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Evangelical about FutureLearn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 10:40

I've done enough of the FutureLearn MOOCs to be certain of one thing: those produced by The OU are incredible. Somehow, not surprising really, they know how to put on a show. Just the right amount of content, the right number and type of activities, the right amount of moderation and support.

Over the last few years I've see a quest for a format that can be a panacea for challenges to learning. Setting aside the obvious need for a person to have the kit, the line and therefore the budget to use online learning ... and probably a space, or context where they can do so undisturbed for regular parts of the day, there have been various efforts over the last decade to make 'social learning' or 'connected and collaborative' learning work.

FutureLearn is now achieving this. 

I've done, or tried to do some FutureLearn MOOCs that are either make false promises and are rather hollow in content, failing to exploit the value of the platform, and others that are so intense that I feel you need to be a postgraduate with a niche interest. In both these cases I could simply say that very different target audiences were addressed: school leavers and those applying to university in some instances, those seeking to go on to PhD research at the other. In which case, no wonder I struggle to relate to either one. 

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Perhaps I'll return each year to repeat this module. World War 1: Trauma and Memory

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 10:42

The pleasures of the FutureLearn MOOC: World War 1 Trauma and Memory

Should I return, each time I'll be happier to stand back and let others find their way. I will have read more, seen more, thought more and written more. If I can help nudge others towards finding their own 'truth' I will have done something useful.

Inevitably over the next five years many of us will become imbued with a unique sensibility on the subject. I think my perceptions shift on walks, or in the middle of the night.

TV is a mixed bag, and I'm reluctant to recommend much of it, however I am currently watching ad watching again the brilliantly smart, moving, visualised, engaging 'War of Word' Soldier Poets of the Somme which is far broader than the title may suggest - this goes well beyond the obvious to paint a vivid sense of how impressions of violent conflict alter and sicken.

Several of these poets are now forgotten, but celebrated here, as we come to understand how they transitioned from glorification and patriotism on joining up to the ghastly reality. War of Words: Soldier-Poets of the Somme must have been shown on BBC2 in the last week or so - available for a month I think. Very worth while. Expertly done. A variety of approaches. Never dull. Often surprising and some stunning sequences of animations to support readings of short extracts from the poems. And it even tells the story of British Military advances during the period running up to, through and after the Battle of the Somme. 

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Forever gobsmacked by the quality and speed of research using the OU Library

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Nov 2014, 10:48
From First World War

From time to time I am faced with finding the most obscure of articles.

I came across something about the Ambulance Service using motorbikes during the First World War. I then saw a photograph of a motorbike with a sidecar with a set of platforms that would carry two stretchers. The arguments for the use of a motorcycle are made: lighter, quicker, tighter turning circle, use less fuel ...

A article is cited. The British Medical Journal, January 1915. A few minutes later via the Open University Online Library I locate and download the article.

It is the speed at which quality research can be fulfilled that thrills me. This article is satisfying in its own right, but glancing at the dozen or more articles on medical practices and lessons from the Front Line are remarkable. We are constantly saved from the detail of that conflict, the stories and issues regurgitated and revisited as historians read what previous historians said without going back to the original source.

This is how a new generation can come up with a fresh perspective on the First World War - instead of a handful of specialist academics burrowing in the paper archives now thousands, even tens of thousands can drill right down to the most pertinent, untampered with content. 

From First World War

Amazed. 

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Each November: grieving the dead and our unchanged world

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 17 Nov 2014, 08:22
From First World War

Fig.1 Grieving the dead and our unchanged world a century on - despair at the unending violence

We are still grieving, we grandchildren and great-children. The world notices this.

What is this loss that the British and Commonwealth countries of the former British Empire feel so tangibly and personally? I see a different commemoration in France. I wonder how the First World War is remembered in Serbia? And Russia? And the US?

Ours was a pyrrhic victory in 1919. And the job wasn't finished. How else could there have been a second world war after the first?

Britain ceased to be the pre-eminent world power it had come to be and has been leaking influence in fits and starts ever since.

Cameron to Putin is not Churchill to Stalin, which is why this country needs Europe - better united than alone.

And how does this play out in grief and art then, since and now? The distribution of wealth began - a bit. Domestic service as a career or layer of society very quickly washed away - people didn't want to do it while the landed gentry were feeling increasingly vulnerable and broke. When we grieve every November do we grieve for a golden age, as well as for those whose life chances were destroyed?

Listening to Metallica 'One' inspired by the anti-war movie 'Johnny Get Your Gun' transcends 90+ years of this sickening grief we feel concerning the First World War 

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War breeds hate; hate festers and breeds war.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 17 Nov 2014, 08:18

Fig.1 At the war memorial to the Machine Gun Corps on Hyde Park Corner, 1991. I'm with my late grandfather - dark suit and beige shoes, fourth in from the right. That's me on the far left of the line in the glasses holding the standard. (Volunteered about five minutes previously) Marking the 75th Anniversary of the formation of the MCG in 1916.

I've just completed fascinating couple of weeks, often gruelling on The OU's World War 1: Trauma and Memory on the FutureLearn MOOC platform.

