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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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Too busy to blog?

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Too busy to reflect or to remember? Your brain is like Gouda - a blog can fill in some of the holes. 

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H818 Activity 7.1 Networks, Groups and Sets

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 16:32

Fig.1. My groups, sets, nets and collectives ... based on an article (unpublished 2014) by Dron & Anderson.

Groups: Any OU Tutor group - you are put in it, you don't, in an informed way, form a group or elect to join one group over another. I also belong to a 'group as cohort' of some 16-20 postgrad students on the university of Birmingham's First World War (British Military History). Here only by default of signing up in 2013. But also groups you join or form yourself. Or is a set a sub-group?

Sets: OU Tutor groups can become 'set-like' and 'net-like' - it depends wholly on serendipity that would only be resolved through psychological profiling to ensure a mix that would foster team work! An example of a set that is becoming a networked group are the reader review forums in Amazon. In the last year threaded discussions, particularly on controversial books, have become heated, protracted and informative. I belong to such sets related to Elearning as well as books coming out to mark or exploit the centenary of the First World War.

Nets: ?

Collectives: a writers group that formed between 1999 and 2002 in Diaryland, a group with interests related to grandparents and great-grandparents who were either combatants in the Machine Gun Corps the Royal Flying Corps or during the Third Battle of Ypres, 'Passchendaele'; applied eLearning in business (corporate eL & D), probably a still quasi-association of OpenStudio links of the more active and reciprocally linked students - especially if and where these have 'leaked' into external social platforms (LinkedIn and WordPress blogs).

Whilst the terms are interesting they are open to considerable debate and constant change. Instead of terms, network theory should be brought in to give the number, strength and 'vibrancy' otherwise we risk being stuck in a debate on semantics. Web 2.0 connectedness is too big, too messy, too fast changing ...

Creating things in a social context - construct, connect, social cognition - is not new. Think of university student amateur theatre groups from uni, to the Fringe and 'Beyond the Fringe'. The greater the sharing, the greater the benefits - unless that becomes your modus operandi and the assessment process is out of kilter, typically reverting to an essay rather than the artefact as a product of a collective effort (such as an end of term play, exhibition, film or other event that is conducive to collective enterprise).

'Permission to make mistakes' is the creed of creatives and entrepreneurs alike. Connectedness equates also to distraction - at some stage you have to close yourself off, shut the doors and turn off the Internet. i.e. for all the networking writing is a lonely and singular task. Team tsks are a different story.

We have needed typology since Noah's Ark, to try and agree terms so that conversations can be succinct and make sense. The risk here, and I've seen it in learning design, is that the terms become set in concrete in the minds and in the usage of an exclusive handful of academics and so ceases to be pertinent to others who cannot speak in that rarified language - this article shows a creep in that direction.

The likelihood of 'creativity' emerging from the kindle formed by the twig-like links between groups and sets, the natural 'serendipity' of creation evolving from mistakes and exposure to a myriad of ideas has been put on speed by Web 2.0.

Do you understand the same thing from Dron and Anderson’s four terms?

On the basis of definitions provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary it is difficult to distinguish between groups and nets as both contain people that are connected in some way, or between collectives and groups, as a collective is a group. A set suggests belonging or use, which also makes it group-like, though less ‘connected’. For these reasons I disagree with the way Dron & Anderson (2014) try to define these terms.

Were these categories useful?

No. There are other and more suitable ways to look at how people relate to each other … and relate to themselves (there are internal relationships that allows the individual to take sides, and have an internal debate). Activity Theory tries to show how groups, also called nodes are connected; Yrjo Engestrom has developed the idea to talk not of ‘networks’ but of ‘knotworking’, the tangle of attachments that form where a node connects. Better though would be to think move on from a debate about the terms which will always be ill-defined and contentious and think of network analysis as a science. Networks are of interest because of how much they tell us about the way systems behave, so much so that it is considered a science worthy of study. The ‘read-write Web’ as the authors call it, or the Semantic Web or Web 2.0 is readily suited to network analysis.

What additional questions would you like to ask them?

Independently of sets, groups, collectives and nets ‘memes’ as ephemeral artefacts are also nodes that represent ideas that float as it were between the connections between people. Identifying such memes and seeing how they connect and how such connections and links shift is of interest. This might identify people in ‘sets’ taking as its meaning to ‘set course’ or take a direction … this movement in a common direction towards or with the meme is what identifies this aggregation of shared ideas.

The authors indicate considerable bias by using phrases such as the ‘protective cave of closed systems’ implying that isolation, or working alone is a negative, even an absolute. In any day we will elect to be alone or with others … while at night we may think we are alone when we sleep but our unconscious mind has other ideas. Similarly to suggest that leaving such a cave is a ‘leap into the unknown’ may be how they feel to ‘expose themselves’ but is not how anyone who is inclined to perform sees it - for them ‘being on the stage or in the limelight’ is a leap into the known.

Their argument is weak and hurried. The neuroscience, Darwinianism and psychological aspects of learning individually or in a community, team or or as tribal activity requires far greater development, probably with a neuroscience, evolutionary biologist and a psychologist contributing to the paper.

‘Increased exposure to knowledge also means increased exposure to ignorance, and sometimes, malevolence’.

Think of Hamlet. He exposed himself to the ignorance and malevolence of his own tortured mind. You don’t have to expose yourself or your ideas to feel these things.

