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Design Museum

Does the OU provide the very best distance learning environment?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Aug 2014, 06:19
From E-Learning IV

 Fig 1. Read a book ... several times, then submit an essay from a list

This is 'learning design' or 'instructional design' written on the back of a fag packet by a loan lecturer. An occassional lecture and student gathering may be meant to add some variety. One sheet of A4 provides the year's curricullum while a second sheet provides a reading list. And all this 'at a distance' - in my case over 200 miles using a Virtual Learning Environment that makes a beginner's guide to DOS written in 1988 look friendly. NOT the OU. Not dissimilar to my undergraduate degree except that it at least had a tutorial most weeks: one to one, or a small group with a 'subject matter expert' is a privileged luxury that works - though yet to be achieved on a massive scale, even if there is a trend this way with massive, open online courses (MOOCs). 

I can compare a variety of institutions as I have studied with so many: Brookes has a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) that is simple and easy to use- it's a Mini Cooper to the OU's Audi Estate. Birmingham's VLE, ironically as I'm studying the First World War with them is like a deep, impenetrable bank of barbed wire. I've given up on their library and so use Amazon ... not always cheap, but I hope to flog off my substantial WW1 library in due course. 

From E-Learning IV

Fig. 2 SimpleMinds (App) mindmap on 'bite and hold' tactics in the First World War

Meanwhile I'm back to the thrilling conclusion as I plod through the mire of a 4,000 word essay that by reading the above at lead three times I will have an answer. Here it adds variety to read it in print, on a Kindle and as an eBook: each reveals something slightly different. I take notes pen on paper, annotate into the eBook and build a mindmap as I go along. But there is no one to share this with, no 21st century 'connectivity', no tutor as online cataylst and guide, no student forum or blog (not for the want of trying).

Or is learning ultimately always you and your soul working in focussed isolation at Masters level without the distraction of others or the tight parameters of a formal module?

Should you feel inclined to take an interest in Passchendaele then this is the most lucid, objective and reasoned contemporary explanation of how and why the chronology of events turned out as they did.

From E-Learning IV

Fig.3. Sir Douglas Haig, Command in Chief of the British Army

Haig and the politicians of the day can and should be held responsible for the unnecessary slaughter of Third Ypres. What was gained over four months in 1917 was lost in three days in 1918. The depth, detail and objectivity of current scholarship shows absolutely that Haig was profligate with the life of his soldiers, flipped and flopped his policy and would not listen to criticism while Lloyd George having gerrymandered his way into the top job as Prime Minister could not get rid of Haig and so failed in his role to supervise his generals. 

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Design Museum

Preach to the converted

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 11:27

 Fig. 1 My big sister and me

'Preach to the converted' is the mantra of advertising; increasingly it should the mantra of e-learning. Give potential students what they want in a way that they are already open to. Don't force feed platforms and tools that are foreign to them, nor pander to the book, pen and notebook when by its very nature if you are learning online you are in front of a computer screen. Blended learning is how it is. Increasingly there is no 'e' - it is simply learning in the 21st century.

'Preach to the converted' ties into the need to know who your students are - in all their diversity. There's a bunch of personas used by the Open University to help with this. We're a handful of shifting types across a spectrum of some 12 personas. This helps educators design for hidden, massive audiences.

Fig.2. The Santorini Museum

Big Sis and me both wanted a book from the Santorini Museum.  

We'd done the Akrotiri excavation and did the museum in our separate ways (family event on the island with people arriving at different times and staying in different place. When we met up we agreed immediately at the frustration at no having a shop at either location. You whet your appetite on a subject are ripe for a bit more. I even started looking for a two week course on Archaeology in Future Learn. No book. Not much of a website. Ample content with each artefact. 

Visitors to museums are converts; not just easy to sell postcards and tea-towels too, but ready to learn and suckers not just for 'the book', but just as prepared to come to the talk, even, these days, to sign up to a taster course.

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Don't make it easy

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 11:58

Fig. 1 Some ideas from the Ivan Chermayeff 'Cut and Paste' exhibition at the De La Warr, Bexhill

As photography isn't allowed instead of moving from the gallery with my iPhone or camera clicking at everything and anything that caught my eye I was obliged to get out a sketch pad. Just as Ivan Chermayeff says in a exhibition video 'most people don't know how to see'. 

We risk making everything too easy with e-learning: photos, screengrabs, instant research, transcripts of video, video as audio only or highlights or summaries thanks to others.

The above ideas were for:

a) A School of Visual Arts talk he was giving with a colleague

b) Arthritis - with letters torn from a type font catalogue and jumbled around

c) Mother and Child in modern art - a signal Margritte or Matisse like cut out.

What I would have missed entirely, and I do it no justice here, is a collage of tickets and seating allocation to the inauguration of John F Kennedy on the 20th January 1961. (Before my time, I'd been conceived a few weeks before at a New Year's Eve party. Not even I can remember that far back).

 

Fig.2 Sketch of an Ivan Chermayeff collage/poster using bits and pieces from attendance at the inaugurations of US President J F Kennedy

 

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 25 Jul 2014, 23:08)
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Gobsmacked

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Fig. 1. MarineTracker.com

This blew me away. A service that tracks every vessel at sea. For various levels of monthly subscription the service will do all but helm your tanker, yacht, motorboat across the world's oceans - that is coming.