My love for The OU is restored. Everyone should pick a course from FutureLearn to understand where learning is being taken. You cannot go wrong with an OU lead and designed one of these - some of the others are re-versioned books, leaflets, extra curricular workshops and lecture series, not embracing the affordances of the platform at all.

An eye opener for anyone studying learning - go over there anyone studying education.

At the end of each week, which officially run for the five working days of the week, we are invited to reflect on the lessons learnt. A very significant part of this are the 'massive' conversations that follow each 'activity'. 

A week of looking at and contemplating the dead from violent conflict I conclude that 'war breeds hate; hate festers and breeds war.' Unless the population is wiped out, or dived between the conquerors. Or unless the conquerors stay put - the Normans eventually subjugated England and Scotland and 1000 years on some of them still rule and own the land.

Responses to hatred are diametrically opposed: forgiveness and peace, blame and violent conflict. Has humankind moved on that far from the tribalism of one or two millennia ago?  If young men, the typical combat soldier truly understood what could happen to them would they still go? It applies to every kind of risk, and testosterone fuelled it is more of a male thing? This willingness to take outrageous risks believing that it 'won't happen to them'. And of course, commemorating 'our glorious dead' and 'returning heroes' risks celebrating war rather than being a period of reflection and commemoration. A veteran of WW1 my grandfather never used the term 'heroic'. Do young people joining up think that if nothing else, wounded, or dead in a coffin, they will at least come back 'a hero' - making it OK? And yet, however frightful, violent conflict remains a way that peoples, people, cultures attempt to resolve their differences.

It'll continue until the world's resources and 'life chances' - are fairly distributed. I feel the awakening of a burgeoning political sensibility that may wobble towards republicanism and socialism. 

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What are MOOCs doing for learning?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 17 Nov 2014, 08:24

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are new and FutureLearn, a wholly owned subsidiary of The OU is itself adapting as traditional institutions embrace e-learning, respond to feedback and results and improve.

MOOCs will be new for a decade.

E-learning like this is not a lecture series online, TV online, a book online, quiz or a tutorial online. Whilst this is invariably the starting place for 'ground based' educators, the academics working with instructional designers, not in isolation, need increasingly to begin with a blank sheet rather than looking at the physical assets of academics, books, lectures and papers around them.

What we are witnessing today is that transition from the Wright Brothers to the World War One fighter planes. We are seeing hints of the jets to come. We are a long way from drones. I use the analogy having just completed a wonderful three-week MOOC 'World War 1: Aviation Comes of Age'.

Innovations go through recognisable phases.

E-learning in the forms of MOOCs is still at the stage of 'early adoption' - rest-assured they will become commonplace, though surely with a different name. MOOCs can be a hybrid during a transitional phase so long as this is seen as the first step in many away from traditional approaches, embracing what works online.

Academics need to come out of their cupboard, come away of their studies and welcome into their midst those of us seeking to understand and to integrate the processes involved - that combination of learning and e-learning: how and why we learn and how then scale (massiveness), interactivity (digital) and connectivity (openness) changes things. In time, when the academics themselves have reached their status of 'doctor' and 'professor' through e-learning, when we can call all them 'digital scholars' rather than simply 'scholars', then we'll be able to look down from the clouds and smile at how much things have changed.

Think evolution not revolution.

Think how long it will take to see out the current generation of academics - thirty to fifty years?

Ultimately MOOCs are about a combination of sequential activities and 'interactivities', collaboration and connection.

Gilly Salmon coined the term 'e-tivities': sadly not in common usage, it nonetheless captures beautifully what is required for students to learn online - doing stuff, alone, with other students and with the academics.

Collaboration is a long held view of a kind of learning in 'communities of practice' most associated with the academics Lave and Wenger: how working together is a more effective for of constructed learning.

While 'connectivity', often associated with the academic George Siemens, is the new kid on the 'learning theories' block. Connectedness as a way of learning is dependent on a few things: the affordances of the platform to permit this with ease: if you have the opportunity compare current student messaging and blogging platforms at your institution with those at FutureLearn which has stripped back the unnecessary and concentrated on this 'connectivity'; the number and mix of participants: massive helps as a small percentage of a group will be the front runners and conversationalists with others benefiting from listening in, out of choice not pressure and the 'quality' of the participants in that they need to have both basic 'digital literacy' skills and reliable access based on their kit and connection.

Embrace the pace of change

A lean and smart organisation will tumble over itself, re-inventing and experimenting with ways things are done until clear methodologies present themselves for specific types of learning experience: 'head work' is different to' handiwork' - academic study is different from applied practice. Subjects freed from books and formal lectures, like the genii released from the bottle will, in the cloud, form into shapes that are most suited to their learners and what is being taught: blended and 'traditional' learning most certainly have their place.

Academic snobbery is a barrier to e-learning

John Seely Brown, working out of the Palo Alto Research Centre, famous for coming up with the WYSIWYG interface between us and computers and a 'learning guru' is passionate about the idea of 'learning from the periphery' - this is how and when someone new to a subject, or team, hangs around at the edges, learning and absorbing what is going on at the heart. The wonder of open learning is the participation of equally brilliant and curious minds, some who know a good deal on a subject while others are just starting out, eager to listen, willing to ask questions that may be naïve but are usually insightful; in the two-way exchange both the die-hard academic and the newbie change for the better. Learning feeds of this new fluidity.