Whilst the ‘read-write Web’ exposes us to new ideas and ideas with more flavour (Dron & Anderson, 2014), they also do the opposite, exposing us to old ideas and the bland. It is like walking through a metropolis - you cannot be influenced by everything, only by those things you find or stumbleupon. This might reinforce your beliefs, or alter them depending on how and where you look.


Engestrom (2008). From Teams to Knots (Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) (p. 238). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.

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Rethinking education in MOOCs

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


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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Three reasons to revitalise, reinvent and revolutionise education

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 16:43

Fig. 1, Ken Robinson: On education ... and a fix for the huge drop-out rate in American Schools.

An excellent TED lecture. Worth taking notes. These are mine.

Offered by fellow student Marshall Anderson on the H818: The networked practitioner journey.

Worth listening to a couple of times (as I have just done).

Music to my ears, though I am not a teacher and have given too much of my career to the mechanised teaching he knocks ... digital and interactive learning is and has been, surely, a product of the mechanised approach? But you don't question the legitimacy of e-learning in an e-learning agency and suggest that a blended approach would be better.

They have one product on the shelf.

Which puts me at odds with the hand that has fed me for the last couple of decades. Next stop Finland? There is of course an answer here and that is recognising, please, that children, whilst deserving a better education system and approach, are NOT always at school ... this curiosity and motivation can be developed at home if and where a family have parents with the time and inclination and where, ideally, they also have contact with grandparents and even cousins, and especially friends.

FIG.2. TED Lecture with Ken Robinson

Ken Robinson is right to celebrate the human side of the child, that:

  1. human beings are naturally different and diverse
  2. that 'lighting the light of curiosity' is key and that
  3. human life is inherently creative.

For the moment my interest is with my 17 year old daughter and 15 year old son ... hoping and helping them to find and know what motivates them. It is this that will get them through school, a worthwhile goal beyond the barriers that exist in formal education - you still have to satisfy the standardised tests in order to get a place at university. Which is another schooling environment Ken Robinson doesn't touch upon - you can give us human beings too much freedom. Parameters are stimulating, both the negative and positive ones.

A struggle makes something worthwhile.

It helps to create a common memory too. Fundamentally this reminds me that any learning and especially e-learning needs to be seen in context - an e-learning platform or project is never exclusive, it is always part of what else is going on in the participant's life.

Blended, rather than pure e-learning is surely therefore the way forward?

Wise words put succinctly and with wit. Common sentiments that we struggle to realise. Privately educate? Home educate? Or move to Finland, Canada or Singapore?

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Reflecting on H818: The Open Studio

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 08:06

I'm getting a sense of deja vu as the rhythm of this module reveals itself.

Openness comes with some caveats. It is not everyone's cup of tea.

As people we may change or behaviour in different environments.

I am not saying that we as individuals necessarily behave in the same way in an Open Studio online (a virtual studio no less) than we do or would in an open studio, as in a collective in a workshop or 'atelier' that is 'exposed' to fellow artists -  but is nonetheless human interaction with all the usual undercurrents.

What I believe will not work is to put a gaggle of creators in the same room and expect them to collaborate.

The studios of the 'open' type that I am aware of are either the classic Renaissance workshop with a master artist and apprentices at various stages of their own development, or,  with a similar dynamic in operation, the 'occupants' of the studio are exposed LESS to each other and more to external commentators and contributors and this requires some formality to it .i.e. not simply 'the person off the street' but an educator/moderator in their own right.

Is H818:The Networked Practitioner too dependent on chance?

The foibles of a small cohort and the complex, messy, moments 'we' are in. Three years of this and, by chance only, surely, six of  us in a subgroup jelled. More often the silence and inactivity of the majority makes 'group work' a myth - partnerships of two or three were more likely. The only exception I have come across in the 'real world' have been actors working together on an improvisation - they have been trained however to disassociate their natural behaviours.

Some of us study with the OU as we cringe at the 'exposure' of a course that requires us to meet in the flesh - distance learning suits, to some degree, the lone worker who prefers isolation.

By way of revealing contrast I am a mentor at the School of Communication Arts

Modest though pivotal role given their format and philosophy - exposure to many hundreds of kindred spirits who have been there ...  a sounding board and catalyst. NOT a contributor, but more an enabler. 

We'll see. My thinking is that to be effective, collaboration or exposure needs to have structure and formality in order to work.

At the Brighton Arts Festival the other evening I wonder how the 80 odd exhibitors would cope if the Corn Exchange was also their workshop?

In certain, vulnerable environments, the only comment should be praise. Feedback is invited from those who are trusted.

A school setting is different again, as is college ... people share the same space because they have to.

Open Studio apears to try to coral the feedback that comes anyway from a connected, popular and massive sites such as WordPress, Linkedin Groups, Facebook and even Amazon. Though the exposure, if you permit it, is tempered and negotiated - Facebook is gentle amongst family and friends, Linkedin is meterd and professional in a corporate way, Wordpress is homespun while Amazon, probably due to the smell of money can be catty - and in any case, the artefact is a doneddeal, it's not as if, to take a current example, Max Hastings is going to rewrite his book on the First World War because some in the academic community say that it is weak historicaly and strong on journalistic anecdote.

We'll see.

