OU blog

Personal Blogs

Design Museum

The ultimate method of communication

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 7 Apr 2015, 10:56

Fig.1 me, bis sis, and big brother.

I remember the shorts and the wellingtons. I loved it when I stepped in a puddle so deep and the water came over the top. I had a habit of not wearing underpants which meant that dangling from a tree or turning backward somersaults gave a view of my 'bean sprout.' It also resulted in my getting my willy caught in the zip on my trousers more than once. I guess I am four and a half. There's a very similar picture of me dressed in school uniform a few weeks before my fifth birthday: shorts again, tie, blazer and cap with one sock up, and the other one down. I remember that first day at Ascham House as I waited forever to have a go on a huge rocking horse but couldn't because Nick Craigie was having a turn, also the mashed potato in the school lunch made me sick because this sloppy gunk still had the eyes in it.  The response from the teachers: all spinsters of at least 90 years of age was the same 'eat it up or you won't get any pudding!' The gooseberries and custard made me sick too.

I'm recalling all of this as I try to get my head into that of a child for the FutureLearn course 'Medicine and the arts' in which we are recalling stories of children in hospital. I had a hospital visit to have stitches put in my willy. It was a short, traumatic visit where I recall at least three people having to hold me down.

Children begin to release what matters to them with paintings and figurines, in song and play. It matters that it takes a little thought and care to figure out what a drawing, poem, song or dance means to a child. My late mother, who taught art, said that on looking at a piece of work created by a child you should only ever say, 'tell me about it.' i.e. never presume that what you are looking at is a 'house,' or a 'dog' as you may discover that this is a 'castle and a dragon,' or a 'hutch and a mouse,' or a 'prison and someone escaping.' Let them talk it through and elaborate.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Sharon Hartles, Saturday, 4 Apr 2015, 21:31)
Share post
Design Museum

What communicating with a person in a vegetative state can do for e-learning

Visible to anyone in the world
The self-drive car will allow those with sight, mobility and other disabilities to travel when and where they want for the first time - had accessibility laws been enforced 100 years ago how far would cars have got? The self-drive computer is a decade away - this is a computer controlled by the user's thoughts - something already trialled by communicating with people in a vegatitive state - will this be the ultimate degree of accessibility? Legislation and policy sets the bar overwhich institutions must step - this bar should be raised constantly to strive to keep not too far behind what is possible. From time to time it would be valuable for someone to reach way beyond, this will be achieved by working with disabled students, the case of the patient in a vegative state the most extreme example - knowledge gained in that extreme example offering insights that could be used in the general population and of course with people who are far less disabled than this extreme.
Permalink
Share post
Design Museum

The Deaf

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 8 Oct 2012, 06:09
'The Deaf' not as a group defined by disability, but a group that is a linguistic minority. p8 Equality and Diversity in Language and Image. Guidance for authors and communicators. The Open University. January 2008
Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Blog, e-portfolio, wiki, cloudworks ... tutor and module forums

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jul 2012, 07:46

I need them all roled into one. When it comes to a blog/e-portfolio I have to wonder if this is not it - pretty much.

I can deposit documents here as well as anywhere else, but keep the page private.

Following the activities if fellow MAODErs on H807, which I did a year ago, is refreshing. Do this for a couple of years and I can keep the topic and its lesson's fresh. I can also follow H809 which I would have liked to have done. Indeed, might the OU call it a MA* if you do additional modules beyond those required for the MA?

As I prepare to up sticks, move town and job I'm hoping to compensate for some of the disruption by getting everything I may need online so that it can be accessed from anywhere.

I'm yet to break away from the OU e-portfolio My Stuff. It may be clunky, but it works and it is integrated. I've never been happy with Pebble Pad. Perhaps I just run with Dropbox? Picassa Dropbox has become indispensable. Rather than think about compressing images I take pics and grab frames/windows and post them here for later use and linking. With images feeding into several blogs and OU forums too I can't afford for this to be comprised ... or I'd lose any pics and diagrams that I've created.

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Threads

The assumption is that we don't wish to interact in real time otherwise more tools would be provided to co-ordinate synchronous meetings. My experience is that with a little co-ordination such meetings are extraordinarily valuable, to motivate pressing on with the course, let alone to resolve issues or to share learning. With retention of students such an issue it surprises me that the OU isn't more proactive.