It is evidence of the 'democratisation' of learning.

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Charting Progress to 'Write a Novel in a Month'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:26
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Write a novel in a month

Not blogging, not on Facebook, but first thing I write, or plan writing. Then get down anything between 500 and 3000 words. 500 words can be a better day, these are good words.

As an OU student we are guided through our learning on our Student Homepage. These are like railway tracks, or climbing down a ladder. Whilst you can tick off your progress, it is not being measured.  I wonder if a tool such as the above would be handy for preparing a lengthy assignment, say from 4000 words up? Something that you need to build up over a few weeks?

It is 'Start Writing Fiction', an OU FutureLearn MOOC that sees me using 'Write a novel in a month' to complement the course. This makes the MOOC more closely applied to the current task (amongst several). Of all the FutureLearn MOOCs I have done, this, I am sure, must bring students to The OU to do the degree course in 'Creative Writing'. It has weight, there is gravitas and a clear expertise in distance and online learning that is lacking in many others. 

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There's a word for everything

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:28
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Adventures in describing teeth types

'Start Writing Fiction' on FutureLearn courtesy of The OU is brilliant: I have no doubt thousands will sign up for a BA. Meanwhile I've taken the hint about the value of 'peripheral detail' to offer in a line what no paragraphs of description can do.

Several hours ago I had in mind a person as a character and began to describe their face. It all came down to their teeth. This is drawing on a teenage crush of mine and I find images and drawings to back up my idea then plunge through some weighty papers, not least, courtesy of The OU Library, a research paper on the incidence of something called 'dental agenesis' or 'retention of baby teeth' (which might be just one or two), to 'oligontontia' which means the rare retention of many baby teeth (0.14%) due probably to inheritance, reduction in the size and form of teeth, or reduction in the size and shape of the 'alveolar process' (the thickness of the bon retaining the teeth). 

This will do for me, though coming away with one word, 'retruded' which may describe the teeth, but still fails to capture what I want to say. Teeth are either smaller, retained baby teeth, or because of the retrusion they appear smaller. Kirsten Dunst shows a touch of this prior to orthodentic treatment. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2 Post orthodentics for retruded teeth

Orthodentists prefer to adjust the way baby teeth appear in an adult mouth rather than removing them. It depends on how many there are. One is not rare (36%).

The look on the person is of a smaller jaw, the teeth like a row of pegs, the smile of a 9 year old ... though, as I have found, you wouldn't know it.

It is genetic, clusters have be found in Sweden. It can be caused by trauma and illness in childhood.

I am left wondering why one character is studying the mouth of another which such precision. 

REFERENCE

Polder B J, van’t H of M A, Van der Linden F P, Kuijpers-Jagtman A M. A meta analysis of the prevalence of dental agenesis of permanent teeth. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 2004; 32: 217–226.

 

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Turn on the radio and take note of the first thing that is mentioned

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:31
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Week 2, 'Start Writing Fiction' with The OU on FutureLearn

As exercises in 'getting the writing juices going' for an OU FutureLearn MOOC on 'Start Writing Fiction' I felt that this exercise was immediately doomed to fail. I'd put on the radio and have a familar presenter, talking about familar topic in a familiar way and feel about as inspired as realising that I've always used white Abdrex toilet paper. It didn't work out that way at all.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 2. Alex Salmond coming up Lewes High Street - Putin was coming the over way on a tank

On an iPad I went to BBC iPlayer which was fatal; I'd followed national news on our local town exploding effigies as part of our celebrations of 5th November (Lewes) and listened to Alex Salmond making gross false assumptions on the people of this town who he erroneously cobbled in with all of East Sussex, not even that, but that percentage of the population and subsequent councillors who are Conservatives forgetting as he always does that in any population there is a spread of views - anyway, this just makes me feel that they have his character spot in so this Spitting Image caricature deserves the infamy. I then watched Film 2014 on the latest movie releases before finally clicking to the radio and realising what a cheat this was because I could select the programme.

FiveLive Extra caught my eye, because I never listen to it, but there is a lot of talking. So I opened that, only to curse because sports news has just started and that bores me even more than politics but I decided I had to trust The OU tutors and go along with this exercise anyway : that was nearly 90 minutes ago. A player in ... was it tennis or rugby or football, does it matter? The player was described as 'menacing'.  At first I couldn't see how a current or new character would ever be 'menacing' so I tried the antonym: 'remote', 'unthreatening' - which describes one of my lead characters perfectly.

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. Wonderous word tools - thesaurus.com

What would make him 'menacing' though?

This cracked open his mind and early life experiences like magic and I have been tapping away on my iPad ever since as if my left hand is doing an impersonation of Michael Flately across the glassy QWERTY keyboard. Is that someone who has been a Lewes Bonfire Society effigy? 

