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Can a popular book sit on the fence? Academic vs. popularist

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 19 Feb 2013, 18:43

I wonder if the difference between the book selling 'voices' of e-learning are to academics what pop music is to classical music.

They make a great fuss, sing and dance, but lack substance. They are popular and sometimes wrong. Marc Prensky and the Digital Natives compared to Martin Weller's Ring Cycle?!

In 'The Shallows' Nicholas Carr goes out of his way to select anecdotes and references to prop up his thesis that Google is making us stupid. The wise, though less popular and academic approach would have been to make the case both ways with equal effort, to argue that Google is making is smart.

The two propostions would make for a reasonable and reasoned debate. There are two books in it.

Can a popular book sit on the fence?

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The value or otherwise of 'User Generated Content' in education and corporate communications

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 15:53

JFV%2520Producer%2520Director%2520Writer%2520IVCA%25202012.JPG

From Wikipedia with commentary.

Aggregated here though shared for the value of thinking about the myriad of ways we now generate content and the way user generated content has value that is different from content produced or published by institutions or corporations.

You see a programme and talk about it at a party. Or you talk about an event which a writer picks up and puts into a novel that is made into a film. Where does the conversational like disembodiment of the idea from a person's head 'find legs' and get a life of its own. How should we use and value all of this 'stuff?' Perhaps in exactly the same way that we differentiate between journalism and scholarly writing, between chat (even if on topic) around the 'water-cooler' compared to a more formal teasing out of ideas in a tutorial.

It all matters, you just have to navigate around the choices with some sense of their different meanings and values.

What I favour about user generated content is how authentic and immediate it is. Think of the footage from smartphone of the Tsunami in Japan this March. The user generated content not only trumped the TV networks, but is already being applied in academic reseach by placing scholars at the point the footage was shot so that further analysis can be undertaken on what happened and the lessons to be learnt.

We live in interesting times.

For other uses, see UGC (disambiguation). User generated content (UGC) covers a range of media content available in a range of modern communications technologies.

It entered mainstream usage during 2005 having arisen in web publishing and new media content production circles.

Its use for a wide range of applications, including problem processing, news, gossip and research, reflects the expansion of media production through new technologies that are accessible and affordable to the general public.

All digital media technologies are included, such as question-answer databases, digital video, blogging, podcasting, forums, review-sites, social networking, mobile phone photography and wikis.

In addition to these technologies, user generated content may also employ a combination of open source, free software, and flexible licensing or related agreements to further reduce the barriers to collaboration, skill-building and discovery.

Sometimes UGC can constitute only a portion of a website.

For example on Amazon.com the majority of content is prepared by administrators, but numerous user reviews of the products being sold are submitted by regular users of the site.

Often UGC is partially or totally monitored by website administrators to avoid offensive content or language, copyright infringement issues, or simply to determine if the content posted is relevant to the site's general theme.

Just because you 'generate' stuff doesn't mean it will be permitted. How does a business or institution manage often valuable input from stakeholders? Do you 'cut your face off to spite yourself'by disallowing such stuff? An organisation that shuts down the voices that sing its praises are surely shooting themselves in the foot.

The very nature of the networked, online, switched-on world in which we now leave favours those, like Cisco Systems with its 1300 employee blogs, that embrace what is going on. Indeed, this number of activity would and does quickly drown out the detractors. Use the power of the crowd to police your message, because you never can.

Think of it as having an Open Day every day. People come and go. But the crowds swell. Do you issue edicts then send trained staff off to tell people they can or annot talk about x or y, or talk at all? And if they are going to talk, it can only be in a specific location where everything you say will be recorded, delayed for moderation, and only then shared with a myriad of additional tags attached ot it that are not of your choice. Might this be like talking through a gas-mask.

I do wonder.

To fail to engage is to disappear. Institutions will be noticeable for their absence. The advantage the OU has are the numbers of students and alumni. If research suggests that only 1% of those active online blog, then the OU should expect 3,000 to be out there. If we add in alumni groups this figure might rise to 30,000?

(And don't give me the generational thing ... research, take that by Richardson 2003,2005,2007,2011 at the OU knocks that nonsense on the head). IT has nothing to do with when you were born, and everything to do with personality, education, having the kit and making the time.

Here's a thought, if you want to police content who should do so? The publisher, editor or print unions? Does it not have to come down to the audience deciding what they consider acceptable or of interest to them or not?

Just let 'em have it.

There's enough out there for the dross to get lost and enough like-minded people on your side to drown out the miscreants or the negativity as it inevitably, occasionally, occurs.

Trust them.

If someone is proud of who they are and where they work and what they do, let them sing its praises, let them create supportive content. Encourage, enable, even reward and from time to time offer additional resources if they are on a roll and readers are flocking to their banner.