As a tutor do I hope that all my students will stay the course, or do I expect 40% to fall by the wayside?

We seem to be in denial of obvious means of getting in touch too: email, messaging, Skype.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

H800: 30 Language, Communication, Education and John Seely Brown via Hitchings and Tyneside

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011, 04:35

The meaning of words and learning, from how we learn to speak via Hitchings, John Seely Brown and the Open University MAODE module H800.

I like that thought that ‘All knowledge is, we believe, like language’.

Whether we are educators or not, we all have experience of acquiring or possibly learning a language. I was brought up in the North of England by aspirational Geordies who between them wanted to instil ‘correct’ spoken and written English. Woe-betide the child who spoke with a hard ‘a,’ spilt an infinitive and sprinkled their conversation with ‘sorts of … ‘ or ‘you know.’ I’m surprised none of us came out with a stammer. Could this be why my brother bit his nails all the time? He held onto his Geordie accent despite his parents best (or worst efforts). Which has me thinking, we’ve had a Royal who stammered, is there one who used to bite their finger-nails?

Language, and our choice of words and the words that are coined and come into common used are vital. I STILL get into conversations over whether it is ‘E-learning’ or ‘online learning’, and as they are the client you can imagine which way I tip.

‘Its constituent parts index the world and so are inextricably a product of the activity and situations in which they are produced’. Brown et al (1989)

This indexing of the world makes for a fascinating book. Hitchings on the English Language gives a wonderful insight not only into the way ‘English’ developed, has changed and is changing … and why words matter.

‘A concept, for example, will continually evolve with each new occasion of use, because new situations, negotiations, and activities inevitably recast it in new, more densely textured form. So a concept, like the meaning of a word, is always under construction’.

Think of conceptual knowledge as similar to a set of tools.

‘People use tools actively rather than just acquire them, by contrast, build an increasingly rich implicit understanding of the world in which they use the tools and the tools themselves’. P33

I like this idea too, that we can equate words with tools and vice-versa. They are components that enable communication. And communication facilitates learning.

But of course ‘How a tool is used will vary by context and culture’. Brown et al (1989:33)

Wherein lies the inherent problem with language, whether it is translated, or especially if you think you are talking the same language … but are not because your take and comprehension of a word or set of words is different: should, would, will, can, maybe, perhaps … all words that combined with a look, and body language may make someone believe they mean ‘yes’ or they mean ‘no’. So do you, in such situations act or do nothing? Language can have us sitting on the fence. Is this what academics do? Forever transitory between the commercial world where decisions are paramount?

‘Enculturation is what people do in learning to speak, read, and write, or becoming school children, office workers, researchers and so on’. Brown et al (1989:32-33).

I loathe the word ‘enculturation’ as I only ever come across it in reports/conversations such as these. As all learning, in all its stages becomes readily available and transparent I wonder if such words, indeed any jargon or acronyms are justified? It is possible to be intelligent without cluttering your sentences with ‘big words’ or sounding patronising. Try it; it’s habit forming. Like all education.

‘Given the chance to observe and practice in situ the behaviour of members of a culture, people pick up on relevant jargon, imitate behaviour, and gradually start to act in accordance with its norms’.

I read, unless you are born into a middle class family of snobs who deny their roots.

Ambient culture over explicit teaching

‘When authentic activities are transferred to the classroom, their context is inevitably transmuted; they become classroom tasks. The system of learning and using (and, of course, testing) thereafter remains hermetically sealed within the self-confirming culture of the school’. Brown et al (1989:34)

Wherein lies the discord in many school classrooms

The students’ lives are so far removed from the school experience that they cannot behave. They could and will only learn if they do so within the context of their family lives. How many families sit around together, in front of the piano, or radio, or TV, let alone at the dining room table? Children don’t sit still, physically or mentally. They occupy their own space both online and off. No wonder they take laptops into lectures. And can they blog, and send messages while sitting through a lecture? Probably. They could even stream it live to someone who can’t make it … or just record it for later consumption (or not). Not being the operative word, what they can grab of it in transit is probably as much as they’ll take in first time through. Just plain folks (JPFs)

I love the idea of JPS

‘Just plain folks’ (JPFs),’ we are told, ‘learn in ways that are quite distinct from what students (in the classroom) are asked to do’. (Jean Lave’s ethnographic studies of learning and everyday activity 1988b). (Weren't JPS a brand of cigaretter, famously branded gold and blank on Forumula 1 Racing cars of the 1970s?)