P.S. If the radio is on, then turn it off and count to TEN, or switch to another channel. Then jot down the first thing that is said. I'm running with the results for the rest of the evening so its achieved beautifully at what it aimed to do.

A really magic course, so yes, if I hadn't so much other OU baggage I'd be signing up to the creative writing BA programme. One for the wish list if I can ever save up enough. 

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Who gets my things after I've taken my life?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:06
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction

As a Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education I will give all kinds of things a go. I've done a few FutureLearn MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). This eight week course on writing fiction from the OU looks like being one of the biggest; the OU pedigree also shows - the thinking and 'broadcast quality' of the video pieces shows compared to material put up by some universities.

Activities, activities, activities I remember someone saying from the OU when it came to designing learning online. This course is a little bit of telling, a bit of doing, that a lot of sharing. You can be thinking up a comment and before you post there can be five or six posts 'land' ahead of you. There are 1000+ responses to a thread. To some this is daunting. To those not used to these environments it may be off-putting. When you get used to it its fine, like going to a huge nightclub in London that's on several floors rather than a mate's part in their front lounge.

In this exercise we watched a clip of a dozen folk going about the daily business; all had feature in the opening piece about writing, so most are 'at it' pen on paper, into the laptop or onto an iPad. We are invited to take a person or moment and invent a story from it. I had never consciously done this before and was delighted with the effect, not trying to figure out what people really are doing, but rather inventing something for them.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 2. From an activity in 'Start Writing Fiction' from FutureLearn

I have a young woman innocently keeping a 'writer's journal' who I decide is writing suicide notes to five or six people; she puts a key from the bunch in each envelope, posts off the letters then kills herself. A bit morbid. I suppose I should now figure out why, and reveal what is behind each key.

Go see.

FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction

See also how a shared, threaded forum such as this can be used to create a vibrant asynchronous conversation with several hundred, even thousands of people. Several things FutureLearn do which would work well here: word count limited to 1200 characters, 16 minutes timed out having posted to edit - then its done. A 'like' button and an easy way to keep abreast of comments left in a discussion you have started or joined without having to try to find it.

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Deaf in one ear with an ear infection

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:18
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Perforated Eardrum - before and after surgery

This has lasted a week. It's barely been bad enough to send me to my bed, but the drops and painkillers have knocked me out while the ear-thing has sent me all lopsided. I appreciate entirely that there are people with and who have significant and lasting disabilities here, so I don't mean to diminish by any means what they go through or need to overcome, it has simply made me realise all kinds of things that never struck me while doing the MAODE module on accessibility.

We're aware of those suits people can wear to get a feel for what it is like to be heavily pregnant - who do they use it on? Teeangers?  Is there value though in the able-bodied getting some sense of what it is like to have an impairment by, for example, blocking their ears for a number of hours, wearing a blindfold and restricting their day to a wheelchair, even typing while wearing gloves. In swimming we get swimmers to try swimming with their fists closed in order for them to appreciate the importance of the correctly shaped hand.

Everything, particularly to do with sound, is different.

If someone calls my name I struggle to know where they are - upstairs, downstairs or behind the door. When I shave it sounds as if I have my ear pressed against the wooden floor while it is attacked with a rotary sander. I feel unbalanced, and totter a bit when getting up and have tripped too as if I can't quite place my left leg. 

I did the idiot thing of putting the phone to the 'wrong ear' and wondered why the person had stopped talking. If I sleep on my right side the silence would be pleasing except for the constant 'sandy' electronic interference like sound in my left ear.

When you have a problem to solve it helps to do something completely different, either to take a break, or bring someone in who has nothing to do with a project. This blocked ear thing is temporarily skewing or tipping so much, as if one end of the shelf has collapsed and all the books have fallen off.

Trusting it won't last because for now if at any time it looks as if I am my sunny self it's something I'm putting on. The ear will be syringed on Tuesday. It could well be perforated in which case I ought not be using ear-drops. if it is perforated then there needs to be surgery. I suspect that it is and I remember how. I pushed a piece of cold, stiff silcone into my ear and then wore headphones over these when trying to block out the sound of a fire alarm in a B&B, not because there was a fire, but because the alert to say the battery was flat was ringing every two minutes all night long.

CONCLUSION

It was earwax. A jet of warm water into my ear and it was gone. Like three wet cornflakes squashed together. How did they det in there?

 

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What Maka Paka knows about learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:09
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Maka Paka on the prowl for someone's face to wash ... and random stones to stack, count and give away.

I adore In the Night Garden in my fifties, the way I loved The Magic Roundabout when I was six. I've worked for Ragdoll, met Pob, been to the Teletubbies set and follow the work and thinking of Andrew Davenport who recreates the world of the child as it learns to talk quite brilliantly.

Recently I was for the umpteenth time talking about the importance of understand how and why we forget before you try and get anyone, including yourself, to remember a thing, Watching Maka Paka (above) learning to count is a fabulous example of repetition, discovery and repeat. 

Now, if I had "In the Night Garden' I could learn babytalk in several languages; I don't suppose its very different.

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Proud and happy to call myself a 'Master of Arts'

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:13
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Mr Kung Fu - was he the master or the pupil?

