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On the value of reading and re-reading the same quality book

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Aug 2014, 06:52
From E-Learning IV

 Fig 1. Essential reading on British Forces on the Ypres Salient in 1917

I take back what I said a couple of days ago about a module (not OU) that comprises a reading list and set of essay questions. Sometimes I feel the OU modules I have done are too prescriptive, that all of us are passengers on a learning train that will not permit anyone to leave the service. You work from and are assessed on the content given - excellent, succinct and contained. This does not suit everyone; never does the scary freedom to read from a reading list. In many cases the variety seen in both approaches, with overlap, is how and when one comes to understand something.

Back to formal reading

It matters that you are directed to the right book. This is the right book on Passchendaele to understand from a general strategic, to operational, to tactical level what took place.

I read 'Passchendaele: the untold story' first in May for a presentation in June.

The purpose was to lay out the chronology of events and compare two battles within the Passchendaele or 'Third Ypres' conflict relating to command. I took notes: highlighted in the eBook which I then typed up in a Google Doc before creating a presentation. Over two months later I read the book again as if I had never seen the book before; on the one hand I worry about my sieve like brain, on the other I am intrigued to understand what is going on.

From E-Learning IV

Fig.2 Notes taken in Google Docs from the highlight sections in the eBook

On second reading, with the tracks and sleepers of the general chronology becoming established and retained knowledge, and with an essay title ringing in my head, the highlights I make in the eBook are, with a few exceptions, totally different. I am reading the same book, but taking something very different from it. I have a highly selective, easily distracted brain - nothing sticks if it doesn't have to. I know a few people with a photographic memory: they appear to read something once then have the entire contents at their fingertips to apply to a problem. My memory is the opposite - nothing at all that I don't deem of importance to the task at hand will be retained. I have, side by side, the notes I took in May and the notes I am currently taking - they could be from different publications; I struggle to find any common ground. 

There will be a third reading

This third reading will have different purpose as in due course I write a comparative history between Third Ypres: Passchendaele and the First Gulf War to fulfil a desire to respond to something my late grandfather said in 1992 'That's nothing compared to Passchendaele' he said as he watched the First Gulf War unfold on TV. He saw the differences between foot soldiers as unrecognisably different, whereas I saw the prospect of having a leg blown off or being gassed as more than faintly similar. Had the generals used the tactics of 1992 in 1917 they would have gained more ground and lost fewer men; something had been learnt in 75 years of war then.

Fig.3. The mud of the First Gulf War

Visualising the above I imagine a desert; the state of my brain before I read, that over time acquires an invasion of cacti, followed by ground cover plants, until eventually there are established trees and a rich ecosystem.

Hardly surprising, but on second reading you pick out more detail; you see things that you missed, or couldn't take in the first time round. I'm the kind of person who would apply this to entire modules: that the student who wants to should be allowed to, for a considerable discount, to re-sit a module they have already done. Why not even a third time if your goal is to master a subject? A' Level students with poor grades will 'cram' for a year to improve on these. Through-out life things we want to do are achieved as a result of tackling the problem repeatedly until we crack it. 

Finally, I conclude, that given how complex we are, so learning needs to offer a similar level of variety; there can be no perfect system, or learning design pattern. We learn in different ways, and educators teach in different ways. E-learning isn't a panacea, it is simply another approach the complements ones we have always adopted, not least learning directly from experts themselves through talking things through.

More of us should be able to or should have been able to retake classes we flunked - with a different teacher, if not in a different institution. It shocks me to see how a student at school can be put off a subject they enjoy as they don't relate to or get on with the teacher - so change the teacher. 

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H818: A History of Openness

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 09:21

We're considering the nature of 'openness' in education as part of this new Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) module.

This is increasingly about ease of access to information, all of it, uncensored.

Often for ease of access and to gain a qualification with a marketable value, information that is packaged in books, journals and lectures, though increasingly in 'sexier' interactive and multimedia forms with the related 'scaffolding' that comes with learning design and planning. The natural tendency is to consider the hectic last decade of the Internet at the expense of the history of openness in access to information and an education over the last century.

