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A terrifying realistion

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 5 Sep 2014, 06:37
From E-Learning V

Writing an assignment takes time and requires focus.

Not rocket science, but never before have I been quite so aware of the time it takes to achieve something. Prep over the writing has begun. I use an hour glass to hold my focus, but what do I achieve in an hour? 400 words.

At this rate it'll take another ten hours just to complete the first draft. My only hope is that the preparation will have paid off and that these 4000 words with some spit and polish will do the job.

We'll see.

Suddenly time feels finite and the deadline like 'The Wall' in Game of Thrones looms on the horizon. Just so long as the next series isn't released in the next few days. When is it due out by the way?!

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What a noggin ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 9 Oct 2012, 11:56

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Fig. 1. Benzi, after Gianlorenzo Bernini. 'Damned Soul', 1705-07

It has taken me 33 months, my fifth module and x assignments ... 12-16 ? and for the first time three things have happened:

  • The first draft is written with two days to go.
  • The word count is only 100 or so over the limit.
  • I stuck to the treatment.
  • Its a tad journalistic at this stage, but I enjoyed it.

On top of the MA the OU has given me the tools and confidence, and in this case, the knowledge, to write.

Thanks OU!

Off to London for the day.

RA this afternoon for the 'Bronzes' Exhibition, then a presentation in the evening - me talking, 'Use of video in e-learning' at an IVCA meeting.


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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.

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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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H800:9 The script, the script and the script.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 28 May 2012, 17:46

'To make a great film you need three things - the script, the script and the script.' Said Alfred Hitchcock.

If I've written below about the demise of the written word, then I take it back.

OK, love letters have had their day. I don't even suppose that boarding Prep School Boys are writing home religiously every Sunday either; though we did.

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My mother's collection of letters written by my brother and I from aqe eight years make quixotic reading.

Avatar started with a script.

The three CD edition is worth it for the documentary on the creation of the film. It started with an idea expressed as a 'scriptment' (sic) i.e. not even a script, but words on sheets of paper nonetheless.

A Learning Designer starts with a script, as does an Account Manager.

A client wants to see it in writing. You can edit words. You can share words. You can hold, copy and digest them in written form.

An idea (or problem), a brief, a synopsis and treatment ... that leads to a script. And once this is nailed down the costly business of production begins. Why should e-learning be any different to the production of a mega million Hollywood movie, or the Christmas Pantomime in Ambridge Village Hall.

I get paid to write because I'm able to fill a blank space with bright ideas in a sequence that makes sense (linear) or does not (non-linear).

But ultimately says something.

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The importance of the words

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Aug 2011, 08:15

Writing is everything.

I'd master it now. Keeping a blog is a sure darned way to do that. Handwritten is fine; find yourself the perfect pen.

Writing, or rather the ability to write.

It is the key to communication, to learning and to e-learning, and a great deal else besides.

On my passport it says 'writer, director.'

I like that, though I think of my skill as a visualiser and the writing and directing is rarely TV, but corporate and classroom training, desk-top learning, and product launches, change brand and change management.  Still there can be drama in it, and tears, and death, and love, and life, and music and dance. We go underwater and scale mountains, enter shear caves of nuclear power plants and wade through sewers, track super-models along catwalks in Paris and record the last words of a man dying of cancer in Carlisle.

I see things in pictures.

Perhaps the MA in Fine Art IS what I should have started a year ago ... though I fear I may have missed out.

It's easy enough I find to get my 'hand back in' if I want to draw something as it is rather like riding a bike, or skiing in deep powder snow, or racing a Fireball, or pushing off a wall in Breaststroke and emerging from a legal transition half way down a 25m pool ... once you've put in the days, months, years (even decades) learning to do these things, barring ill-health and great age, you ought to be able to do them for some time to come.

Which reminds me, I want to crack written French in 2011.

