OU blog

Personal Blogs

Design Museum

Spot the genius. He or she is riding a bike in a favela in Brazil.

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014, 11:18

What has changed in learning each time a transformative tool or technology has come along from a) written language b) papyrus c) codex d) printing and e) the Internet? A neuroscientist will say that the human brain hasn't changed one jot - its innate capacity to learn and to do so at certain developmental stages remains the same. Struggling to see what is new, believing that our latent motivations, drives and inclinations to learn as individuals are as unique to each of us as it has always been I see one change only - the numbers, whether as a percentage in a population or as a gross figure - literacy could only expand as the printed word got into the hands of more people. The Internet will in due course help put primary, secondary and tertiary education into the hands of the disenfranchised.

What has been the frequency of genius revealing itself over the last thousand years?

Even accounting for the billions to chose from in the 21st century compared to the 15th, or 1st, won't exposure too and access to 'an education' by billions give genius a chance to develop and show itself like never before?

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

The playing field for education in the UK is both muddled and uneven

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 04:53

Competition is a good thing, but the playing field is both muddled and uneven.

Remember, funding for higher education isn't simply from the State, but through corporates and research grants. What is more the UK has a long established history of private education at all stages; many parents plan to pay for their children's education, and where able set funds aside for tertiary education too through savings schemes.

Online support for learning, either blended or 100% at a distance, has become viable for ALL in tertiary education, so they are doing it. Even undergraduates on campus expect the kind of online facilities and support that may until recently been the sole domain of the distance learning student.

In the private sector, where I came from, creating commercial product at any stage: primary, tertiary and secondary was difficult for one simple reason - both students and institutions expected the resources to be free. One model therefore was to have content sponsored. Indeed that's how I came to succeed in producing careers materials (video) because it was all financed in advance by sponsors and distributed for free. DVD and online based course materials failed because no one would pay for it.

Ten years ago I prepared a report for my employer regarding the production of commercial learning materials, one offs for specific age groups and subjects. My conclusion was don't, unless it is all paid for upfront. Even the secondary sector is deeply affected by the BBC and their wonderful, free 'bitesize' series to support GCSEs.

There must be research on perceptions of UK universities. The cache of the long-established Oxbridge and Russell Group institutions must be substantial. From an employee point of view there are those who will divide hundreds (or thousands) of applications for a few graduate positions into two piles: Oxbridge or not.

Unsound and unfair, but if faced with ostensibly the same grade, but from different instituions, how do you differentiate short of seeing everyone for a first interview or reading exam papers for yourself?

The answer from the student's point of view used to be the CV thick with extra-curricula activities; I wonder if the future student should pack an e-portfolio, evidence of their worth and potential once away from the student 'desk'.

The last two decades has seen the private secondary sector buy into/ buy up primary sector 'prep' schools even establish pre-prep schools. I wonder to what degree this long-term relationship can be maintained into the tertiary sector?

The Eton Brand, for example, as a University, would be a valid offering in a global market.




Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 2 May 2011, 22:17)
Share post
Design Museum

H800: 26 Guest lists and where you sit at the tutor's table (even if they're not there)

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 1 Mar 2011, 07:09

How do you study if you are both a tutor and a student?

I guess if you are a chemistry tutor and you’re studying e-learning the two are complementary but you cannot, be both tutor and student of the same course (though interestingly this has/is occurring in our module with a tutor absent the OU failing to accommodate).

It’s rather making me think that student as tutor is absolutely possible.

Why not? All it requires is leadership and initiative. I don’t see tutors as subject matter experts. Can you cater for everyone? In communications you need to know your audience. Writers are meant to think of their reader as one person, not millions. How should teachers/tutors think? Of student, or students? Does it matter anymore?

Can we, knowing or indulging ourselves, choose from a plethora of ways into a subject?

I have to wonder, thinking in extremes, why we don’t have tutor groups by gender, by generation, even by profession … let alone our current professional status. Would for example all those working for the armed services benefited from being in a group of their own?

And how do we make such a choice?

Too late if you buy a book, even read a sample, only to find the rest of the content doesn’t deliver.

What about a course?

You pay the fees for a module only to feel or realise a week or so on that it is going to disappoint all the way to the end?

Do you choose by Brand?

Do you choose by awarding body?

And what say do we have?

Can we play-act the model online student?

Would it help to have such an image and then be this person?

Can we assume ourselves into a level of comprehension what we haven’t yet reached and as a result of such aspirations and performance become this more informed and ‘educated’ person?

With an interest and some training in sport and developing young elite athletes I’ve studied Long Term Athlete Development. With a sport, let alone studying, we can group children by gender and biological age. When or where do such groupings or any groupings become difficult to create, or politically incorrect to create? Should not institutions go to greater lengths to group people scientifically?

And to mix these groups up as we go along, if only to change and balanced the learning opportunities?

This is the OU’s show, their party. They are hosting an event, or series of events or have we simply taken a few steps beyond getting a box of books and CDs on the doorstep at the start of a module … to the set of railway tracks that is the like a cartoon, are laid before our eyes as each new week approaches? Who ‘owns’ this course? I get know sense of that, or someone leading. The tutors/authors of the course left years ago. Perhaps this is obvious and given the topic and the speed of change in e-learning is detrimental. I wonder, if given time, more ‘natural’ tutor groupings would form in the national forums of ‘General Discussions’ and the Café from which break-out tutor groups could be constructed (or they do?) I wonder if the solution is in the ways resources are presented, that there need to be multiple ways into a topic. That once size never did fit all.

That ideally we would each have a personal tutor, that all learning would be one to one and tailor to our needs, as they are and as they change … and as we are changed by the process and anything else that is going on around us.

Do we all want a take-away, or a pot-lunch?

The set menu and if so as a school dinner, or from a top restaurant? Home cooking or our own cooking?

Might I say with H800 are getting the ‘set menu,’ i.e. the choice is limited. All I’m discussing here is choice; the next point would be the size of helpings. How do we respond to either being hungry as a wolf (read everything) or not hungry at all (graze nonchalantly doing the bare minimum?) The answer, as I found in H808, was to have plenty of moderated activities in the General Discussion, Café and Supplementary Activity Forums … where like minds could meet, where if you found you had time or wanted to make time, you could get involved in a different group and therefore benefit from an alternative dynamic. I have found that with groups, even more so away from the OU, that are global in scope, that you find groupings that are topic specific and where you can, whenever you like, find a conversation to engage with that adds to your knowledge.

It is a vital part of the learning process I believe, where you form opinions and develop ideas as a result of your engagement, the only issue being that your voice comes out of the tips of your fingers rather than your mouth, which rather suggests we’d all have been better off communicating to our parents and siblings at home via a QWERTY keyboard from an early age so we had these surprisingly necessary skills in place.

Perhaps, as there appears to be so much inclination, whether desire or otherwise, to shift towards the Oxbridge tutorial system as a model, (small tutor groups), might not we also have junior, middle and senior common rooms?

Might we not also have a variety of virtual colleges? And taking just one idea from this … ought we not to have more than one tutor, even within a module, perhaps a different module for each TMA?

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

How hot are we?

Visible to anyone in the world
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.


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

Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 5346498