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The new learning and upskilling is relentless

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 23 Jul 2020, 09:53

The Google Certification Academy by John Sowash

You have to embrace it. THIS is the new 'normal'. Resistance is futile and will result in your becoming and being made redundant. I struggle to sympathise with certain senior academics who want to be fast-tracked to retirement because they have no desire to learn how to change the font size on a PowerPoint Presentation. This is not the problem. It is the unwillingness and lack of interest in EVERYTHING that is teaching and learning in the 20th Century.

As some punter said the other day, Covid-19 has surely kicked the old way of doing things back into the last century. 21st Century learning required this: online and digital. It requires proficiency with G Suite for Education, or the Microsoft or Apple equivalents. 

It is no longer any good to have your Grade 8 in music theory, even a degree or Masters without having at least a Grade 3 in music practice, better still Grade 8 or above.

Embrace it now.

And whatever you learn, expect things to change over and over and over again. Sometimes quite radically. It has taken me a good three years to adapt to 'blocks' used by blogs, sites and newsletter platforms for assembling content. But being the equivalent of electronic Post It notes they are easy to learn. Easier to learn from scratch perhaps.

But there are choices to make. Can I be as proficient with G Suite for Education, as the Microsoft equivalents. I have always had Macs; could I be was fluent with Microsoft.

And if you don't already touch-type, then find an app and learn. Or get used to using Voice Notes and transcribers - they're good to. I know people who do everything, texts and emails, using their voice.

Check out The Google Certification Academy 

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Gettting there? Or not? Where am I headed

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Will I pass muster as a Digital Scholar? 

A little less than a decade ago I wonder if others were already there and if I could meet the timeline. I know I am screaming through the platforms and pulling in theory. 

I am nothing academic. I would not call myself a scholar.  In fact my repeated experience is that far too many 'academics' are hopelessly divorced from the reality of how anyone is educated.

When did they run a few years of learning English in primary school in Tower Hamlets? When did they try to provide 300 Oxbridge Geography year two students with lectures online and all the other support needed to get them to an end of year formal exam?

The shift to digital has largely been facilitated by Covid-19, but there is fall out: tutors who disappear because they cannot handle having to admit to someone that they can barely use a mouse (let alone know what it is). Senior academics who would prefer to retire early than put their lacklustre lectures online. And they have always had someone else to type things up so thinking they know their war around a keyboard is ridiculous.




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The BBC's Interactive First World War Experience

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If you have an interest in interactive learning then this is a great example of how a story can have multiple outcomes. 

https://our-world-war.pilots.bbcconnectedstudio.co.uk/

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Learning How To Learn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 14 Aug 2018, 06:05

For tweens and teens.

A simplified digest of Barbara Oakley's incredible MOOC on Coursera 'Learning How To Learn'. The last time I looked this had had over 1.4 million students.

Having done this MOOC myself I later signed up to be a mentor. This is mostly meet and greet rather than teaching support. We help keep people going.

I recommend 'How to Learn' as a great introduction to the topic before tackling the material aimed at undergrads and post-grads. I simply find this a great way to refresh my knowledge.

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Spaced Learning and more ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 25 Jan 2018, 09:38

Innovating Pedagogy 2017 is a free download. Each piece is written in the form of an extended summary making each easy to read with ample references for those who wish to take it further.

My interest lies with 'Spaced Learning', 'Immersive learning', 'Student-led analytics' and 'Learning with internal values' - actually each piece is a fascinating and insightful read. 

'Spaced Learning' for me (see this blog for much more' and 'SpacedEd' which developed into a commercial Pharma Sales Learning tool 'QStream' was a Harvard Medical School e-learning platform developed by Dr Price Kerfoot in 2010. Having taken the unusual step for a medical student to study for an MEd he then applied lessons on forgetting, Ebinghaus, to a simple platform that distributed learning parrot style over days and weeks. Like everything out of America it has to be monetized. 

The Institute of Education has applied such thinking andthe latest neuroscience to apply this thinking to a single lesson broken into sessions 20 mins study with 10 mins physical exercise, then 20 mins recalling what was learent in the first 20 mins and so on. This isn't 'spaced learning' as in defeating the Ebinghaus 'Forgetting Curve' so much as making information stick by having to lay down a memory, or construct a memory either through intermittent testing or through project work to construct something from the initial knowledge intake. 

