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h800: 34 Vicarious Learning (Wk Activity 4)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 13 Nov 2011, 10:32

There is no need for me to plug gaps - there aren't any.

There have been choices to make throough-out H800 wks 1-5. For the TMA01 we are to comment, 500 words each, on THREE activities (with a couple of exclusions which are required four the FOURTH part of the TMA).

Content to cover the ground and ill for the best part of three weeks I wasn't going to do my old thing of 'do everything' choose later ...

However, I thought this reading nmight be part of the 'compulsory' component on 'metaphor' in learning.

In fact, I find it a separate line of thinking entirely, far more pragmatic, and not even complemenetary to the idea of metaphor, though vital the thoughts we are developing on 'Acquisition' and 'participation' for the simple reason that this discussion wraps them up in one activity called 'Vicarious Learning'.

I found this diversion highly information, indeed so much so , that I feel without it I could not have come to my current level of appreciation of acquisition and participation, that instead of separate staged entities, they can be bound together in a single experience.

This idea of ‘vicarious learning’ has been popular with educational researchers as a topic since 1993 and originally formed part of Bandura’s (1977) work.

It is of course what happens all around – we learn by default, by observing others being taught, and either struggling or succeeding at a task or with a concept. Has human kind not done this always? You learn from your parents, siblings and peers, from uncles and aunts, elders and others in your immediate community and from any group or community your are sent to or put into in order to learn.

The suggestions it that ‘observed behaviours are reinforced’ … with a bias in favour of positive reinforcement of ‘good behaviour or outcomes’ rather than poo behaviour and none or negative outcomes. I wish I believed this to be the case and will need to see the research. There are always exceptions to the rule, people who pick up the bad habits and the way NOT to do a thing, or through their contrary nature deliberately go against the grain (though by doing so their formal learning would soon be ended).

Is observation ‘participation’ ? Surely it is?

Yes I learn as ‘one removed as it were’ from the interaction they are watching. Indeed, it is ‘acquisition’ too.

Reading this puts a wry smile on my face because of the way the language of e-learning has settled down, we come to accommodate phrases and ways of putting things that make sense to all in a less cumbersome fashion than this – it is the nature of language. ‘web-based generic shell designed to accept data from any discipline that has cases’.

The PATSy system looked at/looks at:

· Developmental reading disorder

· Neuropsychology

· Neurology/medical rehabilitation

· Speech and language pathologies

It is a:

· A multimedia database/resource.

· + virtual patients

· Clinical reasoning and diagnosis

‘Results showed that online interactions with PATSy were positively correlated with end-of-term learning outcome measures.’

It is helpful where students struggle to articulate their misunderstanding.

TDD (task-directed discussion)

Useful for reflection.

Especially to reveal what a student DOESN’T know, not what they DO know.

It provides:

· A multi-media database

· Discussion tools

· Reading resources

It operates:

· At a distance (does it say)

· On campus but working alone (clinical)

· As observers of learners and as learners themselves.


Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

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How positive leadership spreads like a Mexican Wave

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 8 Dec 2012, 00:01

How a ‘contagion of positive emotions’ from and of the right leader or teacher will greatly enhance the learning experience and project outcomes.

The problem is, you need to be there to get the vibe. I dare say parenting therefore has a huge impact on the developing child - nurtured or knackered?

But what does this say about the role of distance learning?

A bit, not a lot. Tutorials from time to time may pay dividends. We should stop being such e-learning purists and meet face to face when and where we can … at least online, if not in the flesh.

And before I go anywhere, thanks to someone for the link to this which I received in my daily maelstrom of Linked In forum threads, emails, comments and what not.

Advances in neuroscience may help us understand the internal mechanisms that enable some people to be effective leaders, and some not. Boyatzis (2011)

The leadership role is moving away from a “results-orientation” towards a relationship orientation. Boyatzis (2011)

People who feel inspired and supported give their best, are open to new ideas and have a more social orientation to others. Boyatzis (2011)

The difference between resonant and dissonance in relationships was tested, for example the difference between an inspired and engaging leader, compared to one who makes demands and sets goals.

While undergoing an MRI scan people were asked to recall specific experiences with resonant leaders and with dissonant leaders. When thinking about ‘resonant’ leaders there was significant activation of 14 regions of interest in the brain while with dissonant leaders there was significant activation of 6 and but deactivation in 11 regions. i.e. people are turned off by certain kinds of leadership. Boyatzis (2011)

The conclusion is that being concerned about one’s relationships may enable others to perform better and more innovatively– and lead to better results i.e. be an inspired, motivating leader, not a dictatorial or demanding one.

How therefore if running a course online does the course chair or a tutor engender these kind of feelings in their students?

The other lesson from this is to appreciate how quickly impressions of others get formed or the neural mechanisms involved.

First impressions count

They impact on how one person responds to another for some time to come. We are emotional beings, however much we’d like to control our behaviour.

The other idea is of ‘emotional contagion’ or ‘emotional arousal’ being picked up in the neural systems activate endocrine systems; that imitation and mimicry are important i.e. you cannot lead at arm’s-length – you have to be there, as must be your team, and by implication, where learning is involved, you students. Boyatzis (2011)

What you pick up in the presence of others is:

  • the context of an observed action or setting
  • the action
  • the intention of the other living being.

‘A sympathetic hemo-dynamic that creates the same ability for us to relate to another’s emotions and intention’ (Decety & Michalaks, 2010).

There are three implications of these observations Boyatzis (2011):

  1. the speed of activation
  2. the sequence of activation
  3. the endocrine/neural system interactions.

Our emotions are determining cognitive interpretation more than previously admitted.

Our unconscious emotional states arouse emotions in those with whom we interact before we or they know it. And it spreads from these interactions to others.

Research has suggested that negative emotions are stronger than positive emotions which may serve evolutionary functions but, paradoxically, it may limit learning. Boyatzis (2011)

i.e. where the teacher shows leadership that engenders a positive response the learning experience is increased (think of the fictional character played by Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society, think of Randy Pausch the late Carnegie Mellon Professor of Virtual reality) … whereas negative emotions.

From a student’s point of view if you have a teacher you do NOT like (or no one likes) this will have overly significant NEGATIVE impact on your learning experience.

So it matters WHO and HOW you are taught, not simply an interest or passion for a subject.

‘A contagion of positive emotions seems to arouse the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which stimulates adult neurogenesis (i.e. growth of new neurons) (Erickson et. al., 1998), a sense of well being, better immune system functioning, and cognitive, emotional, and perceptual openness’ (McEwen, 1998; Janig and Habler, 1999; Boyatzis, Jack, Cesaro, Passarelli, & Khawaja, 2010).

The sustainability of leadership effectiveness is directly a function of a person’s ability to adapt and activate neural plasticity. Boyatzis (2011)

The SNS (Sympathetic Nervous System) and PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System ) are both needed for human functioning.

They each have an impact on neural plasticity.

Arousal affects the growth of the size and shape of our brain. Neurogenesis allows the human to build new neurons. The endocrines aroused in the PNS allow the immune system to function at its best to help preserve existing tissue (Dickerson and Kemeny, 2004).


Leaders bear the primary responsibility for knowing what they are feeling and therefore, managing the ‘contagion’ that they infect in others.

(Is a disease metaphor and its negative connotations the appropriate metaphor to use here?)

It requires a heightened emotional self-awareness.

This means having techniques to notice the feelings, label what they are and then signal yourself that you should do something to change your mood and state.

Merely saying to yourself that you will “put on a happy face” does not hide the fast and unconscious transmission of your real feelings to others around you.

Leaders should be coaches in helping to motivate and inspire those around them (Boyatzis, Smith & Blaize, 2006).

But not any old form of coaching will help.

Coaching others with compassion, that is, toward the Positive Emotional Attractor, appears to activate neural systems that help a person open themselves to new possibilities– to learn and adapt. Meanwhile, the more typical coaching of others to change in imposed ways (i.e., trying to get them to conform to the views of the boss) may create an arousal of the SNS and puts the person in a defensive posture. This moves a person toward the Negative Emotional Attractor and to being more closed to possibilities.

What does say about parenting?

The role or the patriarch or matriarch in the family? And whilst your father may be an inspiring leader at the office, what if he is a nit-picking bore and a negative grudge when he comes home?


Boyatzis, R. (2011) Neuroscience and Leadership: The Promise of Insights Leadership | January / February 2011

Boyatzis, R.E., Smith, M. and Blaize, N. (2006) “Developing sustainable leaders through coaching and compassion, Academy of Management Journal on Learning and Education. 5(1): 8-24.

Boyatzis, R. E., Jack, A., Cesaro, R., Passarelli, A. & Khawaja, M. (2010). Coaching with Compassion: An fMRI Study of Coaching to the Positive or Negative Emotional Attractor. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Montreal.

Decety, J. & Michalska, K.J. (2010). Neurodevelopmental change in circuits underlying empathy and sympathy from childhood to adulthood. Developmental Science. 13: 6, 886-899.

Dickerson, S.S. & Kemeny, M.E. (2004). Acute stressors and cortisol responses: A theoretical integration and synthesis of laboratory research. Psychological Bulletin.130(3): 355-391.

Janig, W. & Habler, H-J. (1999). Organization of the autonomic nervous system: Structure and function. In O. Appendzeller (ed.). Handbook of Clinical Neurology: The Autonomic Nervous System: Part I: Normal Function, 74: 1-52.

McEwen, B. S. (1998). Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. New England Journal of Medicine. 338: 171-179.

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H800: 31 Symbols, Metaphors and TV in learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 6 Nov 2011, 18:08

H800 WK5 Symbolic Forms used in Education

How I assimilate the article’s content is founded on the profound engagement I’ve had with MAODE this last year, but a lifetime of reading and viewing … enhanced by, certainly brought to the surface and even put at my fingertips having kept a diary for 35 years. I can list, within 10/15% all the films I’ve ever seen (because I’ve kept a record). I might even achieve a list of 40% of everything I’ve ever read (though I’ve yet to try to assemble such a thing). I wouldn’t begin to list my television viewing, perhaps because it is at times no more engaging that watching clouds form shapes in the sky. This accumulation of education and entertainment has, theoretically, less impact as I grow older, the symbolic forms of representation having the greatest impact when I knew least as a child. I can recall the first TV programmes I ever watched, can you? But I doubt I can remember much of significance that I’ve seen on TV in 2011.

‘Mans mind’ has been thought of as potter’s wheel, a steam engineer, a switchboard or a film … though not in theatre, the authors forgetting Shakespeare ‘life is but a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more.’… or the idea of the ‘Seven Stages of Man’ with its implicit developmental stages. I find myself disagreeing with the authors often, and collecting evidence for a paragraph regarding editorial matters. However, irritation and mistakes make for a spiky and more engaging learning experience. If you read something and agree and applaud all the way through, how much then sticks?

There will always be independence of human thought and as every generation starts with a blank sheet these multiple human minds will always be distinct. Computers are doing the opposite of what we expected, liberating and expanding minds, rather than reducing them to delivering perfect’ or ‘complete’ knowledge. To think not as others have thought, but to think in an original or creative way. Is this not inevitable if the way children are learning has changed so radically.

If thought of as a negative, metaphors could be seen as the equivalent of the leading question … they presume a way of thinking, a culture, history and belief system – they are intellectual containment … that to ‘think outside the box,’ is to think outside the accepted metaphor. However, given the thoughts on the role of language in learning, I wonder if common metaphors are the equivalent of expressing yourself in English, only to start using phrases from Welsh – i.e. you may lose your audience and the argument, even if you intrigue or engage some. On the other hand, if as they do in Germany you teach Geography in English, this additional challenge would better embedded the lesson. I don’t however envisage kids in England studying DT in German or Home Economics in French; but it’s an idea. ‘Content’, we know is important, though I start to wonder if is the context that is king’ …

Or should I come up with an alternative metaphor in order to avoid setting parameters? Creativity is a consequence of our ability to think in metaphors after all, an actual physiological trait of the brain. (V.J.Ramachandran, 2010).

Thinking in metaphors is an innate human characteristic.

We have always thought in metaphors, it is what defines us as human and what permits innovation, creativity and debate – we visualise concepts in our ‘mind’s eye’ we draw on our own experiences to invent ways of understanding of our own. Everything, we learn through all our senses, however much some of these are denied. Reading Shakespeare in class, taking it turns is different from seeing an RSC performance … and different again every time you see such a performance from a different actor.

We think in metaphors, analogies taught man to think, it is how we assimilate concepts by relating things we don’t understand to things that we do – though we can get our metaphors wrong, they can lead scientists ‘down the garden path.’

‘Attractively presented’ is a matter of debate as is the idea of ‘relative’ passive viewing

TV is ‘sit back;’ and passive and its attractiveness is a matter of opinion, and personal taste. Is David Attenborough age 80, as engaging when he speaks to camera as when he was in his thirties? Are any such ‘walk and talk’ presenter to camera globe-trotting lectures educational or just motivational? From an educational point of view is a bearded senior lecturer in Physics for in open sandals standing at a flipchart for the OU and broadcast in the dead of night any less attractive or effective lesson than Dinosaurs in 3d from the TV company Atlantic productions and shown on Sky HD/3D?

