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Without tagging this is your blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:53
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. The contents of your learning journal, or e-portfolio or blog could look like this

As I'm prompted to do so, or is this just a MAC thing? I now tag documents downloaded to my desktop. They can be found wherever I or the operating system has buried them.

I tag religiously here (except, since a month ago, when writing from my iPad as it crashes the page and the iPad ?!).

I tag for a number of reasons:

I jot down ideas and thoughts, facts, even grab, cut and paste stuff that may be of use later so tag it so that I can tickle it out later as the mood or need fancies.

By tagging by module, and by activity you can then regularly go back and add a further tag as you plan a TMA (tutor marked assignment) or EMA (end of module assignment). For example, L120 is my current module. I will (or should) add L120A1 perhaps or L120S1 to identify an activity or session (NOT necessarily shared at all if I am giving away answers potentially or breaching copyright too blatantly by privately 'curating' content). Potentially L120TMA1 obviously helps me pull out content pertinent to this. That's the idea anyhow. The OU used to have an e-portfolio called MyStuff, a bit clunky, but it did this and then allowed you to re-shuffled the deck as it were, to give order to the things you picked. In theory you then have a running order for an assignment.

Tag clouds, number of tags or simply the weight and size of the font, indicates the strength and frequency of certain themes and ideas. When playing with the idea of an 'A-to-Z of e-learning' it was easier for me to see, under each letter, what I ought to select ... and then immediately have a load of examples, some academic, some anecdotal, all personal to me, at hand.

I come here to find things I've lost! Amongst 20,000 saved images I know I have a set from early training as a Games Volunteer for the London Olympics. I searched here, clicked on the image and thus found the album in Picasa Web (now Google Pics). Why can't I do that in my picture/photo pages? Because I never tagged the stuff. There is no reliable search based on a visual - yet.

No one can or should do this for you.

My blog and e-portfolio is fundamentally and absolutely of greatest value to me alone. So why allow or encourage others to rummage in the cupboards of my brain? Because it tickles and stimulates me to share views, find common or opposing views and to believe that others are getting something from it.

 

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L120: Session 1 - Activité 1

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 6 Oct 2014, 07:56
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. L120. Ouverture. Intermediate French

Revelations and reflection. Activité 1

Whilst my comprehension is 90% correct the mistakes I make could be and were/are a significant problem if or when working in France. I get dates like 1936, but can too easily mistake 17h00 for 19:00 i.e. 'dix sept heure' is NOT seven O'clock of course, but by the 24 hour clock it is 7. I'm also lazy: I chance my response where I could have listened a second time and got something correct. 

It is far too easy, when only listening, to make up a meaning for a new word and therefore make major mistakes.

Translating, as if literally to English is a huge mistake. A couple of examples include the use of the word 'profiter' in French which as nothing to do with 'making a profit', but rather, a nuanced English use, 'to take advantage of ...' in this instance, the sun and sea on a holiday by the coast in the summer. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. Learning where, what and why 'Pondichéry' is. A bit of history and geography with L120

Lack of adequate understanding of how France has retained some of its tiniest colonies around the globe as 'French departments' had me wondering why an indian looking gentleman could possibly come from a small island in the south atlantic, actually he was taking about the south of india. And I neither knew where, nor can I still pronounce this one:

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. La Ciotat

It would be brilliant if when listening to a French person you could have their words as subtitles ... maybe this is a trick that Google glass will deliver in due course. Not a translation, but the words as text to help with comprehension until you can hear and see for yourself the words that are being used without making it up or guessing. 

I jotted down a few linking phrases, those fillers too that we use that add colour and credibility to any spoken language:

  • car
  • bonne
  • ailliers
  • plutôt 
  • ça depends

Checking the spelling was vital too, and not just figuring out how to get the French accents on the QWERTY keyboard but doing so. I had 'ailleurs' as 'yiers' or some such. 

And also a few terms and phrases that I liked, possibly because of the English derivations or equivalents and will use:

  • le rush d'été
  • tourisme en masse
  • idéale

Pronounce a word like 'idéale' correctly and you can fool them that you are French ... you can even take French words we use in English and add a French accent, though saying 'amelioration' is equally pretentious in both languages. Many French people when speaking English will trip on the word 'Idea' and pronounce it 'Idéa' even if they've lived here for decades; who'd correct them though?

A few hours into L120 and of course I crave to be back in France

I must also reflect on the learning design and platform. I've done a year of Rosetta Stone - the ultimate 'gamified' language learning platform. L120 does, understandably, feel more like being back at school. But that's what I need; it shouldn't be easy to learn anything, or how else can you learn? Rosetta Stone becomes very repetitive. You learn through tireless repetition, through immersion and ultimately by default. You won't ever be able to say why a thing is done one way or another, just that it is ... that it sounds or feels right. i.e. how an infant learns a language.

As a adult learner I think we need to be told why a thing is too i.e. have a variety of ways, even if it takes a few moments to think about it, to get something right.