Here are the contents:

 

 

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Knowledge and understanding needs to be earned, not spoon feed

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 7 Aug 2017, 08:08

Medal Index Card for Private Percy Jones 9th East Lancashire Regiment

British World War I Medal Index Card identifying the man, his regiment and the medals he was due. (C) Ancestry, via Fold3

Some people can learn by rote with ease: they are exceptional. We all know someone who has a 'photographic memory'; though of these, some of these you will simply be playing coy over the hours they put in. The 'photographic memory' is exceptional.

For most of us learning doesn't simply require us to feel we have put in an effort - this effort is part of the very process that facilitates knowledge acquisition. 

Moving on from a period of essay writing based on a few lectures and crawling through a reading list I now find myself engrossed in the digitised part of The National Archive. I find I am, of necessity, doing the digital equivalent of thumbing through boxes of index cards. Every so often I make a match with information that the system doesn't have that I need in order to 'triangulate' the record with a specific person. What I am after are relatively rare First World War Service Records of specific men, from specific battalions, who enlisted in the first week of September 1914. When I get a result, and of some 2000 records I've so far identified 262, the information embeds itself in my head like metal-burning Alien vomit on my skull.

I've earned it; and feel confident that I will be able to work with it. The insight is mine.

I find I am able to do no more than sniff at information from prescribed texts and lectures. I make catch a whiff of something that makes sense, but usually I lose it. I have to be told what it was, and why it matters. I end up writing in a prescribed way. This can produce results, but not very good ones. 

Engagement with others, in discussions (online and face to face) and having the kinds of projects we used to get at school when we were still a year or more off an exam, did more for me.

What about you?

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Study Tips for studying online

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  1. Read the syllabus.
  2. Plan weekly study times.
  3. Log on to the class at least 3 times a week.
  4. Ask questions.
  5. Make connections with your fellow students.

Do you agree? How do you plan your week? How often are you online? Have you made friends with fellow students?

I picked up these tips from the emoderation training course I am doing with Coursera through the University of Leiden - the second such MOOC I have done, the last one being with Coursera itself when I became a mentor 18 months ago (on a photography course of all things).  I have degrees in Geography and Open & Distance Education. 

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Things I am learning this week

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Part portrait of Jonathan Vernon prepped for copying to canvas

     Fig. 1. Prepped for canvas: Self-portrait

 

Some new, some from scratch, I am on a learning frenzy:

  • Race Sailing a 'Streaker' (Wednesday evenings and Sunday)
  • Life Drawing (choices of classes in Brighton 6 days a week)
  • Life Painting (choices of classes in Brighton 3 daysa week)
  • How to put in a raised bed in the garden using sleepers (if it stops raining)
  • iMovies (painfully!)
  • Converting a VOB file to an MP4 file (Grrrr)
  • Fixing my long lost AOL account. (It has taken me years to get around to this. In 1996 I got JFVernon@Compuserve which was converted to aol. I had Jonathan@aol.com for a while)
  • How to be a 'Mentor' on Coursera's 'Learning How to Learn' MOOC
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Learning

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It's taken a short, free Coursera course on 'How to Learn' for many lose strands of my thinking to come together. This light, video based run through the basics has depth: the references and reading lists are copious. I'll go back and read these.

As I continue to work online I now expect certain patterns to be in place including setting the context, short carefully selected 'chunks' of information and insight, repetition and testing.

It isn't The OU, but I'm currently learning about Search Engine Optimisation (online), Digital Photography (online), French and Spanish (offline with Rossetta Stone). I am also doing a more traditional course, in talks, tutorials and on the water to pass my Yachtmaster's Certificate (sailing).

An amusing note on this: I joined the Royal Yachting Association and my default name is 'Admiral Vernon'. No one at the RYA can figure out how to fix this as it appears to be 'locked'. 

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Learning how to learn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 16 Jan 2016, 07:15

 

My laptop mounted on a lectern and book stand

Standing at my laptop. A trapped nerve requires it. An old school lectern from a flea market and a book stand do the job. This, or a stool on the kitchen table perhaps?