Is not all knowledge but a summation of a collective thought expressed by a person or people?

In relation to visualising nevertheless. Type in ‘nevertheless images’ into a Google search box, clicked on the images search and crashed the browser. On a similar note, I’d like to see ‘because’ can be represented as Ballet movement. The authors lack imagination if they think this can’t be done. And musical notation is a form of drawing.

Breakthroughs come when someone steps off the path, or reroutes from the top.

Multi-various experiences are the key and what is made possible by e-learning, the Internet, multiple digital channels and social networks, these are activities that engage several of the senses, or in the case of being there … all of them, are most effective at leading to a lasting physiological impact on a person’s mind.

In context, exciting to one or some, may be dull to another … and least exciting to someone who may have seen this film several times already. Different fields of reference … i.e. context and the person.

Are we saying that a rich, developed, symbolised and definitive expression of something being experienced by a mind that is equally busy and rich, is less of a learning experience?

That like minds, if they think alike, don’t think at all? That if someone sees the world as a red balloon and you give them a red balloon they gain nothing? Whereas I think any and of these situations will always ‘depend’ on a complexity of factors that are here grossly simplified. Our experience, and learning, is always the product of what we have been exposed to … indeed, this is a the definition of learning, without the stimuli and the physiological consequences on your mind, there is no learning, or experience to recall or to put into or let loose in the maelstrom of your mind.

What intrigues me about learning and perceptions is that much of what we are exposed to has obtuse effects, even bizarre ones

… that a surname cited in a report, if it is your mother’s maiden name, is going to tinge this report, that a phrase used that suddenly reminds you of a dead uncle … or online some novel interactive tool reminds you of an early computer game … or has occurred here, someone I found myself thinking in ‘films I’ve seem,’ which becomes an unstoppable process as a slide, like an avalanche into a memory set based on films, or certain actors, or an era where this actor was performing … electro-chemical activity that I cannot nonchalantly or willingly turn off.

And plainly put, ‘the less knowledge already available to the learner, the more the symbolic forms of representation will make a difference in the meanings the learner arrives at.’

You draw on an eclectic mix of experiences, hopefully – which is why the more a child is exposed to the better, from sport to music, reading and drawing .

How are these sets of mental skills and capacities gained?

From family, from your community and/or from formal education?

Variety is the way to educate a group … even with an individual, their interest and capacity to learn in certain ways will shift.

It says a lot for a film maker o have craft skills.

What I find fascinating about this is the benefit of taking different approaches, that teaching to a classroom assumes a one-size fits all, as does self-directed e-learning if it is largely asynchronous and done in isolation. The only way Web 2.0 learners can get this variety is by creating their own learning content, in which second and third year students may making ‘training videos’ for the first years, the entire exercise, repeated, mixed up and re-cut like an entry in Wikipedia. The difference I would suggest is that a multiplicity of responses is in time offered, for the reasons the author gives here. Think of a word (a noun), now Google with ‘images’ and see what you get. Now imagine this a ‘videos’, better still ‘learning’ and imagine being offered a plethora of learning videos on the subject that interests you, whether is diplomacy in the reign of Henry VIII or how to make a tea-tray.

More subtle differences are easy to achieve.

The same short story presented by very different voices. By very different voices with a different mood. A story illustrated in a multitude of ways, for example, a collection of representations of Alice in Wonderland from Tenniel’s original cartoons via Quentin Blake and many, many others

As I child we have an LP of Alice in Wonderland in which Bruce Forsyth played the Mad Hatter. Imbued with his career in Television I can only ever now envisage the Mad Hatter as a bloviating TG game-show host.

Throwing money at something doesn’t make it better?

There is so much more that comes into play. A good story told around a camp fire can be better that a Hollywood Blockbuster that has cost $100m. The coming of the rock band ‘uncut’, the likes of the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney playing in the back of a club, is indicative that bells and whistles don’t improve something. My wonder often viewing e-learning that money has not been put into something that counts crucially: the idea … and then the script. Get these right and everything else is just a matter of budget?

I do think TV is too easy

From a learning point of view take notes. Better still, load it into iMovies and cut your own version, change the voice over or add captions. Make something of it. Interact with it. Make an effort.

Learning and memory, the physiological effect on the brain, requires a stimuli and response – the degree/scale and impact of this response is down to many things, association, shock, appropriateness, worth, timeliness, location, urgency and effort.

TV is entertainment and news. It is sit back. It is fall asleep. If there’s engagement these days it is via an Xbox … or with the laptop open.

I disagree that print is ‘generally perceived to be highly demanding’

Unless you are talking about the Yellow Pages compared to Google. Books have their role, they haven’t become redundant technology like the Telex machine.

The producers at Ragdoll productions, the creators of Teletubbies and In the Night Garden would argue the contrary to what the authors are suggesting, that very young children put in a great deal of effort when they view TV. We are less enthralled as we get older. As adults what they recall about children’s TV and you’ll be surprised at the detail of what they can recollect. And TV can validate a book, sending a reader to the TV, or someone who has watched something on TV to the book. The platforms are different and can be made to work for each other.

I hope TV can provoke interest; it can sell products.

It teaches some people, some thing – where to place their hand and therefore their choice when they go to the supermarket. But try and learn something from 45 minutes of TV? Try transcribing the script … this cannot and does not compare to a chapter in a book or a paper. It cannot help to be anything other than light weight. Naturally it must also pander to the visual, and to the event … even to narrative, some ideas clearly being shoehorned into such models.

All you have to do to get someone to sit forward in front of TV is to tell them they are going to be tested on it.

Didn’t Michael Aspel once host a kids’ TV show called ‘Screen Shot’ or some such in which guests were tested on what happened in a scene? Knowledge of a test encourages effort to retain the pertinent facts … even to take notes. I often find myself at workshops and there is only ONE person in a group of 30+ taking notes … me. I wonder how people expect to retain a single of word of what is going on in front of them.

It isn’t whether or not the TV is a serious medium, but the content ditto the stage. The Queen’s Coronation had people gathered around TV sets in 1957.

They do. So what as educators do we do?

A dozen versions to satisfy all the potential audiences?

Or, as an author does, by thinking about ONE READER … so that whoever reads knows the perspective that is being taken?

The answer is DIY TV. It is the way the creation and publishing process has been greatly expanded to allow many, many more people to have a voice, to be seen, to be heard, to direct and produce and publish. What is already achieved as text and words in Wikipedia and video on YouTube, and dialogues and discussion on blogs and in social forums will and is becoming e-learning mass-produced, by the expert and the inexpert. I do wonder if the less expert the response the better, that the foibles of a maverick educator may teach more than something that is highly polished or corporate in nature.

In terms of language I’d go further and say it is not the language per se, but who uses it and how it is spoken and used. We learn to understand, to speak and to read largely from our parents, siblings, grandparents and in due course our peer group and school teachers. In terms of making up words, we are in an age of considerable invention, both to describe concepts and software, but because of the spread of English as the Lingua Franca and each person’s, each culture’s, each country, continent and generation’s different take on it. I turn to Henry Hitchings for a fascinating insight into the English language.

Born and raised with one language I learn French in my late teens by living and working in France. I came to dream in French, to speak it fluently, read it well and write it badly. I felt I was a different person when I spoke French. My father in law, raised in Poland, learning German during the occupation then immigrating to England speaks nine languages. His wife, whose family had escape Mussolini places English as her third language after Italian and French. How is there thinking enriched because of the diversity of languages they have used, have read and thought in?

Of course exposure to anything may impact on its correlation or juxtaposition to something else.

Here we hear about children exposed to TV. I wonder with a mixture of amazement and despair at my son’s activities on an Xbox, how he forms teams with friends and strangers, how they learn from each other and teach each other … how they circumvent the rules at every possible moment, playing outside the fields of the game, finding a way onto set as it were and doing things that may be possible in the game that are in possible in reality. As a younger boy playing Age of Empires he insisted on repeatedly kitting his medieval knights with cars and rampaging across Europe flattening everything  It will be interesting to observe how this plays out in later life.

I take issue with the idea of ‘mindlessness’ in this context, because it is disingenuous to suggest that watching TV, or playing a video games is mindless when it patently is clearly the opposite. Mindlessness might be a state achieved by someone meditating or in a coma, but it is not a state when several of the senses are being engaged.

Of course they do, any and every stimuli on the sense are in some way or over embedded physiologically in the mind.

Stories work. It is all that human kind have had for millennia.

This idea of nodes is being realised through fMRI scans that show what parts of the brain are stimulated when different activities are undertaken or thought about, such as recent studies on the nature of leadership. It is extraordinary how many different parts of the brain get engaged, indeed this is how and why our responses to things and our abilities despite common or fairly common upbringings are so very different.

Schooling hasn’t favoured original thinking, but learning often by rote to pass exams which suits some types, but not others.


Salomon, G 1997, 'Of mind and media', Phi Delta Kappan, 78, 5, p. 375, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 8 March 2011.

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H807 Innovations in E-Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 28 Sep 2012, 12:43

Were I back on the H807 Merry-go-round, I'd love to do the Innovations in E-Learning module over again ... indeed, given the pace of change maybe a three year refresher is required.

I'd have loved some of this:


And this:



And this:



Which was my third e-book purchase.

I have read it, highlighted it, reviewed it, shared notes via Facebook on it as I went along and will blog about it at length in due course. And Twitter this, and that. And respond to comments.

Most important of all, I am acting on this books advice which means I now have feed from Google Alerts, and Technorati amongst many other suggestions on how someone who feel they have a voice can find like minds.



Is looking at this better than reading the chapter around it?

Best of all is to share it and discuss with those who know better, or want to know better. My opinion is your opinion put through the kitchen-blender.

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H800: 30 Language, Communication, Education and John Seely Brown via Hitchings and Tyneside

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 22 Dec 2020, 20:40

The meaning of words and learning, from how we learn to speak via Hitchings, John Seely Brown and the Open University MAODE module H800.

I like that thought that ‘All knowledge is, we believe, like language’.

Whether we are educators or not, we all have experience of acquiring or possibly learning a language. I was brought up in the North of England by aspirational Geordies who between them wanted to instil ‘correct’ spoken and written English. Woe-betide the child who spoke with a hard ‘a,’ spilt an infinitive and sprinkled their conversation with ‘sorts of … ‘ or ‘you know.’ I’m surprised none of us came out with a stammer. Could this be why my brother bit his nails all the time? He held onto his Geordie accent despite his parents best (or worst efforts). Which has me thinking, we’ve had a Royal who stammered, is there one who used to bite their finger-nails?

Language, and our choice of words and the words that are coined and come into common used are vital. I STILL get into conversations over whether it is ‘E-learning’ or ‘online learning’, and as they are the client you can imagine which way I tip.

‘Its constituent parts index the world and so are inextricably a product of the activity and situations in which they are produced’. Brown et al (1989)

This indexing of the world makes for a fascinating book. Hitchings on the English Language gives a wonderful insight not only into the way ‘English’ developed, has changed and is changing … and why words matter.

‘A concept, for example, will continually evolve with each new occasion of use, because new situations, negotiations, and activities inevitably recast it in new, more densely textured form. So a concept, like the meaning of a word, is always under construction’.

Think of conceptual knowledge as similar to a set of tools.

‘People use tools actively rather than just acquire them, by contrast, build an increasingly rich implicit understanding of the world in which they use the tools and the tools themselves’. P33

I like this idea too, that we can equate words with tools and vice-versa. They are components that enable communication. And communication facilitates learning.

But of course ‘How a tool is used will vary by context and culture’. Brown et al (1989:33)

Wherein lies the inherent problem with language, whether it is translated, or especially if you think you are talking the same language … but are not because your take and comprehension of a word or set of words is different: should, would, will, can, maybe, perhaps … all words that combined with a look, and body language may make someone believe they mean ‘yes’ or they mean ‘no’. So do you, in such situations act or do nothing? Language can have us sitting on the fence. Is this what academics do? Forever transitory between the commercial world where decisions are paramount?

‘Enculturation is what people do in learning to speak, read, and write, or becoming school children, office workers, researchers and so on’. Brown et al (1989:32-33).

I loathe the word ‘enculturation’ as I only ever come across it in reports/conversations such as these. As all learning, in all its stages becomes readily available and transparent I wonder if such words, indeed any jargon or acronyms are justified? It is possible to be intelligent without cluttering your sentences with ‘big words’ or sounding patronising. Try it; it’s habit forming. Like all education.

‘Given the chance to observe and practice in situ the behaviour of members of a culture, people pick up on relevant jargon, imitate behaviour, and gradually start to act in accordance with its norms’.

I read, unless you are born into a middle class family of snobs who deny their roots.