It isn't quite Google Streets - you can't drill down to live satellite images at sea level. 

Will DVLA track every vehicle on UK roads one day? Why not? All driving offences will become a thing of the past or be prosecuted the moment they are committed. And we take a step further towards the driverless car.

Then tracking people; voluntarily. Why do that? Having a snail-trail database of where you have been. It would be interesting to analyse how, ant-like, we go about our lives. The commute would be seen for the almighty waste of time that it is.

Would it be ethical to microchip your kids? Or a parent with dementia?

And regardless of this what kind of services could be offered to someone whose whereabouts is always tracked? To some considerable degree we allow this and encourage it as soon as we turn on a mobile device? I don't speak a word of Spanish - yet. I'd like through my phone, with an ear piece, to have a one-to-one tutorial as I attempt to cross the country to locate the above yacht when it puts into port in the next couple of days. 'Just in time' language tuition. 

Other things I don't want to look up. 'Tell me about ...' and I am promptly told about the thing I am looking at in a language, and style that suits me ...

Far fetched?

Artificial Intelligence offers a way forward to bring unprecedented levels of personalised learning to millions.

Those with a smart phone and speedy Internet access; so neither inclusive, nor fully accessible or even without cost. So severely limited in that respect as a harbinger of education for the world. 

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Design Museum

Visualising Instructional Design for e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 3 Jul 2014, 06:28

Fig. 1. 'Swimming Lanes' design for e-learning course on 'Starting a Business'. (C) 2014 Future Learn and the University of Leeds.

I keeping doing e-learning modules for a variety of reasons:

for the intrinsic value of the course (I have started companies a couple of times before, modest affairs, always profitable and want and even need to do so again. Simple, low turnover, service-based, a unique idea or product).

for the lessons I learn from the experience given my interest in e-learning. This is my third FutureLearn module, only two weeks duration. A wee piece of perfection. Informative. Clear. Applied. Enjoyable. Connected. Varied. If you study for the Master in Arts: Open and Distance Education (MAODE) you will come across and even create your own planning charts like the one above. This is a gem. It is so easy to see how the thinking has been realised. It is a pattern that is instantly transferable.

Clarity is crucial. Good design is simple. It is also a pleasure to look at.

Future Learn has some gems. E-learning is coming of age. 

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Design Museum

The power of seven

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 6 Jul 2014, 08:23

Fig.1 The way I learn with the OU

Rare is the person, my late father and daughter are this rare beast, where you can read or listen to something and 'get it' first time. I'm the opposite. I have to listen once, listen again and take notes.

That's three.

Read the transcript and notes. Then listen again and realise what is being said is very different to my first perception.

That's five.

And then share what I think is being said in a forum such as this - often to be told that I still haven't got the main point.

Which makes six.

I know that 'understanding' feels like, which is the goal.

If at this point there is a marked assignment to do then I'll be OK.

The assignment makes seven.

For some of us this takes repetition and variety. I like to think that having to do it this way the learning is deeper, though I have my doubts. We all have our own ways of doing these things

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E-Learning Works

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 1 Jul 2014, 08:14

Fig.1. The remarkable rise of the game-player turned racing car pro.

Successfully translating the experience of the game-world to the real one successfully heralds a tipping point in this kind of e-learning. The Times ran an article yesterday on the progress of Jann Mardenborough, a global-Virtual F1 teen online game-player sensation. Mardenborough has taken what he can do from his bedroom to the race track and by all accounts is demonstrating that enough accurate and useable adaptation has occurred; that the kit, software and download times put at a game-players fingertips an experience that is a simulation, not just a simplified gamification.

I have found that Rosetta Stone works - the gamified language learning App. 

I have studied and tried QStream (used to be Spaced-ed) and know that it works too (more in this blog)

On my third and fourth Future Learn online modules I both enjoy and value what I am learn and wonder at the coming of age of the platform: clear, smart, intuitive, friendly, a partnership of student choices and control, a variety of ways into and around the content (though this requires a degree of digital literacy confidence and experience).

 

 

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Why some e-learning is evil

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 16 Jun 2014, 11:31

 Fig.1 Student marginal notes in a second hand book

A couple of weeks ago it started to dawn on me that in some respects e-learning is evil; I lost the thought a couple of times a) because I was driving my daughter to her last A' Level exam at the time and b) starting to compose the ideas my wife felt the need to share with me some pressing thought and I did her the courtesy of holding everything to listen - not just to look as if I was listening (a man things?), but actually take it in to offer a response (another man thing?) The thought was lost.

Rummaging through boxes of text books in the hope that I will find a plug for an imminent trip to Paris by wife and daughter (a post exams and 18th birthday treat), I stumbled upon a book on 'The Causes of War' by Michael Howard and the thought returned:

E-learning is evil because it negates a student 'learning how to learn'.

