OU blog

Personal Blogs

Design Museum

What next?

Visible to anyone in the world

Scriptwriting beckons - again. I wrote my first in 1984 called 'The French Test' about a young female French teacher on secondment to an all male school in the north east of England. There have been many others since: science fiction, history series ... and for a couple of years I had an agent. But a short film for Channel 4 and an option on a script was all that materialised.

The Jed Mecurio Master Class from the BBC has inspired me once again. Its a series of 28 videos of him talking - its hard to call it teaching or a class, more a podcast with a face. But there you go. For me teaching requires activity and interaction with the tutor, teaching team and fellow students - like the creative writing course from the Open University via FutureLearn which is brilliant.

That and about to turn 60 is an opportunity to reflect. I find myself asking the same question I asked when I was 13: what am I going to do when I grow up. I used to roll a set of dice and say 'if I get a double 6 I'll be an actor' - I believed it sometimes, just as when I said, 'Sally loves me if I get a double 6' - she didn't, and neither did I.

All this and 'Normal People' has me returning to multiple efforts to write about teen love, but also a story that has been festering for a very long time called 'The Girl in the Garden' in which a  runaway from a nearby Children's Home hides away in the extensive wooded grounds of a all male boarding school. Does she end up dead and buried in a garden that wins the 'gardening cup' that year? I still haven't decided. I rather think 'they' should meet again ... 

On verra

Stomping along with Lingvist and French > 125 hours learning over 4 years (or is that 5) my vocabulary up from 370 words to 4,800+ My pronunciation fluent, my written French improving. 

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Learning French with Lingvist

Visible to anyone in the world

Screenshot of Lingvist language learning dashboard.

Use it or lose it. I try to practice my French three or four times a week. Using Lingvist I can sustain an 80% score. However if I drop to learning once a week (or less) my come back is at first poor. One day a lot of self-paced learning will be like Lingvist. Could I do this through a smart speaker too? 

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

An Introduction to E-Learning

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 24 Mar 2020, 10:03

I started my first online degree here. It was one of the first of its kind, the Masters in Distance Learning from the Open University in 2001. A false start, with crude online resources, and my own career in tatters. I picked it up again in 2010. I completed my MA in Open and Distance Education in 2013. Started at that time this blog is fast approaching 5 million views.

I have since completed a further MA (albeit entirely face to face lecture and library based) and between FutureLearn, Coursera and OpenLearn a further 27 modules on one subject or another. I’m a mentor on Coursera’s ‘Learning How to Learn’. I recommend those that have tutor, mentor and student interaction. The human element, at least for me, is a vital component for completion. Not all worked, yet again I quit a course on French (a BA with the Open University). Speaking of which I totally recommend Lingvist as the go-to language learning App (I have tried and reviewed all of them). Also, perfect in a world of social distancing, Tandem, which fixes you up with someone like a dating App. (Not that I have any need for or experience of one of those).

Where student interaction is slight we’ve always started our online groups on LinkedIn. The group I set up 10 years ago for swimming teachers and coaches has 1,600 members and is still active. Most endure the length of the module.

Take a look at these online courses, join up with a buddy (you are more likely to complete). Most are free, though the best, and the business orientated ones may cost between £35 and £300. A degree module is now something like £2,000. 

30 hours a week I am supporting colleagues and students at Greater Brighton MET. Google Suite for Education is our go to platform. Google Meets are frequent with Google Chat live while I’m at my desk. Last night friends did a 8 or 9 person quiz on Zoom. I promise to wake up my contributions to ‘scenario-based learning’. 

I’m keen to get an art class going. I took a set of 360 degree photos in the lovely barn studio at Charleston a few months ago - with the model’s permission to post online. It was a life class so the nudity might result in the thing being barred. I may give this a go ... though any drawing from a flat surface my late mother, an art teacher, would have been against. 

Finally, on reflection, exactly 45 years ago I broke my leg badly skiing. A 13 year old between schools I ended up at home for the entire summer term to prevent me from putting weight on my leg. I was sent a box of books with instructions to read them. Without any other efforts at support at all I didn’t do a thing. Instead I got out my Dad’s Readers Digest book on Gardening and spent the next few weeks pulling myself around the garden on a tea tray. By the end of it I was air-propagating specimen rhododendrons.

Take care. Stay in touch 🙂 

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Learn more or die!

Visible to anyone in the world

Long ago I realised that my horizontal approach to learning was getting me nowhere. But that is ADHD me. Or just me.

One PhD would be better that three MAs.