I rather think all of us. Indeed all sixth form, college and university students, ought to 'Learn how to learn'. You'd imagine having spent long enough studying education to have an OU MA that I'd know something about the learning process, yet over and over again I will read something different or watch something I've not done before as the picture has never been either clear or stable.

And then along comes this free online course (MOOC if you will) from Coursera.

'Learning how to learn'

It's in week too. I feel as if several important and disjointed ideas, some I feel I had come to independently, are now being drawn together. I know The OU have, or try to do this somewhere, possibly in Open Learn and historically in a book first published in the 1990s.

'Learning how to learn' is if anything reassuring and encouraging to us all. I see too, now that I'm in my 50s, that a few of my old school friends have the title 'Professor' in front of their name, or QC at the end of it. It may have taken them 25 years or more to get there, but it was gradual and incremental and with no exceptions I have to reflect 'who would have believed it'.

 

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How should the First World War be taught in schools?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 28 Jun 2015, 10:10

I came across this on classroom clichés of the First World War and wondered what people thought. Teaching the First World War.

How do you introduce the First World War to students?

  1. Blackadder - shown in all classrooms in Secondary Schools.
  2. The movie 'Gallipoli' -  the last five minutes shown in nearly all Secondary Schools.
  3. Mud - taught in most classrooms under the assumption that the rain began on 4 August 1914 and did not stop until 11 November 1918.
  4. Tommy - having lied about his age is trying to come to terms with not only the weight of his equipment but also the weight of having been duped into becoming a ‘victim’. And he was then shot at dawn because he got shell shock.
  5. Machine Guns - which only the Germans had, perfect instruments for skittling ‘Tommies’ who walked very slowly towards the enemy, most machine guns being used, of course, on 1 July 1916.
  6. Officers - all public school, and all stupid!

And to add to the controversy I'd add these 'howlers':

  1. It wasn't Germany's fault. This is disingenuous as a nation should not be blamed, though the rank militarism of Germany for decades didn't help. Though not an absolute monarch like the Tsar, Wilhelm II still had significant power that he controlled in a tight group. He, and a handful of like-mined Prussians can and should be blamed for chasing after a war that they believed they could win, and should get finished and won sooner rather than later. 
  2. It all started with Princip murdering Archduke Ferdinand. A better way to think of the first months of the 'Great War' is to call it the 'Third Balkan War.' Fighting amongst peoples seeking nationhood against the domination of empires was common place and had been brewing for many decades. 
  3. The Somme Battle took place in one day, and was over before breakfast with hundreds of thousands dead. 1916 and the entire war can be summed up this event/moment, from the British perspective only, under Haig's command, on 1st July 1916. Far from being futile, and far from being a British operation, it was under direction from the French Army and both before, during and afterwards tough lessons were being learnt on how to win the 'impossible' war to get Germany off French and Belgian soil.
  4. Haig was a donkey, all the 'poor bloody infantry' lions and all commanding officers useless. (Far from it, the COs were experienced and well educated in military thinking of the age while amongst the infantry the 'volunteers' considered the conscripts to be useless. 
  5. Only the ANZACS fought at Gallipoli (The French, and British were there ... oh, and the Turks and a German officer advising them).
  6. Gallipoli was all Churchill's fault (the War Cabinet were behind it).
  7. The Christmas Truce. A no man's land version of the world cup: England vs. Germany. (The iconic photographs were taken in Salonika, not on the Western Front). 

 

 

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Meaning making through metaphor

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Metaphors teach us to think and well chosen can, with some caveats, initiate and stimulate meaning. The educator, Gráinne Conole, Professor of Learning Innovation at the University of Leicester often talks of 'metaphor for meaning making' in our efforts to unravel and explain the complex. However, metaphors have an inbuilt bias: their creator. It is helpful to talk of a 'tree of life' when it isn't? Is it OK to teach it to Junior School Kids in the knowledge that they will be given a more complex visualisation, explanation and metaphor as graduate students? Should we talk of a 'War of Drugs' as if beating a disease is a conflict, when actually it is collaboration and aspiration that leads to communities accepting vaccines ...

What do the educators use and what do we participants remember from the courses we do: flat vocabulary, more complex vocabulary, classification schemas or models or metaphors? I hazard a guess that we remember indiscriminate moments of insight from a comment here, a visualisation, a comment, a shared point of view ...