This matters as most graduates don't apply WHAT they learn at university, but rather the process of learning itself; that application, thought, time, discovery for yourself, seeking out your own meaning, interpretation, sharing, nervous first attempts at constructing an opinion or stance, building on this through mistakes, correction and further reading, attending lectures, seminars, and tutorials. It is NOT a case of consuming within tight confines content that has been specifically constructed for you to follow, to the letter, without little expectation, or desire for you to wander off on any tangents of your own. This has been my too frequent experience of modules in the Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education as with few exceptions the module is written and presented to you like a huge stack of packed lunches for you to eat your way through, without deviation, pretty much day by day for a period of weeks and months.

This is a convenience that suits the nature of distance learning - to hook you into a diet of these set-meals that can collectively building into a degree. The tough reality and self-evident experience of learning is that few students are ready to be assessed until a year, if not two years into their subject. Otherwise the pattern of grades is surely likely to be a gradual step by step, incremental improvement from the 40s, to 50s, to 60s ... and hopefully 70s and even 80s. 

I would far prefer to master my subject first and then be assessed and in so doing get 70s and 80s across the board, once the cumulative effect of sustained learning over many months has had the opportunity to mature. 

There is probably therefore a lesson to be learnt here for the reasons why Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) fail - they fail because they promise a trick that in learning never works - there is no short cut, the brain doesn't allow it, thoughts and ideas take time to mature. Which brings me to the fallacy of so much e-learning that tries to suggest that a revolution in learning is occurring, that there is a quick fix through gamification, having Google and Wikipedia at your fingertips and worst of all by reading condensed books, or courses that hand you all the answers on a plate in a ready-meal, or drive-in take-away manner that may satisfy at the time, but fails to deliver in the long term. 

Six of sixteen MA students doing a Master's degree with the Open University have recently completed degrees with the Open University; we often compare thoughts. We're universally derogatory of both approaches! Learning is a pain in whatever form it comes, but the answer would be a developed blend of both worlds and approaches.

Books, the printed form, certainly have a place. It is a pain to read a book, to identify salient points with notes into a book, or with PostIt notes, and to filter these into a format where they can be preserved and then later applied in an essay or presentation. It is this pain, and the time and effort it takes to condense books, to gather your own thoughts on the ideas of others, and then to construct your individual take, with support from your faculty (tutor, chair, fellow students) that builds your confidence so that you write what you think, not what the you are required to express, in a format that can be marked by an autonomon. 

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Design Museum

E-Learning so good you want to share it?

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The best ads are so good you want to share them - you tell people about the ad on TV, you talk about the poster of magazine spread that you have seen - because it is controversial, because it is effective, because it is memorable. You are persuaded.

Why can't learning online be this good?

Inspired moments where you feel compelled to share a lecture, a tutors ideas, an infographic, a paper or book? Why must it all be so worthy, so dull, so predictable, so regurgitated and unoriginal?

When will liking and sharing a lesson, in whatever subject, put that lesson, or idea, thought, essay, talk, map to the top of a student's search so what they see makes them think, has them remembering and creating thoughts and ideas of their own?

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E-learning is at best clinical, at worst sterile

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jun 2014, 05:51

'Sterile' is apt; I'd be more forgiving ... 'clinical'.

I'm reaching these conclusions courtesy of a comment and discussion below. Thanks Cathy. 

I am very aware of wonderful of examples of e-learning used in the education of Junior Doctors (search Spaced-ed and QStream below) where understandably we expect them to know, to perfection, the bits and bobs of the human body.

Learn, repeat, test, and achieve higher grades as a result of using the QStream platform. 

'Sterile' is apt in any of the humanities where interpretation negates any kind of 'tick box' approach that might suit the costings of the assessment process but utterly fails the need for considerable discussion and interpretation.

To challenge my beliefs and expectations of learning I am already half way through a more traditional Masters Degree. I am 'reading' for this degree in every sense of the word. As I inch ever closer to a distinction ... three, then two marks off ... I put this down to my curiosity and personal pursuit through references and footnotes that are of interest to me.

I'm being disingenuous here of course. E-learning is fast becoming a mirror to 'learning', its scope suitably vast and varied to accommodate the good, bad and ugly of the genre. In particular, how learning objective are met will indicate the appropriateness of certain approaches; a learning by rote platform such as QStream is of great value ensuring that Junior Doctors know their stuff, but would be the wrong approach to teach philosophy. Often, history is a prime example, course context and prescribed texts are easily complimented with your own further reading. TED-like lectures work as an inspirational starting point. I swear by the game-like affordances of Rosetta Stone. 

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Trying to jog my memory - is 'e-learning' the 'ready meal' of learning?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 7 Jun 2014, 05:42

Fig. 1. Somewhere along Dyke Road yesterday morning I had this thought ...

I had a thought on 'the evil of e-learning' as I drove my daughter to her final A' level exam. She was flicking through some revision notes on cards and intermittently going to her phone to listen to clips of John Donne she was hoping to remember. A bit of e-learning there. I meant to write down the thought but was driving. Six hours later it comes to me again, I write 'e-learning is evil' as the title of one of these posts (I use my student blog as a learning journal and portfolio) and my wife bursts in with some exciting news that I am eager to here and not wanting to be rude I'm sure the thought will wait ... but no, it had gone.