JPFs are best off as apprentices rather than having to make qualitative changes in school. Brown et al (1989:35)

This is what we do. We label, we index, we give things names. We categorise whether or not there is truth behind the category. I debunk ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ as concepts wherever I can as false, yet we know what is meant by it, as with ‘Generation Y’ or the ‘Facebook Generation.’ We cannot have a conversation without such terms.

What as a teacher do you make explicit and what implicit?

The problem is that to overcome difficult pedagogic problems you make as much as possible explicit – this is not the way to teach.

Indexical representations which ‘gain their efficiency by leaving much of the context underrepresented or implicit.’ Brown et al (1989:41)

i.e. what you leave out is perhaps more important than what you put in.

Which explains the problem with Wikipedia – it aims to be universal, comprehensive and definitive.

It wants to be the last word on everything, even if the last word is always the next word that is written. From a learning point of view I’d like to launch a moth-eaten version of Wikipedia, the Gouda cheese version that leaves stuff out, that is nibbled at and full of holes.

Why?

Because this will get on your goat and prompt you to engage with the content, to correct it, to fill in the gaps. Can someone write an app to do this?

To go in and remove sentences, replace the right word with the wrong one, a wrong date/place with the facts currently given?

'Communication is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from?'

Henry Hitchings poses this question on the flyleaf of his gloriously informative and entertaining book on the History of English 'The secret life of word. How English became English.' Hitchings (2008)

REFERENCE

Hitchings, H. (2008) The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English.

Brown, J.S., Collins.A., Duguid, P., (1989) Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning. Educational Researcher, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 1989), pp. 32-42 American Educational Research Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1176008 . Accessed: 05/03/2011 13:10

 

 

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

H800: 4 The bud opens?

Visible to anyone in the world

H807, H808 to H800.

Either it is reflection of my growth through this course, or it is a blossoming of the MA ODE course. Looking at how we students will share contact details: Email, Skype, Blog and Twitter accounts suggests to me that any containment within the OU VLE is now cursory.

I feel this will increase its use, not diminish it.

This will remain the hub from which course materials, resources and context eminated with blogging, Skype and Twitter having their role to play.

All I can suggest to fellow students is to screen grab, cut and paste or download content you create beyond this platform as at some stage it is certainly going to form a significant part of your aggregated knowledge, possibly even evidence of participation.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 1 Feb 2011, 14:36)
Share post
Design Museum

The importance of the words

Visible to anyone in the world
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).

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Why comments may skew your blog

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 12 Jan 2011, 05:53

90% of people only read a blog, 9% occasionaly write leaving 1% to do it all.

If you get 1 or 2 comments you may have what, 90-180 readers? With better stats that offered here you can validate this. All skewed by the distinct narrowcasting of an OU Blog, as we are in theory writing to our tutor group or course cohort.

So why might comments skew the content?

Who are this 1%? If they are being negative or abusive (never here of course), they are flaming. In my experience you will never placate or please them, only pour oil on their self-hate, attitude or whatever is going on. They may be cutting and pasting the same nastiness in dozens of blogs.

Other comments I feel are akin to a wave from a friend who I've noticed across the road. I like this. I'll let people know I am reading them, out of politeness, but also to encourage them. If I've read them once, I'd like them to write more and read again.

Comments, if you are chasing the stats, will skew your blog to the extreme views these commentators are expressing, or to the particular parts of the blog they find attractive.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Jacy Gatewood, Wednesday, 12 Jan 2011, 08:19)
Share post
Design Museum

Here's an idea

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jul 2012, 08:14

Rather than feeling that I am entering the blog domain to write this I ought to be able to cyndicate/allocate or aggregate this as or after I have wrote it by clicking on one of three buttons:

Traffic Light painted on ArtPad

Eportfolio

Wiki

Blog

At my behest I am therefore deciding that this is a moment to be shared (but not tampered with), evidence or information that I wish to store/collate (ideally by themes of my choosing), and/or a chunk of information (or offering) as wiki content (initiated or an edit insert).

Simplified and disengenious, but a starting point.

