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Mind Bursts

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 6 Oct 2014, 05:49
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Niel Macgregor's 'Germany: Memories of a Nation' 

I've loved this phrase 'mind bursts' for longer than I can remember so find it refreshing when something comes along which for me is expression of what I mean.

Niel Macgregor's 'Germany: Memories of a Nation' takes the massive and complex and makes it interesting and explicable by picking focused, memorable starting points. Every episode makes you think, but the one that got me hooked was on Konisberg and Strasbourg, two cities, once German: Konisberg now Russian as Kaliningrad, and Strasbourg now French.

Niel Macgregor's 'The History of the World in 100 Objects' has received some 33 million downloads!! THAT is a 'Massive Open Online Course' (MOOC) without the need for instructional design or assessment. It is informative, educational and entertaining.

Back to Germany though.

We are all probably used to history taught and written about as a series of chronological events, with historians questing for a truth interpreted through the philosophy and means of their era: Niel Macgregor therefore is using 21st century approaches to deliver his history, but what is so memorable and effective are the exceedingly carefully chosen objects, the considered, interpreted and historically accessible language and his smart, even 'other worldly' intelligent and dare I say it 'posh' voice.

Also an exhibition at the British Museum

More in the BBC Radio Series Producer's Blog

 

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Free Distance Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 14:12
From E-Learning V

Turn on Radio 4: leave it on and listen from the other side of the kitchen, bedroom, sitting room or bath. Take notes when you hear something interesting. I'm now well through a book on research done into happiness mentioned on Saturday Live and am starting to make 'Homefront' a daily fix. Blog about it and discuss: that's the e in e-learning. That and having the book in eBook form. And quite a bit of Radio 4 is OU anyway: The Bottom Line and that one on statistics come to mind.

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On happiness, memory and a whole lot more

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 14:19

Saturday Live, September 27th 2014

From 2BlogI

Fig. 1 Saturday Live, Sept 27th BBC Radio 4

A three hour car journey is sustained by pieces of Radio 4: this jad me wanting to pull over and take notes, instead I've been into iPlayer. There were pieces about memory and happiness that tickled my interest. I still need to listen a third time to find the point that to paraphrase had something to do with why or how memories are formed by key moments, not the endless ephemera that surrounds them: this is the key error made by all of these Apps and gadgets that aim to 'keep memories' for you by photographing and recording your day. Many of my most memorable moments in a 24 hour period are either dreams or thoughts - there's no photographin them.

Paul Dolan is dubbed the Professor of Happiness. I downloaded his book half an hour ago. A smart and academic-lite response rather than a 'how to book' 

 

 

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A radical thinker who gives many academics a run for their money

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From E-Learning IV

Fig. 1. Malcolm Gladwell - Desert Island Discs

A fascinating insight to someone who connects the latest thinking from all kinds of disciplines and often gives senior academics a drubbing. He challenges anyone who suggests that the Internet is damaging the brains of the connected youth to come up with the research; actually, between them, the OU and Australian Universities have thus far shown that as far as their brains and our brains are concerned it's business as usual.

Like so many episodes of Desert Islands Discs a magical way to learn something new or to gain a deeper insight into someone.

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My OU Years

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 24 Feb 2014, 17:21

Fig.1 Odd that, 12 years and I've gained hair, glasses and a tie.

In February 2001 I began an OU module on Open & Distance Learning - last year I graduated with the Masters in Open & Distance Education (MAODE). Since then I've taken a couple more MAODE modules to stay up to date. Impossible given that any MAODE module is out of date before it goes live?

In 2001 distance learning looked like this:

Fig.2. Some of the books that came in my OU 'Box' at the start of the module

The next direction has to be horizontally into the Open University (again), or vertically towards a PhD. Or both? Or neither.

Meanwhile, I sincerely recommend that anyone with any interest in the way education is going to follow the BBC tonight. 

BBC Radio 4 8.00pm

The Classroom of the Future

Is it an OU co-production? These days these things usually are.

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The importance of agony in storytelling

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 23 Sep 2013, 14:56

Fig. 1. Betthany Hughes - The ideas that make us. BBC Radio 4.

The volume of 'educational' content I gather from BBC Radio 4 is remarkable - there is so much of it. Much of it recalled here over the last three years.

Here is a 15 minutes piece that might make you the fiction writer you have always wanted to be.

She derives the word from ancient Greek and its use in Himer's Illiad then interviews an eloquent Aussie Cricket commentator during the Ashes and the author Kate Mosse at her publisher's. 

Agony helps us to empathise with another's struggle.

'Struggle, in the form of philosophy of ideas, is at the heart of a good novel', says Kate Mosse, 'otherwise there is no story to tell'. 

Jeopardy and contest is central to what makes us human. 

And when it comes to the effort of writing:

'Try again, fail again, never mind, fail better', said Sam Beckett.