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Why learn?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 19 Jan 2015, 07:41

Fig.1 After another twenty years? With age comes wisdom.

  • To get a job: a better job, to pass through a gate towards a graduate job, as a springboard to a job.
  • To gain a qualification: as above, though sometimes it is primarily a badge of honour and achievement
  • To feed your curiosity: a compulsion or desire to better understand a think for the pure sake of learning.
  • To renew a long held interest that may have started at school or with a first degree.
  • Because it is expected of you: your family and peers expect it.
  • To develop fluency in the subject for whatever reason - which includes some of those above.
  • To apply your learning directly to a problem : can be related to a job, research or intellectual curiosity.
  • To kill time: like reading a book, doing Sudoko puzzles or watching Soaps. A pricey way to fill part of your day though?
  • To meet like-minded people.
  • As a catalyst to who knows what.

 

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What's a MOOC from FutureLearn life? It's as easy as turning the pages of a book

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 7 Jan 2015, 11:12

My interest is e-learning. A decade ago it was web-based learning and before that it was online learning ... as compared to 'offline' learning on an intranet or in a computer learning centre. Across this period, whether on Laser disc, CD-rom, DVD, or online the key words to describe a successful piece of learning might include: easy to use, intuitive, effective, measurable results, gamified and impressive. 'Impressive' for a corporate client has always been important - they want to see how their money is spent. It matters to jazz a thing up, to find a way to deliver exception creative qualities in both the ideas and the execution of these ideas. In H.E. this 'impressiveness' has been thin on the ground the experience and view of H.E. that someone talking to camera with a slide show or whiteboard will do the job; it doesn't, not any more.

At the risk of writing a list I want to think about the 'enhanced learning' experiences that have impressed over the last 15 years:

Audi Shop DVD - Gold Award Winner at the IVCA awards. Stunning animated 3D animations of the engine. Like a 3D animated Dorling Kindersley

What are you like? - Gold Award Winner at the IVCA awards. An interactive life and career guide for teenagers done in the style of 'In Betweeners' and 'Some Girls' - nailed the audience with creative tone and visual effects. This won BAFTAs, the IVCA Grand Prix and NMA Effectiveness Awards. 

Ideafisher - first on floppy discs, then a CD. It did in the 1990s what various websites do today by linking vast collections of aggregated ideas and concepts that it filters out and offers up. The closest I've felt to AI for creativity.

MMC - online marketing courses. These were, for me, in 2010, an early example of stringing the face to camera lecture together with course notes to create a course. Still more like a self-directed traditional lecture series but the volume of content was admirable and some of the tools to control the viewing and reading experience were innovative.

TED Lectures. Are they learning? Or are they TV? Are they modelled on the BBC's Annual Reith Lecture series? Top of the Pops for the lecture circuit so tasters and Open Education Resources for grander things. 

Rosetta Stone - iPad App

Pure simplicity. I love these. I gave a year to an intermediate course in French, learnt some grammar and fixed several problems with my pronunciation. Like that game 'Pairs' you play as a child: a pack of cards with pairs of images on one side that you pair up. With considered, only sometimes over art-directed photography. Repetitive, always in the language you are learning. The next best thing to being dropped in amongst native speakers as an infant. It just works.

iTunesU - The History of English in One Minute.

Not so much a course as a series of stunning and memorable cartoon pieces that galvanise your interest. The next step is to follow through with a free trial course through OpenLearn and perhaps a nudge then towards a formal course with the Open University proper. 

FutureLearn - the entire platform.

As easy as reading a book. I've done eight of these and have another three on the go (two for review rather than as a participant). Across the myriad of subjects and offerings there are differences, all gems, but some are more outstanding than others. It is no surprise that those MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) produced by the Open University are some of the very best; it's what you'd expect with their experience. Other university's shine through for their confidence with the the platform too, for example, 'How to read a mind' from the University of Nottingham. 

MOOCs I love enough to repeat:

Start Writing Fiction: From the Open University

I may have been through this a couple of times in full and now dip back into it as I get my head into gear. I'll do this as often as it takes to get the thinking to stick. It's working. I read as a writer. I will interrupt a story to pick out how a succinct character description works.  I'm also chasing up a myriad of links into further Open University courses and support on creative writing. For example: next steps, creative writing tasters, and audio tasters on iTunes. 