I'm reflecting on this now in the hope that it'll come back to me ... I may have to drive out to my daughter's school simply to see if that jogs my memory. I'd like to think the idea I had was profound, but I've lost it for the moment. I need to get those parts of my brain that were active at the time re-aligned ... 

Four years and seven OU modules and a passing thought about the nature, possibilities and weaknesses of e-learning comes and goes. 

It'll come to me. 

Everything will need to be as it was yesterday. I'm unlikely to have my daughter in the car if I drive out there ... she's done with school smile I guess during the exam she got a text from Glyndebourne to ask if she'd do an afternoon shift which is where her Mum took her in the afternoon - so much for celebrating!

There was something about the moment, reflecting on the end of her secondary education and what she's gained or achieved, the relevance of her circumstances and who she is ... using her iPhone to scroll through podcasts of readings of John Donne ... with sets of handwritten cards. The radio was off; I knew it would have been a distraction. I didn't speak. All the more reason to having given my head the chance to think, where there is a chance there is more activity internally and less competition from external inputs.

Was that it?

E-learning externalising the knowledge and spoon feeding someone else's interpretation of the answer? E-learning as the 'ready meal' of education? That learning the product of a collection of images and impressions? That a tricky quotation my daughter was trying to get to stick, like a PostIt note to the back of her head would forever be associated with the myriad of ways in which she was introduced to the passage, wrote it down, re-wrote it selectively from her A' Level English folder, and was now, in her way, listening to it and reading her handwritten revision card ... and that yes, on quizzing her in the evening over supper she'd referred to the quote as well and was quite chuffed with the whole experience.

This is it.

That e-learning risks stripping out a mass of personalised contexts that make the learning memorable and personal, and even worthwhile. Looking back on my seven modules (so far) with the Open University everything done online (and I have thousands of posts and thousands of screen-grabs and notes on it) on reflection, risks having been very clinical. Not all of it. Not always. But the idea of learning online 'by joining the dots' scares me. What's the use of that?

I'm going to have to go and sit in the car.

If I'm still stuck then when I drive my daughter to work later this morning I may see if any of it comes back to me. There is method to this; I know from years of clawing back dreams, those most wispy of experiences, that the closer you recreate the very moment of thought, the more likely enough parts of your brain will fire up to bring it back ... or, in the neurological sense, to recreate an approximation of the thought. 

We did speak. Something about exams. The stress, value and differentiation in grading of them. She spoke about Lear, I spoke about Hamlet. In the back of my mind I was reflecting on the benefit or otherwise of our children having their parents both together and at home. We've not been sticklers for revision, rather enablers, helping them see the value and need to get on top of their subject, and to help them or allow them to vary the pace by still seeing friends, getting out, some footie or the gym ... I wonder though if streaming TV series and movies back to back will be my son's undoing; yet I recall I would often have had the radio on as my companion to revision. We'll see. I know that what works is the ability to focus; if you want it to the brain will tune out the distractions.

E-learning is massive and complex. It's neither a panacea, nor an absolute. Can it be too clinical though? The context in which we learn, engaging all the senses, has a profound impact on how and if we form a memory and can then keep it.

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Design Museum

On being an OU bore

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 3 Jun 2014, 11:25

Seven modules later and in four years I believe I have had ONE face to face conversation with a fellow student. A couple of weekends ago I sat with a friend who creates learning content for a national museum: I realise know what a bore I became as over two hours I fear I turned every conversation back onto learning in general and e-learning in particular. 

Finding like-minds online is one thing; having them in front of me is another. 

I've noticed something awkward too - a couple of friends with whom I share all sorts through Facebook who I see around town; in the past we'd greet eachother, catchup on personal and family news, even have a coffee - now we grunt, mention something we caught online and move on. As if by knowing so much more about our goings on that small talk is pointless, and more intimate chat now redundant and likely to be repetitive.

Returning to 'like-minds' and the value, even craving to 'let it all out' - this is where there is significant value in the residential school. It matters to have the opportunity to put your enthusiams and problems with a module in words and to see and feel the response from others.

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Design Museum

Amazon makes e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 3 Jun 2014, 11:56

Wikipedia gives you an answer, whereas Amazon delivers the book.

Wikipedia spoon feeds a ready-made response, whereas Amazon offers many points of view. These days my book reading has grown hugely as, whether a book or eBook, I use each book like a stepping stone to another. As I read I form a view on the authors most often cited and invariably, as a result, order the next book. It may be out of print, but is available as an eBook or print on demand, it may be 100 years old, or an ex-library book, or come with a dedication. The learning journey I take I feel is my own.

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Who is who in e-learning?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 30 May 2014, 09:36

Martin Weller

Grainne Conole

Chris Pegler

Rhona Sharpe

Vic Lally

Helen Beetham

Tony Hirst

Dianna Laurillard

Agnes Kukulska-Hume

Matin Weller

George Siemens

Rebecca Eynon

Gilly Salmon 

Cammy Bean

Laura Overton

There are many others; do please make some suggestions so that I can complete this list and then add a brief profile. All have a PhD, most are professors ... 

Who are these academics in the photo?