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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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Reflection - personal, extended

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 7 Feb 2014, 13:39

I am undergoing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. For the last 18 months, initially every two weeks and now every month I see a therapist. I pay for this myself as the NHS could only offer 20 minutes every six weeks and said I was just 'a bit depressed,' - 'like most people.'

Five years ago I was temporarily diagnosed A.D.H.D.

This was turned on its head by specialists in London who couldn't distract me and found that as the tasks I was giving to do got harder my concentration improved. Ritlan had been fun. My problem was boredom. Always has been. Whenever there is a family gathering should we discuss the first words of various nieces and nephews, let alone the adults, one of my siblings or my mother will say my first word was 'why?' and my first phrase was 'I'm bored.'

I'm still bored and I'm still asking why. I was 49 last week.

I think too much. Rather than thinking less, please can someone put me in a situation where I can think until my brain hurts.

A best moment for me, outside the exam room ... a TV programme than was going to go live in 90 mins. The MD pulls the entire theme and my producer looks at me and says let's do something new from scratch. It was that or waste the expense of presenters, camera crews (live, multi-camera, galley staff, support staff etc: etcsmile No rewrites, no rehearsals, that script was handed out with minutes to go. Unprepared the interviewees were fresh. it worked. I'm good at doing 'from the top of my head.'

By reflecting on how I behave in certain situations, coming to understand the situations and my upbringing I am changing some of my behaviour - much of the time. This 'reflection' has at times been recorded, transcribed and chewed over - just like this. More often I treat the moment, the hour for what it is> I do wonder if I dwelt on it more often, whent back over these discussions if I would embed the change?

My late father when in his mid-twenty to mid-thirties ( I am told and believe) would spend an hour or so with his mother coming home. (That or he was having an affair - more likely?) Something of a matriarch my grand-mother, I could imagine this regular reflection facilitating and guiding my father's success. Reflection or dictation, being told what to do or coming to yor own decisions? I wonder. It's value, doubtful beyond building a substantial PLC. In terms of his relationships (catastrophic he went through four marriages). I was staying with him as marriage three collapsed. He was attending Relate. He enjoyed these sessions, admitted he was probably mad and came out of these sessions rationalising who he was without any intention of changing. It gave him an excuse.

If any component of this was reflection, then it was reflection reinforced a modus operandi, rather than changing it.

Wherein lies my issue with reflection and blogging. Is it necessarily something that results in change, or even something for the better?

Didn't Hitler write Mien Kampf while gaoled? This is narcissistic, self-indulgent reflection that gave him the opportunity to develop self-belief in his warped ideas.

See, reflection can back-fire, bringing the worst out of people, not necessarily the best.

The desired outcome of reflection as a form of thinking in an academic context is to help embed ideas and facts.

It is an aid to a neurological process, by using the information in a variety of ways it comes to matter more, priorities are made, choices taken, you form you own view of what matters and what does not. However, you share this reflection and immediately it is being written for an audience; you reflect and submit this as evidence in an assignment and the first thing you do is to check the requirements of the paper, and how it will be marked and then you adjust, edit and as a consequence contort the truth that reflection should try to uncover.

If reflection has worked then I can see a need to return to live or as-live TV. I thrive on pressure - head pressure.

 

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On Blogging

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 15:47

With thanks to a fellow OU student who asked 'why?'

I’ve blogged since Sept 1999.

More importantly I’ve kept a diary since March 1976 (I was 14 1/2)  ... with substantial two or three year breaks I should add in the 80s, 90s and 00s ... and only on a few occasions ‘every day of every year.’

The diary was never read by others and never of interest to them. Except on one occasion I was aware my girlfriend was looking at it so I wrote some especially nice things about her and she did likewise. A comment, you could say. That was a one off. (She also read that on our first date I thought she had bad breath. Lesson learnt. If you are going to express your mind, keep it private or lie, or jsut leave things out ... and keep it under lock and key).

The appeal in the early days of blogging was to have an electronic form of the ‘journal’ I kept, however this gradually changed into something quite different with the then new additions of ‘friends’ and ‘favourites’ and all the other ‘sticky things’ (technical web term) that are common-place. 

Two things start to happen

1) you make a couple of ‘friends’ you relate to really well and find you’re only truly interested in them and you can develop ideas, support each other and so on i.e. collaboration. (We formed a successful writers group).

2) you go crazy for the statistics and start to wonder why certain pages are read and which get the most hits ... and what you have to do or say to get more hits.

This OU Blog-a-long-a-thon scroll is better for the lack of the many tools, quirks and quasi-personalisation tools that commercial blogsites now offer. 

At this stage the realisation is that you are no longer keeping a journal, nor is it private. Indeed you very quickly find there is a considerable amount of fiction, flaming and writing gibberish simply to fill a page and have your profile picked up in some blog rank-a-thingy somewhere.

I call this turning into an 'e-j'.