MOOCs I may repeat next year ... or follow similar topics from these providers:

Word War 1: Trauma and Memory: From the Open University with the BBC

World War 1: Paris 1919 - A New World: From the University of Glasgow with the BBC

MOOCs I admire that target their academic audiences with precision:

How to Read a Mind: The University of Nottingham

Shakespeare's Hamlet: From the University of Birmingham

Web Science: How the Web is changing: From the University of Southampton

 

 

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Review, Reflect, Repeat ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 Jan 2015, 09:05

Fig.1. My mash-up from the Start Writing Fiction, OU and FutureLearn MOOC. 

Many weeks after the Open University MOOC on Future Learn closed 'Start Writing Fiction' I find I am returning to the many activities across the eight weeks to refresh, reflect, and build on my knowledge. As well as doing my bit for that 'community' by doing a few reviews (all assignments are peer reviewed). I completed the course in early December.

I return to reflect, to develop ideas, to be reminded of the excellent lessons I have learnt there, and in particular on how we use fact and fiction, whether consciously or not. In pure fantasy writing I find, inevitably, that I ground events in places I know from my youth, or have since researched. I use the hook of reality and my experiences on which to build the fiction. While currently I am embedded in what started as 90/10 fiction to fact I find it is increasingly looking like 95/5 in favour of fact as my imagination is close to the truth about a particular character and his experience of the First World War. All this from a simple exercise in week one called 'Fact or Fiction?' where we are asked first of all two write something that contains three factual elements and one fiction, and then to write something that contains three fictional elements and one factual. There are thousands of these now, many very funny, original or captivating. In week one, I'm guessing that around 10,000 got through the week. How many posted? There are 967 comments. This happens. It is an open course. The same applies for most web content: 95:5 is the ratio of readers to writers. Many people prefer not to do what they feel is 'exposing themselves' online. Why should they.

Anyway, this gives me reason to argue that it is an excellent idea to keep a blog of your OU studies. All of this can remain private, but at least, as I know have in this blog, when the doors close behind a module you can, months, even years later, return to key activities and assignments and build on the lessons you learnt. More importantly, as we all forget with such ease, we can keep the memory of the lessons fresh.

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Learning how to learn online with FutureLearn and The OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:18
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 My progress on The OU MOOC on FutureLearn 'Start Writing Fiction' (c) FutureLearn 2014

More than any module or exercise I have done over my four years with The OU, it is a MOOC in FutureLearn that is giving me the most thorough experience of where the future or learning lies. I'm in week seven of eight weeks of 'Start Writing Fiction' from The OU, on the FutureLearn platform. Just in these few weeks I've seen the site change to solve problems or to enhance the experience. Subtle lifts and adjustments that make a positive out of constant adjustment. Those tabs along the top: activity, replies where under a tab. I think 'to do' is new while 'progress' was elsewhere. This is a responsive platform that listens to its students.

In the final week we submit our third piece of work.

As assessments go these are far less nerve racking than a TMA. The first piece was 300, the second 500 and the last will be 1000. These are assessed by fellow students. In my case I had one, then two reviews. Most people seem to get at least two sometimes three. The system is designed, I'm sure, to try and ensure that everyone's work is reviewed at least once. Tens of thousands, certainly thousands of people are on the course.

We're here to the 19th of December or so ... if you follow the tracks as laid.  

I hazard a guess that between 20-100 have posted there final piece already. Some, I know, got to the end of the entire course a few weeks ago; I looked ahead to see out of curiosity. There have always been 20 who post comments one, two even three weeks ahead. If 20 are posting I hazard a guess knowing my stats on these things that another couple of hundred could be clicking through the pages to read and observe. They may, like me, be coming back later. They may only be following the course, but not participating. Often, it is like standing on a stage looking into the gloom of the auditorium. Someone probably out there. One or two let you know. The rest don't.

I hope those that race ahead come back ...

I find that if I get ahead then I slow down and retrace my steps. To learn in this connected and collaborative way you are far better off in the pack ... it is not a race to get to the end first. In fact, those who do this have already lost. They've missed the point. I'd suggest to people that if they have the time to do the week over. That's been my approach anyway - the beauty of these things is everyone can come and go as they please, at a pace that suits them. Skip a bit. Go back. Follow it week by week, day by day ... or not. Whatever works works?