Clients think of me as something in addition to writing and directing (I produce), but no. that's not it; there are words, voices, images, cut together and linked in various ways that form linear and non-linear assemblages, but to them I am 'a problem solved', a job delivered, with passion, on time, on budget (of course), sometimes as a team of one, but sometimes in a team of a few or many more. I do wonder if sometimes an email with the finally agreed Creative Brief is the end of the process, rather than beginning.

Today, once you've solved that you can invite everyone to come up with their own creative execution.

Now there's a thought I'd not heard coming.

All of this takes words, expressing and solving the problem and sharing this requires words. A fast, reliable typing speed helps too. So perhaps my Mum was right to get me a typewriter when I was 13 when I wanted an electric guitar.

Sometimes I find the problem for the client and share it with them in all its beautiful ghastliness.

This is what good writing means. And experience. And judgment. And belief. And your approach and thoroughness. And the write people around you. And sometimes conviction that £60,000 will deliver the job, but £600 will not.

Good writing is less about the words chosen and put on the page (unless you are a novelist or poet, and I am neither), no, good writing is a good idea, clearly expressed, in as few words as possible. (Which in due course requires editing something like this).

Who is it who said the selling is a good idea?

That all it takes to sell something, is to have a good idea.

Good writing has a purpose and the author knows how to put the words to work by addressing a problem, because you know your audience and whether you or someone else is the subject matter expert, it is your responsibility, even if the words are hidden by a creative brief, a synopsis, treatments and scripts, to get the message across ... like, with some or many images (photos, graphics, cartoons), or with the spoken words and/or similar images that move ...

A swimming club session plan written on a whiteboard to take a squad of swimmers can be beautifully written if it is magically composed, and serves its immediate purpose. The good swimming coach rarely leaves such things in the head. It is thought-out, it is planned, it fits into the scheme of things, it is the right session for that hour or two.

Good writing hits a chord; it too is of the moment.

I conclude that a good teacher, a good tutor, educator, practitioner of e-learning ... all have this ability to write well at the core of their being. They are confident with words, words that are as carefully chosen even if spoken on the fly, as a result of their experience and all the lesson plans or scripts, or class programmes, they have written in the past that bubble up to the surface when faced with a problem - a fresh student.

(My only caveat is the from the podcasts I've heard before an educator is interviewed they should at least have the wisdom to do some media training).

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The use of narrative in e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 15 Oct 2012, 10:28

I fully buy into the idea of using narrative in teaching.

Without the pyrotechnics of e-technology some imagination from a well informed agent, perhaps assisted by a scriptwriter, could produce a script that is engaging, a journey from which a learner may deviate if something so intrigues them, a pattern with a beginning, middle and end that everyone can follow.

‘Teachers use narrative to teach children difficult concepts and to bring structure to the curriculum.’ Egan (1988)

REF

Bruner (1996.97) ‘Meaning Making’

  • spontaneous inclination to engage in a dialogue with material
  • to improve some form of organisation upon it
  • to make comparison with it

REF

McCloskey, D.N. (1990) Storytelling in economics

Bruner, J.S. (1996) ‘Frames of thinking: ways of making meaning.’ In Olson, D and Torrance, N (eds) Modes of thought. Explorations in culture and cognition, pp. 93-105.

It has been shown that experts in any field tend to embody knowledge in the form of narrative.

Schon, D (1983) The Reflective Practitioner: How professionals think in action.

‘Stories are the method by which people impose order and reason upon the world.’ Fisher. (1987) REF Fisher, W.R. (1987) Human communication as Narration: toward philosophy of reason, value and action.

‘By framing events in a story it permits individuals to interpret their environment, and importantly it provides a framework for making decisions about actions and their likely outcomes.’ Weller. (2009:45)

The framework is the logic of the narrative, the logic of the plot, the role-play of the protagonist (you the learner), the battle you have with antagonists (concepts you can’t grasp) supported by your allies (the community of learners, your tutor and institution) leading to a crisis (the ECA or exam), but resolved with a happy ending (one hopes).

Film-makers, naturally, but also documentary film-makers, bang on about the ‘narrative’ and the ‘story.’

This is how facts, whether naturally linear or not, need to be presented, if an audience, or a larger part of that audience, are to be suitably engaged by a topic.