It's value is ephemeral. It is not a journal anymore. There's no value in privacy, indeed 'disclosure' and 'exposure' become the way to deliver a high ranking blog. My tactic was to circumvent the entire blog premise by removing any sense of it being a 'log,' writing entries that are tagged or stored by theme, rather than the day they are written on.

I try not to do it in what I call ‘OU Land’ where I am increasingly trying to be more professional and circumspect.

The temptation to write to provoke, or to intrigue is still there which will cause me trouble when it gets to submitting anything for ‘reflection’ because there may not be anything there ... which is why I am starting to post the ‘bland, objective, reflective kind of thing required’ but keeping it private.

There’s a piece on the addictive nature of games and the Internet in the New Scientist. (See below. I wrote about it last week).

I would say between 2002 and 2006 I probably spent far, far too long blogging. When you post 10,000 words on one day and have 1.6 million words online (largely unpublishable farting into cyberspace) I think you could say there was a problem.

Most of this serves no good purpose at all, other than tinkering at the QWERTY keyboard, the piano equivalent of playing chop-sticks. i.e. you quicklky find you are getting the same, repetitive tune.

I never, or rarely read over my old, hand written diaries (a decade is the right kind of timespan to afford them any worth), yet reading a page in a blog is a click away, a search word away. It's as if very day and any day is given equal value. But is it of value to learn that I tend to wash my hair on a Thursday?

Feedback is like gold, it is recognition, and in a tiny way rewarding and flattering.

Once again, there can be an obsessive hankering for comment, to the degree that your views and what you write is geared to nothing else, whilst in OU Land, a type of blogging experience, within the context of academic study, 'hits' count for nothing, whereas there is the potential to gain marks through objective reflection.

And finally ...

Blogging transmogrified through comments, friends and favourites away from being an online journal, to being a form of social networking. The blogging landscape is now so varied and vast that it often ceases to be blogging at all.

Facebook is the equivalent of blogging onto a Post it note that you then stick to the side of a bus.

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The e-learning professional. (v. long)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 31 Jan 2013, 06:23

The podcast H808 e-learning SMEs.

(Makes them sound like a prog rock band of the 1960s. Perhaps they were?)

[V. Long version here. 4,000 words +. 1,000 or under in H808 Tutor Forum.

Edited versions in the next 24 hours/couple of days in EduBlogs at www.mindbursts.edublogs.org]

Week One

I may be a professional swimming coach (amongst several things), but my head coach told me ‘I think too much.’ Think less and get the athletes to do more. Keep it simple. If there is any context however where thinking is the currency, literally if we are talking professionalism, then the more I think the more professional I become.

(Or not).

Many would say that a 3,000 word blog entry is 'unprofessional.'

I call it shared reflection, the 'uncut version.' It is the outcome of over five hours thinking on the topic. Hours banked. Ideas turned into cash. By definition when I have made two years worth of regular deposits I may call myself and even be defined as an 'e-learning professional' with the MA to suggest I have joined that club, and a job that for the remuneration I receive makes me a professional rather than a wishful thinking wannabe.

It is unprofessional as a post-graduate student to be flippant and/or verbose.

A professional would keep this down to 500 words, yet I am stretching it to 3,000. The uncut version. Reflection in action. My mind at work. Not the athlete sharing a few ‘mots justes’ after a successful race, but the race itself and all the training before hand. The choice words, bullet point form only with an abridged commentary goes into my Tutor Group Forum. Under 250 words there, is my targert. Under 1,000 words per OU blog had been my thinking too. Blown that then.

Watching the TV I fall asleep.

Listening to the radio (i.e. any audio) I do something else - I’d be distracted anyway, I have to.

In an effort to get into my head the points being made by OUr E-learning Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) I first read the transcripts provided and then listened to the podcast while reading the text.

What shocked me was how much I had missed.

I do less than skim read it appears, all I must do is to look at patterns and shapes. No wonder I learn so little when I do nothing more than read.

Lesson learnt?

This isn’t an 'airport thriller' I can read at break-neck speed chaisng the protagonist as he is in turn chased; this requires a different kind of reading.

It requires effort.

I must work with the text, make notes. Just highlighting choices words and sentences isn’t enough either. Effort I can do. It is consistent effort unless I am working under exam conditions where I struggle. There is always something more interesting to read.

Historically, when successful academically, it has been a huge effort and very time consuming for me. I have to take notes (long hand). Then I have to take notes on the notes. I have to make lists, take quotes and re-order the material. I may still not make sense of it. I need to chase up a few references. I need to find my own patterns. I need to discuss it. Argue about it, agree and disagree. And then, gathering up a wad of papers and scraps of paper the whole lot needs to compost for a few months. Then, and only then, might I start to ‘get it,’ and have something constructive and original to say.

Do any of us have this kind of time anymore? Did we ever?