A hundred years ago all but the most privileged were in the dark: leaving school after an elementary education, with reliance on biased newspapers, magazines and part works. Libraries, BBC radio and affordable paperbacks, secondary then tertiary education, cinema and TV have each had a role to play, as has the Open University.

Does enlightenment come with access?

What does it say of power of information and ideas where access is controlled, as in China? Does connectedness within openness lead to even greater coalescing of likeminds in cliques, reinforcing stereotypical biases rather than exposing them to valid alternative views?

Nothing is straightforward when it comes to people - heterogenous by design, homogenous by inclination.

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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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Fighting for a child with autism to attend a school with small class sizes

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012, 11:29

In the US laws in relation to provision of appropriate learning for students with disabilities applies to the individual's needs. In this case the Supreme Court eventually upheld the parents of an autistic child's decission to use private education. (i.e. enforceable Civil Rights)

http://specialedpost.com/2012/11/29/courts-uphold-rule-that-fape-must-mean-smaller-class-size/

In the UK the law relates to provision of appropriate accommodations by an education authority. The challenge for appropriate provision is therefore with the authority's to provide rather than with the individual needs of the child to be met. So to accommodate a student with severe mobility impairments the authority would be found to be wanting if it couldn't provide.

Such an issue would play out differently in the UK - provision would have to be made by an education authority in their region and a decission taken centrally whether to accommodate a particular student with disability in a mainstream or specialist school. Policy and provision would be different from region to region leading to what we call the 'post code lottery'.

The interplay between institutions treats the student like a ball that they too often drop, or don't even bother with - policy being what matters rather than the person.

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H810: Language, Terms, Access, Disability, Impairment, Xenophobia ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 6 Sep 2012, 14:51

Multiple asynchronous discussion in a tutor group, more of the same here – then get online and do the same live, in a synchronous chatroom or tutor group, or with those around you (family, friends and collegaues). This is such a terrific way to mold and shape your thoughts on an issue. I am doing H810 on 'accesibility' – a timely eyeo–opener with the Paralympics raging.

Forgive me if I keep mentioning the radio but I've driven well over a thousand miles in the last three days and not suprisingly there have been many BBC 4 programmes relating to disability due to the Paralympics - all on issues such as the terms to use, accessibility provision and even on how and when someone who becomes disabled 'Comes Out' to friends and family, as well as potentially to an institution where they work or study. Best of all, in the company of young cousins galore we have watched the irreverant, though brilliant, 'The Last Leg' on Channel 4 - comics and athletes, mostly with a disability though plenty of guests who do not, who rib and tell jokes, or make observations about the events of the day constantly making fun of themselves, their attitudes and the attitudes of others.

Dare I offer the kind of email or text they answer?

'Is it OK to punch a disabled person if they are being a knob?' Very Edinburgh Fringe, live and late in the evening, so fruity language used all the time - It breaks down barriers so is a form of access. I've got some time having finally got back home for 24 hours so plan to track down through BBC iPlayer the radio shows I'm referring too - as streamed radio these are only available for 7 days after transmission, though some are available as podcasts. Not necessarily outside the UK though? Perhaps if we act quickly we can persuade the BBC to archive and share some of this content? It's the kind of content that should be given a longer shelf life through Open Learn.

'Thlid, spas, spasmoid, mong' ... obviously and horrible terms used by boys age 8-10 at a boarding prep school in the 1970s.

Locally and with abusive undertones, children at a nearby home were name-called using a diminutive of the name of the place, 'Stellers' for Stelling Hall while at a public school where, for far too many bullying was the favourite sport, any act of stupidity you were called of all things, 'a right Balliol' after a local home for kids with learning difficulties. Even tourists got it in the neck as at any opportunity we'd lean out of a bus and yell 'tourist' at anyone with a rucksack and hiking boots (the school is in the Lake District). I turned up at this instituion after six months hospitalization, ops etc: having broken my leg very badly. I was nicknamed 'booties'' as I had to wear lace up ankle boots as one foot was smaller/weaker and required support. Did I like the term? Of course not, but by protesting the bullies insisted on using it. An entire cohort of younger boys, if anything at all distinguished them, they got a name, so accent, learning difficulty, squint, hearing, colour, religion - not just Jewish, but Catholics, were singled out.

