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Did everyone speak fluent english a hundred years ago with a foreign accent?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 10:53

Fig.1. Images from my Google Pics gallery

We are collectively being tipped into a centenary marking of the First World War where all 'foreigners' speak english with an accent; we have German, Russian, French ... we have Serbian and Austro-Hungarian 'english'. We even have Americans voiced by English actors speaking ... english with an American accent. So how do we spot the lads from Newfoundland? Not then part of Canada, but a sovereign state? And from the Indian subcontinent the difference in accents and language from a multitude of sources?

It's all compromise and accommodation

It's very much the BBC perspective: which as the ONLY public service broadcaster the world has tries so hard to represent everyone. I have my say here - Jonathan Vernon on Hastings 1918

WBC anyone?

The World or Globe or Earth or ... whatever 'Broadcasting Company'?

For all or any failings the effort, transparently at least, to strive for 'truth' based on evidence of what is going on.

The Open University has been, was and should take the lead. I wonder, with concern that the legacy of Michael Bean has been to trim back too hard and so diminish us to a voice from the corner of the empire.

I hope the next Vice Chancellor will be a global figure. Bill Clinton comes to mind. 

'Read in a subject until you can hear the people speak'.

E H Carr.

It has taken a forty years but I feel I have the voice of the soldier of the First World War - and the officer, and the girlfriends and mothers at home.

 

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Peace in pieces

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

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

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

The right image says what each viewer sees in it.

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

From E-Learning IV

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

 

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Learning from mistakes

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 11:04

Fig.1. It felt like this even if it didn't look like this.

I capsized four times this afternoon. The first I got over the side of the dinghy and righted without getting my feet wet; it is six or seven years since I did this crewing a Fireball. Even in a wetsuit the English Channel is cold enough early in the season. The second time I floundered into the drink and the mast ended up embedded in the mud - I had to be rescued. Ominously I'd been out all of six minutes. Was I up to helming a Laser in a Force 6 with a full sail? It took another 90 minutes before the next dunking; I was tired, cramp in one calf, both thighs shaking. By now I'd just about figured out how to wrestle with the gusting wind. I was also trying to get my hands swapped over effectively on ever tack and to keep my feet from being tied up in the mainsheet. Another hour before the fourth capsize: a propper dunking in which I fell overboard rather than the boat capsizing - I was grinning for ear to ear: still am. Like Tantric Sex? Hours of holding off the inevitable then wosh-bang-wallop. It's the most fun I've had in ages. This sudden burst of enthusiasm for sport delivers on many fronts: exercise, fresh air, thrills, a mental and physical challenge ... a modicum of risk and much more to do and learn before I take to the sea. In 10 days, potentially, I have my first club race. In the sea. With waves and tides and other boats. Unlike the brain, my muscles now need a day at least to recover - I feel like I've been on the rack.

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Preach to the converted

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 11:27

 Fig. 1 My big sister and me

'Preach to the converted' is the mantra of advertising; increasingly it should the mantra of e-learning. Give potential students what they want in a way that they are already open to. Don't force feed platforms and tools that are foreign to them, nor pander to the book, pen and notebook when by its very nature if you are learning online you are in front of a computer screen. Blended learning is how it is. Increasingly there is no 'e' - it is simply learning in the 21st century.

'Preach to the converted' ties into the need to know who your students are - in all their diversity. There's a bunch of personas used by the Open University to help with this. We're a handful of shifting types across a spectrum of some 12 personas. This helps educators design for hidden, massive audiences.

Fig.2. The Santorini Museum

Big Sis and me both wanted a book from the Santorini Museum.  

We'd done the Akrotiri excavation and did the museum in our separate ways (family event on the island with people arriving at different times and staying in different place. When we met up we agreed immediately at the frustration at no having a shop at either location. You whet your appetite on a subject are ripe for a bit more. I even started looking for a two week course on Archaeology in Future Learn. No book. Not much of a website. Ample content with each artefact. 

Visitors to museums are converts; not just easy to sell postcards and tea-towels too, but ready to learn and suckers not just for 'the book', but just as prepared to come to the talk, even, these days, to sign up to a taster course.

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Positivity Challenge

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 11:35

Fig.1. United Kingdom and Ireland

Prompted by nieces and my sister I have now joined the Facebook 'Positivity' challenge.