Grainne Conole is on the right, so the other two? smile

 

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Less 'e' means more learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 28 May 2014, 15:44

Fig.1. My Personal Learning Environment

For someone who completed the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education over a year ago and has done further MAODE modules here and other MA modules elsewhere it surprises even me to recognise I learn, and probably do, more when I am NOT in front of the computer (iPad, laptop or desktop).

These days I have no choice but to read books and when I do this is how I set about them:

Read and attach PostIts

Write up, selectively, into a notebook the bits that I've picked out (there is a further filtering process here)

Then type these notes up into a Google Doc (typically into a table).

I have become meticulous about citing as I go along as to want to use a quote or idea and not know where it came from can take a considerable time to recover.

An eBook isn't only on the Kindle (now Paperwhite), but also on the iPad and sometimes even on the laptop or desktop. I read in tight columns with few words, fast - like a TV autocue. As I go along I highlight. Sometimes bookmark something important or big. And from time to time add a note. On other screens the highlights can be colour sorted, so I may theme these as highlights for an essay, for their narrative value, or simply their quirkiness (so I can blog about it).

Interaction with the content in any and many ways is key. Having a presentation to give or essay to write is crucial, otherwise you can read a book and highlight/bookmark far too much of the thing.

Invariably I follow up references. I may loop off to read parts of these references immediately, which may be a paragraph in another book, sometimes a book I can find free online, sometimes an eBook for £2 or so ... occasionally a hefty tome that gives me pause for thought. I have a student library card so can get down to the University of Sussex in 30 minutes. Here I've just read a few chapters from a biography on Plumer as I'm preparing something on aspects of Third Ypres, the Battle of Passchendaele. My self-directed reading list my have expanded to some dozen texts by now: divisional histories, several biographies on Haig, several books on military history with specialist books on the machine gun corps and gas. My notes are always created in Google Docs and in this case the folder shared with a fellow student who has added his own notes too. The learning process is akin to making a sculpture out of papier mache - I keep attaching little pieces and am starting to get a clear idea of the thing. 

Is reading still one of the most efficient ways to pass information from one person/source to another? It's quicker than a lecture. Good for many things. Were I studying Law surely reading is everything, whereas Chemistry or Physics you may benefit from and prefer the video/animation, the lecture with charts.

 

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Where to begin

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 28 May 2014, 15:59

With no plans for further e-learning modules the aim now is to go back through four years of blogging in order to consolidate my thinking and experience. I feel like an ant being asked to draw a map.

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A is for Apps

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 28 May 2014, 16:21
  • A List Apart
  • Academic Writing
  • A room of my own
  • Accessibility
  • Activity Theory
  • Applied Learning
  • Amazon
  • Ackoff
  • Action Research
  • Assessment
  • Assignment
  • Assistive technology
  • Augmented Learning
  • Asynchronous
  • Auto-ethnography
  • Alt-C
  • Analytics
  • Apps
  • Terry Anderson

I continual scramble learning and e-learning as separating the too seems so foolish - we learn and use whatever tools we have to hand and society and our moment in history makes available to us. The age of the printed book is not over, it has simply found over forms of expression, both linear and interactive, with moving images and sound. 

This is to be an A to Z of E-learning though so 'Apps' must head my list as I have come to rely and love so many. Having various apps on your tablet or smart phone supports learning in all kinds of ways, whether you are organising your time, drawing a mind map, or simple drawing and manipulating images and charts. Then there are apps that offer insights and support learning 'in the field' ... and the many thousands of choices too.

I have lived either side of Rodmell for the last 14 years so Virginia Woolf's life, work and death are forever present, not least as I often walk our dog along the River Ouse between Rodmell and Piddinghoe where the writer drowned herself by filling the pockets of an overcoat with rocks. The point, relevant to all learning, is to have 'a room of your own' - though a space will do and I dare so we can all make head-space with a pair of headphones and then work on a smartphone or iPad. Having space, the time and geographical kind, matters in all learning. 

Accessibility in e-learning, like all things, needs to be in the design, like inclusivity as the MAODE module H810 spells out. E-learning's strongest card is the ability to use technology to assist and augment experiences for students who may have struggled with traditional modes and methods of learning. Now font and text sizes and contrasts can be adjusted, the page can be read to you and various inputting devices attached.

Activity Theory is one of those vital models that help explain the world and how we behave in groups or between institutions. 

Applied Learning, from an apprenticeship to an MBA, to any learning that is situated in and of the workplace means that the constructed part of the learning process is actively putting the learning into practice. 

Amazon comes ahead of Apps in my personal experience. Whilst I have a number of Apps I love to use, the support my learning, from iWriter on the iPad, to SimpleMinds and Studio, it is the ease by which I can track down books and eBooks that makes Amazon like the Bodleian Library I knew as an undergraduate. I feel I can get, beneath my gaze, just about any book, in days, if not in moments. I wish to chase up a reference I can find the book and have it on my Kindle in minutes. I find an out of print book that has not been digitised and it arrives in a day or two - often old stock from an university library. And then there are quite special texts that organisations such as the Library of Congress have digitised and print on demand and send over. These are just the books, then there are the forum like reviews where readers tussle over the strengths and weaknesses of a publication.