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Alice Walker

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 14 Mar 2013, 18:27

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I'd heard of 'The Color Purple' - I've seen the film

The other day on Woman's Hour they interviewed the author Alice Walker and the producer Pratiba Parmar who has just made a documentary on Alice Walker called 'Beauty and Truth'. I would be worth a trip into London this Sunday - its showing at the South Bank Centre.

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Some of the things said about Alice Walker:

  • Born on a paper thin shed in the deep South.
  • Books that have shaped cultural discourse, and started conversations ... we don't have enough woman's stories to inspire.
  • Standing up for the truth, whatever the consequences.

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Some of the things Alice Walker said:

  • Popular from the universe, I'm popular with trees. The truth is all we have, without the truth we're lost.
  • Activism is the rent I pay for living on the planet.
  • We have to pay homage for living on the planet.
  • All of us everyday should be thinking about being greatful for being here, for all that we have been given for nothing.
  • The power of art - you can write something, you can sing something ... you can reach someone through art.
  • If you have a lot of love
  • We are amazing people on an incredible planet.

Here's the Pope. Here's why we should have woman bishops and priests too.

Although here latest novel 'Possessing the secret of joy' on female genetal mutilation might not go down so well.

It's left me wanting to know much more, to read more ... and take on some of this message. Simply being grateful for every day. A year ago I joined Blipfoto where you take and upload a picture a day _ my goal always to post something I was grateful, pleased or amazed to see.

The joy of being.

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Loss of a Mother - woman have Woman's Hour, men have Top Gear.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 12 Mar 2013, 11:03

Woman also have 'Loose Women', surely the female version of 'Top Gear'. But do men have an equivalent of 'Woman's Hour' or are we supposed to get that from GQ or Esquire magazines sad

I don't make a point of listening to Woman's Hour, but as I'm at home and have done years on and off as househusband it becomes a regular feature of the day. The radio goes on in the kitchen and in the car. I need to be in one or the other.

Is 'Woman's Hour' a party broadcast for the female gender or fascinating issues presented in a radio magazine that mix topicality, with feature and fiction?

Actually it was this late Friday morning I was running out in the car to walk the dog on the South Downs.

Friday 8th March is one you need to download before it comes off air in a few days time.

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Fig. 1 Listing on BBC Website - you've got 4 days within which to download this.

BBC RADIO 4 WOMAN's HOUR - PODCASTS

Topics covered:

  • Women Coaches -(worth keeping)
  • Alice Walker - author of the Color Purple (very worthwhile)
  • Vicki Price and the law
  • Women in parliament - could they job share?

The one that had me stop what I was doing ...

Loss of a mother

I'm the boy whose favourite place as an infant was on my Mum's hip and as I gew up on the kitchen counter learning to cook, taking her tuition as an art teacher (MA in Fine Art from University of Durham). Our parents split up when I was eight and she only remarried in her 60th year. She died a few months ago.

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Fig. 2 Women's Hour, Friday 9th March 2013 A 43 minute programme.

On loss of Mothers - if you only have 12 minutes sping through to 00:30:00

What is the impact of losing a mother?
Alice Walker
What is happening here and why?

Paul Mcartney was 14 when his Mum died of a brain tumour. If he had a time machine he would go back and spend time with her.

A speaker Jane Tilly about her mother when she died when she was 17.

At significant transition moments, having no one to share it with.
A role model

The guests:

Maureen Fearon – Therapsit

Lucy Gannon (Playwright, television writer, plays, shortsand 'Soldier, Soldeir' and producer)

Lucy Gannon

  • Lucy's Mum died when she was eight.
  • Know who you are, what diseases you've had, so you lose some of your identity.
  • Children need to know that they are at the centre of someone's world so that they know they are
  • Your life is going on, try to get continuity.
  • You lose your place in the world – she was in care though.
  • Keep that child in the centre of the world they know.

Maureen Fearon

  • Her mum died when she was 29.
  • Look at the grandparents, look at the average, and she's going to be at least that = 89/90.
  • Deeply tearful because of trigger music.
  • That overwhelming,  'I want my Mum'.
  • Smells. Going through the tough times in life. Through challenging times that smell comes and floats away. When there is no smoke there. In our minds, or where it is.
  • Took 12 years of real pain, neurolinguistic exercise ... did it once and fixed.

The mention of how the mind brings back smells is intriguing.

Maureen Fearon is a therapist, not a neuroscientist. There is a phenomenon where we see people we love who we have just lost, it might be the end of a close relationship or the death of someone close - our mind sees them in other people. I relate to this idea of lucid reconstruction of specific smells.

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Fig. 3. From 'Neuroscience for Dummies' - not as stupid as it sounds!