Ambient culture over explicit teaching

‘When authentic activities are transferred to the classroom, their context is inevitably transmuted; they become classroom tasks. The system of learning and using (and, of course, testing) thereafter remains hermetically sealed within the self-confirming culture of the school’. Brown et al (1989:34)

Wherein lies the discord in many school classrooms

The students’ lives are so far removed from the school experience that they cannot behave. They could and will only learn if they do so within the context of their family lives. How many families sit around together, in front of the piano, or radio, or TV, let alone at the dining room table? Children don’t sit still, physically or mentally. They occupy their own space both online and off. No wonder they take laptops into lectures. And can they blog, and send messages while sitting through a lecture? Probably. They could even stream it live to someone who can’t make it … or just record it for later consumption (or not). Not being the operative word, what they can grab of it in transit is probably as much as they’ll take in first time through. Just plain folks (JPFs)

I love the idea of JPS

‘Just plain folks’ (JPFs),’ we are told, ‘learn in ways that are quite distinct from what students (in the classroom) are asked to do’. (Jean Lave’s ethnographic studies of learning and everyday activity 1988b). (Weren't JPS a brand of cigaretter, famously branded gold and blank on Forumula 1 Racing cars of the 1970s?)

JPFs are best off as apprentices rather than having to make qualitative changes in school. Brown et al (1989:35)

This is what we do. We label, we index, we give things names. We categorise whether or not there is truth behind the category. I debunk ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ as concepts wherever I can as false, yet we know what is meant by it, as with ‘Generation Y’ or the ‘Facebook Generation.’ We cannot have a conversation without such terms.

What as a teacher do you make explicit and what implicit?

The problem is that to overcome difficult pedagogic problems you make as much as possible explicit – this is not the way to teach.

Indexical representations which ‘gain their efficiency by leaving much of the context underrepresented or implicit.’ Brown et al (1989:41)

i.e. what you leave out is perhaps more important than what you put in.

Which explains the problem with Wikipedia – it aims to be universal, comprehensive and definitive.

It wants to be the last word on everything, even if the last word is always the next word that is written. From a learning point of view I’d like to launch a moth-eaten version of Wikipedia, the Gouda cheese version that leaves stuff out, that is nibbled at and full of holes.


Because this will get on your goat and prompt you to engage with the content, to correct it, to fill in the gaps. Can someone write an app to do this?

To go in and remove sentences, replace the right word with the wrong one, a wrong date/place with the facts currently given?

'Communication is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from?'

Henry Hitchings poses this question on the flyleaf of his gloriously informative and entertaining book on the History of English 'The secret life of word. How English became English.' Hitchings (2008)


Hitchings, H. (2008) The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English.

Brown, J.S., Collins.A., Duguid, P., (1989) Situated Cognition and the Culture of Learning. Educational Researcher, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 1989), pp. 32-42 American Educational Research Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1176008 . Accessed: 05/03/2011 13:10



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The honest image - who are you or were you?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 4 Feb 2013, 09:32


What image should we use to portray ourselves?

Is there such as thing as best practice? Ought it to be like joining a gym, we have a snapshot taken on a webcam and this current image, no matter how it comes out, becomes who we are?


Do so few of us dislike or distrust what we see when we look at our faces in the mirror each morning?

It has been the subject of research, role play in online education; I'd like to do some of my own. I began a year ago with this.


I liked the picture, felt it was healthy, robust and confident and confident.

I should have looked at the date on it. August 2004. Happy and sunny days. You age under stress and from the mid-40s it doesn't take much to add ten years -all that sun in the past, being unwell. As I write below, his spirit, like mine (I hope) remains that of an enthusiastic twenty-something. The same occurred with the Elluminate session we had in H800 the other day, the tutor on the webcam (initially in a scratchy black and white image) is not the person who goes by in the General Forum. Are we all guilty of this. Men included? We go with something in our late thirties or early to mid-forties?


I then went with this.

An image I long ago used in my eleven year old blog. I wanted something that was indicative of the content and would last. I'm still inclined to run with this. It is indicative of what I think blogging is all about - the contents of your mind, what you think i.e. you 'mind bursts' as I call them on numerous blogs.


Facebook personas sees me in a number of guises

While on Skype I use a image taken with the webcam on the day of an online interview - this is a month ago, so as contemporary as it gets.


I have this image fronting Tumblr taken 21 years ago.

In moments of euphoria having just successfully negotiated a 15m pond of slush on a pair of skis in front of a crowd of early May skiers below the Tignes Glacier, France. The day I proposed to my wife. We'd be 'going out together' for three days ... we've now been together, well 21 years. In my original diary we could create banner ads to publicise what we had to say to fellow writers. One of these has a spread as long as the contents of my diaries and blog: they run from a 13 year old Head Chorister in cassock and ruffs, though gap, undergrad, to add exec, video director, with four woman I didn't marry.


Increasingly, I am thinking of using a self-portrait, that this attempt to capture myself through my minds eye

is more telling that a photograph.


I could use the drawing I did of a 14 year old

What amuses me most here is how I superimpose these attachments as if I were in a school play, the beard is clearly on the soft face of a pubescent boy - I should have looked at my grandfather for the face I'd get, with the more bulbous nose and pronounced chin. Talking of which, I find it intriguing that I am the spitting image of my grandfather, that my own children see images of him age 20 and think it has to be me. All that changes as he ages into a 40 and 50 year old is he goes bald, whereas I am thus far limited to a thinning of the crown.

This I'm afraid, if the age of my children in the rest of the picture is something to go by, is some seven years ago sad

My only reason for picking it is that I haven't renewed my contact lenses and am inclined, after twenty years wearing them to give up. Maybe laser surgery when I have the cash? This is contemporary. It doesn't say who I am, just 'what' I am. Wearing a child's hat (he's a dad), the headset to record notes onto a digital recorder (for a podcast), a coat he bought for honeymooning in the Alps (we went skiing) 18 years ago …


I have of course not changed much since 1977

It takes me back to the original point - who are we? how do we representative ourselves online in a single image when we are all a sum of a complex of parts? Is it any wonder that we present multiple selves online, the more so the longer we've lived? I don't remember my father being around to take this picture. though clearly he did. I do remember the great-big wellies though and the joy of water spilling over the top if I could find a puddle or pond deep enough. And the jumpers knitted by my granny (sleeves always too long). And the trees in the garden I climbed behind. And my sister and brother … How set in were the learning process by then?


The Dracula Spectacula, People's Theatre, Newcastle.

The teeth were made from dentine and fitted by an orthodontist.I rather foolishly sharpened the fangs and bit through my own lip on the last night. I had to sing while gargling my own blood. The joy of memories.

  • Could a daily snap taken when looking in the bathroom mirror be used to tag memories from that 'era' of your life?
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Asynchronous Spaced Education becomes synchronous and game-like

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 16 Mar 2014, 06:22

I might have interviewed Dr Price Kerfoot of Spaced-Ed for H807, 'Innovations in E-learning' a year ago.

I finally caught up with him this afternoon two weeks into the Spaced-Ed transmogrification that is Qstream.

We used Skype. Clear barely broken sound. Sharp video in colour. It worked.

It was a fascinating discussion.

I should have asked to record and done so.

Next time. I'm sure the conversation has only just begun.

Though armed with a set of questions used in TMA02 of H807 non were necessary. I'd prepared them to follow a narrative flow, and that is what we did.

We have something in common, we were both at Balliol College, Oxford.

I was there as an undergraduate 1984, he was there five years later as a Rhodes Scholar taking a BA in Medicine. Dr B P Kerfoot is now an Associate Professor of Harvard Medical School. He is also a passionate educator and e-learning entrepreneur. I suspect we will continue to hear a great deal abot him - he has a passion for education, reminding me of the late Randy Pausch, even the Robin Williams character from Dead Poets Society; there is an unstoppable, engaging warmth backed by a profound intellect.

The narrative

Price had finished his surgical training when he went into education, an odd elective he admits, but one that through circumstances and surely an innate interest has proved fruitful.

What is the problem?

I didn't need to make this prompt. You strive to fix something when you see it isn't working. Learning outcomes from first year medical students were poor. Why, in US terms, spend $1000 dollars on a course only to find a year later that the traditional methods of acquisition and retention of knowledge has failed.

No problem, no fix.

Price looked to web-based teaching to create learning modules. Two concepts were devised, the spacing of questions proved successful. This is from one of a dozen papers authored by kerfoot and his team; each one, naturally, a worthy, academic, professional appraisal.

Two reports are cited as we talk, one on the effect on the hippocampus of rats, another on phosphate levels in fruit flies. As an OU student these reports are readily available.

There is physiological evidence that 'spaced learning works'.

This matters:

a) you want something that works,

b) you want something that will justify the investment.

We give it away, academics in the US are commercially savvy.

Its as if in the UK academics (individuals and institutions) are like bachelors and spinsters, whereas in North America they are eager to marry.

More importantly the research has shown that the Spaced-ed approach improves patient outcomes the goal it was found that cancer screening of patients improved by 40% for the year spaced-education was introduced.

In 2006 the methodology was submitted by Harvard for a patent application. Entrepreneurs and venture capital companies were also approached.

It's a shame the Spaced-Ed blog hasn't been maintained, though you'll get some further insights here.



What began as continual education in medicine has expanded. If you go to the Spaced-Ed website there are all kinds of courses you can take, typically 20-30 questions of the multi-choice type fed to your laptop, SmartPhone or iPad. Writing these multiple choice questions is an effort and requires skill to get right,, indeed I can admit to wanting to create what I thought would be a simple set of questions relating to teaching swimming … but the correct construction of the questions, let alone the creation of appropriate images has held me back. It isn’t as easy to get this right as it looks. You don’t want to feed your audience lame questions, nor do you want to overstretch them. There is also some negative feelings about Multi-choice, perhaps we have all had negative experiences at school … I personally remember what we described as ‘multi-guess’ that was so often used in Chemistry classes. Though clearly effective, not enough people have been persuaded to pay for these sets of questions, even a dollar or so.

The challenge, has been to move on from asynchronous to synchronous, real time learning, including video and other rich media. The new platform promoted as Qform is an Facebook App and Twitter-like in its approach. People elect to follow a Qstream which goes out to everyone. You join in collectively, rather than alone, which creates a sense of participation and competition. If I understand this correctly, as I’m yet to give it a go, you pose a response to an open question that others read. You then vote on the various responses given. As Price, engaging as Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society enthused about the platform I thought about Skype and Elluminate, even forum threads. Indeed, I wonder if we could all organise to be online and go to one of these threaded conversations to turn an asynchronous environment into a synchronous one. Harvard is also the home of Rotisserie, which rotates a threaded conversation between online learners to ensure that everyone has a turn… and of course Facebook.

Gameification is the key. You respond in a way that other s like and you get points for it and your name appears on a leader board.

Rich content and a range of responses is what’s new. And its live And its competitive

And so Qstream delivers synchronicity and a sense of community Price also talked about how to make it possible for answers to questions to become searchable in Google – I guess with the inclusion of the right metadata. I didn’t need to say it to find I’m told the more controversial responses would generate the most responses. Now it’s starting to sound like the format of the Oxford Union Debating Society – I guess Price went along there at some stage too. By listening to two sides battle it out you form your own opinion.

One final statistic – 85% of those studying urology in North America (that’s the US and Canada) are using Dr B Price Kerfoot’s 23 question Spaced-ed multi-choice Q&A.

The competitors are Quora, Stackoverflow and FormSpring or some such … I’ll go take a look.



J Gen Intern Med 23(7):973–8

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-008-0533-0

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008


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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 11:43

SpacedEd is a platform designed to allow learners and teachers to harness the educational benefits of spaced education.

Spaced education is a novel method of online education developed and rigorously investigated by Dr. B. Price Kerfoot (Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School).

It is based upon two core psychology research findings:the spacing effect and the testing effect.

In more than 10 randomized trials completed to date, spaced education has been found to:

  1. Improve knowledge acquisition
  2. Increase long-term knowledge retention (out to 2 years)
  3. Change behavior
  4. Boost learners' abilities to accurately self-assess their knowledge.
  5. In addition, spaced education is extremely well-accepted by learners.
  6. The spacing effect refers to the psychology research finding that information which is presented and repeated over spaced intervals is learned and retained more effectively, in comparison to traditional bolus ('binge-and-purge') methods of education.
  7. The testing effect refers to the research finding that the long-term retention of information is significantly improved by testing learners on this information.
  8. Testing is not merely a means to measure a learner's level of knowledge, but rather causes knowledge to be stored more effectively in long-term memory.
  9. The spaced education methodology is content-neutral and thus can be utilized to learn most anything.
  10. Potential applications range from teaching chemistry concepts to high school students to reinforcing Arabic language skills among health workers in the Middle East.
  11. It can also be used to reinforce educational material which was initially presented in the classroom.
  12. The full multi-media capabilities of the Internet can be harnessed to create a rich and effective learning experience.
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Where old meets new: paper and handwriting vs e-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 11 Nov 2014, 06:53

Paper Assignments

I have in-front of me an Amateur Swimming Associations (ASA) paper for the Level III Senior Club Coach certificate. There are 12 sheets, facing side only. The paper is waxed, copyrighted and stamped with the ASA logo. Having attended a day long workshop on the topic, done some reading and from my own experience I complete these assignment and submit. It ought to be submitted as is; this is in part a test of authenticity. I have handwritten my responses. My habit and way of doing things is to have it in a word document, so I load the text and tables, complete the required questions/tasks, print off and submit both parts. Invariably I get a note about the typed up/printed off version being so much better ... it takes skills that even I lack to write something in some of the minuscule boxes.