Courtesy of Facebook I've recently been reminded of a list of abusive nicknames given to the teachers - in every case picking out a pysiological trait, accent or behaviour. Horrible.

All what I am saying coming to me from a dark, buried place in my head - no wonder Harry Windsor is admonished for calling a fellow soldier a Paki becuase he got this from Eton and being brought up in an elitist, underserved poweful and exclusive environment. To carry this on 'we' should now forever nickname him 'Bottom' so he isn't allowed to forget. I have to wonder from only a term of social anthropology as an undergrad if this, in a pack, or small group, comes from some innate sociatal xenophobia?

Thinking about the opposite of the appropriate behaviour or teriminology makes it apparent how much effort needs to be put in saying the best and correct thing especially as words come with all kinds of associations.

Historically was everyone who was different persecuted?

The solution to this is to get the person's name as soon as possible, double check with them how it is pronounced, even spelling, then use it - they are a name first, not a category, or a cohort, or an institution, but (like all of us) unique and individual, deserving respect, love and understanding. As I've come to understand v. painfully, whatever our bodies may be doing to let us down or limit mobility or the ability to communicate or even help ourselves, there is a good chance that much of or even a part of this unique being is cognitive to the last.

Respect this and imagine if by some twist of fate you were in this position not them - not pity, but the politeness to listen and look with care, even ask questions and never assume anything at all - being kept from the same life chances is perhaps what accessibility is all about, why should those who already be at an advanage be the  first or only ones to benefit from enhanced approaches to learning? Technology risks giving an 'unfair advantage' to those who already have a head start while access aims to gives everyone a chance or more appropriatley the choice to keep up or catch up in a way that suits them.

'Accessibility is a process of negotiation' - spot on.

Listen, ask questions, learn what you can about the person, their needs, wishes and expectations - get to know them. Where it is required offer choices, sometimes by trial and error, as for disabled people like all of us, we have our likes and dislikes, experiences of what works for us and what does not, and from a plethora of potential gadgets one thing or another, good bandwidth or not, a high resolution screen or not, preference for a mouse, tracker ball or tablet and stencil or a specialist keyboard - and so on. Take a course in learning theory!

Context matters. Pressume nothing.

Within reason be prepared to make the time to individualise and adjust everything - and expect to return to this to adjust as circumstances ebb and flow. One size never fits all - wherein lies the biggest barrier caused by mass produced technology from a mouse to off-the-shelf software. Can it be adapted? Is there an App that suits my specific needs? That opens a door that is currently closed?

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H800: 44 Week 8 Activity 2. An approach to learning activity design

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 26 Feb 2012, 06:08

Notes on Beetham Chapter 2 An approach to learning activity design.

Rethinking%20Pedagogy%20for%20a%20Digital%20Age.JPG

I've found this the chapter on ‘an approach to learning activity design’ from Helen Beetham profound and invaluable.

Helen Beetham is a Research Consultant to the JISC e-Learning Programme. Previously she was a Research Fellow in e-learning at the Open University.

The profound revelations I feel I have had concern three projects to 'reinvent learning' with interactive then web-based learning in the 1990s and 2000s that I am familiar with (I was in the production company or agency doing something else, or know the person and the project's history).

And the sense I wanted from MAODE of the history of education which I sum up as:

1 to 1 the governess and/or then tutor of the aristocracy. 17th century (and earlier, and well into the 20th)

DSC00785.JPG

Samuel Daniel was a court poet and amongst others tutored Lady Anne Clifford. A copy of his miniature was inserted in Lady Annes 1646 'Great Picture' that told her life story/struggle.

1 to many in schools (both private and state maintained). (For wealthy families who couldn't afford the tutors ... the 'public' schools of Britain from the 16th century, followed by the Victorian & Edwardian schools for all).

H800%20Wk2%20Children%20being%20brain-fed%20books%20GRAB.JPG

1 to 1 or many to many (depending on how you look at it) which brings back a good deal of the 1 to 1 that the likes of Princess Elizabeth might have had in the 16th century, through peer-support you have your time with a subject matter expert (if they will indulge you) ... and time with people with very different experiences and insights that can be better at giving your thinking a jolt ... or if we will indulge each other through 'social educational networking'.