And on reflection, perhaps, how good learning works: it starts with simple ideas that can be grasped and works outwards. E-learning doesn't simply work outwards though, it spreads in directions of the learner's choosing (ideally), like fractals, like a mind-map, as a result of, enabled and speeded up through myelination.

Were I writing a video script on eportfolios, wiki and blogs this might be how I begin, either animating this or going out and filming various traffic lights. I may paint this with water-paints onto laminate card and drop it into an aquarium and film it. My enduring analogy being that whatever we do online are but zeros and ones in a digital ocean, all programming does is remove the chaos and worthlessness of trillions of unconnected binary numbers.

Perhaps I've just convinced myself too of the value of Open Source.

And this is only the first idea of the morning. Something must have been breing in my sleep.

Though yet to do justice here to the Opinion piece in the New Scientist something struck me about  the Cover Story on epigentic changes and their relevance to evolution.

DEFINITION

Q. What is Myelin?

A. Myelin is a phospholipid layer that surrounds only the axons of many neurons. The main role of a myelin layer (or sheath) is an increase in the speed at which impulses pass along the myelinated fiber. Demyelination is the act of demyelinating, or the loss of the myelin sheath insulating the nerves, and is the cause of some neurodegenerative autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, transverse myelitis, Alexander's disease, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, Guillain-Barré Syndrome and central pontine myelinosis. Here is a link to a website that tells more about it:
http://www.myelin.org/

 

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Some interesting facts about English

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 30 Aug 2010, 12:02
Courtesy of Henry Hitchings. 2008

K.O. = 'Knock Out' so 'OK' ... not so!

I’ve learnt something. And so simple. I thought it might be American Airforce derived. Code. I always wondered about OK.

What about F.A.B? From ‘Thunderbirds.’

There are 6,900 different, mutually unintelligible natural languages.


96% of the world's languages are spoken by 4% of its inhabitants.

There are 750 languages in Indonesia.

Eleven languages account for the speech of more than half the world's population:


1. Mandarin Chinese
2. Spanish
3. Hindi
4. Arabic
5. French
6. Bengali
7. Portuguese
8. Russian
9. German
10. Japanese
11. English

Only SIX may be significant in fifty years time:


1. Mandarin Chinese
2. Spanish
3. Hindi
4. Bengali
5. Arabic
6. English

English dominates in diplomacy, trade, shipping, the entertainment industry and youth culture.

English is the lingua franca of science and medicine.

Its position is prominent, if not dominant, in education and international business and journalism.

There are more fluent speakers of English in India, where it persists as 'subsidiary official language' than in Britain.

English as a second language is spoken by some 120 million non-British.

English is spoken by

* 80% of the population of the Netherlands and Sweden
* 50% of the population of Germany, Slovenia and Finland
* 30% iof the population of Italy, France and the Czech Republic

REFERENCE

The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English. Henry Hitchings. 2008
Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by N D, Monday, 30 Aug 2010, 17:48)
Share post
Design Museum

Fingerspitzengefuhl

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 18:50

'A feeling in the tips of one's fingers.' Courtesy of Henry Hitchings (2009)

My journey through the English language courtesy of Henry Hitchings has come to an end. I have read his ‘The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English’ from cover to cover. I’ll have to read his book on Dr Johnson’s Dictionary next – unless I have something better to do in OU Land. Or get my hands on Mencken’s book on ‘The American Language’ which the late Alistair Cook would often quote.

I feel better armed to deal with concerns for the veracity of such words as ‘enculturated’ and ‘e-lapsed’ time that those of studying Online and Distance Learning (e-learning) must get used to.

I’ve learnt about loan words, calques and coinage; words taken straight from a foreign language, expressions that are literal translations of a foreign language and invented words.

English is a language of constant invention.


I have a put down from the 16th century for any new fangled multiple-syllable techno babble I come across. I can call the author a 'Controversialist  - a writer who spurts out horrid polysyllables; and I might use the line, ‘such addicts of exotic terms would rarely use a short word where a long alternative could be found.' From John Florio's A Worlde of Wordes (1598)

I love the French loan word 'Escargatoire' which is 'a nursery of snails'. I am sure I can find a way to use it.

It amuses me that William Fox Talbot wanted to call photography ‘photogenic drawing while after Louis Daguerre we have ‘daguerreotype’ but pushed by Sir John Hersche ‘photography’ and ‘photo’ caught on. (Queen Victoria asked a grand-daughter for a 'photo' in a letter).

