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What a week!

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We came on holiday on Friday and faced a first in the French Alps: rain and the need for umbrellas. Rain low down meant snow up top so this cloud had a silver lining. However I fell ill with a cold bad enough to keep me in bed, then one of the party broke their wrist and having only just ventured out myself and gently traversing a piste to stop for lunch my wife fell badly and broke her arm - actually she was convinced it was ‘just’ a dislocated shoulder so we skied down to a ‘station’ - not ours, to visit the Cabinet Medical. All was not good - a complicated fracture at the top of the arm requiring surgery. So off to hospital. Ski gear, no other shoes, no change of clothes. A taxi journey some 40km back and forth to where we are staying. And I had planned to take the afternoon off rather than aggravate my cold. Ill and worried I have slept little.

However, I did sign up to study a new FutureLearn Course in British History 1815 to 1945 and also convinced myself that I have the makings of a Cognitive Scientist.

With skis back to the hire shop and me back and forth to a hospital each day until we fly home on Sunday (or not!) I may be able to get some studying done. I can get through a text book a day when I am motivated, travelling or otherwise not distracted. 



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The armchair skier

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 25 Apr 2015, 06:44

Unable to get near a mountain this winter I've nonetheless gloried in watching the seasons start and gradually melt away into spring from the Katalys HD livecams at 1250m, 2750m up in the French Alps. 

 Fig.1 La Grande Rochette looking south east towards Mt Bellevarde from summer into early winter.

Once there is snow the landscape changes little. The weather changes dramatically. People comes and go. The snow mounts up, then sinks away.

 

Climate change is telling. Three decades ago the winter 'season' kicked off in Val d'Isere with the first races of the World Cup on the 17th November - they are now lucky to race at all at this height in December. Three decades ago, closer to four in fact, having worked 12 hours days 6/7 days a week since early December I finished my 'season' on 2nd May and could still ski down to 1250m ... just. The snow below 2000m has, without artificial snow largely melted away.

A paper studying fifty years of snowfall in the Alps paints a convincing story: snow cover is variable, the season later and shorter, the freezing level consistently higher making rain as likely as snow even as high as 2000m through-out the season. Yet to confound the 'industry' a nice fall of 47cm this weekend and early next week falling down to 1500m is forecast. All but a handful of resorts with glaciers close this weekend.

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Guilty Pleasures

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 31 Aug 2014, 09:13
From Skiing New Year 2013/14

On Sunday I head to French Alps. Ferry and overnight train from Gar du Nord. Old school. Far cheaper and I can read en route. 

I am taking Kylie Minogue with me. In my teens it was Donna Summer and 'Love to love you, Babe' - Kylie Minogue 'Kiss Me Once' is ski turn madness. Preparation for the last couple of months has been walks on the South Downs with the dog ... and a rucksack containing three old ski boots and a dried up pot of paint wrapped in bubble wrap. My thighs aren't quite Chris Hoy but they feel like it.

And it's snowing. Skiers care about these things. For the last month the Alps have been in melt down as the freezing point rose over 3000m. By the time I make it early on Monday morning the freezing point will be down to 1000m and there'll be 45cm of fresh snow on the mountain. 

Dressed like the someone official if I stood still for too long people would ski over abd ask for directions.

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H800: 32 Wk5 Activity 1 Metaphor and Symbols in Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 8 Mar 2011, 20:15

My first take on Saloman (1997) 'Of mind and media', ran to 3,800 words, my second take is still 2,800 ... (See below, it's my previous blog entry).

Now that I've devoured the text I'll consider the questions.

Do you prefer certain forms of representation to a greater extent than others?

1. The only kind of learning that matters is learning that works. This will vary by context, content and desired outcomes. A piece of chalk on a blackboard is learning, as is Avatar. The first might cost $1, the latter $200m.

If so, why do you think that is the case?

2. We cannot always indulge our differences. I dare say the best education might be privileged and historically at home with a governess then a tutor. Personalisation by yourself, aided by parents/siblings peer pressure and your school/institution is what e-learning offers via social networking, forums, YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, Wikipedia, Google and all the rest of them.

Does this preference apply to everything you attempt to learn?