When I completed enough modules early last year to graduate as a 'Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education' I felt like a fraud; I'd scraped through, more importantly I didn't feel I was 'fluent' enough in the subject. One module, H817 had been replaced and had felt a little dated at the time. This is why I've ended up doing a couple more MA modules from the MAODE - I have only one missing from the full set (H817 Open) which I may do in due course. I could even put it towards an M.Ed (Masters degree in Education) for which I also need the compulsory 60 point module Educational Enquiry which next registers a year from now. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2 The forgetting curve

Confidence to call myself a 'Master' and belief by others that I know my subject led me to being asked to join the Open University advisory panel on the MAODE and in the same week to join the board of advisors for a national educational body that recently met. Now I feel I have enough of 'the knowledge' at my fingertips. I prepared for this first meeting my searching through this blog: it shouldn't surprise me to know how much I'd forgotten, studying why and how we forget is very much a part of education - it is summed up in the Forgetting Curve (fig.2) that Hermann Ebbinghaus thought up over a hundred years ago. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. SatNav (not me)

It intrigues me that no gadget we own can circumvent this: that in fact, take a SatNav for example, let's assume that it takes you on a journey in the correct direction. Let's say you keep using the SatNav regardless. You could probably turn it off after two or three of these trips as your brain lays down the landmarks in your longterm memory. Thinking of which, I think the SatNav makes an excellent model for e-learning; just image you need to learn 120 absolute facts as a junior doctor - you could have your SatNav 'peg' the facts to specific points of a familiar journey. When you sit the exam it's then as easy as driving this route in your mind's eye visualisation everyone of the facts along the way.

I wander, cloud like.

I'm writing up my notes from this national advisory panel and over the next four years can hopefully nod at the courses that appear on which I've had some influence. Still not there yet, but I'm one heck of a long way further on since February 2010 when I re-booted this malarkey.

The answer has to be a P.hD. And I guess the only place to do that would be with the Open University. I went off the boil on that one a year ago, though I did secure a couple of interviews but came away suitably crushed.

It will have taken by then, at least ten years, more like 12 or 13, to call myself a 'Digital Scholar'.

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Timeline tool in 2D and 3D

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:28
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Kent & Medway's Timeline of the Great War

Made with Tiki-toki

And someone's wonderful creation

FAQs

 

 

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The value to you of keeping a diary or learning journal

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:32
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. March 1975 ....

I kept a diary for twenty years: age 13 1/2 to my forties ... with a few months off from decade to decade. It is self-indulgent navel gazing to look back at its contents which I do extremely rarely. An indulgent scrapbook thing covering a teen exchange to France is fun; did a Mars Bar really once cost 3p !! And a photo journal of a five month gap year job working my arse off in a hotel in France too. And have a vibrant record of children from birth to walking and talking too. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. A reading list from 1978

It always amazes me should I stumble upon an old school text book or any of the above as my mind is instantly taken back and I am flooded with boyish ideas.

This blog is something else.

This is a Learning Journal and Portfolio and I've kept it since February 2010. Just about all a module's activities go in here (40% hidden). I know where to find stuff because I've tagged it all. Needing to assess how far I have come, and what themes I can see, what I know and can apply from the seven MAODE modules I have completed - five completed the MAODE, the following two could go towards a M.Ed or MSc.

It is fulfilling in itself as an aide memoire to be reminded of how much I have covered, what therefore I should know, how I learn this and in the context of the changing technology how rapidly things are moving. Learning is evolving fast and in due course we'll look back at what has happened and compare it to how we no buy books online, how we book holidays online, and how we communicate with each other. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. The wonders of FutureLearn

At the minute e-learning is like a firework that has just exploded; we are watching it in awe. At some moment a thousand fireballs will light up the clouds and we'll take in the whole picture and conclude that things have changed forever.

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Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:23
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

How do you compare and mark a variety of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)?

We need to treat them like one of those challenges they do on Top Gear, where Jeremy Clarkson - ‎Richard Hammond - ‎James May set off to Lapland in a Reliant Robin or some such and then get marks across six or so criteria. Hardly scientific, but it splits the pack.

So, let's say we take THREE MOOCs, what criteria should there be? 

  • Commitment. What percentage of participants signing up complete the course?
  • Comments. I use the word 'vibrancy' to judge the amount and nature of activity in the MOOC, so this is crudely reduced to the number of comments left. 
  • Likes. Another form of vibrancy where comments left by the team and by participants are 'liked'. It has to be a measure of participation, engagement and even enjoyment
  • Correct answers. Assuming, without any means to verify this, that participants don't cheat, when tested are they getting the answers right. This is tricky as there ought to be a before and after test. Tricky to as how one is tested should relate directly to how one is taught. However, few MOOCs if any are designed as rote learning. 

You could still end up, potentially, comparing a leaflet with an Encyclopaedia. Or as the Senior Tutor on something I have been on, a rhinoceros with a giraffe.

It helps to know your audience and play to a niche.