(My late father, my daughter and a friend, a partner in one of the world's leading law firms, all have/had photographic memories. They would have read the transcript and been able to pick out its salient points after the first swift reading. Not so me, not so us?)

The process you see playing out here is an attempt to mulch the content, slow cook it and hope that I can achieve something in five hours that would normall require five months.

Keep cooking.

The second time round with the SME podcast I first worked with the text, highlighting points and generally trying to get my head around it. If you’ve come across Jakob Nielsen’s ‘Writing for the Web,’ this is what I did – isolating sentences and ideas, creating headings, sub-headings and bullet points, in a word ‘chunking. In fact, I begin to get close to doing what Richard Northridge recommends in the ‘OU Guide to Studying’ (1990) note taking, creating concept cards and then even looking for links and patterns in the text itself.

Lesson learnt?

This takes time and requires effort. I’m not great on effort. My modus operandi is (or has been) to take in volumes of material, but if this is only at a surface level no wonder I am often more frustrated than informed.

Lesson learnt?

Less is more. Rather than chasing a reference, another report or book, I need, at first, to ensure that the text I have in front of me has been dissected, not consumed, not afforded nothing more than a passing glance, but pulled apart, then reconstructed.

Lesson learnt?

Effort

Not the expected outcome of this simple task – my faltering approach to learning laid bare, but a valuable lesson at the start of the module.

At last I’m listening to the podcast.

I made myself think, made myself listen, I 'sat forward' (the technical term for interacting, for engagement.) I made myself read and take notes, made me list the contrasting ideas, the arguments for and against, the justifications ... and to cluster these ideas and adjust my own thoughts accordingly based on my experience.

I had something to think about as I listened.

Do I have anything in common with these e-learning professionals in relation to assumptions and aims?

  • Do I have different understandings of what it means to be an ‘elearning professional’?
  • Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?
  • The profession of teacher?
  • The profession of a university lecturer or academic?
  • The profession of a trainer or staff developer or a human resources developer in private corporate bodies?
  • Is there an elearning professional?
  • And should I be describing my job as that of an elearning professional?

My short reply, given my background in sports coaching, is simple.

  • If you are paid you are a professional.
  • If you are the athlete and not paid you are an amateur.
  • If you’re the coach and not paid you are a volunteer.

Therefore, if someone is good enough and experienced enough (or simply good at selling themselves and their ideas) – and they are remunerated for their efforts, then they are a professional.

Rebecca Addlington is a professional athlete. Bill Furness, her coach, is a professional too.

At my swimming club all the swimmers are amateur, though some through bursaries to pay for County and Regional development training are by definition quasi-professional as they are receiving benefits if not in cash, then in kind. Some of the coaches and I do not define myself as a swimming coach; it’s a hobby that’s got out of hand.

I have ‘put in the hours.’

(Which I can qualify by saying I have put in the appropriate hours. i.e. time will not make you a professional, the enduring focus of your efforts will)

One of the key themes of the podcast made by each of the speakers is that a professional has put in the time.

They have put in the effort, gained experience that is directly or indirectly relevant to their e-learning expertise – and by dint of this expertise (and being paid by the OU, for books and reports, lectures and workshops too perhaps) they are all professionals.

At the swimming club many of us (its the biggest club in the South of England) have earned our places through years of experience, gaining qualifications and attending regular courses (CPD) to retain a licence to teach or coach aquatics. Many of us, paid or not, can call ourselves 'professionals.'

Just as I’ve reduced my core thought to that of the contract between a professional and an amateur, by picking out the ideas of each speaker and doing something similar a number of interesting points regarding what it means to be an ‘e-learning professional’ emerge.

In this see-saw of ideas the protagonists have a habit of changing places.

By defining professional we should also think what it means to be unprofessional.

I’ve allowed this dance to play out as it leaves me with an image of a professional being circled by the professional wannabe, the unprofessional (as yet), the layperson, the naive, virgin student. A mass of non-professionals clamoring around the few.

The points and arguments frequently fall into another diametrically opposed set: the qualitative vs. quantitative, an objective point vs. the subjective, a value judgment vs. the facts. Everything overlaps - a Venn Diagram of the points would show sets within sets.

Adrian Kirkup

· Amateur vs. Professional (there are many highly ‘professional’ amateurs)

· Ineffective vs. effective.

Robin Mason

· Hasn’t done it for long vs. been doing it for a long time

· Undergraduate vs. PhD (A sub-set of the above)

· Hasn’t put in the hours vs. has put in the hours (more of the same)

· Immature vs. Mature (a variation of the same. Though professionalism is not a consequence of maturity)

· Inexperienced vs. Experienced.(Experience that takes time to acquire, and a certain manner to be effective)

Gill Kirkup

· A new field vs. an established field. (Disagree. Though a new field of subset of a professional activity would be definably professional).