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No Internet Connection

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 16:36

My thirteen years and more studying with the OU has seen how I learn shift. The current twist is looping back to the less distracted days of being 'off line'. At the same time I have done a couple of things that are very old school:

1) A 'Room of my own' without internet access (my choice) .. down the road with an opt in/ opt out. Also an 'office' (I recently bought the domain name Mindbursts.com.

2) Pen and paper ... and by that I mean a fountain pen with ink cartridges and a pad of lined paper - not quite an exercise book, but close.


1) I am easily distracted. Studying with the Internet 24/7 it is too tempting to be checking email, responding to forum messages or just browsing, I miss linking to books and journals I read about, but these can wait. Maybe the impluse to purchase or read another book weill reduce by the time I get to consider it in the wee hours back at home. My 'room' is ten miles down the road.

2) Partially this is physiological - I am seeing a physio trying to untangle or unknot some hideous pain in my left elbow which I ascribe to typing up blog entries with my left hand while reclined on the sofa or in bed. Partially it is knowing that there is never a short cut to learning and knowing a subject. I truly believe that mixed methods work - that it helps to take the written word and write it out, and type it out, and talk about it and visualise it. Neurologists will confirm that memory formation requires the  binding of activity across the brain, rather than from just one part of  it.

Meanwhile, I look forward to another e-learning module, H818, with trepidation:

1) I need to demonstrate to myself that I can keep up and even improve on the standard I'm now able to attain. (Time and effort and the only two words to think about).

2) I will be running in tandem with anothe module, taught old-school, at a different university, simultaneously. Already I dread the commute to a monthly day-long tutorial that I can only do by train if I am on a train at 5.20am. It'll make for a very interesting comparison. If the OU offered the module I want to study I would have done it - they don't. This surprises me given the Open Learn work they are doing on the First World War with the Imperial War Museum.

Best wishes to all ... so much for thinking I'd finished with this. Next up I'm applying to the OU to do a PhD so I might be around for a while longer yet.


I started an early e-learning module H808 in 2001 ... skipped off the final paper and came back to it all decade later. I have both books and papers from that period which make for amusing reading.


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It's over ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Jun 2013, 09:12

And a tear comes to my eyes ... what a hell of a journey! 1239 days. 1 point decides whether I finally get a distinction 84 vs. 85. But do I care? Staying with this learning for the next decade counts for more. Bon voyaye. I'm out of here!!

504,950 views too. Feck! I guess it'll take an OU PhD to push this to 1,000,000 ...

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Preparation, preparation, preparation ...

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And breathing space.

How I prepare a TMA or EMA is completely unlike anything I did in the early days, even in the first couple of years or more of the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MA ODE). It is far more like designing an Airfix model, making the parts, then constructing the thing. At this stage, having thought about and written up all the component parts I did a rough assembly and came up with 3437 words for a 4000 word assignment.

Actually this is too many words - not a problem as I know where the fat lies, ideas expressed in too large a chunk. After that it's a case of getting the prose to flow.

Prioritise and give it time to breathe. I've pretty much given up on social media too - this is study journal and a moment to reflect. 'Blogging' and writing an academic paper are very different things - even journalism doesn't get close. Blogging is playing in the sand, journalism is a papier-mache self-indulgent sculpture, whereas academic writing is gathering together a complete set of artefacts, carefully arranging them in a cabinet and including all the labels.


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Is life a disease? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association - fifth edition (DSM-5)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 16 May 2014, 06:25


Anne Cooke and John McGowanA new edition of the ‘dictionary’ of mental illnesses was published this year – the catchily named, DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, fifth edition). Compared to its predecessors, it classifies many more types of behaviour as ‘mental disorders’.

For example, binge eating is now a disease, and you may also be categorised as mentally ill if you spend too long in front of your computer, if you are shy, or if you feel just feel sad.
Each edition of the DSM introduces us to new illnesses.
  • The first edition, published in 1952, was 132 pages long.
  • The 1987 edition was 569 pages a
  • The 2013 edition as it has 1000.John McGowan and Anne Cooke
Its publication has provoked fierce arguments. Advocates say how important it is that illnesses are identified and treated. Critics claim that that it will lead to millions of us being unnecessarily labelled as sick and put on drugs. Some even believe that many of the conditions are simply inventions dreamed up for the benefit of pharmaceutical giants. W
Anne and John will introduce the main issues, and ask the question, ‘Is life a disease?’
Anne and John both blog regularly at Discursive of Tunbridge Wells. You can also follow them on Twitter (@CCCUAppPsy).

My view is that we should think of disease as the status quo, that  we all have something wrong with us, that this variety is part of what makes us human - we are not a troop of baboons, rather we are 7 billion lonely people, each unique, with very different brains, but also different responses to and vulnerabilities to disease. Modern science and computing in particular allows these conditions to be identified; many more such patterns will become clear as data is streamed into computers for analysis from people wearing or ingesting smart medical devices.

If this isn't a hypothesis that has been tested maybe I should take a look?