Some months ago there was a news story concerning how much could be expressed in 40 seconds – BBC Radio 4, Today Programme. Any recollections?

Three experts were called and in turn tried to explain:

1) Bing Bang

2) String Theory

3) The Offside Rule in soccer

Bing Bang was pure narrative, like Genesis in the Bible, with a clear beginning, middle and end.

String Theory had a narrative in they way the theory came about, and just about got there.

The Offside Rule didn't even started well, then got hopelessly lost in ifs and buts and maybes. (I got lost at least. Coming to all three equally ignorant I only came away with full understanding of one, some understanding of the second, and barely a clue with the Offside Rule)

The use of scenarios:

  • as a device for determining functionality
  • as a means for engaging users in the stakeholder’s consultation

Having spent too considerable a part of my working life trying to write original screenplays and TV dramas I am versed in writing themes and strategies, storytelling in three acts, with turning points and a climax, antagonists and protagonists.

I use software like Final Draft and Power Structure.

These tools could as easily be used to compose and craft a piece of e-learning. Perhaps I’ll be given the opportunity to do so.

Narrative … is a useful means of imposing order and causality on an otherwise unstructured and unconnected set of events, but it also means that some detail is omitted in order to fit into the narrative, and other factors are only considered in the limited sense in which they can be accommodated with the narrative.’ Weller (2009:48)

Writing a narrative, for a novel or screenplay, is to some degree formulaic.

Is design of e-learning as straight-forward?

A decade ago it looked complex, five years ago with HTML code package in plug-ins and excellent ‘off-the-shelf’ software coming along the process appeared less out of reach.

Today I wonder if it is more matter-of-fact than some make out?

Addressing problems, devising a plan (a synopsis, then a treatment), threading it together … maybe its having it operate apart from the tutor or lecturer or teacher is what concerns you (teachers, lectures, profs). You are the ones who must learn to ‘let go of your baby,’ to have an actor or presenter deliver your lines. Once, and well. Or write in a team, as writers on a soap opera.

It works to follow the pattern rather than break it.

It strikes me that in e-learning design there may be only a few structures to cover most topics – really, there can only be so many ways to tell/teach/help someone understand a concept … or to do something, and remember the facts, the arguments and concepts … to be able to do it, repeatedly, build on this and even develop an idea independently to the next stage or level.

There is little meat on a popular documentary

There are micro-narratives and their are journeys, some more literal than others, for example, currently there’s a BBC documentary series, ‘The Normans’ and the third or so series of ‘Coast.’

From an educational point of view, what do audiences ‘learn’ from these programmes?

Can they typically recall anything at all, or do we/are we semi-conscious when watching TV, leaning back, not leaning forward, mentally as alert as someone smoking a joint. (Apocryphal or true?)

Try reading the script, try transcribing what is said and look at how far it goes.

Not very far at all.

Such programmes/series can be a catalyst to go to the website or buy the books, but otherwise the information is extremely thin, predictable and ‘safe.’)

If only links could be embedded into the programme so that as you view the programme relevant pages from the Internet wold automatically be called up.

Do you watch TV with a laptop?

Many do. Traders can manage several screens at a time, why not as mere mortals too?It becomes more engaging when you field of vision is nothing but screens, on topic. My preferred way of working is to have two screens, two computers, a mac and a PC, side by side. They do different things, they behave in different ways. I have a team of two, not one.

The medium may introduce a topic or theme, but there is little meat on the bone and we can be swayed by:

  • bias
  • the view of the author/presenter/channel
    • (commissioning editor)
  • negative or positive

(For any longer list of concerns take a course in media studies.)

And if its on a commercial channel there are interruptions for adverts, while even the BBC chase ratings.

Even seen a lecturer take a commercial break

How about the some rich e-learning sponsored by Lucoxade, Andrex or Persil?

This is how schools receive interactive cd-rom and online websites ‘for free.’

REFERENCE

Weller, M. (2007) Virtual Learning Environment. using, choosing and developing your VLE.

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