· New vs. Established. (as above)

· No established standards vs. abides by general and specific received standards.

· Acting alone or part of a professional association.

· Part of the UK Higher Education Academy or not. (a subset of the above)

· Part of a legitimate community or not. (as above)

· Committed vs. Uncommitted.

· Respectful vs. Disrespectful.

· Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice. (successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective)

· Juvenile and professional vs. professional only if matured. (as Robin Mason)

· Unlicensed vs. Licensed.

Robin Goodfellow

· Genuine vs. not genuine.

· Unrecognised vs. Recognised.

· Inexperienced vs. Experienced.

· Independent vs. tied (to government or a business).(disagree)

· Technical foundation vs. no technical foundation

· No need for a label, e-learning professional vs. professional enhancer. (strongly agree)

Chris Jones

· Takes time vs. no time.(as Robin Mason and Robin Goodfellow. You have to put in the time to become a professional. Which I guess applies as much to the professional criminal, as the Professional lawyer. Little p, Big P- see below)

· Part of the mainstream vs. Specialist. (disagree)

· ‘Lone Ranger’ and early stages of innovation ... vs. early majority and established (themes of Rogers)

· Enthusiasts vs. the not interested. (strongly agree)

· Society and the professionalisation of modern life (quotable)

· Sport in the 20th century and professional vs. amateurs in sport

· Traditional and modern professionals

· Autonomous vs. dependent

· Trustworthy vs. (spin/PR/Branding/Agenda)

· Not part of a trade association or governing body vs. part of such an association

· Generalist vs. specialist

· An outside vs. part of something

· Formalised standards vs. none

· Unmonitored vs. monitored

· Is there a distinct elearning profession, or is elearning simply an aspect of other professions?

· Little ‘p’ pr big ‘P.’

Jonathan Vernon (moi)

· Doesn’t look the part vs. looks the part.

· Lacks form vs. has form.

· Self-taught vs. ‘done a course.’

· Qualified (with the piece of paper to prove it) vs. Unqualified (however expert they may be).

Some thoughts on the points identified above

It is worth reflecting on Robin Mason’s point about ‘putting in the hours.’

The suggestion that genius and expertise requires 10,000 hours of effort is no urban myth. A study carried out at the Berlin Music Conservatoire identified three groups of graduates. Asked to estimate how many hours of practice and playing each student had put in since picking up an instrument they were then divided into three distinct categories: up to 4,000 hours, up to 8,000 hours and up to 10,000 hours. The first became teachers, the second category got places in orchestras whilst the tiny number who had put in 10,000 hours (takes around 10 years to do this) were most likely to be the solo artists, the concert pianists, the mavericks, the Vanessa Maes and Mozarts. Whilst all these categories are professionals, they are paid for their skills, the use of the word ‘professional’ to distinguish those who are expert, who have attained a certain standard, would in my view apply to the musicians who have made it into a top orchestra – with the soloists in a category beyond the ‘professional.’ Our ‘OU H808 E-learning SME professionals', given the decades of thought they have put into what we now define as ‘e-learning’, have been part of this ‘orchestra’ of professionals for some time, and who knows, we may have a Mozart amongst them. Personally, I've not read enough from any of them yet to know any better. I look forward to hearing what they have to say and how they say it.

Interestingly, Robin Mason returns repeatedly to a theme of time passing, of gaining, requiring or acquiring maturity of thought. Though I feel as if I am clutching at ideas in an amorphous cloud here, my sense is that whether it is professional with a big P or a little p, that the word ‘maturity'; might say it all.

What does maturity imply?

Growing up, lessons learnt, age, growth, adult hood, a way of behaving, able to fit in and contribute to a community and so on.

I disagree with Gill Kirkup

If I have understood her correctly regarding her suggesting that only in an established field is something professional whilst in a new field this is not possible. We can all think of (or at least imagine) an unprofessional ‘professional.’ The corrupt lawyer, the doctor struck off the medical register, the TV food expert who is not a doctor at all (and so a sham professional).

In 2000 I would have defined myself, as some of the panel here would have done, as what is now termed an ‘e-learning’ professional. After fifteen years in corporate communications, training and learning, creating linear, then non-linear and ultimately web-based materials the companies and government department for whom I worked through various production companies had to see me as ‘professional.’ I hadn’t done the post-graduate studying, but I’d learnt through observation and experience (first carrying video kit into the changing rooms of a nuclear power plant age 17 assisting with a training film for BNFL at Sellafield).

Interestingly, I don’t currently consider myself to be an e-learning or a learning professional and even with the MA I hope to gain in 2011 I will by my own definition not be a professional until I am being paid for my expertise.

To use a horse-racing term I lack 'form.'

I'm literally out of the race (for now).

Being studious here and building my confidence is part of the plan to regain the 'professional' tag.