The 'error' surely is to think we can provide everyone with 'perfect health' - what will it do to us if all our 'problems' are ironed out? Will it make us less inventive? Do we have to live to 120? We need to struggle in order to progress - everything about the development of homo sapiens sapiens has been in response to problems, dangers, disease and events. I guess we'll just keep coming up with or creating new problems, in any case, even if we all had perfect health our brains - how wired during foetal development, and then what we are exposed to as we grow up, despite aspects of tribalism, makes for further difference.
Yes, life is a disease.
And the day we think we have eradicated all disease we or nature will come up with something new. In fact, I think if you had a population of 1000 people with no perceived health problems at all that within a few months one or more of them would develop some kind of psychosis - become a hypochondriac or self-harm or develop a Messiah complex just to ensure that the community had difference, a catalyst as it were, within it.
The DSM probably says the the joker/clown or comedian is a disease - a narcissistic craving for attention and adulation?
Anne Cooke is a clinical psychologist who has spent many years working in the NHS with people who are diagnosed as mentally ill. She works at Canterbury Christ Church University, training clinical psychologists for the NHS. She is currently editing a second edition of the British Psychological Society’s report ‘Understanding Psychosis’ and is interested in the way that we as a society think about and respond to emotional distress.
John McGowan is also a Clinical Psychologist. Like Anne has followed many years in the NHS by moving to academia and training clinical psychologists. As well as conducting research into self-harm and suicide he is currently editing a new British Psychological Society Report on Depression. He has written for The Guardian, the Health Service Journal and (most significantly) is an occasional columnist for Viva Lewes.


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The importance of stories ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 16 Jun 2013, 11:34

Telling stories to others is the means by which unconscious stories become conscious, with language reflecting the person’s mental state (Bucholtz and Hall, 2005).

One way identities are given form is through (auto-)biographical narrative where speakers identify with characters and plots, ethical and moral stances, and the discourses of multiple activity systems (Roth, 2007, Ivanič, 2006).

McConnell (2002), discussing e-learning communities in higher education, argues that students’ identities are negotiated along four dimensions: their purpose as learners, their relationship with tutors, their place in the academic world, and the boundaries between their professional practice and their group work.


Bucholtz, M. and Hall, K. (2005) 'Identity and interaction: a sociocultural linguistic approach', Discourse Studies, vol., 7, no. 4-5, pp. 585-614.

Ivanic, R. (2006) Language, learning and identification . In R. Kiely, P. Rea-Dickens, H. Woodfield and G. Clibbon (eds.) Language, Culture and Identity in Applied Linguistics . Equinox pp. 7-29 Available from http://www.lancs.ac.uk/lflfe/publications/pubsdocs/Language,%20learning%20and%20identific ation.doc (accessed 2 June 2008)


McConnell, D. (2002) 'Negotiation, identity and knowledge in e-learning communities', In Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Networked Learning, Sheffield, U.K., pp. 248-257.

Roth, W-M. (2007) 'The ethico-moral nature of identity: Prolegomena to the development of third-generation Cultural-Historical Activity Theory', International Journal of Educational Research, vol. 46, no. 1-2, pp. 83-93

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Information Overload or Cognitive Overload which is the problem?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 07:59

Fig.1 Exhibit A. Vital to any museum. A place to crash, reflect, nod off ... then pick yourself up to do some more.

This is going to read like an excuse to visit yet more museums.

As I reach the end of my Open University learning journey my final task is to write an EMA in which I propose a piece of research on e-learning. My inclination, with 12 days to go, is to look at the use of mobile devices in museums and how the visit experience can be enhanced by personalising the physical journey. It appears the the two problems to deal with are information overload and cognitive overload. There is too much of everything. Whilst I will always applaud serendipity there needs to be a balance between the stuff that you want to stick and the stuff that can be ignored or discarded.

Too many museum visits earlier this week has me wishing I had electric wheels and a pair of Google Glass that could take it in and edit.

  • Museum of Contemporary Art - Barcelona
  • Picasso Museum - Barcelona
  • National Museum of Catalonia - Barcelona
  • Joan Miro Foundation - Barcelona

As I prepare this assignment I plant to queue to get into the Bowie at V&A and try Google WebLab at the Science Museum and possibly the RA and Design Museums too. At least I'm within an hour of London.

My interest is, as I take teenagers to these things, to wish I could get them to that artefact or story about the artifacts creations, or the artist/creative that it will so intrigue them that they are inspired to put some heart into their art or DT.

Two years ago my late mother took her granddaughters around the RA when the Van Gogh exhibition was on. My daughter was treated to my mother, gentle and informed, guiding her then 14 year old granddaughter from quite specific letters, paintings and sketches - pointing things out, talking about technique and the thinking behind it. This was as personalised and as intimate as it gets.

I can understand how Picasso, showing interest and talent, must have been guided by his father who taught art at undergraduate level.

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A plague on my underpants!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 10 Jun 2013, 16:28


Playing Mercutio in 'Romeo & Juliet' 1983

Thirty years ago, possibly to the week, I performed in a university production of Romeo & Juliet as Mercutio. I've just been watching, to my horror, a digitised copy from the Betamax original.

That's me with the spindly legs in the white tights.

Not suprisingly, more so than a diary entry, this takes me to the moment. Minutes later the large nappy pin holding up my hose (the stuffed, bulbous pants) comes undone. I complete the fight to the death having pulled up my hose more than once - laughter and awareness rather spoils the moment and more liek Franky Howard than Shakespeare I die on the line 'A plague on my underpants'.

Fascinating that even in silhouette I would have recognised my teenage son in how I move.

My wife tells me I don't speak like that any more.

Cruel and revealing to me that I was so dependent on the director -  in this amateur production I minch about more like Malvolio from Twelfth Night.

My fascination in memory is pricked by this.

There is value in forgetting and not having a record of past events yet wearable technology is gradually making it possible to keep a record of everything we do - both visual and audio. Our perceptions are altered by the recalling of a memory. Though of course, this particular memory is still not my visual memory as my perspective will always be caught up in this scene.