I was discussing on Monday with the ASA how to avoid plagiarism with e-assessments.

I mentioned Nottingham University medical students attening a computer-based assessment. I mentioned software that can spot plagiarism. I struggled however with the kind of forms the ASA uses as these tests seem to be have written with the EXAMINER in mind ... i.e. to make them easy to mark. Which also makes it easy to cheat. The answer is the same, not open to interpretation. More or less. This isn't strictly fair ... papers are returned covered in red ink - I have redone one paper.

There has to be a sign in process that is used to identify a person.

How many people cheat? Is it such a problem?

Apparently so. Even with certificates and qualifications it appears easy to falsify documents. And often, these determined people are excellent teachers/coaches who have learn their trade as competitive swimmers and/or on the job, so they know what they are doing, they simply don't have the piece of paper.

Memory Cards

I also have in front of me a set of handwritten cards given to me by a colleague who has just taken her Level II Coaching certificate. She failed the written paper. She used these cards to test herself. My intention is to put these into Spaced-Ed, as an exercise, possibly to create or to begin to create a useful learning tool.

I like the way Space-Ed prompts you over the week, tests you on a few things, then leaves you alone. You have time to assimilate the information. Is it easy learning? It is easier learning ... nothing beats a period of concerted effort and self-testing to verify that you know something or not.

Whether electronic, or paper ... or the spoken word, there is always a bridge to gap, a translation, as it were, of the information a person wants or needs to assimilate and this assimilation process.

Common to all is EFFORT.

Do you work hard at it for longer periods of time ... or divide the task up into smaller chunks? Which works best? For you, or anyone? Is there a definitive answer? No. It will vary for you, as with anyone else. It will vary by motivation, inclination, time available, the nature and importance of the topic, the degree to which this topic is covered in print or online, or in workshops and in the workplace. In deed, my contention, would be that the greater the variety of ways to engage with the information the better it will be retained and the more useful it will be when required in a myriad of ways to be applied or is called upon.

On reflection

I learn from writing somethign out by hand. I learn again when I type it up. I may not be engaging with it 'in the workpale;' but there is engagement non the less through my eyes, hands and fingers. Similarly the person who wrote out this pack of 71 cards (both sides written up) was preparng themselves, afterall, for a written exam. She knows her stuff poolside, her struggle (as I know is the case for many) is translating this into exam-like responses in a highly false setting, away from a pool, from swimmers, having to read words to respond in text, rather than reading an athlete (observation) and responding with a fixing drill or exercise.




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H800: 24 Wk3 Metaphor in Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011, 22:15

It could be the subject of of PhD Thesis

Metaphor is the essence of learning, of knowledge transfer, of transmitting ideas, of ideas themselves, of innovation and creativity.

We labour it



Reading Sfard and various other authors/academics and philosophers ... and a neuroscientist I draw my own conclusions in relation to learning in general and e-learning in particular.



The first image is from Gareth Morgan. The explanation of how metaphor is used, and potentially abused (or simply confused) is clear. 'Man is a lion. He is a lion because he is brave.'

We permit poetic licence

We then move on to the idea of what I am calling (for want of a metaphor) Stage 1 Learning, that necessary first step where the person learning needs to acquire 'stuff,' where knowledge is imparted or experienced. This might be a lecture, a talk, a video, a book. Acquisition for me is not the metaphor, it is the description of what is occurring. I cannot see 'acquisition.' I can see someone at a supermarket check-out 'acquiring' goods, I can even visualise the 'sausage machine' concept/cartoon of information/knowledge being ground out of books and deposited in a person's head.

Moving on to Stage 2 Learning (though it could be any stage 2 through to infinity) we have a tool of learning, 'participation.' Here, once again, I understand an adjective describing actual participation, as demonstrated in the John Seely Brown lecture, of students working together at a table (round of course), with those on the 'periphery' taking part tangentially while those in the middle are the primary 'actors.' THIS is learning in the Congo Rain Forest to get honey from the top of a tree, this is learning above the Arctic Circle to cut blow-holes to harpoon seals ... this is how 'man' has always learned. a) where's the new thinking? b) is 'participation' a metaphor, or simple an adjective?

For me participation is the end of term play, the Christmas Panto, working on a student newspaper, blog or TV magazine show.

To use metaphor suggests improving communication of ideas and doing so in a persuasive and memorable way. There are cliched metaphors. They lose currency through over use. Educators appear to be stuck in a rut on this one, regurgitating old ideas.


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H800: 22 Reflecting on H800

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 10 Mar 2013, 00:26

How goes it?

Like a roller-coaster, merrily going along, like the C4 ident:through the loops of a roller-coaster though the shapes I see are 'H' and '800' and '807' and '808' as I pass by.

Then I switch track and venue and find myself on the Mouse-Trap. Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Here there is a rise and dip where you are convinced you will hit a girder. I just did, metaphorically speaking. (Diary entry, August 1980)

Ilness changes things

Nothing more than a rubbish cold made uncomfortable by asthma.

It is a set back of sorts. I can sleep and read. But the spark has gone (for now).

To use a different analogy, if I often think of my mind as a Catherine-wheel, this one has come off and landed in a muddy-puddle.

We're in the week of metaphors for learning.

I can draw on any notes I've taken on this here and in my eportfolio. This is more than an aide-memoire, it favours the choices I made before at the expense of anything new. So I widen my search. The OU Library offers hundreds of thousands of references in relation to 'Education' and 'Metaphor' going back to 1643.

Gathering my thoughts will take time.

There are 26 pages (nearly 12,000 words) to read (course intro, resources). Far, far more if I even start to consider ANY of the additional references or reading.

Give me three months. We have, or I have left, three days.

My approach is simple. Tackle it on the surface, drill into an author or topic that is of interest and expect to pick up on and pick through this again later this module, later this year ... or next existence. (I believe in multiple existences and flux. We are transitory and changing)

As well as tapping into the OU Blog and e-portfolio the blog I've kept since 1999 might have something to say on metaphor. If I care to I might even rummage through A'Level English Literature folders from the 1970s, just to trigger something. Engaged and enabled by Vygotsky and others in relation to memory and learning I value this ability to tap into past thoughts/studying with ease.

(Ought others to be sold the idea of a life-long blog?)

Otherwise I have gone from learn to swim in the training pool, to swimming lengths in the main pool ... to observer/coach who will participate, but has a towel over his shoulders and is looking around.

The next pool? Where is that?

I'm not the same person who set out on this journey 12 months ago.

On the other hand, having a Kindle makes me feel more like a teenager swotting for an Oxbridge examination; I like having several books on the go. I'll be through 'Educational Psychology (Vygotsky) by the end of the day and am already picking through and adding to copious notes.

Piaget next?

Then a little kite-boarding as I head away from the swimming pool that has been an MA with the OU?!

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H800: 22 Wk2 Activity 1 John Seely Brown on participation through tinkering

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 22 Dec 2020, 20:28

I agree with John Seely Brown’s emphasis, however, how should the degree of and the value of participation differ between the following four types of learning situation: primary, secondary, tertiary and ‘on the job.’


And how does this degree of participation through-out a term, day or even a lesson in relation to the context, the ratio of teachers to pupils, the subject matter, the mix of students, the time of day, period in the week, in the term and so on. And how does such participation rank. Or measure up, in terms of efficacy – the time in which certain learning outcomes need to be met and assessed?

Learning that might be described as mechanical, compared to intellectual, for example, between how to fill a drum with uranium trioxide correctly, reliably and safely compared to learning a language. And even within these examples, how does the person’s preferred learning style come in to play?

QQ 1. Your work so far on H800 includes some individual reading and viewing/listening. Does Brown’s argument imply that this is less valuable than your group work?

Not at all.

Participation is being recognised as a shift to make more of something that has always occurred, but is enabled by current technology, so that such participation is as possible at a distance, as it is face-to-face.

The individual reading, reviewing/listening … and watching provides the assets, insights and experiences of others that are required to begin to form an opinion. As Vygotsky (1926) points out, learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum, there are stages, or step changes, related to coming to a more mature response to something. However, Brown suggests during the course of the presentation, that merely attaching oneself to the periphery of group work that interests you, could or will, if you play your role, lead to a kind of reverse centrifugal force during which you will be drawn into, or tumble in amongst, the activity at the centre of the group. The example he used was on contributing to the development of Open Source Software, the outsider attaching at the periphery and through participation, confidence, demonstration of ability, through ‘tinkering’ and engagement, gradually proving themselves worthy of participation in the ‘inner sanctum’ as it were.

QQ2. What are the implications of his argument for your own use of technology – in your own learning and teaching?

If we think of the best way to learn a language as ‘immersive,’ then perhaps there are many more occasions where similarly immersive, participatory learning could have a place and produce, as a result, better ‘results.’ That there is no point in being precious with knowledge, instead of keeping it close, let it go, build reputation, share ideas. How authors or creators/creatives earn a living from the expression of their thoughts is another issue.

Models are changing across the board

This is completely counter to my experience of secondary and tertiary education, indeed, I liken myself to Brown who talks about his writing code that no others could read and being proud of this. We kept everything close to our chests. However, putting on theatre shows and later moving into TV and Film production, I was involved in a highly participatory activity, indeed, coming in as a runner, or production assistant is/was and still is the way to gain experience, learn on the job, prove yourself and through will, willingness and personality, being drawn in or permitted into the ‘inner sanctum’ which you might call the key roles of producer, director or writer (compared to assistants to any of these, or assistants to the assistants).

QQ3. What are your reactions to Brown’s style of presentation?

The experience in person would have been satisfactory. As you listen you may take notes, may refer as appropriate to the slides he uses, as well as watching his facial expressions and body language and listening to the change in timbre, tone and pace of his voice, all adding emphasis, nuance and even colour to what he is saying. As someone from Television, who has covered lectures/talks it disappoints me that little adequate thought has been given to why certain shot sizes work better, the variety of shot sizes, the angle from which it is shot, even the lighting as Brown often steps back into the shadows, let alone when and how to use cut-aways to the slides and to the audience. However, for a change, the sound quality is good – often it is atrocious. If you get bored or distracted count how many bald heads there are, try to see who is taking notes, does someone get up and leave then return.

None of this is pertinent to the piece and should never been in the frame! Indeed, picking up on what he says later I ought to load this into iMovies or FinalCut Pro, frame him, cut in therefore, and source alternative or better slides.

To cut back its length I may cut in audience shots, whether or not they are of people at this presentation so long as they appear to make a match. What Brown himself would applaud and calls ‘tinkering,’ which is perhaps his thesis.

To tinker is good. Participation is effective.

Enrolling people, engaging them, team-work, motivational techniques … all suggests the teacher not as subject matter expert, but as host, guide or coach ... so simply the person with first-hand experience. ‘Understanding,’ he says, ‘is socially constructed’.

QQ4. What are its strengths and weaknesses compared with the webcast lecture in Week 1 about the Google Generation, or with other presentations you have seen?

Online producers are yet to convince me that they have got it right. I doubt there is a single ‘best’ way to cover such talks/lectures … you may want to preserve the veracity of the presentation and therefore cut nothing at all, indeed, professionally for multi-media and for multiple platforms ‘we’ may provide potential editors with shot sizes and cut-aways to allow them to make their own editorial decisions: this would be in keeping with what Brown describes as ‘tinkering’ later on.

Dr Ian Rowland gave a chat, without visual support. Brown gave a talk with visual support that was weak – they didn’t complement what he was saying, they lacked, IMHO, adequate emphasis.

The answer, which those in education, where the budget permits, should do, is for writers to work with visualises, as in advertising copywriters work with art directors, or giving the emphasis to the director, as directors do with another person’s screenplay/script in TV. This isn’t so far-fetched, modern educators can shoot and edit their own video, and as educators surely they ought to be more away of the need and benefits of appealing across the senses. For example, if this presentation were going to 17,000 managers across the Deutsche Bank I might have the budget to employ an illustrator/cartoonist such as Steven Appleby to make more of these supporting images – to make them more memorable and appealing, and in so doing, strengthening the message.

QQ5. Is it paradoxical that you are invited to listen to one person talking about, among other things, the importance of study groups?

It isn’t paradoxical at all. We live in a mixed and multi-media world. Those recording these events, as here, shouldn’t just be alert to accessibility issues (sight/sound), but to learning choices an audience/readers might like to make on how they engage with the material based on personal choices and circumstances.