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Chaning behaviours in my Web 2.0 world courtesy of H818: The Networked Practitioner

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 06:51

Trying to rationalise and reflect on what next I've reduced it to this mnemonic:

S=Strategic

C=Connectedness, Collaboration and several other Cs

A=Applied

R=Reciprocal

F=Financed.

In that order too.

S =Strategic is a term I know a few fellow students of the MAODE have used. This means time management to some, curbing the desire to disappear down intellectual rabbit holes to others ... while for me it probably means taking on less and being more focused and less distracted. Immediately on leaving this space I will refine my contacts on Linkedin and reduce the groups I am in yet further. I should concentrate only on people I know or strategically relate to and then make time for them - ditto the groups. I only need to be in a couple. These can be vibrant and worthy of your attention. "S' might also stand for 'sustainable' - see 'financed' below.

C=Collaborative is probably key for me. Historically success has always come from at least two, sometimes a small team of us doing something. I find the second person or others creates a responsibility to see a thing through to its conclusion which may not happen when I am left to my own devices. And of course, two heads are better than one from a problem solving point of view.

A=Applied, over the other 'a' word 'academic'. While the MAODE usually draws from your real life experience I really want to be spending most of my time putting into practice the many insights and skills I have gained on the MAODE and had to bring into play for H818. This means, most likely, returning to L&D - agency side rather than client side. This may happen sooner rather than later as I have a second interview with a learning company this week. This would see me designing learning for workshops and online. 'A' needs also to stand for 'ask' - see 'Financed' and 'O' below. 

R=Reciprocal. This I have known for a decade. There is no 'gaming' the system to create collaboration or connectedness online. You have to be less selfish and more altruistic. It pays to seek out like minds and take an interest in them as they will return the favour. Just a handful of people will do. I feel I had deserted a few of the folk I used to converse with all the time ... and have let relationships with some people from earlier MAODE modules slip. No more!

F=Financed. So funded too. Contracted or raising funds for my projects. Applications have gone out seeking funds for the Quick Response Codes Poppy thing - either to apply it to the activities, say of the Western Front Association, or simply to go to schools or associations and give a talk ... which would in due course become a self-contained why and how to e-learning module. This means asking for money. Yes, it is about selling. Amanda Palmer is a reminder of this. Crowd funding is a little distance, while applying to appropriate sources of funding is another. The entrepreneur in me has raised funds commercially too in the past. If I need financing I have to ask for it.

There ought to be an 'O' in this coming out of H818, but I have to differentiate between 'Big O'', 'little o' and 'gratuitous exposure'. I tend to have been the former. It all goes online whatever its value or not. It doesn't take much to make more postings closed and use a blog as an e-portfolio so I will. I use to say to people that the best place to hide a secret was to post it in a blog - the sophistication of the probing search engines means that this is no longer the case (if it ever was?). Serendipity isn't as effective as a request i.e. 'ask'. So 'open', but nuanced. Early in this module we reflected on this. So I wonder what the outcome might be? For some it would be the value of being open at all, whereas for me it is to be less so. 

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Repeat. Remember. Be Original

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 23:44
From E-Learning III

Repetition or re-visiting is vital. We cannot help but change our perspective as we gain more experience, insights and knowledge. We need repetition in order to get 'stuff' into the deeper recesses of our brains where wonders are worked. Therefore, far better to exposure to brilliance often, rather than giving them something less than brilliant simply because it is new, or an alternative. If nothing else Web 2.0 ought to be giving students the chance to find and limit themselves to the best.

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H818: The Networked Practitioner. Towards a 'poster' for our TMA2

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 16:25

 Fig.1. 'Poster' constructed using a combination of 'Brushes' (to layer several photos in one) and 'Studio' a simple graphics app that provided the overlays and text. Images and screen-grabs cropped and saved into Picasa Web Albums. 

Created for H818: The Networked Practitioner - towards a poster to illustrate a conference demonstration of an interactive mobile learning platform aimed at sourcing the involvement of many collaborators to enrich our understanding of this period in history.

The QR code should work, the YouTube video does not - it's a screengrab. The video clip, under 2 minutes, is there.

This is Jack Wilson's WW1 Story  (blog) and here is the brief interview clip. In fairness I edited around 8 minutes down to 2 minutes, keeping one story about a young woman who came down from London to meet up and otherwise to compress the kind of circuitous conversation you can have with someone in their nineties. 

Fig. 2. Jack Wilson (1896-1992) talks briefly about his few weeks military training at RAF Hastings in May/June 1918. Features several of his photographs from these weeks that he sent home to his mother in Consett, County Durham. (As YouTube doesn't embed on OU platform, link to YouTube)

 Fig.3. The simplest of SimpleMind mind maps to remind me what the poster still requires and is certainly missing. 

And as a reminder to me there is 2500 words to write too. 