I thought of ‘stakeholder’ as a word that had to be 1970s corporate speak, only to learn that it was first used in 1850, along with entrepreneur and capitalist

Etiquette has become ‘netiquette’ in OU Land

This is a Georgian notion and appears in Johnson's dictionary of 1818. One piece of advice given regarding etiquette is to 'be discreet and sparing of your words.'

With is in mind, as I begin a new module my self-imposed rules will be:

  • Messages under 50 words
  • Forum replies and entries under 250 words
  • OU Blog global entries under 250 words, OU entries under 500 and private entries as long as I wish, but probably under 2,000 words
  • MyStuff under 1,000 (though I plan to break these entries into more manageable ‘learning objects,’ like the paper equivalent of waht in 1990 the OU called a ‘Concept Card.’

(I have also broken this entry into four parts to keep the wordage down per entry. More to follow.)

Hitchings leaves mention of the Internet to the last pages of the final paragraph

'Online communities, which are nothing if not eclectic, prove an especially rich breeding ground for new words.'

* extremes
* deliriously ludic (sic)
* personalised
* localised

REFERENCE

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

Permalink
Share post
Design Museum

Face-to-face learning versus e-learning

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 20:53

Crucial to my development and understanding of e-learning is to have some one or two people I can discuss issues with face-to-face.

One an multiple MA graduate now with a Diploma in E-learning, the second a PhD Tutor in Environmental Law and the third someone who commissions e-learning projects (though he sticks with 'online learning' as the only term that is understood by lay-people).

A fourth person is a giant in education who in his 85th year just wonders if I can help put the papers he is still writing online to share with students. All he has in mind are a few dozen papers on a platform such as EduBlogs, which I can do.

My goal is to 'map' the many thousands of papers and books that are stacked three layers deep, to the ceiling, in his three-storey 15th century Cotswold home! i.e. The Contents of his Brain.

On verra

P.S. We've jsut had an hour long power-cut. The panic as two adults and three kids scramble around not knowing what to do is notable. I got my hands on the laptop so could press on under battery (but no internet connection as the router was down). My wife took a break from a mega pharmaceutical report she is writing to take her dog on an extended walk, while the boys (family and friends) gave up on dual Xbox and Internet activities to play poker!

Perhaps I could put a time on the electricity junction box to deny us electricity at random times through-out the day.

We might start talking to each other instead of e-mailing and messaging around the house.

Meanwhile, three computers are up and humming and my son is back on Skype planning some 15 rated Afghanistan-like raid with his cousin (300 miles away) and couple of Americans (one who calls himself David Hasselholf, but isn't as his voice hasn't broken) and someone's Mum who pretends to be her son as she likes the game more than he son does (I listen in).

All computers are in communal spaces in the house so that activities are surrepticiously or indirectly monitored.

Permalink
Share post
Design Museum

E-J

Visible to anyone in the world

We know about DJs broadcasting on radio, so how about an e-J doing likewise online?

 

Permalink
Share post
Design Museum

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

Visible to anyone in the world
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.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Words. Language. Communication.

Visible to anyone in the world

'Communication is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from?'

Henry Hitchings poses this question on the flyleaf of his gloriously informative and entertaining book on the History of English 'The secret life of word. How English became English.' Hitchings (2008)

Much of what Hitchings writes about in the first couple of chapters concerns how new words are easily accommodated, invented or altered because of certain endearing qualities of the English language.

I therefore embrace whatever new words academics wish to come up with, whether e-learning or e-tivites, e-granaries or 'enculturated.' If they can do it, we can do it ... and I can do it.

Join me on this journey.

Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Pam Lloyd, Monday, 23 Aug 2010, 12:31)
Share post
Design Museum

Words. A call for simple English.

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 26 Nov 2011, 15:55

'Communication is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from?' Hutchings (2008)

The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English

Words matter to me very much

Their purpose is to communicate.

We are all prone to use jargon, and the first time we use it we feel we belong that tribe. Academic writers are prone to the greatestmisdemeanours - they not only invent their own words, but they like to show off their command of words you/we have rarely come across, or they misappropriate words from other disciplines and force anew definition upon them.

Books on words appeal to me.

If Open Learning is to appeal to the broadest church, then clear, simple, language is required.