Anway, at the opposite extreme, I am failing to gain my Level 1 Google Educator certificate. This reminds me of failing the paper exam for Level 1 Teaching Swimming 18 years ago. The first exam I had failed since my driving test. Give me a degree, course, an essay to write, even an A' level, or a paper for an MA, but don't test me with multiplechoice as my default mode will be to consider all possibilities feasbile!

I have also struggled with skiing, learning French, ballroom dancing, throwing a pot and climbing. My feet are still like lead when it comes to dancing, my hands are not better with clay (though I can draw a likeness and a nude). I cannot overcome the 12ft barrier with climbing - the top of a short ladder is as high as I want to get off the ground. The best part of two seasons working in the Alps and I finally cracked skiing to a standard that satisfies me. Skills take time with me, Like 100s of weeks. Amd after 40+ years of trying I am slowly mastering French (spoken at least), courtesy of regular dosages of LingVist (app) and twice a month meeting up with friends locally to spea in French at Rendez Vous a Lewes. 

So failing Google Certified Educator Level 1 sees me instead going for Google Certified Educator Level 2.

The reality for me is what I am not doing, needing and thinking about, I forget. My brain is more Teflon than Velcro. Chucking stuff at my senses does not work unless I am immersed in it, drowning in it, challenged by and suffering it. 

So wish me luck. Bored to tears by Google's own training I am looking for alternatives. What I really need is scheduled time 1 to 1 or in a class with a Google Certified Educator. There are not many of these in England. And it costs money that the institution I work for would need to pay.

On verra.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

LingVist for Langauge Learning

Visible to anyone in the world

A month of this and LingVist is the App for me.

The challenge is a simple one. To know over 5,000 words in French.

With the set up test I came out at 735. I am already at 1600 as a spend between 40 - 60 mins a day 'filling in the gap' in sentences. This is SpacedEd of 2010 to perfection. Early on a word I do not get is repeated more often until I get it. All words, though to a diminishing amount, are repeated. Over time words are learnt, in the context of a number of different sentences.

I am starting to see patterns too that my own thinking has constructed rather than things I have been told.

It works. Or at least I hope so.

I bias it towards the tougher challenge of writing the word - you can use voice recognition. My relative fluency in spoken French means that I'd get a lot more right. Often I can say the word, but cannot spell it. I want fluency in both spoken and written French.

There is more to it, than simply being forever tested on word knowledge in a compelling game-like user experience. There are challenges, and grammar as well, There are analytics so you can monitor to you progress and the easy pleasure of achieving 20 new words learnt per day.

I have gotten tired of Tandem. Here you are meant to use the power of social to team up with someone who is native in the language you want to learnt. We are supposed to help each other. Though I have had a few pleasant and valuable experiences I have found that no one has lasted. I have also found a number of people whose English is so bad to be unintelligible so there is nothing I can do to correct it.

Busuu is more like Rosetta Stone. There are too many choices around themes to study and it is all far too simplistic - tourist French.,

The pattern used by these platforms would work for all kinds of things though where a new 'language' has to be learnt, from medicine to stage work, carpentry to engineering.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post
Design Museum

Testing Language Software

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 30 Aug 2018, 04:40

A collection of Language Learning App logos













On a whim, and as homework before our French group which meets once every two weeks, I decided to try out several popular language learning Apps. I've used Rosetta Stone on and off for years. I tried:







It was revealing how many have leapfrogged Rosetta stone and offer a smarter and sometimes social platform.

Lingvist and Babbel did a tough test to establish my level of understanding. There is nothing more important than understanding how much a student already knows before you start to teach them. Both were effective in differentiating me from my wife. My wife was taught in a French speaking school in Montreal age 13 and a decade later learnt French at the British Institute in France. My French learning never got beyond a C grade at O' Level and a failed attempt to do an Open University degree (which taught French at an unbelievably basic level, but which I found tedious).

Lingvist and Babbel used different measures. Lingvist produced a guestimate at the number of words we each knew of the 5,000+ it was teaching. I got a 753, my wife 3,200. Babbel produced a similar differentiating. Like Rosetta Stone these Apps repeat phrases that you must then in part correct or add to. I liked that there is equal requirement to use the written word as this is where I am weakest. It is handy that my iPad has predictive text in French. 

Tandem hooks you up with someone who wants to learn the languages you know and can teach. It works like a dating App, but is adamant that it is not. I had 30 mins talking to someone in Marseilles and about 5 minutes talking to someone in Rouen. Both proved successful as we could correct each other's written words. 

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

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

Total visits to this blog: 12179479