It helps to concentrate on the quality of content too, rather than more obviously pushing your faculty and university. Enthusiasm, desire to impart and share knowledge, wit, intelligence ... And followers with many points of view, ideally from around the globe I've found as this will 'keep the kettle bowling'. There is never a quiet moment, is there?

I did badly on a quiz in a FutureLearn Free Online Course (FOC). World War 1. Paris 1919. A new world order ... 

I think I got half right. I chose not to cheat, not to go back or to do a Google search; what's the point in that. I haven't taken notes. I wanted to get a handle on how much is going in ... or not. Actually, in this context, the quiz isn't surely a test of what has been learnt, but a bit of fun. Learning facts and dates is, or used to be, what you did in formal education at 15 or 16. This course is about issues and ideas. A 'test' therefore, would be to respond to an essay title. And the only way to grade that, which I've seen successfully achieved in MOOCs, is for us lot to mark each others' work. Just thinking out loud. In this instance the course team, understandably could not, nor did they try, to respond to some 7,000 comments. They could never read, assess, grade and give feedback to a thousand 4,000 word essays. Unless, as I have experienced, you pay a fee. I did a MOOC with Oxford Brookes and paid a fee, achieved a distinction and have a certificate on 'First Steps in Teaching in Higher Education'.

As facts are like pins that secure larger chunks of knowledge I ought to study such a FutureLearn FOC with a notepad; just a few notes on salient facts would help so that's what I'll do next week and see how I get on. Not slavishly. I'll use a pack of old envelopes or some such smile For facts to stick, rather than ideas to develop, the platform would have needed to have had a lot of repetition built into it. Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup.

Armed with an entire module on research techniques for studying e-learning - H809: Practice-based research in educational technology - I ought to be able to go about this in a more academic, and less flippant fashion. 

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What's in a word?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:35
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. What is a tutorial?

In my decade+ using these platforms (I first attempted a module of the Open & Distance Learning MA in 2000/2001)we've gone from 'computer-based learning' and 'web-based learning' to 'online learning' and 'e-learning' or 'eLearning'. 'MOOC' (Massive Open Online Course' is a dreadful term so 'Free Online Course' must surely be better?

It'll pan out over the years.

I have come to like 'hang-outs' (a term coined by Google) as an informal online gathering. A lecture online, is by default something akin to a 'TED lecture' surely? Webinars are a reasonable catch-all and perhaps what becomes of an OU Live moderated sessions?

Regarding tutorials, though traditionally small groups, a tutor and one or two, maybe three students for an hour - it is these asynchronous conversations that match this where the role of 'tutor' is taken by the educators, but also by well-informed contributors - this can happen here. The learning effect is, I would say the same, or very similar. You offer thoughts, these are challenged, or people agree and add or amend them and in this way you 'construct' meaning. Constructivism is one of the older 'learning theories', whereas 'connectivism' is very much a product of learning like this. 

These is called a blog platform, yet it has affordance of what used to be called a 'Bulletin Board' (I did one of these with the OU in 2001. Think text messages strung together in a kind of Excel spreadsheet). A blog, for my money, has a modicum of independence of design, tools and sharing. Go see WordPress. I wouldn't change much here though. I cherish the new things I learn from people on totally different courses, the company and support that I know is here too.

 

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Language learning with augmented reality

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:38
From E-Learning V

Ce que je voudrais utiliser est la ‘réalité augmentée’. Soit à l'aide de quelque chose comme ‘Google Glass,’ le mot pour quelque chose en français pourrait se superposer automatiquement sur tout ce qu'on regard.

From E-Learning V
From H818 EMA

Ou, quelque chose qu'on peut faire aujourd'hui serait de mettre un QR Code sur les objets autour de la maison et quand on prend un « téléphone intelligent » comme un iPhone, on verrait le mot en français devant le QR code.

From E-Learning V

Mais, pour l'instant on pourrait utiliser quelque chose comme Rosetta Stone. On est se montré des objets quotidiens et il faut qu'on les nomme jusqu'à ce qu'on peut la faire correctement toujours. Cool smile

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Why some online learning works better than others

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 17 Oct 2014, 14:43
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 This is what a reading list looks like - too much of a good thing makes it a bad thing

I 'do' e-learning for two reasons:

  • love of a subject, or a desire to fill holes or build mountains in my knowledge
  • fascination in e-learning: what works and what does not.

FutureLearn is a magic platform

I love it's simplicity, clarity and intuitiveness. In the right hands it's the perfect cup of coffee. (and once a day takes about as long to consume)

Classy copy

The considered, edited and crafted content doesn't dick about: it is a brief talk, or walk and talk BBC documentary style opening (video), followed by a a dozen paragraphs of a succinct piece of required reading that is then opened to the 'floor'.

'Connectedness' is enabled

The threaded discussion looks more like this bulletin-board cum blog cum student forum. Perhaps, as this has developed over the last decade, is where the idea came from? As a bulletin-board each time you comment your thoughts are placed on the top of the pile: someone has to read it when they log in, or at least there's a  greater chance of that.

This connectedness is facilitated and encouraged further by alerts you get as others comment in a thread you've contributed to or started. 