Only up because it it has sounded all night as if the roof was about to come off ... then load car with teenagers, dog and clutter to meet up with my wife and my in laws. Then 800 miles through France. I'll be back at my desk on the 6th Jan. But who needs a desk these days? I can get online from the passenger seat of the car - this summer it blew my mind to be online in a plane. It'll be considerably less pleasing to find smartphones are used as eagerly and noisily 3000m up a glacier as they are in a shopping mall. Our connectedness and desire to be so has to be the technical and social phenomenon that defines the era we are living through - I would prefer to have a chip embedded in my skin so that I wouldn't have to care about keeping the XXXXXX phone charged, on a loud enough ring so that I respond, and on my person wherever and whenever I am from something like 6.00am through to the early hours of the morning. 

I'm drifting into reflection mode but at one end I am getting final calls, emails and texts from my wife (an 'owl') at 1.00am (I've been asleep for a good 2 hours) then fed up with the noise of the wind I check the BBC weather at something like 5.30 am and trigger something in Facebook that informs others that I am online and I get a message from a fellow 'lark'. Come to think about it I had might as well have been online for the hours I slept given the concoctions of my dreamworld. 

  • Breakfast.
  • Pack car.
  • Wake teenagers.
  • Walk dog.
  • Run through assorted check lists.
  • Check weather.
  • Wake teenagers.
  • Go back to bed and set off later as it clears?
  • Woken by phone at 11.30. Where are we???
  • Wake teenagers.
  • Set off.
  • Arrive five hours late.
  • Realise I have forgotten the dog ... 
  • Look forward to a power cut so that everyone's gadget dies so we can look forward to a traditional Christmas of charades, deluxe Monopoly and Twister. 

CALL TO ACTION

If you or your relatives have old photos from the First World War how about sharing them and let's see of collectively we can bring these characters back to life by researching then telling them story. I'm always very interested to hear from people with a similar interest in the 'Great War' especially when it comes to the Machine Gun Corps and the Royal Flying Corps where my grandfather and great uncle served. 

My WW1 blog might be the place for this.

 

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Rethinking education in MOOCs

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:15

http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/rethinking-online-community-moocs-used-blended-learning

This is fascinating and important. It was brought to my attention by a fellow student on H818:The Networked Practitioner. The differences between how a person spends their time when learning is spent whether online, say on a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), 'tradionally' and in blended forms. 

Having ways to present data in an informative and engaging way is vital. Here at a glance you can see how behaviours differ. I'm eager to read further papers on this to see how the research was undertaken and how therefore I might apply it as 'how we learn now' is of particular interest to me. The Educause article this came from offers ample further reading.

I thought these were DNA patterns. I'd like to see these charts as animations annotating and illustrating examples so that we can see and are therefore be reminded of the context. Simply put blended learning increases the time a student spends on a subject - that's as good as it needs to be from my point of view as with more and varied ways of engagement comes a developong interest, improved motivation and lasting learning formation. I rather think we blend learning anyway - once it comes off the screen 'it' interacts with the contents if your brain and is invariably shared in some form or another too.

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Blogging as an acdemic and scholarly acitivty

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014, 13:00

What's going on in there? How do bloggers react, respond and coalesce?

Anjewierden, A. (2006) Understanding Weblog Communities Through Digital Traces: A Framework, a Tool and an Example.

My own interest was sparked by an article in the Washington Post on Ellen Levy who had spent 1998 keeping a journal and putting it online.

Druckerman, P (1999) Ellen Levy Has Got The Write Project For the Internet Age --- It's a Year of Scribbling Down Almost Everything; Ah, Yes, It Was a Raisin Bagel

This ‘user generated content’ has value to its author and the community that reads it. This is a key outcome of open, collaborative and connected learning, where the blogger is a ‘produser’.

Efimova, Lilia (2008) Bloggers and 'produsers'

Having blogged consistently since this period it is interesting to understand that as it encroached upon student and academic practice, as it was impinging on journalism, that it was considered disruptive.

Fiedler, S. (2004) Introducing disruptive technologies for learning: Personal Webpublishing and Weblogs, Part I

While my passion felt like a niche practice it has been of value to see blogging recognised.

Kaiser, S. (2007) Weblog-technology as a trigger to elicit passion for knowledge 

Why MAODE students blog (Kerewella et al, 2009) depends on their perceptions of, and for:

  • an audience
  • community
  • the utility of and need for comments
  • presentational style of the blog content
  • overarching factors related to the technological context
  • the pedagogical context of the course 

Kerawalla, L, Minocha, S, Kirkup, G, & Conole, G  (2009) An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education

Knowing the practice to be of value personally as part of a number of specialist groups made research on blogs as wikis, Sauer (2005) or as e-portfolios of interest.

Sauer, Igor M. (2005) “ Blogs” and“ Wikis” Are Valuable Software Tools for Communication Within Research Groups

As Smolkin (2007) points out it is about creating or finding and then sharing your niche - in this case the niche being personal stories of participants, witnesses and combatants in the First World War.

Smolkin, Rachel (2007) Finding a Niche. (cover story)

This is a key outcome of open, collaborative and connected learning, where the blogger is a ‘produser’. Efimova (2008) It has taken over a decade, but blogging is now considered to be a valid, scholarl acitivity. Weller (2012).