There's another very good reason to stay with the 'pack' or to come back and do a week over - the platform depends not on tutors and moderators commenting and assessing work, but us students doing a kind of amateur, though smart, peer review. This is what make a MOOC particularly vibrant, memorable and effective. Not listening to an educator telling us what's what, but the contributors sharing, figuring it out, answering each other's problems in multiple ways. We all learn in different ways and at a pace that shifts too. I find that often a point I don't get first time round, on the second, or third, or even the fourth visit to an activity someone, somewhere puts it in a way that suddenly brings complete clarity - their way of seeing a thing, or expressing it, makes more sense than the writes of the course could manage. Because they can only write one version, not the 'tartan' that comes from an intelligent, threaded online conversation.

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Enriching stereotypes: FutureLearn 'Start Writing Fiction' with The OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 2 Dec 2014, 17:42
From Writing

Fig.1. No my usual spot for writing - on a retreat in Devon

Invited by the OU moderator for comments on week long series of exercise on 'enriching character; I write:

"Extraordinary. I'm on my second pass. I came through early, and now return not wanting to get ahead of the conversation. Particularly useful as I am actively writing at the moment, so this is the best of all learning because it is applied. Regarding character it about giving them shape, depth and 'points of interest' - more 6D than even the 2D we are asked to get away from. I visualise characters as hedgehogs with many prickles, but only a few of these matter to the story - though all of them matter to the notebook which I'm gradually coming to care about more and more, cursing the times I 'have a thought' and don't get it down somewhere safely. I am hugely pleased to be here and very proud to be an OU graduate already - not, sadly, from this faculty: yet!"

I'm finding the oddest of balances in my life too: writing for myself from 4.00am to 8.00am. Picking up work from 10.00am to 1.00pm. Then a siesta. I live in the wrong country for this, I'd prefer to be in a hammock in the shade by a pool. Dream on. Evenings from 5.00pm to 9.00pm I am usually 'poolside' teaching or coaching swimmers. Delighting yesterday evening to be back with some squad swimmers I last saw four years ago - now in the mid teens, some achieving amazing things in the water, all at that gangly stage of youth development my own children have come through in the last year. 

The issue then is how or where or why I fit in the OU module <<L120 L'Ouverture. Intermediate French >> I committed to. Learning a language is daunting and outside my comfort zone. What I do know now, not surprisingly, is that all learning comes about as a result of concerted and consistent effort over a long period of time. 

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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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Better out than in

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 18 Sep 2014, 07:26

No gadget or software or App will do your learning for you; you have to get the right content into you brain where it can be applied and added to. Garbage in, is garbage out and information you abandon will fester - not die, but transmogrify or lay dormant.

There are both techniques and Apps that that help you to get 'stuff' into your brain.

Take good notes from lectures and books, including TED lectures and Internet based 'linear' content, as well as eBooks and multimedia.

Use your notes for essays

Use your essays and notes from which to revise

The ONLY App I have come across that has been tested with a randomized controlled trial and had a dozen or more papers published on it is a platform developed at Harvard Medical School, now called QStream, though developed and tested as 'Spaced-Ed'.

I'm writing this after a THREE HOUR stint from the early hours extricating and sorting 'digital' information from the computer into a format that my head can deal with: sheets of paper, cards, lists ... 

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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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Peace in pieces

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 10:58

Fig. 1. Poster commemorating the bombing of Hiroshima for Japan, 1985. Ivan Chermayeff, de la warr pavilion, Bexhill.

Trip FIVE to this exhibition, this time with my brother-in-law, is imminent. What I adore about exhibitions here is that they are 'bitesize' and smart; they are a perfect 'mind burst'. They are the ideal repeat show too as with each visit you see more, and see differently ... and are influenced of course by the person you are with.

The right image says what each viewer sees in it.

This idea naturally translates into any and every conflict we see today: MH17, fractured and not yet stuck together, the Middle East utterly smashed into dust - I have this visual in my head of Hanukkah Lamp, the smoke from which forms a fractured map of Israel and Palestine. 

From E-Learning IV

From a learning point of view to start with a poster such as this is to follow Robert Gagne theory of learning design; also the natural skill of storytellers and good communications: get their attention.