A very, very different way to learn that taking a humanities module, but also exploiting many e-learning tools and methodologies in a different way. I have to wonder how such practices could translate into other subjects, that learning some things 'parrot fashion' could be beneficial whether learning history, geography or medicine: that you have to have the accurate facts and figure in your brain before you can use these facts. 

On verra.

Why blog this?

There are a number of ways to look at this: the value to me, and as I perceive it the value to others ... playing the game and my belief and understanding of how learning online in a 'connected' world works.

The value to me: as a learning journal. A record, tagged liked this, is a fabulous aide memoir. I could and nearly did do this on paper, but these get lost. I couldn't find a new exercise book anyway.

The value to others: the spirit of learning in the OU community, particularly in the student forums for your own module, is to share your thinking in order to stimulate and engage in an asynchronous conversation: had I been on a residential course much of the above would have come out over coffees and meals.

So why blog 'to the world', and in my case copy this or some if it, in due course to my external blog 'my mind bursts'?

Pride in the Open University is part of it. Why not plug something I love and would recommend to others?

Comments and contact: The stats say and I know that comments form a tiny fraction of viewers to a page, perhaps as low as 1%. Just this 1% I find of huge value; by finding a common interest, often beyond the confines of the module and this intake of students, I find the information begins to embed in my longterm memory. I know no other way of doing it as my brain is my sieve than sponge - everything gets filtered out and transformed unless I engage with it in a variety of ways.

And I am as interest in the e-learning and learning design of a module as I am in the content that I wish to learn. I have those interested in e-learning too to share with. 

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On the value of reading and re-reading the same quality book

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Aug 2014, 06:52
From E-Learning IV

 Fig 1. Essential reading on British Forces on the Ypres Salient in 1917

I take back what I said a couple of days ago about a module (not OU) that comprises a reading list and set of essay questions. Sometimes I feel the OU modules I have done are too prescriptive, that all of us are passengers on a learning train that will not permit anyone to leave the service. You work from and are assessed on the content given - excellent, succinct and contained. This does not suit everyone; never does the scary freedom to read from a reading list. In many cases the variety seen in both approaches, with overlap, is how and when one comes to understand something.

Back to formal reading

It matters that you are directed to the right book. This is the right book on Passchendaele to understand from a general strategic, to operational, to tactical level what took place.

I read 'Passchendaele: the untold story' first in May for a presentation in June.

The purpose was to lay out the chronology of events and compare two battles within the Passchendaele or 'Third Ypres' conflict relating to command. I took notes: highlighted in the eBook which I then typed up in a Google Doc before creating a presentation. Over two months later I read the book again as if I had never seen the book before; on the one hand I worry about my sieve like brain, on the other I am intrigued to understand what is going on.

From E-Learning IV

Fig.2 Notes taken in Google Docs from the highlight sections in the eBook

On second reading, with the tracks and sleepers of the general chronology becoming established and retained knowledge, and with an essay title ringing in my head, the highlights I make in the eBook are, with a few exceptions, totally different. I am reading the same book, but taking something very different from it. I have a highly selective, easily distracted brain - nothing sticks if it doesn't have to. I know a few people with a photographic memory: they appear to read something once then have the entire contents at their fingertips to apply to a problem. My memory is the opposite - nothing at all that I don't deem of importance to the task at hand will be retained. I have, side by side, the notes I took in May and the notes I am currently taking - they could be from different publications; I struggle to find any common ground. 

There will be a third reading

This third reading will have different purpose as in due course I write a comparative history between Third Ypres: Passchendaele and the First Gulf War to fulfil a desire to respond to something my late grandfather said in 1992 'That's nothing compared to Passchendaele' he said as he watched the First Gulf War unfold on TV. He saw the differences between foot soldiers as unrecognisably different, whereas I saw the prospect of having a leg blown off or being gassed as more than faintly similar. Had the generals used the tactics of 1992 in 1917 they would have gained more ground and lost fewer men; something had been learnt in 75 years of war then.

Fig.3. The mud of the First Gulf War

Visualising the above I imagine a desert; the state of my brain before I read, that over time acquires an invasion of cacti, followed by ground cover plants, until eventually there are established trees and a rich ecosystem.

Hardly surprising, but on second reading you pick out more detail; you see things that you missed, or couldn't take in the first time round. I'm the kind of person who would apply this to entire modules: that the student who wants to should be allowed to, for a considerable discount, to re-sit a module they have already done. Why not even a third time if your goal is to master a subject? A' Level students with poor grades will 'cram' for a year to improve on these. Through-out life things we want to do are achieved as a result of tackling the problem repeatedly until we crack it. 

Finally, I conclude, that given how complex we are, so learning needs to offer a similar level of variety; there can be no perfect system, or learning design pattern. We learn in different ways, and educators teach in different ways. E-learning isn't a panacea, it is simply another approach the complements ones we have always adopted, not least learning directly from experts themselves through talking things through.

More of us should be able to or should have been able to retake classes we flunked - with a different teacher, if not in a different institution. It shocks me to see how a student at school can be put off a subject they enjoy as they don't relate to or get on with the teacher - so change the teacher. 

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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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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

 

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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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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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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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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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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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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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