I can, give me a moment, smell the mothballs in my late grandmother's spare bedroom, and while she smoked them the Benson and Hedges cigarettes which surely made her knitting honk? Other smells I can call up include the silt and rotting fish heads of Beadnell Harbour in the 1960s ... and a Christmas tree, and Christmas Pudding, marshmallows roasted on an open fire, melting butter on toast with Old English Marmalade ... and our pet dog as a child, Morag the black labrador, wet and warm from being out in the rain ...

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Fig. 4. Sheila Vernon (nee Wilson) 1931-2012 with her son Jonathan c1973/1972 ?

My Mum's parents where 83 and 96 when they died, so an average might have been 90?

She died a few months ago age 81. She had planned to beat the Queen Mum. We all thought she'd do so. But as my even later grandfather kept saying having reached 90, 'I don't mind when I go, I've had a good innings'. He was in his 97th year - we thought he'd make it to a hundred, but at trip to the Western Front to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Paschendaele where he had served as a machine gunner had left him ill (and heart broken).

 

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Filling up your mindscape

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'The power of images is very great and it can be harnessed as many interpreters of fairy tales in pictures and on film have understood'. Marina Warner

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Fig.1. David Hockney - Etchings for Grimms Fairy Tales

'What's the use of a book without illustrations?' Ask Marina Warner reading from Alice in Wonderland.

A question she goes on to answer. To mark the bicentenary of the first edition of the Grimm brothers' Children's and Household Tales in 1812 Marina Warner explores the many compelling and often controversial aspects of the tales in this BBC Radio 4 Series. Marina%2520Warner%25201.JPG

Fig.2. Marina Warner

These evocative stories have always stirred vivid images in the minds of artists, from the angular drawings of an early David Hockney to Dickens' Victorian illustrator George Cruikshank. Through these artists' impressions, we paint a new picture of the tales' vital contribution to the long tradition of visual storytelling.

  • What do the artists add to our understanding of these stories?
  • What is the value of illustration and art direction in narrative, from books to film?
  • How do we impact on a person's memory of the story?
  • What role therefore do impactful images have on a learning experience?
  • What remembered images do the conjure up?
  • Why do artists chose and crystallize certain moments?

"Filling up your mindscape"

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Fig.3. David Hockney - Etchings for Grimms Fairy Tales

'The pot is winking ... brimming with poisonous menace, the banal hold terrible'.

You should attract then hold the attention of your audience - these may be readers, listeners or students, but you have to be sensitive to the craft skills of storytelling. It requires a good deal to keep the mind alert.

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The Loving Ballad of Captain Bateman

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 14 Dec 2012, 11:28

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Sometimes you have to stop the car and listen

Captain Stewart Bateman is badly wounded in Afghanistan. Sofia gives him shelter and you know they will fall in love ... but with the British Captain in their home Sofia and her father face retributions from the Taliban for harbouring him or from the British army for keeping him prisoner. Sofia's father is about to sell him to the Taliban when ...

Well, that's when I stopped the car - all I could see was a movie playing out in my mind. It was unsafe to drive.

Listen HERE - or Google 'BBC Radio 4 The loving Ballad of Captain Bateman'.

Lines I like 'They say Afghanistan is made of the bits God had left over after making the rest of the world'. Reply: 'Sounds like Killingworth'.

Writer: Joseph Wilde

Music: Tim van Eyken

You've got 6 DAYS LEFT TO LISTEN from today Friday 14th December

Then what happens? Is it archived? Do you download a podcast ... or wait for the movie or TV series.
First broadcast:
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To be the most interesting flavour of themselves that they can be

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The mission of Libby Purvis with the people she interviews on Radio 4 this week - what an interesting thought for all of us.
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You don't learn to swim by reading a book ... An applied degree must therefore be situated in the workplace?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:17

Too much theory without practice was described by the owner of a successful specialist engineering firm in Germany today as 'like trying to learn to swim from a book.'

Apprenticeship in Germany run for 3 1/2 years of which 8 months a year is practical. The remainder of the year they go to a special school. 'If you  only learn theory it is like learning swimming from reading a book so you need both.' Leonardo  Duritchich, Chief Technial Water, Sief Steiner Pianos.   The Today Programme, 27h36, Wednesday 17th  August.

I agree, though when it comes to swimming, there are some great books made all the better in electronic form. This is 'The Swim Drill Book.'

Putting into practice what you learn, learning construction rather than simply knowledge acquisition; I believe this to be the case with something like The OU Business School MBA, something I needed each time I started businesses in the 2980s and 1990s.
As a swimming coach it matters that you swam competitively and/or still swim. A flightless bird cannot teach a bird to fly. So engineers learn through doing, often from apprenticeship. Junior Doctors need to put in the hours, solicitors start as trainees, the list goes on. It is particularly the case in the TV business where after starting as a trainee producer I was happier with kit, shooting, editing and drafting scripts, learning my trade, something that an a degree had not prepared me for.