Often, despite balking at reading all the time, I would prefer the peer-reviewed, published paper that can be read in a fraction of the time it takes to sit through a ‘talk.’ Already I behave as my 12 year old son does and would have listened to John Seely Brown, while reading the transcript, while (as I did) executing quick Google searches on all manner of things that he mentioned, from ‘what is a ‘bull meeting,’ to the credentials of those he mentioned (what does it say in Linked In) and any related reports John Seely Brown may have penned SINCE this presentation in October 2007.




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Learn - repeat - learn

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 15 Jul 2013, 17:13

'The psychological conclusion demands a distribution of repetitions such that some of them should be produced at a later time, separated from the first repetition by a pause'. (Vygotsky, 1926:Location 2686)

So wrote the educational psychologist Lev Vygostsky over 80 years ago. Putting this into practice using email (and now Smart Phone apps and eventually Facebook), the team at Spaced-Ed have created a learning system that works.


Interactive Spaced-Education to Teach the Physical Examination: A randomized Controlled Trial


Several studies have documented that physical examination knowledge and skills are limited among medical trainees.


The objective of the study is to investigate the efficacy and acceptability of a novel online educational methodology termed ‘interactive spaced education’ (ISE) as a method to teach the physical examination.


Randomized control trial.


170 second year medical students.


  • Spaced-education items (questions and explanations)
  • Validated by two experts
  • Piloted and 36 items selected for inclusion
  • 6 spaced-education e-mails each week for a 6 week cycle.
  • Students submitted answers to the questions online and received immediate feedback
  • An online end-of program survey was administered.

RESULTS: Successful 85% participants recommended the ISE programme for students the following year.

CONCLUSIONS: ISE can generate significant improvements in knowledge of the physical examination and is very well-accepted by students.

While many studies have documented the dearth of physical examination knowledge and skills among trainees, ISE has the potential to remediate these deficiencies across the spectrum of medical education (p977)

Why necessary?

Students do the training, but may still have poor recall a year later. Spacing works.

The spacing effect is the psychological finding that educational encounters that are spaced and repeated over time (spaced distribution) result in more efficient learning and improved learning retention, compared to massed distribution of the educational encounters (bolus education). (P973)

As Vygotsky expressed it 80 years previously:

'It should also be emphasized that every person has his own customary rate of response, and that any change in this rate, either speeding it up or slowing it down, weakens the force of recall'. (Vygotsky, 1926:Location 2686)

And so here students can tailor the timing of questions they are fed - spacing them out or bunching them as they see fit and circumstances change. Go try it, there are courses you can do on topics that a far less demanding that second year physical examinations. Try world history in maps, for example, or getting the most out of your iPhone.

A distinct neurophysiologic basis for the spacing effect has been identified

‘Spaced education’ refers to online educational programs that are structured to take advantage of the pedagogical benefits of the ‘spacing effect’.

Interactive spaced-education (ISE) combines the pedagogical merits of both the ‘spacing effect’ and the ‘testing effect. (974)

Each spaced-education item consists of an evaluative component (a multiple choice question based on a clinical scenario) and an educational component (the answer and explanation)

Psychometric analysis of the questions was performed using the Integrity test analysis software (http://integrity.castlerockresearch.)

Based on item difficulty, point-biserial correlation, and Kuder–Richardson 20 score, 36 of the questions were selected for inclusion in the ISE program.

  • Students receive spaced-education e-mails at designated time intervals which contain a clinical scenario and question (evaluative component).
  • Upon clicking on a hyperlink in this e-mail, a web-page opens which displays pertinent images and allows the student to submit an answer to the question.
  • Upon downloading this answer to a central server, students are then immediately presented with a webpage displaying the correct answer to the question and an explanation of the curricular learning point (the educational component).
  • By having the provider submit a response before receiving the correct answer and an explanation, this process requires greater interactivity, which educational theory argues may improve learning outcomes.
  • The submitted answers of students were recorded using the MyCourses™ web-based education platform

The survey was constructed and administered online using the SurveyMonkey web-based platform.

Future developments and assimilation of spaced-education alongside traditional medial school teaching methods

For example, as ISE utilizes traditional web-pages for the submission of answers and for the presentation of learning points, it should be possible to use all of the functionalities of web-pages within the ISE program to meet the training needs of care providers. For example, physician trainees learning how to auscultate the heart can be presented with ISE items which contain an audio recording of an unknown heart sound, and then, trainees can be asked to identify the murmur.


Micro-learning is favoured over more substantial time being given to this. I can imagine many applications.

This finding is in stark contrast to the strong resistance we encountered when conducting a recent trial of web-based teaching modules among 693 medical residents and students. In this trial focusing on systems based practice competency education, trainees were expected to spend 20 minutes per week over 9 weeks completing web-based teaching modules (interactive web-pages and online narrated slide presentations). (p977)

This high acceptability also likely reflects the ease of use of the spaced-education delivery system, the immediate relevance of the content, and the importance that students attribute to learning the physical examination. (p977)

Some items to cover if you are thinking of being a professional and thorough as the team at Harvard and Spaced-Ed:

  • · Conflict of Interest:
  • · Funding/Support:
  • · Financial Disclosures:
  • · Author Contributions:
  • · Conception and design:
  • · Acquisition of data:
  • · Analysis and interpretation of data:
  • · Drafting of the manuscript:
  • · Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content:
  • · Statistical analysis:
  • · Obtaining funding:
  • · Ethical Approval to Perform the Study:
  • · Corresponding Author:

And a finaly word from Lev Vygotsky.

'Rhythm plays a decisive role in the learning process, unifying some of the material, conferring on it a sequential symmetry, and, finally, organizing the various elements into a unified whole'. (Vygotsky, 1926)


Kerfoot, B, P (2006) SPACED EDUCATION. Interactive Spaced-Education to Teach the Physical Examination: A randomized Controlled Trial.

Vygotsky, L (1926) Educational Psychology





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H800: 20 Wk2 Activity 9 Blended Learning in Brazil

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 1 Jul 2012, 18:01

We are asked to consider the life of a Brazilian Mum, working in a Law office, doing an undergraduate course


She opts for blended learning and needs to juggle family life (husband, two children) with her job and studies. Through a combination of face-to-face elements and TV or going online she is able to meet a tight weekly schedule, within a time course time table.

We are asked to reflect on this fictional student and her circumstances, how the institution puts in place enough to make her stdying possible, and to meet various benchmarks so that she is taught and assessed at the correct level.


A quick Google search and we should think of this is a city like Barcelona or Birmingham; these are modern solutions to a common dilemma, how to have two people in full-time employment, with family commitments, while trying to gain further qualifications in order to improve their career prospects.

I believe the institution has put everything in place in terms of the schedule, the support, the infrastructure, technology and resources. To succeed the candidate will need not only to juggle many balls, but at times to face off brickwalls and barries. Life happens as a parents ... husband made redundant, children sick, elderly relatives ... it is far easier to get this part of your education dealt with while there is less going on! Does she have the motivation and will she get the support from siblings, husband, her work ... even her friends? Is their a mirror network of support and new friends where she is studying.

What is meant by conventional?

When has there been a period of stability in education? And compared to the context where? We fairly recently mixed up universities and polytechnics, only in this generation have we been pushing for 50%^+ attendance in Tertiary education. Only recently has the school leaving age been increased.

My parent’s generation (they happened to be at Durham University) lived at home … one generation on, and we’re back to this pattern with university being a natural step on from Secondary School rather than a leap across the country onto a campus. This has always been fluid, as they should to reflect changing demands in the economy and changing possibilities.

Each generation makes the most of what is possible and available

It strikes me that this is suitably resourceful way to gain qualifications and experience while juggling everything else, in the case, a woman has to do an implication being here that perhaps a man would have excused himself from any household chores were he to consider taking a degree, while a woman has to do it all. I speak from the basis of a househusband doing part-time and freelance work, alongside family responsibilities (kids now at secondary school, having seen them through nursery and primary school).

I don’t consider what she is doing to be unusual at all, indeed I think it is the norm.

I have certainly seen plenty in my generation retrain as their previous careers/jobs have alternated out of recognition or disappeared … or become so ‘cheap’ that they aren’t sustainable.

The best learning is driven by the motivation of the individual to learn; they will push against any brick wall, or through any barrier to achieve this end. The state, as here, cannot spoon feed or dictate, just offer as best as is reasonable, a flexible system that can be accommodated. It is not surprising how much can be done if people give p 3 hours + television viewing every day, for example.

In relation to ‘face to face, the very best learning, if we take it back hundreds of years, is one to one, governess and tutor.

A compromise might be an equally privilege Oxbridge kind of tutorial system, in a college with a small cohort of students meeting weekly in groups of one, two or three.

The experience of 50+ students in a lecture hall several times a week can never have suited the majority

Indeed, on a developmental point of view it favoured the ‘freaks’ those with exceptional or rather narrow skills at being able to take something from these experiences … and then to memorise it all for an exam.

Because of the fluidity/flexibility of this non ‘traditional’ approach the institution must feel, necessarily, that one way or another the candidate is meeting all the criteria to meet the learning outcomes, that a combination of attendance, contributions, assessments and so on will bring them up to a standard that is common to any student at this level.

Whilst the institution can be prescriptive, the candidate has to make the time, make the space, organise their lives all the better in order to accommodate their work

Depending on their circumstances they become dependent on the contribution being made by a partner, but will always be faced with other hurdles, such as being made redundant in the middle of it all, or a child being sick (or a relative), or the partner being made redundant. All manner of problems can arise that might not be the lot of the typical, full time, undergraduate student who is fed and sheltered, may even have a grant, and just has to get out of bed on time for lectures!

A support network of tutors, assistants and technical staff

Support infrastructure to provide resources and to facilitate meetings, discussions and interaction. i.e. the institution needs to be a host, to be supportive.

The division of course work into discrete time periods based on modules, units within these and dates for assignments. I.e. highly structured to ensure, despite what else is going on in this person’s life, there are clear markers/deadlines/guide lines regarding what is required/expected of them.

Whilst it is the student who has to juggle, in some respects the institution is the ring master.

The student requires the institution to be a presence, both real and virtual, to provide the venues and platforms … even the skills to juggle and the items to juggle!


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H800: 19 Week 2 Activity 6 University Libraries vs Google

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 18 Oct 2014, 16:39

Dr Ian Rowlands The Google Generation

The key thoughts that I take from Ian Rowlands talk on the Google Generation are :

  • Disintermediation
  • Extravagant Claims
  • Diversity and segmentation (he picked out three clusters)
  • Google and Wikipedia dependence
  • Text based to visual
  • The mental maps of children
  • Books as chapters
  • Good students and ‘good’ research techniques
  • A mental map of information


The middleman, or the ‘intermediary function’ has been cut out. He mentioned travel agents, we could just as easily exclude secretaries (because of word processors), the post man and(because of email), people in ‘middle management’ because analytics run from the shop floor, or retail outlet to a directors computer and … even the teacher as subject matter expert.

The Extravagant Claims as popular commentators, authors and publications become mashed-up with serious study.

These are the Marc Prensky (Digital Natives) and Malcolm Bradbury (The Tipping Point) types who take indicators from genuine research and then exaggerate and extend the claims and findings.

They are not ‘one homogenous blob’ as Dr Rowland puts it.

There is diversity by age, gender, and exposure to IT. This is complex picture is exactly what advertising agency and product marketing departments understand and it was about time educators took a similar approach to understand the minutiae of the ‘audience’ who will choose to purchase information from their libraries …. Or not, that fails to attract interest because a headline is easier to consume than a 30 page report. There is segmenting by diversity type … something librarians once did for users, but now readers can do for themselves.

Do modern users care or understand the relevance of what they find

Can they not differentiate between dirt or a pearl? That a Google search is not a library search and that there are more sources than Wikipedia?

We’re shifting from text based to a preference for the visual. But has not the visual always been preeminent. People learn less from reading than they do by observing and doing, always have done. Indeed, has not there simply been a period of text based education elitism?

The mental maps of children are indeed different

Rowland expresses concern about this as if it isn’t commonly understood. It would help if those in education took a formal course in education as teachers in primary and secondary education are required to do, they therefore might understand something about childhood development, developmental psychology and basic neuroscience.

Each generation is a product of how and where it is brought up and what they are exposed to; if we have a Net Generation today, then in the past we have had generations brought up with Television, with Movies, with the car, and before that the train … and further back still, the first generations to be literate and have books. It isn't helpful to isolate the Google generation and think they're different from us. They're not. There's a continuum. Dr Rowland

Books as chapters

Is this not the same with tracks from albums, rather than the entire LP concept?

Good search technique students get better grades than poor search technique students

Is it the good research technique, or the good student that gets the results? I’m not convinced the correct correlation is being made here.

We need a mental map of information so that stuff doesn’t get ‘hidden behind the screen.’

From the point of view of methods of communicating the information I would prefer a summary and article to a informal talk cum-lecture. Armed with a verbatim transcript I will immediately do a search for words and phrases that would have been edited out of any written piece on the subject. So out come the following:

‘actually’ 19 uses.