Your contributions are sorted for you and so build, without you needing to do so yourself, into a threaded line of thought - you can see how you are learning, how your knowledge improves and your ideas develop.

There are parameters

There is a word count for each posting. 1200 characters I think and a time frame during which you can edit (15 minutes). 

There is a modicum of overload

We, as students, are the masters of the time we have, or want to give to a thing. We are also the ones who know and control the pace. It is too simple to say that some people read faster than others, so can consume more. We approach text in very different ways. What is crucial and done in the FutureLearn module I'm doing on the 1919 First World War Paris Treaty is the amount of reading offered. It is more than enough, but not overwhelming. It takes itself and its students seriously by saying that 'we think you can read all of this and contribute to the discussions in the time allocated - five hours a week'.

Module teams get it wrong when content is sparse or when they overload the student with that laziest of get-outs 'the reading list'. Getting it right requires effort, confidence in the subject you are teaching and a belief and understanding of the way people learn and the platforms and tools now available and how their evolving use impacts on learning. I'm doing a couple of FutureLearn modules: 'Writing Applications' at two hours a week, compares to World War 1: Paris 1919 at five hours a week. The contrast couldn't be greater. 

It's like the first offers you a small cup of coffee: no refills. Instant. You get it with milk whether you like it or not. While the second gives you a rich cup of coffee and, if you want them, a couple of refills. No more. There are parameters. 

FutureLearn keeps it simple

What matters are the words people type. There are none of the mess of unnecessary buttons provided here. Honestly. Keep it simple OU. They just muddle things massively. Where used they invariably take away from the ability to communicate. It is enough of a challenge to type on a QWERTY keyboard. Plain text does the job. In the hands of the amateur (all of us), being able to add colour, change font size and a whole lot more serves no useful purpose. 

Content is self-moderated by the group

A simple alert button allows you to flag something to let moderators know that something inappropriate is going on: hateful language, foul language, 'drunken' rants ... 

Go see

'There's something for everyone'.

 

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Popplets

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:40
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. My stab at a popplet.

I added some orange hair. Themed for the 5th of November as this is how I look on the streets of Lewes at this time of year. 

As kids we had a word that sounds very like this ... 'plopplets'. We had a variety of words for poo. 

With thanks to Veronique Masse Du Bois who is using Popplets as part of H818. By sharing and me picking up on it she's achieved some outcome for H818: The Networked Practitioner if I recall having it done this module of the MA ODE last year. 

A sucker for trying out anything new and visual I have downloaded Popplets onto an iPad and will now proceed to mangle the French language, at least the grammar I've supposedly learnt these last two weeks. And illustrate it too. 

Other cool idea organisation Apps I've used:

 

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My thoughts on a FutureLearn MOOC on the Treaty of Versailles that tried to conclude the First World War

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 09:24
From E-Learning V

 Fig.1. World War One: Paris 1991. A New World ...

The content here, how produced, presented and managed by FutureLearn is the perfect catalyst for a diversity of contributors. As interested in the strengths and weaknesses of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) as a platform, this from FutureLearn is showing the value of many connected minds coming together and feeding of each other. It strikes me that as people group around a line of thought, with the educators and contributors, the kernel of a tutorial forms: ideas are offered, shared, adjusted, politely corrected, fed, developed and consolidated.

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. The clean design style of Dorling-Kindersley

It intrigues me to understand what the formula for success is here: the simplicity and intuitive nature of the FutureLearn platform; a clarity that in multi-media terms reminds me of those Dorling-Kindersley books; the quality of the ideas professionally, creatively and unpretentiously presented ... and a topic that has caught the Zeitgeist of the centenary commemorations of the First World War and its consequences rather than the chronology of the battles and the minutiae of military tactics.

For someone who has studied seven of the eight or nine Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) modules my continued interest in e-learning is diverse; it includes however not the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) per se, but rather ways to escape the technology in order to recreate or enable the qualities that come from the 'Oxbridge Tutorial'.

From Drop Box

Fig.3. An Oxbridge Tutorial (1960s)

I am specific here because these tutorials are not seminars, webinars or lectures, an 'Oxbridge Tutorial' is typically either one-to-one, the 'great mind', the 'subject matter expert' and his or her student or 'acolyte' or one to two or three. The standard pattern of these is for the students deliver a short essay, around 2000 words, on a single topic from a reading list. In theory all the participants write an essay but only one reads his or her essay out that everyone then discusses. The tutorial lasts an hour. You have one a week ... per topic. Some tutors, the natural and committed educators extend these tutorials into informal settings, picking up the conversation at meals and in other settings.

From E-Learning V

Fig.4. Learning from others: an exchange of ideas

You cannot simply transpose this kind of 'tutorial' to the Internet in the commercial sense as the educator hasn't the time to give, repeatedly, an hour of time to just one, or two or three students. This is not the model that can support the educational desires of the 5 million in the world who crave a university place. Certainly, these students need peace, a roof over their heads, food and political stability and of course the infrastructure and means to own and operate a device that can get them online ... a tall enough order, but smart phones could be as cheap as £10 within ten years ... but then, it will be through the kind of connectedness between students, moderated and catalysed by the experts that this 'tutor-like' learning experience can be created.