Does a barrister on retirement cease to be a professional lawyer?

Socio-econonmically he/she would still be defined as a 'professional' would they not?

I agree however, very much, with Gill Kirkup’s views regarding ‘respect’ and her definition of an e-learning professional within the academic community.

Respect for the individual learner, incorporating research and scholarship, the development of learning communities online is a hugely strong component in professional elearning practice.’

(This, for me, successfully combines the subjective and unquantifiable with the quantifiable and objective. i.e. you can be a professional Professional).

I disagree with Robin Goodfellow’s view that a professional must be independent vs. tied (to government or a business). If we look beyond e-learning professionals and academia it would be quite wrong to say that someone is not professional simply because they represent the interests of an organisation or government department, let alone are being paid to take a certain stance or have a strongly held view (left or right wing politically, religious or atheist and so on).

If nothing else, I believe I have shown above that there is a natural dichotomy, if not a debate even an implicit conflict, between views on whether a person, or institution, or field of study, can be defined as professional or not, worthy of study or not.

It is engagement in such a debate where a professional proves their credentials.

A professional is a match for anyone, whilst the unprofessional would not play by the rules, make excuses, bow out...

Dare I imply that all the above are differentiating between the educated and uneducated?

Is it so black and white? Students at school, scholars as Edwardian’s would have defined them, and undergraduates, graduates too, in terms of education can never be defined as ‘professional.’

Or can they?

The government pays students to go to college, to stay on in secondary school after the age of 16 – does not this make them pros, like a boy of a similar age getting paid to play football in an academy, they literally ‘turn pro.’

I agree with Robin Goodfellow that there is ‘need for a label’, that what is currently the e-learning professional may be the ‘professional enhancer ‘of the future if the UK HE Academy has their way (though I doubt the term will stick). Just as Robin was (we were) once web-based learning professionals, or learning professionals, or professionals in education...

Big P, little p (Chris Jones) is the most memorable expression of an idea in relation to the professional Professional that I take from this and a worthy talking point. And 2,500 words in I could sum it up with a Twitter count.

Professional is an adjective and a noun.

Anyone can be described as ‘professional,’ (adjective) by dint of their behaviour and experience, however to be a ‘professional’, (noun), various criteria should be met. Depending on how your measure up, by Chris Jones’s definition, you are either Big or Little P.

(I can think of other categories where a similar way of looking at things could be applied, for example, ‘engineer’. The person who fixes my washing machine may call himself an ‘engineer,’ but Isambard Kingdom Brunel was an ‘Engineer’. A sports psychologist is no longer allowed to call themselves such, they are sports scientists. So Psychologist, if not professional, not has a legally binding form of expression and use).

I disagree however with Chris Jone’s view that Professionals (big P you notice) have to be specialists whilst implicitly, if they are professional at all (little p) they are not, or unlikely to be so if they are part of the mainstream.

Or do I?

(I'm changing my mind as I write this, reflecting on a matter tends to do this. You twist yourself in so many knots and then find you are looking in the opposite direction - and happy to do so)

Onwards

Is there an implicit elitism here that makes me uncomfortable, an obvious them and us?

As a Professional I am not ‘part of the mainstream’ ?

Yes, that’s it.

You see the ‘mainstream’ is the population, everyone, in the universe that we are discussing. Professionals are of the mainstream, of society, even if they are a subset community within the broader community.

The likes of Richard Dawkin and Stephen Hawkings are 'professional Professionals' by their engagement with the world, not because of an elitist, hide-themselves away hermit like attitude to knowledge acquisition. Do Simon Schama and Neil Ferguson fall into the same category of professionalism?

Be published and damned, broadcast and be damned even more?

But you don't have to be famous to be Professional (though I dare say you'd cease to be professional if you became infamous).

Or have I been making a mistake through-out this internal debate ... this reflection – that we have always only been discussing Big P professionalism ONLY as part of ‘the whole thing,’ i.e. the specific category of the ‘e-learning Professional’ and just as this time round I haven’t given a moment’s thought to ‘e-learning’ as a term, I have nonetheless unnecessarily dissected the term ‘professional.’

I’m yet to click through the OED online.

I daren’t. It may be my undoing.

Back to my idea of a Venn Diagram.

If ‘professionals’ is the universe then we have two subsets, Professionals (Big P) and professionals (little p) (the noun only). Far smaller, and intersecting both these sets, we have ‘e-learning.’ There are in e-learning little P and Big P professionals.

Still with me?

But there are also non-professionals, and even  the unprofessional to consider. Can they also be defined as Non-professionals (Big N) and Unprofessionals (Big U).

Final thoughts

Might a professional be defined as someone with 'qualified confidence in their field?'

Not finished yet

I've got a Venn Diagram to draw, some visualising to do.

Can a loner be a professional?