Weller, Martin (2012) The virtues of blogging as scholarly activity

 Bishop, D. (2013) ‘Blogging as post-publication peer review: reasonable or unfair?’ LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog. 21 March.

Available at:http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/

impactofsocialsciences/ 2013/ 04/ 15/ blogging-as-post-publication-peer-review-reasonable-or-unfair/

 

 

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QR codes and NFC

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 17:12

Fig.1. YouTube video for the Museum of London's NFC initiative in 2011

Having picked through links that came to a dead end in a fascinating paper on the variety of technologies and tactics being used by museums in relation to mobile learning I started to see and read more and more about the use of QR codes (those matrix two-dimensional barcodes you use with a smartphone) and NFC 'Near Field Communication' which is becoming an industry in its own right.

Having been kept awake at night about a need for 'constructing knowledge' rather than being fed it I knew that visitors, students especially, need to engage with their surroundings by somehow seeking and constructing their own views.

Without QR and NFC the simplest expression of this is taking notes, and or photographs of exhibits - not just selfies with a mummy or your mates. Possibly doing bits of video. And from these images cutting/editing and pasting a few entries in a blog, Prezi or SlideShare. QR and NFC feed the visitor controlled and curated bite-size nugets, so more than just a snap shot, you can have audio and video files, as well as more images and text.

Fig.2. South Downs Way QR Code.

Successful trials mean that these have spread. Funny I've not noticed them living in Lewes and walking the dog most days on the South Downs. I'll take a look. NFCs have been used extensively, for 90 exhibits, at the Museum of London - so a visit is required. Though I won't be ditching my iPhone. Apple does not support NFC believing that the technology is still in its infancy ... like Flash, like Betamax and VHS, and all that stuff, a battle will be fought over the NFC benchmark.

So 60% penetration of smartphones in the population ... most of all of which can use a QR code, but less using a early version of NFCs. My experience?

Fig.3. QR Codes at the Deisgn Museum

Last year a visit to the Design Museum I found the 'Visualizing the mind' exhibition littered with QR codes.

They didn't work. Just as well they had ample computers. How often do organisations jump on the IT bandwagon only for a couple of wheels to fall off further down the road?

Fig.4. Evie

Meanwhile I'm off to walk the dog .. then using a trip to see Gravity at the Odeon Leicester Square with my kids to include an educational tour to the Museum of London (always handy to have a teenager around when using mobile technology).


REFERENCE

'REPORTING RESEARCH' 2013, Interpretation Journal, 18, 1, pp. 4-7, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 November 2013.

 

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H818: A History of Openness

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 09:21

We're considering the nature of 'openness' in education as part of this new Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) module.

This is increasingly about ease of access to information, all of it, uncensored.

Often for ease of access and to gain a qualification with a marketable value, information that is packaged in books, journals and lectures, though increasingly in 'sexier' interactive and multimedia forms with the related 'scaffolding' that comes with learning design and planning. The natural tendency is to consider the hectic last decade of the Internet at the expense of the history of openness in access to information and an education over the last century.

A hundred years ago all but the most privileged were in the dark: leaving school after an elementary education, with reliance on biased newspapers, magazines and part works. Libraries, BBC radio and affordable paperbacks, secondary then tertiary education, cinema and TV have each had a role to play, as has the Open University.

Does enlightenment come with access?

What does it say of power of information and ideas where access is controlled, as in China? Does connectedness within openness lead to even greater coalescing of likeminds in cliques, reinforcing stereotypical biases rather than exposing them to valid alternative views?

Nothing is straightforward when it comes to people - heterogenous by design, homogenous by inclination.

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How can the gallery or museum visit be personalised and augmented to make first impressions last?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 14:25

Fig.1. Miro - Barcelona

A lifelong love in art galleries yet I still feel unmoved (most of the time) by galleries and museums, possibly because I expect the gentle, guiding voice of my late mother at my shoulder (artist, art historian, Mum).

What could be a more personalised visit than to have someone who knows you so well point things out, guide you to things that will interest or irritate, then offer an insight - invariably linked to 'what do you do next?' i.e. look, learn then apply.

I take heart from the exceptions, only two visits I can think of though:

'In Flanders Fields' - you need a day to yourself to take this in. The most shocking moment entering a funnel like fixture, looking around then twisting your head up to see sets of photographs of mutilated combatants. It put your physically in a demanding postion to view them. Then the multi-media displays, not just actors giving accounts, but the ultimate before and after shots of places using satelitte images and old aerial photos.

'Alcatraz' - on many levels the visit irritated me, partly the Disneyfication and advance booking, then the many layers of the islands as bird sanctuary, prison and Native American conquest. What impressed though was the brilliant audio guide - BBC at its very best might be the way to describe it. Very carefully and sensitively juxtapositioning of interviews with former inmates, guards, and family members of guards/governor which between them created a sense or atmosphere of the place like some kind of hideous monastic retreat.

So how do we 'recreate' battlefields" We have the 750th of the Battle of Lewes here in East Sussex next year, as well as us all having five or more years of the run up to, the war and aftermath of 1914-1918.

The opportunity exists to use smart devices to give visitors and pilgrims an enhanced, personalised and lasting memory of these places - but how?

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