I see it in this MOOC. I have seen it with a variety of activities in OU modules. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.5. My takes on 'Connectivism' as a burgeoning theory of learning 

'Connectedness' is a learning theory developed and espoused by George Siemens.

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Multi-quiz Langue Française

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:44
From E-Learning V

 Fig.1. Un chasseur sachant : a tongue-twister in French

I just stumbledupon this fun, fun, fun way to pick up some fresh French vocabulary AND with some exceedingly difficult tongue twisters to take your mouth to the gym - very necessary if you are to pronounce much correctly in French. After three minutes of these you'll feel as if you've been chewing the entire packet of ten sticks of Wrigleys' Spearmint Gum simultaneously. 

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On the dangers of getting lost or stuck down a rabbit hole

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 10 Oct 2014, 10:12
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Alice in a hole

This thought, in relation to researching and writing an essay came from retired squadron-leader, prof. Peter Gray. I am often stuck down a rabbit hole; I indulge my curiosity and quickly get lost. It took me half an hour to scramble over images of 'stuck down a rabbit hole' mostly involving small dogs or variations on Alice in Wonderland and randomly including weird artworks and images of vertigo or claustrophobia before I decided to go with the above. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. Types of moustache

This morning I have now been up for four hours and haven't quite completed two hours 'writing'; the rest of the time has been spent trying to find the right kind of beards and moustaches to put on a set of five male characters, ages between 17 and 60, in northern France in 1917. Seeing the respective beards on three of them, the other two are clean-shaven, is just the start. I then have to name and describe them in terms that are appropriate to the era. I can't talk of beard types as a George Michael, Magnum or even Hitler. They have to be described with metaphors and words that would have been prevalent in the press at the time.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 3. Robert Twigger as Richard Francis Burton

I get thrown by spotting someone I know, then move onto how to describe parts of the outer ear and stumbleupon some fascinating fact about miniature portraits made of officers of the First World War as a keepsake. My searches are still prioritising French, so a few words or phrases might be entering the brain regarding Napoleon III beards and the like.

My curiosity indulged I check the word count for this morning's efforts and I might come to 60 words added to yesterday's tally; on the other hand, when I next need to describe a person sporting facial hair I ought to be able to do so rather more quickly. 

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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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Hear this ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 6 Oct 2014, 05:50
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 The cast of Downton Abbey.

How easy is it to put an accent to the character? Have the casting director and costume people colluded to create a class image of both face and dress? What if we turned all the accents upside down? Or is that what we are starting to see and achieve in 2014?

I caught a few moments of The X Factor last night where Cheryl (from Gateshead) had to let go of some of her singers before the live show: with one exception, and this would include all the singers in the show, there is a girl who is 'well spoken', one would imagine 'upper middle class' (if that phrase is any more or less appropriate than 'working class') - privately educated and at a boarding school one would presume. This girl is torn, possibly ashamed of her accent (or lack of accent). She feels it will make her less popular. These days everyone (in the media world) wants an accent that says where they came from, not an accent that says what 'strata' of class they are from (unless they're going to a fancy dress party as characters from Downton Abbey). We no longer have parents who clip their children around the ear if they speak with a hard 'a'?

Or is living with your accent something to do with self-esteem?

There was a Cambridge Professor of Ancient Music on the radio the other day who sounded very British and 'educated' (like the girl), except for the occasional word that hinted at something else. It turns out that until he was 23 he lived in Fresno, California. His accent transformation was almost total. Was this to blend in with the fabric of the Cambridge architecture.

I have friends who have lived in the states for 25 years: some, by my ear, are totally American, while others have barely changed their accent at all. I think it depends on what they do: the 'English' educated accent carries weight in academia, while the guy working in engineering has spent his career in the US getting rid of his accent. 

Personally I love the richness of accents from every inch of the UK and the world: my only criteria has to be: can people understand what you are saying?

Any of us who think we can speak a foreign language can be guilty of garbling and muddling words and accents in such a way that others haven't a clue what we are saying or meaning: I have a German friend who refuses to accept that often people haven't a clue what she is saying as her German accent is so strong and her choice of words and word order is so un-english. I know that my French has, and still does if I hurry, come over the same way to French people. This is why I am doing L120: to get the grammar in place, and learn to speak French as if I am writing it down perhaps? To slow down and be understood. You can still see that distracted glint in a person's eye though when you know they aren't really listening, but trying to figure out where you come from. Brits think I'm French. The French think I'm Belgian. My wife thinks most of what I say in French is laughable sad Someone her French overtook mine 25 years ago simply because a) she did a course b) she got a job in a French speaking company. She supposedly sounds Parisian while her English accent is 'Oxford' - because that is where she was born and raised. Not a hint of her Polish father and Maltese mother. I retain a hint of 'northern' - most of it was knocked out of me by parents and grandparents who felt it was their duty to raise kids who spoke 'proper'. Result: alienated in my home town Newcastle, and still picked out as 'northern' on words like 'enough' and 'nothing' ... and 'film' (and probably many more), in the south of England. 

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