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The History of Social Networking

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 26 Feb 2012, 06:02

This is on now with BBC Radio 4.

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Fascinating because however much we think it's all happening now, it actually kicked off nearly forty years ago.

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Rubbish fonts are more memorable, ditch usability and make the brain work for the information.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 13 Nov 2012, 20:46

From BBC Radio 4 Today New scientific research reveals that students learn better when learning is made harder, specifically when using a font that is more challenging to read. Neuroscience blogger Jonah Lehrer discusses his own gut feeling that we remember ugly fonts much more easily.

 

Comically ugly fonts are the best.

 

So perhaps I should blog like this?

 

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Try these:

 

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And what about handwriting?

 

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'It’s a really interesting way to convey information', says Jonah Lehrer, 'as it can take a lot of work to decipher handwriting'.

 

How about these for examples if you’ve forgotten what handwriting looks like?


 

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or this?

 

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Let's get back to handwriting.

Or find a way to handwrite here. With a stylus and tablet?

The handwritten note, letter, or journal entry tells you something about the writer' mood, gender, age, level of education (or intoxication), even their occupation.

I've collected hand-written letters between 1969 and 1993 from family members and friends, including my grandfather whose 1918 RAF Log Book I feature above. If ever published, these artefacts will be best read in their original form rather than transcribed.

 

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E-words. E-terms. E-lexemes.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:22

Inspired by The Secret life of words. How English became English. Henry Hitchings (2008)

‘Communications is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from?’
Hitchings (2008)

Whilst ‘where words came from’ is the premise for ‘The Secret Life of Words’ it is much more: it is a history of the people who spoke English. It is a refreshing take on a chronology of events. We learn history through words for warrior, through the Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin word for the same thing ... and through the words the English language has so easily accommodated from across the globe. It is a fascinating journey, one made pertinent to someone studying on the cascading wave-edge of the digital ocean that is ‘e-learning’ with the frequent coining of new terms.

For a description of the way the English language functions (or mis-functions) I love this:

English is ‘Deficient in regularity.’

From James Harris (c1720) in Hitchings (2008:1)

It is exactly the kind of thing a teacher might write in red pen at the bottom of a school-boy’s essay.

This is another way of putting it. English, ‘this hybrid tongue’, as Hitchings calls it. Hitchings (2008:2)

A tongue that re-invents itself, twists and transmogrifies at every turn.

A couple of decades ago I recall there being suggestions that the English language would splinter into so many dialects, creoles and forms that a speaker of one would not understand the user of another. The opposite appears to be the case, that ‘core English’ has been stabilised by its myriad of versions. Users can choose to understand each other or not, to tolerate even celebrate their differences or to use difference to create a barrier: think of the class divide, the posh voice versus the plebeian, one regional accent set against another, or an accent from one former British Dominion compared to another.

‘Words bind us together, and can drive us apart.’ Hitchings (2008:3)

How is the Internet changing the English Language?

What impact has Instant Messaging, blogging and asynchronous communication had? Can we be confident that others take from our words the meanings we intend? As we are so inclined to use sarcasm, irony, flippancy and wit when we speak, how does this transcribe when turned into words? How can you know a person’s meaning or intentions without seeing their face or interpreting their body language? Must we be bland to compensate for this?

I love mistakes, such as this one from Hitchings:

Crayfish ... ‘its fishy quality is the result of a creative mishearing.’ Hitchings (2008:4)

Age ten or eleven I started to keep a book of my ‘creative mishearings’ which included words such as ‘ragabond,’ instead of ‘vagabond.’ I love the idea of the ‘creative mishearing,’ isn’t this the same as ‘butterfly’, shouldn’t it be ‘flutterby’? And recalling a BBC Radio 4 Broadcast on Creativity with Grayson Perry, ‘creativity is mistakes.’

Mistakes and misunderstandings put barbs on the wire strings of words we hook from point to point, between arguments and chapters. We are fortunate that the English language is so flawed; it affords scratches and debate, conflict and the taking of sides.

An American travelled 19,000 miles back and forth across the US with a buddy correcting spellings, grammar and punctuation on billboards, notices and road signs. His engaging story split the reviewers into diametrically opposed camps of ‘love him’ or ‘hate him.’ (Courtesy of the Today Programme, the day before yesterday c20th August 2010)

‘Our language creates communities and solidarities, as well as division and disagreements.’ Hitchings (2008:4)

My test for the longevity and acceptability of a new word coined to cover a term in e-learning will be twofold:

Can, what is invariably a noun, be turned with ease into a verb or adjective?

Might we have an Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin word for the same thing. We like to have many words for the same thing ... variations on a theme.

And a final thought

Do technical words lend themselves to such reverse engineering? Or, like a number, are they immutable?

If they are made of stone I will find myself a mason's chisel.

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