The power to remember and forget

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New blog post

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It took me a year ... no longer, 18 months. Even longer than that, two years, to recognise what it took to get consistently high marks.

I couldn't fathom what people were doing.

Is it a formula? Or just application? Is there a method? Whatever it takes until you feel confident you know what is going on ... so read, read again, ask questions. Then going and read something else. Disagree, agree ... sleep on it. Then, ever so slowly it starts to dawn on you. This is what they are on about. I am prone to read well beyond the listed resources though, picking through papers until I find the one that speaks to me - the voice that expresses it in a way that has ressonance. And I am prone, within reason, to get the book that is cited in a paper I like ... so a collection of second handbooks under the table and a larger collection of eBooks. eBooks I read faster, highlight and take notes as I go along, then migrate notes and quotes into a Google Doc. I kid myself when I have a lot to read that it is different on the Kindle, the iPad or on the TV size screen that is ... well the TV (but my computer too).

A couple of weeks ago I took the TV and put it in the shed. One of those things the size of a pedal car.

No one misses it.

Everyone is on a screen elsewhere in the house. We stream movies. We use BBC iPlayer.

I don't miss clicking between channels looking for something to watch, finding nothing much but glued to the thing for a few things all the same.



That's the way to do Medieval!

A week away in April and I still haven't recovered my old rhythmn. Nor will I. Instead of bloggin I have every conceivable thing to sort out with the house and garden. Somehow both were abandoned for three years - I wonder why that was?

The lawn was so bad I needed an industrial strimmer. The lawnmower I bought in 2007 is still in its original packaging in the shed.

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H809: Activity 13.2 - Reflections and notes

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 24 May 2013, 11:03

Participation in ...

Observation of ...

What is the Chicago School?

In sociology and later criminology, the Chicago School (sometimes described as the Ecological School) was the first major body of works emerging during the 1920s and 1930s specialising in urban sociology, and the research into the urban environment by combining theory and ethnographic fieldwork in Chicago, now applied elsewhere. While involving scholars at several Chicago area universities, the term is often used interchangeably to refer to the University of Chicago's sociology department—one of the oldest and one of the most prestigious. (Wikipedia)

Requires a chapter, even a book on it. Possibly a block, even a module in its own right.

Does the ethnography depend upon the physical presence of the enthnographer in the midst of the people being studied? (Hammersley, 2006 :08)

Not any more. An ethnographer in a virtual world amongst virtual people is present. Is, however, an ethnographer present where they to observe footage from Big Brother, either in real time, or post-production (literally). Are we ‘kitchen ethnogrpahers’ when we watch a TV series about a group ‘under observation’?

‘With the availability of mobile phones and portable computers, electronic virtuality is now embedded within actuality in a more dispersed and active way than ever before’. (Hammersley, 2006:08)

Is interviewing ethnographic? (Hammersley, 2006:09) How else do you ‘give voice’ to the participants and capture their perspectives?

Witness accounts are flawed.

A witness might lie, but will certainly have a stance, however nuanced, they may even have a false memory. Indeed, over time, the nature of this memory will change other ideas, true or false recollections aggregate to it. And is impacted by the context. (Hammersley, 2006:09)

Rather to record conversations … but who is to set the guidelines? (Hammersley, 2006:10)It can be argued that everything we do or perceive is real. Whether in a virtual world, or dreaming ... or 'the real thing'.

The experience has a form in that an electro-biological process has taken place in all these cases - it's in your head! Science Fiction writers and filmmakers play around with this all the time. My understanding from neuroscience is that typically any memory, or rethinking of a memory or experience, connects with some 15 areas around the brain ... which change (enhance, diminish). The scale and scope amongst our 98 billion neurons is ... well, vast. So much of what we do or experience can and will have only a tiny impact on who we are (genetically decided construction of the brain during foetal development) and what we experience (whether this experience is internal or external). Does the brain even differentiate between conscious and unconsciousness, beyond tagging them one or the other so that, however vivid it was, you know that was a dream where you turned into a flying fish ... or that running around like Conan the Barbarian with the head of a wolf in World of War Craft is not the same as sitting in a Geography class. Neuroscience is trying to see and map fractions of activity in the brain, but this is a long way from offering such human-coloured maps as evidence, say of specific learning having occurred, so short of an objective result we can only rely on the subjective i.e. to ask a lot of probing questions and draw conclusions.

In relation to a face-to-face as virtual, surely there is more in common with a Skype interview 'face to face' and a similar interview over a table ... but there are degrees of virtual and 'real' as an interview when in role play or improvising say as a character in World of Warcraft would surely be more akin to the an exercise that actors do. Or what about role playing real people in order to prepare for a debriefing, or tough interview ... as in media training for managers?

Fascinating ... my curiosity has been re-engaged even if professionally strictly quantitative plays so well into funding mechanisms. You design learning that can be quantified, using  appropriately accommodating learning theories, so that investors can monitor their return.

People in virtual worlds are themselves - but more so.

i.e. in various forms people might either be themselves big time, almost hyping up who they are while others would take a part of themselves and enhance that ... so they roleplay the minor god (in the Greek sense), or swap gender, or role play being a teenager again ... or for that matter being older than they are. i.e. the original person is still at the core of it all.