‘really’ 56 uses

‘very’ 54 uses

‘you know’ 20 uses

‘simply’ 12 uses

‘literally’ 3 uses

‘sorts of’ 4 uses

(This I should add is a very modest tally of a normal convesational style that would occur with anyone except a seasoned broadcaster. The point is, you don't want to read a verbatim transcript).

Here I am making something I want to read, easier to read.

All that counts is how the information goes in, if there is motivation to engage with it, and how the information is then labelled, enabled, packaged and chunked in your mind.

Are the right kind of neurological activities going on that result in the information withering, or proving fruitful?

Is it to be engaged in deep learning, or is it just ‘stuff’ top be learnt, tested and dropped?

The key word for any expression of information that matters to me is EFFORT.

Has the person wishing to communicate something made the effort to get it right?

We have a plethora of choices

A subject we may be interested in may be delivered as a lecture, a workshop, a classroom talk, a presentation of any kind, an after dinner or at the dinner table, live or recorded, in vision or not, edited or not. It may be a paper, a leaflet or pamphlet. It may be a formal study or report, an assignment or essay, even a thesis, a chapter in a book, or entry in Wikipedia.

It might also be the basis for an entire course of study or a module within one. The subject of a three minute news story, with an interview and cut-aways, or a documentary, or a panel debate. It might be a poster, a website, a blog entry or email as body text or an attachment.

It can be many things and all things. One dish can make a smorgasbord

There are lectures and there are informal talks, some like this, perhaps ought not to receive wide circulation, it may be unfair to take a speaker out of context. I get the feeling that this is an intimate, even informal, sharing of ideas, a catalyst to get a discussion going amongst a group of professionals.

From a learning point of view I cannot sit back and listen to these things and get much from it

This is didactic, being talked to. My attendance at lectures as an undergraduate stopped during my first term and I doubt I attended ANY lecture afterwards; it was easier to read their book, as I felt most lecturers were ‘reading from their book.’ So I got their book from the faculty library, or got to it first in the Bodleian, or bought it from Blackwell’s (all three within a 2 minute bike ride of each other). Just as a sheet of grabs of bullet points from a Power Point presentation are NOT ‘presenter notes,’ nor is a verbatim transcript of the person talking.

This is LAZY, though of value as a point of ACCESS best practice.

If I can read the presentation then I’ll do so, not at three words a second (the spoken voice) and ideally not with all the ticks and circumlocutions that slow the spoken word down in what can be an indulgent perambulation around a subject. Academics are not broadcasters. What do we read at? Nine words a second?

When someone was born does NOT dictate whether they are or are not exposed to a plethora of electronic gadgets, tools and resources.

Whilst they have to have been born after the technology has come into existence and popular use, this does not mean that they are ‘brought up in an immersive rich media interactive culture’.

If we take everyone born on the planet after 1993 the percentage exposed to this immersive media immediately and understandably drops massively. It is a western, developed, first world phenomenon.


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The concept of Digital Natives, like Marc Prensky, is popularist tosh that cites Star Trek as a credible reference

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 13 Dec 2012, 07:33

Is it academically sound to quote Star Trek as your source?

'We want young people, like rockets, to "boldly go where no one has gone before," (4) and partnering offers the best prospects for getting them there' (Prensky, 2006)

Click on the reference in this 'Prensky-ism' and it kindly tells us 'opening sequence of the Star Trek television show.'

Hardly Harvard Referencing.

When you read Prensky beyond the gushing plaudits from his fans in teaching, this is what you find. Nothing is referenced. Everything is hearsay. Personal anecdotes pass as fact. Just because he spoke to a teacher at a school somewhere passes as research, it is not.

Everything is 'Planet Prensky in scope i.e. American kids with laptops and iPhones.

As I'm inclinded to read everything I can, I'm also starting to find far too many of the ideas put forward by Prensky as his own, as well developed, often academically sound ideas expressed elsewhere, in earlier publications that Prensky then pointedly fails to acknowledge.

He claims, for example, as his own this notion of ideas to tackle the digital learning environment as 'verbs' and 'nouns' which, for example, is the exact same premise of William Horton in 'Web-based Learning' and more recently (though pre-dating Prensky) in 'E-learning Design.' William Horton has been working in technology enabled learning, computer-based and web-based learning since the 1970s.

The thing is, I find myself compelled to read Prensky. His truisms are simply that; the reality is profoundly more complext and dull.

Do we want academics who grab the headlines or academics who have a professional and scientifc, academically sound approach to research and what they publish?

Is there an inevitable blending of the formal and informal, or the popular media and academia when in effect, a shelf of academic books on the shelves of the Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford are mixed up with the trash (magazines and novels) you can pick up from the airport?


Horton, W (2006) E-Learning By Design

Horton, W (2003) E-Learning Tools and Technologies

Horton, W (2002) Using E-Learning

Horton, W (2001) Leading E-learning

Horton, W (2001) Developing Knowledge Products

Horton, W (1996) The Web-page design cookbook

Prensky, M (2006) Teaching Digital Natives

Prensky, M (2001) Digital Natives (article)

Prensky, M (2009) Education as Rocket Science (article)

Prensky, M (2006) Do they really think differently? (article)

Prensky, M ) E-enough. E-learning is a misnomer (article)

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H800: 18 Eating Three Humble pies - on reading, dated reports, participation online (and the use of cliched corporate catch phrases)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 20:00



Eating humble pie

At various times over the last 12 months I have knocked the MAODE because of the amount of reading required, particularly in H808 ‘Innovations in e-learning’, where it rankled to read reports that felt out of date or books of the last century, and across the modules for the lack of examples of ‘innovations in e-learning,’, as if the MAODE should exploit the students by sending through the online hoops the equivalent of a performance in a Cirque du Soleil show.

I take it back:

I eat humble pie for and offer three reasons:

1. Reading works

2. The earliest investigations on things we now consider common place and highly revealing

3. Bells and whistles may have no tune Reading works, though it is unnecessary to have the books in your hand, or to print of the reports.

I’ve done both, starting the MAODE or ODL as it was called in 2001, I had a box of books delivered to the door (I have many of these still).

Picking it up again in 2010 with H807 ‘Innovations in e-learning’ for want of an e-reader or adequate computer I found myself printing everything off – it unnecessarily fills eight large arch-level files (where if kept for a decade, they may remain).


There is value in printing things off

Whilst some links and too many follow up references from books and reports read in H807 were broken, I have the links and reports I downloaded and printed off in 2001.

One of these, exactly the kind of document I would have rejected in 2010 as dated, was written in 1992.


What is more, this paper addresses something that one would imagine would need a modern perspective to be of interest, the subject is the value of networking – what we’d call online collaboration or participation today.

The earliest investigations reveal the inspiration at a time when there were few options.

One the one hand I can go to the OU Library and type in ‘participation’ and ‘e-learning’ and be invited to read as PDFs a number of reports published in the last few months, on the other, I can go and see some of the earliest efforts to understand the possibilities and overcome the technical issues in order to try and recreate for distance learners what campus based students had all the time – the opportunity to meet and share ideas, the tutor group online, as it were.


See below

Computer Networking for Development of Distance Education Courses (1).

In my teens and helping out on video-based corporate training films I recall some advice from the Training Director of FIH PLC, Ron Ellis. It’s one of those irritating corporate communications acronyms:

‘Keep it Simple, Stupid’

(as it was, though as some now prefer)

‘Keep it short and simple’.

It’s a fascinating story and remarkably for Wikipedia were entries are often anything but, it is short and straightforward.


The points I am making are straight forward too.

1. Reading

2. Research and References

3. Simplicity


An e-reader is simple

The process is enhanced and highly tailored once the content you need to consume is in a device that is slimmer than a slim novella. The affordances of the e-reader mean you can do away with pen and paper (though not a power or USB cable).

My passion for reading, where the 'Content is King', which perhaps unnecessarily brings me back to Wikipedia.

What you read, and the fact that you read, matters more than its being in paper form, whether chained to a shelf in the Duke Humphrey’s Library, Oxford (Bodleian), or bubble-wrapped from Amazon, let alone printed off on reams of 80sgm from WHSmith, holes punched and the thing filed for delayed consumption.


Reading too, I realise, is the purest form of self-directed learning

Vygostky would approve.

You are offered a list of suggested titles and off you go.


Parameters help

It is too easy to read the irrelevant if your only guide is Google and it is just as easy to purchase or download a book that has the title, but whose author could at best be described as ‘popular’.

It may fell archaic and arcane to be presented with a reading list, but I recognise their value, if only as the maelstrom of digital information spins across your eyes you can focus.

It may require effort to skim read the abstracts and contents of 33 books and papers in order to extract three or four to read over a two week period (as required to do in May 2001 on the then ODL), but the method works:you get an overview of the topic, a sense of who the authors and institutions your ‘school’ considers of interest, and then motivated by making some choices yourself, you read.


This in itself is one reason to avoid Wikipedia

if everyone reads the same content, everyone is likely to draw the same conclusions.

In any case, my issue with Wikipedia is three-fold, entries are either too short, or too long and there is no sense of the reader, the audience, for whom they are written; at times it is childish, at others like reading a doctoral thesis.


Or am I missing the point?

it isn’t a book, not a set of encyclopedias, but a library, communal built, an organic thing where those motivated to contribute and who believe they have something to say, do so; though all the corporate PR pap should be firewalled out.

Either way, my ambition is for WikiTVia, in which the entire content of Wikipedia is put in front of the camera and shot as chunkable video clips.


Anyone fancy giving it a go?

I digress, which is apt.


If you have a reading list you are less likely to get lost

What is more, you will have something to say in common with your fellow pupils when you’re online.

It matters for a niche conversation to be 'singing from the same hymn' sheet which is NOT the same as singing the same tune.

(Aren’t I the one full of cliché and aphorisms this morning).


Which brings us to point three, and a theme for Week 2 of H800 ‘Technology-enhanced learning: practice and debates.’

A title I have just typed out for the first time and I initially read as ‘Technology-enhanced debates’ which could be the right way to think of it given an initial taste of Elluminate.


It doesn’t work and there seems to be little desire or interest to fix it.

Google take over please.

I’d liken my first Elluminate session to my first attempt (indeed all my attempts) to learn to row.

Think of the Isis, early November morning, eight Balliol Men kicked out of bed by 3rd year student Miss Cressida Dick to cycle down to the boathouse.


We varied in shape and size like the cast of a James Bond movie:

Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton, Jaws and Odd-Job, Scaramanger and Ros Klebb, Goldfinger and Dr. No.

Despite our coach Dick's best intentions everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

Later that term on in our only race we were promptly ‘bumped’ and were out.

I wonder if the joint experience of Elluminate will find us bumping along discontentedly for the next few months?

My suggestion would to disembark to something simple, that works (as we did in H808)

Elluminate to Skype with Sync.in or Google.docs is the difference between crossing the English Channel on Pedalos, or sharing a compartment on the Eurostar.

Had this been a business meeting I may have said let’s email then pick up the phone and do a conference call that way.

If it had mattered and the journey was a matter of hours I may have said, hold it, let’s meet in a couple of hours.

What matters is achieving the outcome rather than trying to clamber on board a beach-side round-about on which the bells and whistles are falling off.


Reading, referencing and simplicity brings me to a paper we were expected to read in 2001.

Computer Networking for Development of Distance Education Courses (1) Tony Kaye.

Institute of Educational Technology

Downloaded 15/05/2001 http://www.icdl.open.ac.uk/mindewave/kaye.html

(Link broken and my searches thus far have not located a copy of this paper)

It was written in 1992.

(Until this week I baulked at reading anything pre Google, Facebook or Twitter. What, frankly is the point if none of these highly versatile, immediate forms of collaboration and communication online are not covered?)

This report is as relevant to synchronous and asynchronous collaborative online learning in 2011 as the earliest books coaching rowing.

The basic issues remain the same: the problem to solve, the goal and outcomes.


It’s relevance is like starting any conversation about the Internet with Tim Berners-Lee and CEARN.

In the paper, expert discuss the potential for computer support through local and wide-area networks for ‘work groups engaged in collaborative authoring tasks.’

You see, this, to keep it simple, is all we were trying to achieve on Elluminate, a ‘work group engaged in collaborative authoring tasks.’

Today we can hear and see each other, though the voice will do – and despite being so anachronistic, we can, presumable, all type on a QWERTY keyboard.

Courtesy of Cloud computing any other shared tool, from word, to spreadsheets, presentations, art pads and photo manipulation, we could choose to use from a plethora of readily available free choices.

‘it takes as a basic premise the need for a progressive co-evolution of roles, organisational structures, and technologies (Englebart and Lehtman, 1988), if technology is to be successfully used for group work.’

‘A summary of some of the main findings from studies of traditional (i.e. non technology-supported) course team activities is presented’.

This I consider important as it re-roots us in the very process we are trying to recreate online, a meeting between people, like or not-alike minds, with a common theme and goal.

