ideas and thoughts, something that can never occur simply by grabbing new, unknown stuff produced by others on the Interent. It matters that saved content connects with your soul, that intangible part of the brain that nothing digital can ever reach or approach at mimicking.

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O is for The Open University

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 3 Jun 2014, 12:57

My Open University Decade

  • Openness

  • Open Educational Resource (OER)

  • Open Learning

  • The Open University

  • Open Ed

  • Oxford Internet Institute

  • Open Research

The Open University was made for the Internet. First envisaged as 'the university of the airwaves' because of its use of TV and Radio, The OU went on to become one of the world's leading providers of distance education in the world. Not surprisingly, through a number of faculties or institutions (IET, CREET, Open Learn), The OU is at the forefront of innovative e-learning and e-learning research.

In the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education degree 'openness' is one of the key themes; a movement aimed at providing and sharing education resources and thinking openly.

I've included the Oxford Internet Institute for its niche research and teaching on our use of the Web. 

Open Ed – an annual conference looking at Open Education (linked to the Open Ed 2013 conference website as they have a different website every year)

OER – the annual conference in the UK looking at Open Educational Resources and Open Practice (known as OER13, OER14, etc.)

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What happens when connected as 'like-minds' six or seven such individuals 'collaborate' to perform some atrocity?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 14:34

Fig. 1. Dr. No

Society online is a society on speed and at speed - it might reflect society but in the Alice in Wonderland World Wide Web everything is faster, connectable and so warped in a way that transcends human scales of time, distance and decency. One sick, warped, isolated individual seeking out the pollution of the web to feed their fantasy and make it real, like Anders Behring Breivik in Norway in 2011 was, if you profile the population, 1 in 10 million.

What happens when connected as 'like-minds' six or seven such individuals 'collaborate' to perform some atrocity?

What indeed does the web afford 'networked' terrorist idealists such as AL Qaeda? Attending a seminar on cyber crime at the Oxford Internet Institute last year it was revealing and shocking to learn of the 'game of catch-up' played between the criminals hacking bank accounts and the banks trying to keep them secure. The head of internet security from Barclays paintied a picture that would make the scriptwriters of a James Bond movie go googled-eyed in amazement. Then, far from society creating the Web, the web world infects us 'on the other side' with paranoia and so CHANGES behaviour, gets AHEAD of society. It has happened to me more than once - in the early days of blogging back in 2002 I was 'flamed' visciously (malicious hate in comments and a breach into my blog that had this person editing my content and filling it with bile). I had this stopped and attempts were made to trace the character but for a period I was convinced that any vehicle pulling up along our street outside our house was 'him' ... and then this summer I put webcams around the house when we went away from a few weeks and only after the first week did I relax when I noticed that a brick hadn't come through the window and we hadn't been burgled or the house burned down. 

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John Seely Brown

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John Seely Brown

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What is going on in there? This and the wonders of the brain and the universe ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Apr 2013, 13:35

JVMRi3.tiff.jpg

When I think if learning, I think of the minuscule intricacies of the component parts of the brain and at the same time the immense vastness of the known universe.

As humans we are eager to understand everything. It seems appropriate to marry neuroscience with astrophysics, like brackets that enclose everything. From a learning point of view then ask as you look at a person or group of people, ‘what is going on?’ specifically, ‘what is going on in there? (the brains) and between them to foster insight, understanding, innovation and advancement.

The best interface for this, a confluence for it all, is the Internet and the connectedness of it all.

What has the impact of the Internet been and based on everything we currently know, where do we presume it is going?

 

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The use of the internet and other new technologies is not a panacea for learning and education. DISCUSS

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013, 11:08

This from a paper from Rebecca Eynon a Professor of Education and the Oxford Internet Institute (Eynon, 2009:277)

Her book 'Teenagers and Technology' is a valuable read too.

So what do you think? Do we expect too much, too quickly from technology? Look at the horseless carriage, it still can't drive you home - well, not in England anyway. Over a hundred years ago you could stumble into you tub trap after a few too many pints of ale and your dobbin would take you home. I suppose the equivalent today would be to have a private secretary to do all this typing stuff for you?

Pizzas burning, must dash.

REFERENCE

Eynon, R (2009) Mapping the digital divide in Britain: implications for learning and education. Rebecca Eynon

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Working in the clouds

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 08:52

Fig. 1. Study of Clouds, John Constable. Inscribed 31 Sept.r 10-11 O'Clock.

Constable did little else but paint the weather conditions from July through to Ocotber 1822, which is why curators can accurately say that the artist did this painting on the 1st October.

I've shared my frustrations with Cloudworks from the start of the OLDS MOOC 2013 ... and had some experience a year ago on H807 Innovations in E-learning ... so entered the cloud with a sense of dread.

I stuck at it and found some odd ways in.

What mattered was the contact with people I got to know - as they gave up it became inevitable that I would do so too, not least because I had more pressing matters. H809 a postgraduate module, partially produced by the same team as it comes from the Open University stable, but a very different beast.

More like getting on a bus with four to five stops a week.

A weekend for an assignment every five weeks and a longer sojourn to produce a short dissertation at the end. Four tutors groups each with less than sixteen people in each.

I liken my Cloudworks experience to Freshers' Fair ... every day of the week.

Every time I came in I wondered around getting interested in what other people were doing, sometimes landing their by mistake. So a Fresher's Fair with some 12 entry doors on several floors with the people behind each stall mostly changing too. Your brain gets tired of the overload, the lack of landscape and in this sense 'Cloudscape' is the right term, for the wrong reasons. A 'Freshers' Fair' is when students invite the entire new intake at a university to come and see what societies are on offer - imagine the eqivalent of several village halls, with stalls manned by students, offereing everything from ballroom dancing to nueuroscience, Pooh Sticks Society to the Conservative Association, Bikers to Chess.

I took some pictures of this Constable painting 'Study of Clouds' in the Ashmolean Museum when I was in Oxford on Friday.

What was I doing in Oxford. Hankering after 'the real thing' - a chance to meet and talk with some people in the flesh, this at an talk on Virtual Worlds in Japanese at the Centre of Social and Cultural Anthropology hosted by the Oxford Internet Institute.

After a while, all this online stuff has you eager to meet likeminds in person.

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