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Learning Theories in a mind map

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 25 Mar 2021, 15:13

12 Theories of learning

Fig. 1. Learning Theories. Click on this and you can grab the original in a variety of sizes from the Picasa Web Album where it resides. (Created using SimpleMinds APP)

In an effort to impose some logic these are now grouped and various links also made. The reality might be take a large bowl of water then drip into these 12 coloured inks. The reality of how we learn is complex and will only be made the more so with fMRI imaging and advances in neuroscience.

My favourite Learning Theory here is one that Knud Illeris (2009) came up with - not learning at all, resistance too or defence learning. You just block it. That's how I did 9 years of Latin and can decline how to love a table - I have no idea anymore what 'ramabottom' or some such means either. Ditto French as taught before secondary school and Chemistry - right or wrong, tick and box in a multiple choice each week. Still, for someone who couldn't give a fig for either this approach got me through on a C grade. For French the 'holistic' approach worked a treat - French exchange, then back to hitch through France with some French guys who didn't have a word of English, then got a job out there. Chemistry worked best with my Chemistry 7 set.

Activity Theory and Communities of Practice are surely in meltdown with the connectivity of Web 2.0?

The nodes and silos are too easily circumvented by each of us going directly to the source. 'Community of Ideas' works best for me.

Learning Theories

1) Neurophysiological - stimulus response, optmization of memory processes: Sylvester, 1995; Edelman, 1994; Jarvis, 1987.

2) Holistic - Illeris, 2009.

3) Behaviorist - Stimulus response pairs, Skinner, 1974.

4) Cognitive - Communication, how the brain receives, internalises and recalls information, problem solving, explanation, recombination, contrast, building upon information structures, focus on internal cognitive structures, models, methods and schemas, information processing, inferences.; Wenger, 1987; Hutchins, 1993; Anderson, 1983; Piaget, 1952.

5) Constructivist - Learners build their own mental structures, design orientated, assimilative learning (Illeris, 2009); task-orientated, cohort/collaborative group. Leonard, 2010): Vygotsky, 1934; Piaget, 1954; Bruner, 1993; Papert, 1980.

6) Transformative Learning - significant (Roger, 1951, 59); Transformative (Mezirow, 1994); Expansive (Engestrom, 1987); Transitional (Alheit, 1994).

7) Social - Socialization, a psychological perspective, imitation of norms, acquisition of membership, interpersonal relations (Bandura, 1977)

8) Communities of Practice - The focus is on participation and the role this plays to attract and retain new ‘members’; knowledge transfer is closely tied to the social situation where the knowledge is learned, (Learnard, 2010); shared, social and almost unintentional; legitimate peripheral participation (Lave, ); taking part in the practices of the community. A framework that considers learning in social terms. Lave & Wenger, 1991.

9) Communities of Interest -

10) Accommodative Learning - Illeris, 2007.

11) Activity Theories - Learners bridge the knowledge gap via the zone of proximal development, Wertsch, 1984. Historically constructed activities as entities. Thinking, reasoning and learning is a socially and culturally mediated phenomenon. Learnard, 2010. Engestrom, 1987; Vygotsky, 1934; Wertsch, 1984.

12) Organizational - How people in an organisation learn and how organisations learn. Organizational systems, structures and politics. Brown and Dugiod, 1995. Noaka and Takeuchi, 1991.

13) Resistance to/defence learning - Illeris, 2007

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What is learning?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Dec 2014, 07:50

H809 TMA 02 C

Learning is complex so creating.

All observations are theory impregnated. Popper, (1996:86)

Learning can broadly be defined as ‘any process that in living organisms leads to permanent capacity change and which is not solely due to biological maturation or ageing (Illeris 2007, p.3)

Learning involves both internal and external factors. (Conole and Oliver, 20xx)

Human learning is the combination of processes throughout a lifetime whereby the whole person - body (genetic, physical and biological) and mind (knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, emotions, beliefs and senses) - experiences social situations, the perceived content of which is then transformed cognitively, emotively or practically (or through any combination) and integrated into the individual person’s biography resulting in a continually changing (or more experienced) person.

(Illeris, in Contemporary Theories ... 2009)

There are many different kinds of learning theory. Each emphasizes different aspects of learning, and each is therefore useful for different purposes. (Conole and Oliver, ) What matters in learning and the nature of knowledge. And how families develop their own practices, routines, rituals, artifacts, symbols, conventions, stories and histories. (Conole and Oliver, )

Identify the key components of a number of theoretical approaches. Briefly introduce, say what it is and highlight key concepts.

How these might be applied to learning design with technology.

Clear RQs that are clearly derived from specific theories.

Recommend which data collection processes would be appropriate.

Conole et al (2004) x 7: Behaviourism, Cognitive, Constructivism, Activity-based, socially situated learning, experiential and systems theory.

Cube Representation of model. (Should be those things you roll) ADD OLDS MOOC and/or H817open

Mayes and de Frietas (2004) x3 Associative (structured tasks), cognitive (understanding) and situative.

Beetham (2005) x4: Associative, cognitive constructivist, social constructivist, situative.

See x4 Learning Theories Mind Map

Edudemic (2013) x 4 behaviourist, cognitive, constructive and connectivism

Traditional Learning Theories


Etienne Wenger (2007 in Knud Illeris) x9: organizational, neurophysiological, behaviourist, cognitive, activity theories, communities of practice, social learning, socialisational, constructivist.