 

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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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Pen and ink drawing class

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 11:44

 

Fig.1 Chair and shade

It was like being back at school: though the ratio of 15 women to 3 men felt like I'd gatecrashed the girl school's class down the road; I was educated in all male schools from 4 to 19. Of the 15 two were under 20, two were under 30 and the others above 60 and 70. No difference. Just like school. I recognised this swimming with Masters that given any opportunity to be the child that we were we are.

My relationship with art is an odd one: a mother who taught art, had an MA from Durham University in Fine Art, but who discounted at as a career for any of her children. I took it as far as A'levels (under her tutelage).

In 90 minutes we has some history, so thoughts on kit, then we got on with it. I found a secluded spot in the central courtyard (Jerwood Gallery, Hastings). And picked first on the climbing plants on a wall, and then the chair I'd taken out of the class. My challenge was to look at different ways of adding shade. Eventually I found that changing from pen to cotton balls and ink would differentiate between the object and the shadow. This'll take further work.

Other learning opportunities over the last few days have included:

Power Boat II (Refresher)

It is eight or more years since I did the course and seven years since I've been in a power boat. A bit of it came back. And new stuff was added. I need this so that I can operate a 'rib' during 'racing week' at the local sailing club: laying the course, keeping an eye on the fleet to rescue and assist. The sea can be choppy, the winds strong. Dinghies go over and their mast can pin them to the shallow sand and grit of Seaford Bay.

How to train a pigeon

In her wisdom my daughter has rescued a pigeon with a broken wing. The RSPB and animal sanctuaries aren't interest. 'Ralph' is now accommodated in a garden shed; shits everywhere but is eating from my daughter's hand. Muggins will be looking after it shortly of course. The volume of pebble-dash shit is impressive as every shit is onto a fresh patch of shed floor - it will be one shit deep, like a carpet by the weekend.

Graphic Design

The exhibition on the designer Ivan Chermeoff at the De La Warr is so good I've been back three times. There is no book on this exhibition, though many of his books are nailed to a table to admire (the page it has been opened at), with a few books you can browse. There is an insightful video too - an interview with the designer talking about how he got into fine art and graphic design from an inspiration father. One of the things he talks about is 'learning to see'. Had photography not been banned I would not have got out a pad of paper and looked more closely at his collages. Had I not taken such a close look I wouldn't have seen, with magical surprise, that one was made from ephemera collected at the inauguration of JFKennedy as US President on January 20 1961. 

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Making Memories

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 13 Oct 2014, 08:45

Fig.1. The muddy sides of the River Ouse, Piddinghoe. At low tide.

We are very good at forgetting: it's vital.

We see, feel, sense far too much in our daily lives (which includes when asleep). Come to think of it what on earth was I doing on a student exchange to North America last night where I am twenty years older than my hosts ... (probably sums up how I feel about the workplace).

See. Some memories are made for us, or by us whether or not we want them.

Learning though requires us to gather, create and retain stuff. Some of this stuff is forgettable; it doesn't resonate, or is poorly taught or expressed. Or we simply don't get it the way it is expressed, or the first time around.

Fig.2 Neuroscience of dummies

Make it a memory

At an OU Residential School the session on revision was packed. The tips made us laugh: sucking a choice of Polo Fruit sweets by subject theme - when you come to the exam repeat and each sweet will link you to that period of revision. Odd. But it worked often enough for me to convince me of its value.

 

Fig.4. Ebbinghaus and his 'Forgetting Curve'

The science from the likes of Hermann Ebbinghaus and his 'Forgetting Curve' simply indicates how something fades, unless you go back to it a few times over several days over which period you make it stick. It doesn't say anything about the 'stickiness' of the memory in the first place. Sometimes this stickiness is made for you. There is drama, there is an explosion. Most likely, by chance, the learning is anchored by some unrelated event like the fire alarm going off - that won't work for 50 different things though.

Fig. 5 Multiple ways of making 'it' stick: read (book and e-book), highlight, tag and take notes.

If the module, or your tutor isn't doing it for you then the next step is to dig around for a book, video or image that does it for you.