This report was written for and about teams planning and writing distance teaching materials, however, as it points out,

‘many of the issues raised are relevant to other group collaboration and authoring tasks, such as planning and writing reports, research studies and books.’ Kaye (1992:01)

It makes fascinating reading, not least the comprehensive list of items that would have to be co-ordinate to create a distance learning ‘package,’ resplendent with diskette and C90 audio cassettes, 16 hours of TV and a 300 page course Reader.

Have things moved on?

Where’s our TV in MAODE?

I actually believed in 2001 I’d be getting up in the middle of the night to view lectures.

We don’t have lectures in the MAODE, why not?

It should not be a dying form.


The detail of designing, developing and producing a distance education package, though interesting in itself, is not what I’m looking for in this report, so much as how the teams used the then available technology in order to work together collaboratively online.

They had a task to undertake, a goal.

There were clear, agreed stages.


The emphasis on this report (or book chapter as it is sometimes referred to) are the ‘human factors’.

A wry smile crosses my face as I read about some of the problems that can arise (it sounds familiar):

  • Lack of consensus
  • Differing expectations Nature of roles and tasks ‘differences in the perceived trustworthiness of different colleagues’ [sic]
  • Different working patterns “Varying preferences in use of technology (which in this case include academics who use word-processors and who ‘draft in manuscript prior to word-processing by secretary” [sic]

Then some apt quotes regarding the process from this disparate group of individuals:

‘working by mutual adjustment rather than unitary consensus, bending and battering the system until it more or less fits’ (Martin, 1979)

‘If some course teams work smoothly, some collapse completely; if some deliver the goods on time, some are hopelessly late. Course teams can be likened to families/ Happy families do exist, but others fall apart when rebellious children leave home or when parents separate; most survive, but not without varying elements of antagonism and resentment.’ (Crick, 1980)


There is more

In microcosm it’s just the same on the MAODE.

I come to this conclusion after four or five ‘collaborative’ efforts with fellow students.


We’re human

We work together best of all face-to-face, with a real task, tight deadlines and defined roles, preferably after a meal together, and by way of example, putting on a university play would be an example of this.

Recreating much or any of this online, with a collections of heterogeneous strangers, with highly varied lives not just beyond the ’campus’ but possibly on the other side of the planet, is not unexpectedly therefore primed to fail.

This said, in H808, one collaborative experience I was involved with, between six, with one in New Zealand, was a text book success.



As I put it then, ‘we kept the ball rolling,’ in this case the time zones may have helped (and my own insomnia that suggests I am based in Hong Kong not Lewes, East Sussex).

It also helped to have a Training Manager from the Navy, and a Training Manager (or two) from Medicine.

There was professional discipline that students and academics seem to lack.


Indeed, as academics often say themselves, they don’t have proper jobs.

Isn’t it about time that they behaved like the professional world, indeed, took lessons from corporate communications instead of getting things wrong all the time?


I read this from the 1992 report and wonder if when it comes to the people involved much has changed inside academic institutions.

‘There is evidence to suggest that course team processes can become pathological if the factors listed by Riley(1983) (particularly, it could be argued, the ‘private’ factors) are not properly addressed.’ Kaye, (1992:08).

‘One experienced course team chairman (Drake, 1979) goes so far as to say that …

“the course team is a menace to the academic output and reputation of the Open University,” [sic/ibid]

‘because it provides a framework for protracted (and exciting) academic discussions about possible options for course content and structure, but that when the real deadlines are imminent, many academic are unable to come to define decisions and produce satisfactory material.’


If academics at the OU can’t (or couldn’t) work together what hope to do mature postgraduates have?


Our maturity and NOT being academics probably

‘problems can arise in the relationship between academic staff and radio or television producers’ Nicodemus (1984) points out that the resultant anxieties can cause “ … a lot of flight behaviour which simply delays and dramatises the eventual confrontations.’


I have an idea for a soap-opera set on the campus of the OU; this report provides the material

I'm not going to quote it all, but there is some social science behind it. Hopefully this paper or chapter is traceable.

Brooks (1982) has observed that when complex tasks are shared amongst individuals or small working groups, the extra burdens of coordination and communication often counteract the productivity gains expected from division of labour.


Problems arise from social psychological processes:

for example, pressures to confirm in a group might cause people to behave less effectively than if they were working alone, and diffusion of responsibility and lack of ownership of a group product can lead to group members contributing less effort to a group task tan they would to a personal, individual, project.


However, we are left on a positive note by this report

“ … the cycle of integration-disintegration is, after all, also known to be important in creativity.” (Nicodemus, 1984)

In the case of distributed course teams (eg those working on interdisciplinary, or co-produced courses) where, a priori, a strong case might be made for networked computer support for collaboration, it would seem important to pay even more attention to the underlying dynamics within a team.


Enough, enough, enough … I am only half way through this report.

Let’s skip to a conclusion, which is as pertinent today as it was in 1992.

‘The social, psychological, and institutional factors influencing the processes and outcomes of academic teamwork were stressed in the first part of this chapter (see above, this is as far as I got), because these factors are probably of greater overall importance in determining successes than is the nature of any technology support which might be made available to a course team'. Kaye (1992:17)




Brooks, F 91982) The mythical man-month: Essays on software engineering. Reading. MA.: Addison-Wesley.

Crick, M (1980) ‘Course teams: myth and actuality’, Distance Education engineering, Reading, MA.: Addison-Wesley.

Drake, M. (1979) ‘The curse of the course team’, Teaching at a distance, 16, 50-53.

Kaye, A.R. (1992) ‘Computer Conferencing and Mass Distance Education’, in Waggoner, M (ed) Empowering Networks: Computer Conferencing in Education, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Educational Technology Publications.

Martin, J. (1979) ‘Out of this world – is this the real OU?” Open Line, 21, 8.

Nicodemus, R (1984) ‘Lessons from a course team’, Teaching at a distance, 25, pp 33-39

Riley, J (1983) The Preparation of Teaching in Higher Education: a study of the preparation of teaching materials at the Open University, PhD Thesis, University of Sussex.


Post script

In the course of writing this I discovered (courtesy of Wikipedia) that Leonardo da Vinci may have coined the phrase, or a version of ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ and also invented the pedalo. The mind boggles, or is Leonardo still alive and contributing ? (his fans certainly are).

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The quirks of technology

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 25 Nov 2012, 05:23

Loaded into DropBox (Picasa) this grab of a 17th century painting, or a 16th century character gets the 'networking' treatment. Isn't technology presumptuous.


This vast painting, known simply as the 'Great Picture' tells a poignant story, wealth and lands are involved, but also the desperate love of a daughter for her wayward father.


Lady Anne Clifford in the left hand panel is shown age 15 at the time of her father's death. Her father, her brothers shown here also long dead, leaves his estates to his brother; something Lady Anne spends the rest of her life fighting to overtime. In the right hand panel, 41 years later, she had the lands - though only because the male line of her cousin also produced no male heirs.

It is a deeply personal story too, the image of a happy family suggested in the central frame is a myth. George Clifford was a womaniser, Champion to Queen Elizabeth, pirateer and gambler. By the time Lady Anne was at court, where she was sent age 13 years 2 months, her father was estranged from her mother and with his mistress.

The rows or heraldic devices left and right of the main picture tell the 200 year history of the Clifford Family from the mid 15th century, a line that ends with Anne. All the portraits are copies of miniatures, some made 50 years before this composite painting.

On the one hand it reads like a Hollywood Movie of three acts, the moment when it all goes wrong for Lady Anne she loses her father and inheritance), the conflict to take possession of the lands which the central panel indicate belong to this line of the Clifford family, and the final act when Lady Anne, now 56 years old, and twice married with daughters of her own, moves into her properties.

On the other hand, to modern eyes it is a homepage for a website. There would be over 70 clickable points, links into nuggets of information, on previous generations, on her brothers who died age 5 and 7, on her governess (Mrs anne Taylour) and tutor (Samuel Daniel), her aunts too (Baroness Wharton, Counterss of Derby, Countes of Warwick and Countess of bath), and her two husbands (the earl of Dorset and Phil, Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery) ... on the books she read and the music she player, even her pet cat and dog.

Both her diaries and this painting suggest a daughter who craved her father's affection and on his death wanted what she felt should have been his gift to her - his lands. Clifford is shown in a pose he'd never recognise, a father and head of the family with his wife and children. He wears a suit of 'Star Armour' the equivalent today of being shown sitting in or standing next to a Royals-Royce Phantom.

Some story, some picture, some ideas on how to compress information into a three frames from the 17th Century.

It has all I'd look for in a website home page: a storyline, a choice of ways into the information (the choice to explore down to the use) and drama both in the events and the scale and nature of the picture.

There's pleasure today tracking down items from the Great Picture: the books are labeled, the pearls Lady Anne wears (a gift from her father), the star armour, the portraits and miniatures on which the Great Picture exist in galleries, collections and museums. The players have their stories too and Lady Anne kept a diary.

The journal Lady Anne kept reads like a modern blog, it trips between the issue of her inheritance and tussles over them with kings and husbands, as well as details like paying the housekeeper 3d to look after her cat when she was away (you can see the cat at Lady Anne's skirts in the right hand panel).

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Vygotsky and the need to nurture in education

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 07:51

If I wished to define the way I lead, or teach it would be this:


As Vygotsky put it:


'The gardener affects the germination of his flowers by increasing the temperature, regulating the moisture, varying the relative position of neighboring plants, and selecting and mixing soils and fertilizer, i.e. once again, indirectly, by making appropriate changed in the environment. Thus it is that the teacher educates the student by varying the environment'. Vygotsky 1926 (Kindle location 1129)

And further on he says:

'The basic rule is that before imparting new knowledge to the child and before fostering a new reaction in him, we must be sure to prepare the ground for it i.e. arouse the appropriate interest. For an analogy, just think how we loosen the soil before planting seeds'. (Kindle location 1755)

Is this an e-reader location system? Page numbers no longer exists ... my world of reading books with pages numbers ended a week ago!


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E-learning 2001-2011: A perspective

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013, 23:03

Have we dumbed down in the last decade?

I was on H804 BR227 Block 2-A1 on the 19th March 2001. I was in Barbara's Tutor Group.

The block reading was extensive; it had arrived in a large cardboard box, along with CD-roms. Books galore. I've numbered the 33 items from which I need to read x paper or chapters. Have we dumbed down in the last decade?

Is reading, if only on a Kindle, no so valid?

Has quantity of content provided been replaced by the quantity of content we generated between each other? If so, it makes contribution the peer group and module cohort all the more important.

We are meant to browse through these and select one. Skim reading as a ‘good study technique’ of the 1990s at the OU. Is this no longer so? I fancy an Amazon reviewing approach to all required reading. I’d then pick one five star, one three star and one that hadn’t received a rating. It’s about as good as my old technique – alphabetical order. Skim read 33 items then choose one? Never. Read all of them, then choose surely. In business if I had to review products, or interview new candidates would I do the job properly, or just give them a cursory glance? ‘If you find something on ODl course design in the set books, or in H80X Resources, which is not currently listed in the Reading guide, just email me with the details. Ill add it to the list. John (John Pettit).

Interestingly a article we then read from Cisco does something similar to the review suggestions above, not as basic as a start rating but ‘Sounding Off’ in which the first few words of comment and listed from sixteen or so commentators.

I then turn to printed off pages, marked up with a highlighter pen. (I can’t find myself stumbling across such paperwork with such Serendipity in ten years time should I care to reconsider the contents of MAODE 2010-2011. It will be buried in, by then, 10,000 assets in my e-portfolio. As I call it, like looking for a needle in a stack of needles. Something no string of tags can save you from … because every item has a similar set of tags. Where is ‘serendipity’ 2021? Years ago I put an ‘Enter@Random’ button in my blog., I’m yet to think of a more sophisticated way to tap into my mind).

In this article John Chambers CEO of CISCO says

‘The next big killer application for the Internet is going to be education.’

This is too often misquoted outside the realm of corporate training – what he has in mind here is how to keep 4,000 Cisco sales people up to speed and better able to sell, not how to educate classroom based school kids.

Is the next step the Open School?

To home educate? It would make better use of what the Internet offers. I do wonder how or why I’ve ended up nailed first to the locally primary school and then an affordable private school within walking distance. My wife and I are both freelance, who cares where we could be in the world as we do everything online.

Remind me to go to the estate agents. We’re selling up!

Meanwhile, I’m glad to see ‘e-learning’ used here; I was convinced it was a term coined recently. ‘Ultimately, Tom Kelly says, e-learning will be most effective when it no longer feels like learning – when it’s simply a natural part of how people work.’ If you do things in small chunks, she continues, they become just another part of your job. And what I like most of all, ‘E-learning will be successful when it doesn’t have its own name.’

My children wouldn’t call it e-learning

It’s just homework, whether in a text book or using a computer, which may or may not go online. Do we different where our TV feed comes from anymore? It’s just more TV. It is has taken me exactly one week, courtesy of a Kindle, to drop any idea of e-readers, e-books or e-reading … these are books, this is reading – the means of distribution is different, that’s all, it’s as if I have an electronic butler handing me one sheet of the book at a time. Bliss.