I appreciate the history of education goes back further to Greece, Mesopotamia and even hunter gatherer societies on the plains of Africa.From Marketing to the Social Web. Larry Webber.

My feeling is that technology isn't as novel as we think; in fact it is enabling what used to occur in closer nit learning groups embedded in society.

I wonder if I should be looking at learning patterns from the Bantu in the Congo and apply that to teenagers wishing to learn using mobile devices in the 21st century, the urban jungle and chase replacing the forests, bore hunts and multiple relationships.

There is a lot to think about. I see learning design as akin to designing and growing a maize maze. One this is in place you have choices regarding whether guide an individual around your labyrinth by calling out ‘left!’, ‘right!’ or just ‘hot!’ or ‘cold!’ while others you leave to figure out their own way through. There will be graded outcomes that require exiting the maze, others where they never leave and yet others where they exit where right they came in – all depending on the activities, the learners and the desired outcomes.

The emphasis, from Beetham’s point of view, is that with learning design should be on learners, the activities they do (not tasks) and the outcomes. Beetham (2007).

Activities, not the tools used or the supporting materials, matter the most.

Whatever way you plan, develop and scaffold learners will do the activities their own way - in different contexts people learn in different ways which raises issues for activity design Beetham (2007).

I ask myself:

· How prescriptive should you be?

· How confining should the parameters be?

· What degree of latitude is offered?

Situative%20Constrive%20Associative%20Learning%20JISC%20GRAB.JPG

The learning activities may be any combination of associative, constructive or situative. Learners will develop their understanding as a result of consolidation and practice, drawing on their strengths and preferences and a repertoire of approaches. Beetham (2007) e.g. an apprentice learns in an associative way be rehearsing skills and concepts.

REFERENCE

Beetham, H, and Sharpe, R (2007) Rethinking Pedagogy for the digital age.

 

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H808 Interview with Dr Z A Pelczynski on teaching, essay style and leadership

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 24 Feb 2012, 05:24

ZAP

Interview with Dr Z.A.Pelczynski

How does teaching differ between school and university?

What do you look for in an essay?

Can leadership be taught?

Could leadership be taught online?

 

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How hot are we?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 30 Aug 2010, 12:33

'By looking at written words, and especially those that have been highly valued, we can take the temperature of the society in which they were produced.' Hitchings (2009:124)

Many new words are coined working and existing online.

If they guage the temperature of society then who are we to:

  • google
  • e-stalk
  • e-learn
  • ping
  • podcast
  • twit and twitter

e-mail(my British born and raised 12 year old son calls the 'post,' calls 'letters through the door,' 'Mail.'

Who am I to correct him.

As Hitchings points out, all words assimilated into American become words used by us Brits and English eventually.

The very fact that more people speak English on the Indian sub-content than in/on or around the British Isles implies that the English language is secondary to culture and nation-hood.

It amuses me to learn that'gotten'is of these isles 200 years ago, so not an Americanism, but olde English in every day use. Alongside words such as 'trash.'

Indeed, reading Hitchings, alongside some Norman Davies (The Isles) you come to wonder for how long an English  language was set, culturally or by national or cultural boundaries.

The more I understand about how these 'Isles'were populated the less I feel we have had a settled language, let alone a 'people.'

We are everything and everyone who settles in these islands; I welcome them. As South Africa falters perhaps this mutli-lingual, mixed-race, compost heap of folk should adopt the 'Rainbow Nation' tag?

As Hitchings point out, in a study of London primary schools they found that 300 different languages are spoken. A dear friend is the Head Teacher of school where she can run off the 27 languages spoken in a single class of Year 5s.

A good thing. A positive thing. To embrace, to celebrate and engage.

 REFERENCE

The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English. Henry Hitchings. 2008

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Second time round

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 12:50

Frank Cotterell-Boyce the English playwright and author was featured on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs a few weeks ago. He remarked that as a boy he was held back in the final year at Primary School because he was too young. Far from being a negative experience he said that it empowered him - he had done it all before, of course he knew the topics.

I feel as if I should sign up for 'Innovations in E-learning' H807 next year, not just to get my head around the topic more fully (its a gargantuan topic on which you could never know enough) but because by then there will of course be new innovations to talk about.

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