Community of Practice and Community of Interests

‘Practitioners and overwhelmed by the plethora of choices and may lack the necessary skills to make informed choices about how to use these theories’. (Conole and Oliver 20xx)






A perspective on learning (Skinner, 1950) reinforce/diminish. Stimulus/response. Aristotle. Hume. Pavlov. Ebbinghaus.



Kant, Gagne, Rumlehart & Newman.


Activity Theory

Builds on the work of Vygotsky (1986). Learning as a social activity. All human action is mediated through using tools. In the context of a community. Knotworking. Runaway object.

Useful for analysing why problems have occurred - discordance. See Greenhow and Belbas for RQs.


Engestrom, Soctrates, Brown, Bruner, Illich,



Bush, Wells, Berners-Lee.



Leonard (500 Theories)


Learning Theories from Wenger and others applied to OLDS MOOC

Organizational, Neurophsiological, Behaviourist, Cogntive, Resistence to or defence learning, activity theory, communities of practice, accommodation learning, social learning, transformative learning, socializational, constructivist.

Conole x6 pairings diagram


Formulate clear questions.

Amplification (Cole and Griffin) Amplifying as an increase in output - give a hunter a gun and they kill more prey. Give someone a computer and they write and calculate more. ‘Technology is best understood not as a static influence on literacy practice, but as a dynamic contributor to it’.

Learning and teaching: Behaviourism x3, cognitive theories x10 (including constructivism), humanisitc approaches, and others.


Quality not quantity

How these depend on the theoretical approach.

Strengths and Limitations

S - Situation, interactions, mechanisms can be more or less collaborative (Dillenbourg, 1999:9). Knowledge always undergoes construction and transformation in use. Learning is an integral aspect of activity. (Conole and Oliver, 2005). Communication is learning.
W - Across cultures, not just US and West. Caricatures/simplistic. Not a neat narrative.
O - Donations, Funding, Book promotion (MIT). The learner as a unique person.
T - Funding


Conole (2007)

Conole, G; and Oliver, M. (eds) (20xx) Contemporary Perspective in E-learning Research. Themes, methods and impact on practice.

Crook, C and Dymott, R (20xx) ICT and the literacy practices of student writing. a

Edudemic. Traditional Learning Theories. (Accessed 19th April 2013)


Greenhow, C and Belbas, B (20xx:374)

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The whole body takes part in learning ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 21 Apr 2013, 04:13
When it comes to learning, everything matters - epecially the tips of your toes.
'Human learning is the combination of processes throughout a lifetime whereby the whole person - body (genetic, physical and biological) and mind (knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, emotions, beliefs and senses) - experiences social situations, the perceived content of which is then transformed cognitively, emotively or practically (or through any combination) and integrated into the individual person's biography resulting in a continually changing (or more experienced) person'. Knud Illiris (2009:24)
In 1980 I worked the winter season in a Hotel in the French Alps. It was a 13 hour working day that started at 6.00am and included three hours off over lunch - 12h00 to 15h00. That's when I went skiing - in all weather. That season, like this, had an abundance of 'weather' with more snow than even Val d'Isere could cope with. An avalanche took out an entire mountain restaurant ... or rather burried them. They were fine and re-opened after a few weeks. Towards the end of the season I would shot up the slopes, in my M&S suit, with a plasticated boiler-suit like thing over it and skied the same run maybe 11 or 12 times before returning to the hotel and an afternoon/evening of carrying bags, digging cars out, taking trays of food, cleaning and translating French to English for the Hotel Manager. I had a Sony Walkman cassette player. I played Pink Floyd 'The Wall' and skied to 'The Wall'.
33 years on, using the same skis if I want, the music on an iPhone, I manage three to five turns at a time ... rest ... three to five more turns ... rest ... three to five turns and take a suck on my Ventolin inhaler .... and so on.
And what comes to mind?
'The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire' Gibbon and Alexis de Tocqueville 'L'Ancien Régime et la Révolution' - both required reading before I started my undergraduate year of History later in 1981.
These are the games the brains plays on you. I can now of course recall Madame Raymond, the Hotel Manger, The Sofitel, Val d'Isere and Christian, the waiter who taught me to ski ... and the word for dust 'poussiere'.
And while up here 33 years later I have so far got through three books:
'The A to Z of Learning Theory' (2002), David Leonard; 'Contemporary Perspectives in E-learning Research' eds. Grainne Conole and Martin Oliver and 'Contemporary Theories of Learning' edited by Knud Illeris (2009) ... from which I drew the above quote. The first covers some 150 learning theories - by the time you've finished it you may conclude that there is life and learning while death brings it to the end. As Illiris states, everything counts. The second is one of those academic compillations of papers. The title is disengenious as I could not find in ONE single paper (chapter) any attempts to give a perspective on e-learning research, rather these are papers on e-learning. Period. While the Knud Illiris edited book does the business with some great chapters from him, from Etienne Wenger and Yrjo Engestrom. So one is the K-Tel compilation from Woolworths, while the latter is 'Now E-Learning'.
As it is still snowing I may have to download another book.
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Learning theories, e-learning practices and angles for research

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 25 Apr 2013, 12:09


What I have here are four learning theories identified by Helen Beetham (2005). Another book I have, the A-Z of learning theories has 150.

  • Associative
  • Social Cognitive
  • Constructive Cognitive
  • Situative

Despite the appearance of the above I am trying to keep it simple. I could do with a module on learning theories alone. Is there one?