I enjoyed Chris Jones's point about the ‘Lone Ranger’ that in early stages of innovation there are maverick, loners having a go at something new way ahead of anyone else - think Dr Emmett Brown in 'Back to the Future' tinkering away at the construction of a time-travelling automobile. Are such people professionals or even professional? Does this 'odd-ball' behaviour disenfranchise you from the professional community, even if you have the mind the size of a planet?

A consultant escapes the hospital ward for a couple of years to undertake research. Just because they are beavering away on their own, being a 'Lone Ranger' doesn't disqualify them from the category of 'Professional,' (Big P), or even 'professional Professional' (little p, Big P).

Dare I suggest that our panel of e-learning experts are 'professional e-Professionals' ?

I don't even begin to delve into the thinking behind innovation diffusion. This is an entire module in its own right. It is called 'Innovations in E-learning', or H807 for short.

For more read 'Diffusion of Innovations' E.M.Rogers. (2005) 5th edition.

Nor am I going to teach the definition 'e-learning.'

Is there a professional 'look.'

Forgive me if I make a comparison here between the need for barristers to put on the appropriate garb in court and so look Professional with a big p, compared to those wishing to be called professional and seen as Professional who don't look the part. Poolside as coaches it is expected that all teachers are appropriately dressed in the club colours and well groomed - this looks professional. There was once a time when teachers wore a jacket and tie, so looked professional like fellow professionals such as lawyers and doctors. Don't academic look the part, 'look professional' in their gowns and mortar-boards?

And having addressed 'looks' can someone sound 'professional?

Think how a director chooses actors to play a role. Look at Michael Cane in 'Educating Rita,' is this the stereotypical professional Professor?

Another discussion, but coming from corporate communications we have been through exercises of using authentic presenters (people who work at the place) compared to buying in 'professional' presenters. To do justice to the message in the TV medium the professional broadcasters were far better at putting over the points the client wanted to make.

As I said, another discussion, a different thread.

P.S. It would be unprofessional to post such a long entry into a tutor forum, where a 500 word, even a 250 word version will be posted (the bullet points, or just my thoughts on the key bullet points ... or just where I strongly agree or disagree).

Lesson Learnt ?

Professionals put in the time and effort, and follow rather than ignore guidelines for the community in which they operate.

It strikes me that academics, like creatives, are more interested in reputation and recognition than money.

Is it not striking that not one of our panel mention it?

Can you be a professional without it?

And what about spelling and grammar?

The ability to communicate. Have I mentioned that. Can the professional spell?

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On Reading, Taking Notes, Thinking and reflecting. OU style 1990

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 28 Jan 2012, 15:21

On reading, taking notes and managing your feelings i.e how to study

There are notes, nothing more, which makes me wonder why I share them with the world. In this instance I am sharing notes on 'hot to study.' (I liked the typo so left it in.'

This 1990 OU's guide came into my possession by the most circuitous of routes. My father-in-law, a long retired Oxford Don, sent it to his 12 year old grand-daughter on seeing her end of term report sad

Problem is, not that she has read the book at all, if it appealed in any way then she might shun what her immediate future offers: GCSEs then A' Levels which requires a lot of learning, but not a great deal of thinking. (Or does it?)

Here are some notes for Chapter Two 'Reading and Note Taking'

In relation to 900 words or so we were asked to read as an activity:

This takes, we are advised to:

  • Skim read - 9 minutes
  • Read - 15 minutes
  • Read with care (and taking notes) - 27 minutes.

I read it in 3 mins.

Did I speed read? Did I take anything in?

I managed to make notes afterwards, indeed having been asked to answer some questions even more information came to mind. Perhaps this is how I should do it ... perhaps the important stuff is more likely to come to mind if I give it some thought rather than note taking at the same time. I may not have a photographic memory ... do I skate over things? Would it help if I slowed it down? I'd have to read more strategically though, to trust the choices made for me.

An OU IDEA 'Concept Cards'

To jot down concepts and ideas that you DON’T understand so that you can look them up at later, i.e. don’t only makes notes on the things that make sense.

Historically (last decade) I've used FileMaker Pro.

Whatever its short coming I am using the OU e-portfolio, expecting to be able to transfer/migrate the 500 pages of contents over to an off-the-shelf e-portfolio or anything new the OU comes up with in due course.

Taking the hint that ntoes shold be taken of ideas of interest, and value, rahter than taking notes on everything I picked out this:

Creating interest where there is none – when your enthusiasm for a topic wanes think how others think who have found something if interest.

That's useful.

Like a child, too often if a topic or activities doesn't appeal I make excuses and do something else, rather than finding a way to engage.

Questions make reading interesting.

You need to read with a couple of questions in the back of your mind so that you engage with the information.

My questions on the OU 1990 Study Guide?