Most likely, and of far greater value, is for you to turn that lesson into a memory of your own creation. There is always value in taking notes, so never listen to the presenter who says 'no need to take notes I'll give you the slides afterwards'. Never trust the quality of the slides. What the person said will be of more value then the slides. You, and your handwriting, and your doodles are how it starts to become a memory. Then when you write up or rewrite those notes you do it again. You make it into something. 

Fig.6 The River Ouse at low tide.

I'm fixating on the horror of drowning in a shell-hole in the First World War.

Ever since I was a boy those images of cowboys and Arabian princes sinking into quicksand has horrified me. What must it have been like? Walking the dog by the River Ouse at low tide just as it turned the gurgling of water backing up and filtering into the muddy bank gave me the shivers. That sound was ominous. It made a memory of the walk and the thought. It's also what is sustaining me as I work at a short story.

Fig. 7 A family memory of a wedding in California. Will it stick?

We've talked about 'memory making' in the family.

It is the event, and the sharing of the event. My late mother-in-law was horrified that her daughter couldn't remember a road-trip they did across the US when she was 13. I concluded that she hadn't remembered much, or couldn't remember much when it was mentioned out of the blue, as the trip was never shared. Conversations are and were always about current and future events. This is why it helps to get the old photo albums out from time to time. But there's a loss. Do we make them anymore? Visiting a mislabelled album online is never the same. 

Fig. 8. My late grandfather John Arthur Wilson MM with the author Lyn Macdonald at the spot north of Poelcappelle, Belgium where he buried two of his mates - 75 years after the event. He recalled it 'like yesterday'.

Recalling the First World War

Some veterans would talk, others remained silent. Those who did not want to remember could and did forget. My late grandfather was a talker; it drove my mother mad. I came to love his recollections. Clearly, there were events that would have burned themselves into the memories of these men, but unless they talked about it, in a veteran's association or with family and friends it was not going to stick. No wonder veterans would seek each other out over the decades. Nudged by histories and movies their memories could be changed though; sometimes they came to say what was expected of them 'the rats were huge, the generals useless, the German bunkers impenetrable, the mud up to your waist, the sound of the individual shells ... '

In conclusion

Whatever activities and devices are built into your module, you are responsible and can only be responsible for making something of it. Take the hint. Engagement takes time so make the time for it. These days it is made easier through the Internet. You can keep a blog to share or as a learning journal; you can talk it over with fellow students either asynchronously in a forum (or blog), or synchronously in a webinar. You can 'mash it up' with images, grabs, doodles and annotations. You can make it your own. It'll stick if you want it to but superglue requires effort. Someone else 'sticks it' for you and it won't happen.

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vs. Dependency

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 6 Jul 2014, 07:57

You'll never learn a thing if someone else does it all for you.

There are the extremes of course of 'looking at someone else's notes', to reading their essay, to collusion where someone assists you big time. Then there is cheating where someone else writes the paper or sits the exam. What I'm talking about is 'taking the plunge'. No video or e-learning course will teach you to swim; you have to enter the water and take your first strokes.

But somethings we like others to do.

I am rubbish with cars. I have put diesel in a petrol car and added oil to the screen-wash. I can check the oil (now), do the screen-wash and check the tyres. Little else.

When it comes to blogging the beauty of this OU Student Blog is that it is straightforward and has been simplified and clarified in various ways over the last couple of years. 'Out there' you can have yourself an equally simple blog, say on WordPress. Fine, until you venture a tad further and want your own domain name (.com), or to add credit card payments (to sell stuff and to invite donations - we're all poverty stricken students right?). It is too easy to become overwhelmed, to fear clicking on the wrong thing. I have deleted a blog. And I have paid for a fancy theme and some other knobs and whistles that I didn't really want. So you find someone else to teach you, but there is a fine line between being taught and having someone else to do it for you.

Struggling to get ww.mindbursts.com in the right place I booked some time with a guy I'd already done some short courses with. He's great, but in some respects like a concert organists who knows how to pull all the bells and whistles with ease - what makes more sense, for him to spend two hours trying to show you how or to do it for you in 15 minutes?

I called early for 30 mins and he was on another call; three minutes later, following some simple instructions I'd done what I was going to ask him to do sad I just have to commit, just have to jump in, get my hands dirty, find out, make mistakes (so long as they aren't expensive).

 

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