Are they so much specific learning theories as groupings? And just how quickly do such groupings overlap when you consider specific e-learning courses?

In my experience of e-learning for corporates learning designers couldn't say what kind of theory they had adopted.

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E-Book Fail

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 25 Apr 2013, 15:00

I'm reading an eBook version of 'Contemporary perspectives in e-learning research' Conole and Oliver. It could have been the module reader for H809.

Every so often it's as if someone has come along with a digital eraser and rubbed a line out - or a paragraph or page.

Of course I can't tell. What is more the divital pixies have randaomlysprinkled the names of E-learning academics into the text; these I pressume are meant to be page headers for the author of the chapter. Will I get to the end and find that this was a deliberate ploy to make the read a bit of a struggle and so more likely to be rememberred?

'Contemporary Perspectives in E-earning' would be a handy title.

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Ways of looking at theories of learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 24 May 2013, 12:13





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H809: Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, Connectivism, Humanism and design based learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 20 Oct 2014, 11:23

Fig.1. The Contents of my brain

If I include 'Humanism' are congnitivism and constructivism subsets?

If I add 'Design Based Learning' as a learning theory is it a subset of 'constructivism'?

Fig. 2. Grabbed from Edudemic - A Simple Guide to Four Complex Learning Theories

Fig.1. draws on Fig.2 from the Edudemic website. It is school situated, so primary and secondary rather than tertiary and beyond into the workplace. Isn't 'connectivism' a process rather than a theory that links everything between the behaviourist, cognitivist and constructivist sets? On balance can we not help be get a 'blend' wherever we learn given that we are social beasts with brains.


Can something be simplified too far?


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New blog post

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 8 Apr 2013, 08:23


Fig. 1. scamp on learning theories

As a platform I loathe whiteboards. I should have stuck with a sheet of wallpaper backing and a set of pencils. The detail can be finer and a rubber does the job of erasing adequately. And you can colour it in afterwards.

More diagrams should be expressed as 'scamps' - a messy and incomplete expression of what you think ... 'so far'.

For me to put this into an APP like SimpleMinds or Grafio would give it a locked-down completed look. Clearly it is no.

Courtesy of an intellectually sharp 85 year old retired philosophy professor (father in law) and an intellectually deep and challenging Italian (brother-in-law) I'm going to see if this is going anywhere - how the sets overlap, or not, where the theories belong ... or not. We may get on to 'connectivism too'. I may come away with a bruised brain. I'll record this too if I remember as keeping notes is impossible and the rate at which the discussion moves could be visualised as starlings flocking over the West Pier, Brighton. It looks interesting and there is a pattern but unless you can freeze-frame you're never going to figure it out.



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H809: Activity 9.2 - 9.4. Unscrambling the presumptions of research in e-learning educational practice

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 20 Oct 2014, 08:07

Activity Theory (AT) according to various authors .... , supposes a quest to solve a problem, an 'activity theorist' looking at certain kinds of research, understanding activity system as being driven by outcomes, would therefore annotated the six nodes of the AT pyramid with this in mind.

Fig. 1. Activity Theory (Engestrom, 2008)

In contrast, considering the same subject of research, a sociologist would be inclined to look for power structures.

In turn how might a management consultant, or psychologist approach this? And in relation to H809 and the MAODE, how differently would someone educated in each of the following theories approach the same subject matter: behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectedness?

The suggestion that the theory behind a piece of research or OER from H809 TMA02 predisposes a specific research response is like having an undefined medical problem. In turn each specialist offers a view based on the narrow perspective of their specialism.

By way of example, with sinus/earache like symptoms from which I have always 'suffered' I in turn visit a neurologist, immunologist and dentist. I discover from each in turn that I must be depressed/stressed, have an allergic response to something, need a tooth filled/crowned. In turns out that I have a pronounced response to house dust mite and due to physical damage to a channel in one part of the maxillary sinus it doesn't drain so the slightest infection, a mild cold, will cause inflamation and pain. The response that works is primarily preventative with self-medication of prescription pain relief at a dosage that works - co-codomol and occassional antibiotics. (The above over a 33 year period of investigations that included several other excitable consultants who each in turn gleefully hoped that I might have a very rare condition X or Y that they would investigate).

Just as medical specialists are inclined to come at a situation with too narrow a perspective, so too can we when wishing to study, in a learning situation, what is going on ... in there (the brains of each student) and externally, the context and situation of the 'learning' that they are doing (or having done to them).


Conole, G., and Oliver, M. (eds.) (2008) Contemporary perspective in e-learning research. Themes, Methods and Impacts on Practice.

Engestrom, Y (2008) From Teams to Knots

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What is going on in there? This and the wonders of the brain and the universe ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Apr 2013, 13:35


When I think if learning, I think of the minuscule intricacies of the component parts of the brain and at the same time the immense vastness of the known universe.

As humans we are eager to understand everything. It seems appropriate to marry neuroscience with astrophysics, like brackets that enclose everything. From a learning point of view then ask as you look at a person or group of people, ‘what is going on?’ specifically, ‘what is going on in there? (the brains) and between them to foster insight, understanding, innovation and advancement.

The best interface for this, a confluence for it all, is the Internet and the connectedness of it all.

What has the impact of the Internet been and based on everything we currently know, where do we presume it is going?


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