If you spot any polysyllabic bibble-babble, please do share.

Or is that me committing this very crime?

One long word, and another long word that might be of my own invention. My apologies.

So why use one word with many syllables which few people understand, when a sentence of short words would do a far better job?

Obfuscation or communication?

Showing off or joining the throng, who are your students.

And have I just done it again?

What I mean to say is, 'it cannot help learning if a writer puts in a long word that they and their colleagues understand that the majority don't.

Clear English, is simple English; anything more can be unnecessarily confusing.

Permalink
Share post
Design Museum

New blog post

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 11 Aug 2010, 13:56

...............................................................................................

‘The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters, meetings, introductions which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a great amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision.

Nin (1946)

...............................................................................................

My obsession of the last decade has been my life on-line. My life in words. My life with people I have never met and will never meet.

I found the above in a journal entry I wrote in 1992; I am regurgitating it on-line, in bite-size form, elsewhere - the 2,000 words or more I would write not right for this on-line sheet of OU soft paper on a roll that tears about where people get bored with my say and want to get a word in edge ways.

.................................................................................................

REFERENCE

Nin, A. (1946) Vol 4, Journals, May 1946.

................................................................................................

So here's the edge of the paper -

Permalink 3 comments (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 11 Aug 2010, 18:58)
Share post
Design Museum

TMA03, Reflective Writing and e-learning (or not).

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 16 Mar 2014, 06:14

I understood from the heading for TMA03 in H807 that 'it is permissible to use an extract from a very long message.' I therefore deleted the 900+ additional words that on two occasions occurred in a forum message.

At one stage I had in an earlier draft all messages including the Tutor's introduction, my full response and even a previous pertinent message from another contributor. This for 'context' and making marking easier might have been better than all the html links that I added PER MESSAGE. I checked these anchors/links and there was a graphic in the Blog message too - clearly something in the uploading/submission process fangled these up.
 
The links/titling were absolutely as clear as anyone could wish them to be. A message per page.

My understanding of what makes 'reflective' writing is perfectly valid. It is open ended, not prescriptive - it is after all my mind that is coming up with these ideas, which is the entire point of it, to develop my personal understanding. I am trying to enhance my way of thinking, not adopt someonelse's.

In relation to my continued dislike of the term 'e-learning,' it isn't difficult to refer to plenty of current articles, including JISC that agree that the term is not universally agreed or accepted. Salmon referring to 'e-lapsed' time for an 'E-tivity' is palpably ridiculous. Academic os this ludicrous desire to 'coin a word or phrase and a cliched attitude regarding e-learning that anything with 'e' attached gains the 'e-' branded values. Balderdash.
 
'The first decade of the 21st century is already on the wane and we stand at an interesting point as regards the use of technology to support and enhance learning and teaching. The fact that we still refer to much of this enhancement as e.learning (and still disagree about what the term actually means) signals that the relationship between technology and learning is not as yet an entirely comfortable one.' JISC 2007 (Introduction)

The lesson I have learnt is that it is vital to meet face-to-face, even to speak to someone through. Elluminate or on the phone where all kinds of important cues and nuances to understanding come into play: tone of voice, pauses, choice of words ... and then facial expressions and body language when face-to-face. As occurred at an ASA workshop the other week, I simply couldn't get my head around what the tutor was trying to say about Some aspect of Nutrition,I eventually left it, but a fellow student could see by my expression that I was just fed up of asking the same question and getting a numpty response that made no sense - this student made a far better job of explaining to me the point the tutor could not.
 
Two decades of sailing and I could tie and adequate Bolen knot with a struggle having been shown how to do it a hundred times - only when an instructor used the term 'it's a gripping knot' did I understand WHY the knot worked and WHY it was important. My father didn't permit the word 'why?' His favourite line was 'don't ask why, ask how high.' Whatever that means!?
 
I must know why.
 
My quest is to discover why. Why is my nemis. Get me asking questions and I become driven to find answers, my asnwers.

If I keep asking 'why?' regarding the ECA, it will be because I haven't had this 'Bolen knot' moment - I genuinely thought with TMA03, as occurred on about the 7th draft of TMA02, that this moment had occurred.
Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Sara P, Thursday, 10 Jun 2010, 21:06)
Share post

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

Total visits to this blog: 5327130