  • What’s changed in 20 years?
  • How much is just the same?
  • How can I apply this in relation to e-learning in 2010?
  • What advice would others find useful that may be second nature to me? (That I take for granted).

I liken my approach to studying to the way I wandered across the South Downs for five hours yesterday.

I hadn’t even been sure if I’d walk a stretch of the South Downs Way from Newhaven when I dropped the car off for a service, but I had walking boots on and waterproofs in a rucksack. I had no map, but have walked half the route out of Newhaven towards Lewes, and half the route out of Lewes South. Having followede the River Ouse to Southease I then followed signs for the South Downs Way which took me way off any direct track to Lewes in a couple of huge loops. The mile along the road from Southease to Rodmell would have saved a three mile deviation up onto the Downs. But did I want to risk either the dog or me being run over?

I have a tendency to follow my nose (like the dog, her nose took her into a fresh cow pat). She rolled in it.

My reading takes me through a series of cascades as I pick first one reference to chase, then another in this article or essay and so on. Its as if, despite being given the road map through a Maize Maze I insist on looking down every avenue myself, so that I can find out for myself.

If I study in exactly the same way as my fellow students, reading strategically, only reading the course references as there isn’t apparently time to do much more … won’t we all come out the same? A goal for my studying is to have my own perspective eventually, not to project the opinions of another.

Elaborately Cautious Language

’In every day life we cheerfully use language as a blunt instrument for cudgelling our way through the cut and thrust of events around us. However, in academic writing language is meant to be used more like a scalpel, cutting precisely between closely related arguments, so that they can be prised apart and analysed in detail.’ Northridge (1990:29)

An academic text is not a narrative – it is an argument.

An academic text aims to be unemotional, detached and logical.

Whilst I can understand applying this to a TMA or ECA, this is surely not the required or desired approach in what is called a Blog? And for writing in a forum, should we reference everything? It doesn't half interrupt the flow of ideas. If talking over coffee or a glass of wine would we cite references we knowingly made? The lines distinguishing the spoken word to text or TXT or blogging and messaging are blurred if not broken.

Manage Feelings 2.6 Northridge (1990:31)

Find ways of:

  • building upon your enthusiasms
  • avoiding sinking into despair
  • making the topic interesting
  • accepting specialist language
  • accepting academic text styles
  • constructing valid criticisms

My preferred approach to reaching:

  • cafe
  • walk
  • pool
  • while travelling (trains, planes, ferries and yachts)

Though surely not

  • in bed
  • on the kitchen table in the middle of the night
  • in the pub
  • on holiday

(though this can be exactly what I do/have done)

IDEALLY

  • a room of my own

(married life, children and a modest home have left me with a cluttered shed or lock-up garage packed with the contents of our last house - we moved three years ago).


Reading Approaches

Skim paragraph ahead, then read more slowly using the ‘mile stones’ to guide you.

Skimming – about the text
Reading – follow the argument

Lighting skim – very fast.

I typically 'light skim' the last chapters of a Stephen King novel, as the plot becomes ludicrous yet I feel an obligation to have glanced across the page in case at some stage sanity returns (it never does). Though the story will reach a resolution.

Intensive Study – very slow

Something new, something I don’t understand. Something I need to understand or want to understand. But never the small print of a bank overdraft facility. Probably the diaries of Anais Nin and the novels of Henry Miller. Probably the history of WWI, as I need to glean info from it for my own writing. And of course the books and papers I read for H807 (Innovations in E-Learning) and will read for H808 (The eLearning Professional).

Is it making me think?

Am I getting a better grasp of the subject?

‘The underlying purpose of reading is to develop your thoughts; to weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have and to give new angles to your thinking.’
Northridge, (1990:34)

My reading speed, 300 wpm? i.e. far to quick, but is a page a minute that fast? it does depend of course on the writing style and my familiarity or otherwise with the concepts.

The purpose of reading = 'rethinking' Northridge, (1990:34)

I like that 're-thinking.' So building on what you now already, whether or not you think you know much at all ... or know a great deal.

Rethinking:

  • To develop your thoughts
  • To weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have
  • To give new angles to your thinking

The point of reading:


‘The point of reading is to be able to understand what you read and to be able to get back the ideas at some future point when you need them again.’
Northridge, (1990:38)

The point of taking notes:

‘Taking notes forces you to think; to ‘grapple’ with the ideas in the text as you read them, because you have to decide what to write down and how to say it.’ Northridge, (1990:44)

I don't grapple at the note taking stage, I find it more mundane than that, I do desire a tussle at some stage, which is why I can find the manner in which we engage asynchronously (its nature) somewhat tame. I don't recommend debating online either, or getting into an argument (or even a heavy discussion) ... when in Elluminate, messaging or anything else.

This is why the face-to-face tutorial at least, fellow students over a beer in the MCR or in a formal debating chamber ideas gain a voice, that becomes your Word, and your Voice.

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