I’m still some way off why I’m reading this and writing about, just picking up echoes from the past as I go through it. Kelly had some insights on e-learning (which he defines as Web-based education):

  • Small is beautiful
  • Blends are powerful
  • Measure what matters
  • New technologies require new leaders

Was I listening back then?

I think we were too busy trying to reinvent the world.

These four points are understood today as:

Chunking Participation across platforms The business of measuring outcomes. Simply put ‘If technology adoption occurs faster because the sales force is better-trained, we have real business impact that’s measurable.’

And then the punch line

“One real; problem with e-learning is that traditional training people are in charge of it. No wonder it doesn’t work! Can you imagine if the post office was in charge of email?”

Does this apply to libraries?

Think of a book as a parcel, a report as a letter. Do we want it delivered by the Post … or by email? Are librarians best equipped to migrate digitised content to the e-brain?

There is then a paper, I guess the equivalent of a lecture, a piece of content purpose-written for the course. It is good to see Vygotsky, Piaget and Papert in here .. but what of Prensky from ‘The Power of Digital Game based Learning' and this suggestion by Prensky via research done by cognitive psychologists ‘such as Bruer and Tapscott in the late nineties who speculated that the young people’s minds have been literally ‘altered by the effect of a key set of digital formative experiences'. Prensky then, no better than a salesman links a truism with an unproven (and unfounded) suggestion. ‘Tapscott’s research indicated that young people are living, playing, communicating, working in and creating communities very differently than their parents (truism) and that the ‘hard wiring’ of young people’s brains has been effectively altered by digitally based learning experiences in the last decade.’ (unfounded, 'effectively altered' is what alerts me).

Let me see what I can find, where all just a click away from Google

So I buy this to feast on:


I’m going to have to go through these notes.

Courtesy of Kindle I can highlight and take notes.

I find myself rattled by everything Prensky says and how it is presented, from the glowing recommendations, to his extensive biography, to the unqualified, uncited, unresearched 'hear say' that considers itself to be serious study. He mentions the 'popular writer Malcolm Bradbury' but falls into the same trap of conjuring up presumptions that have no foundation in fact. This is less than journalism. It is invention. It may be what he thinks, but no one gets a word in edge ways to say whether he is right or wrong.

As I read I felt as if I was at best listening to an after dinner speech, at worst a stand-up comic

Prensky preaches to the converted, a certain group of secondary and primary school teachers who I can see nodding along to every platitude that Prensky offers.

That's my summary; the report will follow

Book by book, blow by blow.

Seeing Prensky so often quoted in the OU files, in 2001 and still, surprises me.

I feel like the little boy in the crowd pointing out that the King is wearing no clothes.

I may eat my words, I often do

But for now, this is my stance, which I prefer to sitting on the fence.



Cisco’s Quick Study by Ann Muoio. From FC issue 39, page 286. http://www.fastcompany.com/online/39/quickstudy.html

Prensky M (2001) Digital Game based learning, McGraw Hill.



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H800:17 Kindle:6 Some thoughts on Linked In, Vygotsky and me

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 21 Dec 2012, 05:54


Unable to sleep I do this.

A mini-reflection on building a profile in Linked In.

Then get on with reflecting on my notes on Vygotsky.

The more I read, the greater my fascination. Vygotsky (translated) I find like H.G.Wells, also of the era, extraordinarily readable and current. A considerable amount of 'Educational Psychology rings true.

There is then at the confluence of a thought regarding Vygotsky as uploaded this image above; I am only saved from tears by what I was reading about Educational Psychology - understanding does this to you.

I am reminded of my late father who would have be 80 last week.

It was an innocent way to start a thought, how in less than a week a Kindle has taken over my book reading. Somewhere I have a Bird Book, signed by my late father, given to me on a whim on the ONLY visit he ever managed to our former home in Little Compton in the Cotswolds. For my father, everything was out of his way, but somehow the old A34 rather than the M40 into London brought him to our doorstep.

Of course, such as bird book is still required. The Kindle doesn't do colour - yet.

The thought produced a physical response.


(James, 1929)

Have we all had an encounter with a thief? If the image of the birds has me thinking about my father (conservationist, ornothologist, rubbish dad ... ) then the mention of the word 'thief' has me visualising a large screw-diver, the weapon of choice I picked up in the garage as someone tried to break in.

(By now we're living in a studio flat on Hamilton Terrace, though chronologically we've slid back a few years).

The text from Vygotsky has a resonance, and as I keep reading, a convincing argument in relation to education.

Work with these kinds of responses of the individual = success

My concern in relation to e-learning is how easy it is to duplicate what is inappropriate for a class of 30, but the authors (and their sponsors) believe is appropriate for 10,000.

Which in turn brings me to the week 2 activity in H800 of the MAODE

Online through the participation and collaboration of others in your immediate circle, which includes your tutor group, module cohort, wide MAODE colleagues and like-minded OU friends identified here, can your learning experience be personalised.

Ergo, we have a duty to comment, and only through writing ourselves, might we enable (or expose) our selves to comment in turn.

It does strike me that there is a 'layer' to the OU blogs-cum-threads that is missing: the MAODE or 'Education' blog platform.

As I've commented some thousand entries back, writing here is perhaps like doodling on a scroll of toilet paper in a public convenience.

Not the image or sentiment I wanted to conjure up, but a scroll, with perforations top and bottom comes to mind. What you do with this script if you've even read it is for your mind to decide.


Williams, J (1929) Quoted in Educational Psychology, Vygotsky. Chapter 6.

Kindle doesn't give you a page number, presumable all e-Reader follow a similar convention. To cite do I give Location 1874?

Without knowing what I am doing or what it will achieve I search 'James' in the Kindle PC version, am about to click when a drop down offers me not a reference at the back of the 'book' but a link to Google or Wikipedia. I click Wikipedia and seamlessly, find myself here.


William%20James%20Wikipedia.JPG (Wikipedia, accessed 17FEB2011)


And as we're talking about physical responses to things then this brought a shiver down my spine and matching the cliched 'reflexive' action my draw dropped.

I don't know what planet I'm living on any more.

No wonder I can't sleep, Kindle content isn't a soporific book, rather it's wired into your cerebellum where in an action not dissimilar to Ken Dodd's tickling stick, your mind is suitably agitated.


Ken Dodd and his tickling stick sad

(I saw him live as a 10 year old, insanity. About as funny as my Granny sitting on a bowl of peaches).

P.S. Whether for personal, OU or the wider world, this demonstrates a value of blogging ... just start to write and let your mind unravel. And if you'll only get quiet for 90 minutes in the dead of night, that's what you'll have to do.



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H800 WK 1 Activty 5 Part 1

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 26 Feb 2012, 05:53


The idea of the Digital Natives piqued Dr Gregor Kennedy’s interest as did the alarmist talk, particularly from North America that radical change in teaching would be required because a generation of Internet savvy students were entering tertiary education on mass.

Dr Kennedy, with a background in psychology, was particularly interested because he doubted the claims made by Prensky regarding neuroplasticity.

What Kennedy wished to establish was what are students’ experiences with technology and what therefore would be the best course of action for institutions as it is they, not the student who would have to make the decisions about the technology being used.

What is more, if these students were ‘Digital Natives’ then the staff would be ‘Digital Immigrants,’ so by including them in the survey Kennedy could consider both facets of the claim.

It was revealed that staff were more familiar and advanced with the practical tools, though a minority of students (15%) had more experience with Web 2.0 tools than some staff. i.e. there is a mixed and complex picture.

Kennedy and his eight person team took a measured and evidence-based approach.

This research debunked the idea of the Digital Immigrant as well as the Digital Native. It wasn’t surprising to find that academic staff were more adept in their information literacy skills than student, in this population at least the digital divide was in fact in the opposite direction to that promoted by Prensky.

Importantly there was ‘a raft of core technologies where students and staff show similar profiles’. i.e. there is no sweeping generational divide between groups at all or any suggestion that the way teaching and learning is carried out in higher education should undergo some radical change to accommodate these students.

The reality is that students come in with a rather simplistic reliance on just two or three limited tools, such as Google and Wikipedia.

Just because they are using widely available and hugely popular tools, in 2006 MySpace, though by now surely Facebook. What is more there is great diversity in students’ familiarity with blogging, podcasting and wikis, using the web for general information, instant messaging and mobiles.

There are cultural differences in the way different groups in the community are using technologies. In one papers a student asked “what is a blog?” Some students were just unaware of some of these technologies – which greatly surprised the researches, while in other cases some students were more familiar and adept at Web 2.0 tools that university staff.

Access to and familiarity with Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 tools is complex; nothing suggested a single cohort could be identified, certainly not one based on date of birth.

‘If you’re going to use these kinds of technologies, you need to be mindful of the diversity of the student groups that you’re using them with’.

The Three universities studied:

Around 2,000 student surveys.

1. Melbourne, traditional, founded around 1850. 2. Wollongong in the 1970s with broader teaching and learning and often the first time someone from a family has attended university. 3. Charles Sturt University a newer university.

The thing that’s important is that we’re going in to try and find evidence to support a construct that has been talked about in our community.


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The danger of spoon-feeding learners

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 9 Mar 2013, 23:57

At what point in e-learning design do you feel that by spoon-feeding learners that you are doing them a disservice?

That learning is better achieved as a result of effort, even through making mistakes.

How, with all these increasingly versatile and 'easy' tools therefore, do we ensure that effort is applied, that learners remain engaged?

We show, we test; they read, they write; they work alone, then as a group; they make mistakes and try again. They do something new, they see something in a different way.

The other day I was about to print off a recipe for a chocolate cake that my 12 year old son and a friend were willing to make.

Enlightened by a piece on the use of dreadful fonts in learning and how effective it can be to make information stick I printed out not in Arial or Callibri or Times Roman in 16 point, but in some swirly imitation of Edwardian handwriting in 10 point ... beige.

They said nothing. The cake was a success.

Did it the lesson stick?

Perhaps I'll try again today. Can they make the cake without referring to the recipe?

One aspect of this is slightly disingenuous, my son and I did make this cake together a couple of months ago in a more nurturing, assisting manner in which I played the role of 'the talking recipe' with demonstrations on how to melt the chocolate, split eggs, whisk egg-whites and fold the ingredients together.

It helped that my son could teach his friend.

How does this apply to the safe storage of Uranium Trioxide underground or dealing with an asthma patient? Or handling a customer who is complaining of the smell of sewage along their street? Or making a subject choice decision at A' Level? And how about in the creative industries, as an art director or copywriter, even in Fine Art?

There are environments, clearly, where making mistakes is part of the learning process ... but if you learning to fly commercial aircraft or reprocess spent rods in nuclear power, best to make the mistakes in a simulation.



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Risk more to succeed

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 14:15

The mistake risk takers make is to take too few risks

The dot com or e-learning mistake is to have only one ball in the air.


Like Cirque du Soleil they should juggle a dozen items, who even notices if one drops to the ground and breaks, there's enough going on to amaze.

TV production companies, docs and drama, film companies too, have to have many ideas in development if any are to succeed; when will web producers take the same approach?

28 projects on the go I understand is the figure

I've got four ideas, so seven other people with four ideas each and we're in business as imagicians.

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Kindle 4

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 26 Feb 2012, 06:22

Far from saving me time, owning a kindle is obliging me to spend more time with the text.

There are no page numbers at all, they've been deleted, instead, it is done by line or word ... so (Location 870) might be how a highlighted piece of text is referenced. How I deal with this should I quote an author I don't yet know.

If it takes me as long to work through my notes and highlights as it took me to read the chapter in the first place ... then I simply accept that I have still got a heck of a lot to learn and that in good time, these points, squirreled away will bounce back into my life with a click of my fingers.

A book, for example.

Ask, a literary agent has asked.

Am I Kindled out? My contact lenses are stuck to my eyeballs and the skin under the pads of my thumb are chafed from scooting back and forth over a keyboard.

Am I learning anything though?

That a great deal of nonsence is written. That authors must be pillored if they use strings of abbreviations and terms that are not common place. Courtesy of Kindle and an e-book I was able to see, for example, how often LOM was used in the body of a book. Four times it turned out, and in three it had been written out in full and in the fourth as LOMS it meant something else.

This I my bugbear about the use of the highly technical descriptors: more, very, truly and actually.


That's me.

Kindle will drive some people crazy at is potential. I see a way into the minds of many authors. My son dismissed it. One of his friends, I can't get away from it.

Further insights?

There's a way to write for a Kindle. Ditch many diagrams and tables. Think in terms of graphics that would work on TV (in black and white). Write short sentences (these are good discipline).

Meanwhile I have generated 11 pages of quotes and notes (4,000 words) having so far only regurgitated my thoughts on the introduction and chapter one to Rhona Sharpe's 'Rethinking Pedagogy for the Digital Age' (2007). It's that kind of book.

Fun packed.

And valuable.

(Even if I keep disagreeing with the authors)

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