3. If I am motivated to do so I will do more than watch the TV programme or catch the radio show ... I will do more than buy the book (or books), I will do a course, join a group, get a qualification. It is progressive, exploratory and stepped; it ends in your head, and may begin on your own but is often best developed with others. Though ask a successful author how they developed their craft skills or how they now work and I doubt they say they do it as a group/collective in a writer's group.

Or does it vary from one type of learning task to another?

4. Whilst certain approaches, if there is a choice, do lend themselves better to certain ways of doing it, any learning is defined by the candidate's motivation to learn and what is available, let alone their individual circumstances. I do think that challenging someone to learn might deliver a better outcome than spoon-feeding or mollycoddling. I learnt to deliver a baby when I had to, I had about five minutes to read a very short chapter on 'home delivery'. I learn to sail when it went wrong and we escaped drowning. I learnt to make training films by making mistakes (and putting them right). I once saw a production of Sleuth that was performed in front of the curtains with none of the pyrotechnics or gadgets ... in this simple form it was more engaging. i.e. I am going back to the story told around a campfire, perhaps with a song. This is how to enjoy Beowulf rather than as a movie.

Does the article make you think differently about what you do?

5. The article irritated me. It is 4, 800 words long. The first half could be removed entirely. Editorially I would have put a line through the waffle and a red line over disagreements. I have a paragraph of what I'd fix that I'll post in my blog. It should have been edited to improve what is poor writing. However, it is this disagreement and the 'mistakes' that have rattled me and so got my attention. How therefore to create a tussle with the text or concepts? They do it at Oxford, it's called a debate.

To what extent do the technologies available limit the learning and teaching possibilities in terms of forms of representation?

6. The technologies are not the limiting factor, they are only possibilities. The limiting factor is the author of the learning - bells and whistles do not improve a lesson if the teacher hasn't a) got an idea b) prepared a 'script' that has some chance of success.

Can you describe any specific examples of how different forms of representation are an important influence on teaching and learning situations with which you are familiar?

7. In H808 we did a group task that had to end with a presentation/representation of some kind. We had powerpoint presentations, and videos but to my surprise as I had doubted it would work one group did a poster that was rich, comprehensive, inventive, memorable and in one shot said it all - indeed with the flows and movement of information about the page I'd even described it as interactive. i.e. Keep It Simple, Student. I've been using a Kindle poolside to show swimmers pages from the 'Swim Drill Book'. It has proved extraordinarily effective.

To what extent do assessment methods constrain or privilege certain forms of representation (for example, how much does a written examination reveal about a learner’s competence in communicating effectively in a second language?).

8. Testing is more vital for the learning process than as a test to achieve a grade, pass or mark. But of course assessment is crucial for the sake of credibility and to have something to open a door to work. A written test tests someone's comprehension of the language and confidence/ability with this language first. Interesting for the last year I've been feeding my learning back to a national sports organisation. I have been fairly critical of a written test for sports coaches as it is at odds with the way they learn and what they do ... it was dropped from the curriculum last week. I had read during H807 or H808 about how the thing to be taught, the approach to teaching it and the way it is assessed should all marry up. i.e. to teach someone to dive Kate are they ever going to have to go near or in water? Of course they are. At what point does their reading or writing skill hinder their ability to qualify? If you want to learn to sail someone had to give you the helm; my father would never do so! I went off and did a course without telling him so that should he fall over board I'd know how to get back to shore. The ultimate tests I have windsurfing and skiing have been where errors would be fatal ... though I'm not suggesting a test should be a life or death matter, though it wouldn't half concentrate your mind.

Finally, I spent this morning with a colleague/friend who did an e-learning diploma with Sussex University.

We shared favourite e-learning websites and the ones we hated the most. I came away rather depressed by the awfulness of many, their formulaic approach and dreadful written and spoken English - there is a lack of craft skills. I think these things have been designed and created with the context in which the learning will take place in mind or the multiple opportunities people can and will find to engage with a task or topic. Personally, I like to hear and see it from several sources, good and bad, then give it a go several times ... and in time form an opinion having done what I'm doing here and did this morning over coffee - batting it about.

We liked Spaced-ed and can see what they are doing with Qstream ... though our own e-learning will naturally engage even more than these!

I came away with key ideas such as: metaphor, variety, mistakes, context, relevance and participation.

REFERENCE

Salomon, G 1997, 'Of mind and media', Phi Delta Kappan, 78, 5, p. 375, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 March 2011.

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