You post three positive things a day for five days then nominate three others to do the same. I have written 15 'Positivities' already and will adjust and prioritise each day. My wife, Great Britain and learning something everyday (with a plug for the Open University) got a mention today. When I was eleven or twelve I pencilled in all the counties of England, Scotland and Wales where I had visited - parents divorced and living in Cumbria and Northumberland got that one started, with cousins in County Durham and North Yorkshire, and then trips to Scotland and Lincolnshire, London and Oxfordshire. The rule was I had to spend a night in the county. Before I'd taken a look at the above map (and not taking into consideration boundary changes) I guessed that bar a few counties I had stayed in all: largely as work producing training and information videos has had me on overnights all over the shop (nuclear power industry, manufactures, retailers, Post Office, pharmaceuticals ...), and Northern Ireland courtesy of a girlfriend of 18 months. Looking again I think I could add that I've never stayed in Essex, nor many of the Welsh Counties (or valleys), a couple still in Northern Ireland and probably a couple in North Eastern Scotland even if I have driven through. I started the same kind of thing on the 98 departements of France and guess that I've 'done' a good fifty, once again, thanks as much to TV work repeatedly travelling to far flung, non-touristy destinations for a TV news agency I worked for. I miss travelling. 

A few years ago I took up the challenge of posting a photo a day in Blipfoto; I took this one step further and determined, with the need for some criteria for editing a day's pictures, to posting something 'to feel good about' - this task is similar, though potentially more abstract if the idea, rather than the image comes first. 

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Don't make it easy

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 11:58

Fig. 1 Some ideas from the Ivan Chermayeff 'Cut and Paste' exhibition at the De La Warr, Bexhill

As photography isn't allowed instead of moving from the gallery with my iPhone or camera clicking at everything and anything that caught my eye I was obliged to get out a sketch pad. Just as Ivan Chermayeff says in a exhibition video 'most people don't know how to see'. 

We risk making everything too easy with e-learning: photos, screengrabs, instant research, transcripts of video, video as audio only or highlights or summaries thanks to others.

The above ideas were for:

a) A School of Visual Arts talk he was giving with a colleague

b) Arthritis - with letters torn from a type font catalogue and jumbled around

c) Mother and Child in modern art - a signal Margritte or Matisse like cut out.

What I would have missed entirely, and I do it no justice here, is a collage of tickets and seating allocation to the inauguration of John F Kennedy on the 20th January 1961. (Before my time, I'd been conceived a few weeks before at a New Year's Eve party. Not even I can remember that far back).

 

Fig.2 Sketch of an Ivan Chermayeff collage/poster using bits and pieces from attendance at the inaugurations of US President J F Kennedy

 

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Pen and ink drawing class

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

 

Fig.1 Chair and shade

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

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

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

Other learning opportunities over the last few days have included:

Power Boat II (Refresher)

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

How to train a pigeon

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

Graphic Design

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

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"They ran over to say 'hello'"

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 2 Aug 2014, 11:59

Fig.1 Dolphins 'running over to say hi'

My daughter laughed at how I described this but when you haven't got the words and can only think of one other context this is how I described a couple of dolphins coming over to the boat; it was just like a couple of friendly dogs at the park coming over to take a look and have a sniff around. In this case the dolphins stayed with us for nearly half an hour. At other times they were clearly on their way somewhere, swimming with a purpose in a pod or simply came to take a look then swam on.

Fig.2 Off the bow of 'Ximera' - Spanish Coast

A welcome first. As was covering 600 nautical miles in four days. Job done. I recall agreeing to sailing the Atlantic next year so have already started to look at revisiting and improving my skills at sea. Having not been on a boat for at least seven years I was for the first time ever in my life horrendously seasick for the first few hours of this trip. Worse than a hangover? I had a bucket at my side - that bad. I just wished a hand would could out of the sky and lift me back onto dry land.

Armed with a Kindle during the lengthy periods when not much was happening, and during my four hour watch at the helm overnight I read two text books: another on the First World War, this time the 100 days in 1918 that led to the end of war and as the contrast fascinates me, a detailed account of the First Gulf War. 22 years ago my ancient grandfather was watching the events unfold on TV and said to me 'That's Nothing Like Passchendaele'. What's interesting is to do this comparison.

One hundred years on it is worth comparing the causes of the First World War and to dread that events in Eastern Ukraine as indicators of the wrong response to the fragmentation of old empires: one hundred years ago the Ottoman Empire's demise resulted in fractures at its edge - the Balkans and Middle East. Germany, eager to bolster another weakening empire, its ally the Austro-Hungarian Empire, took steps to demonstrate or test its power and influence to destruction. To what degree is Putin testing the strength or weakness of the Russian Federation by the decisions taken first in Syria to support Assad and then in Ukraine to support the pro-Russian separatists?

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Making Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fig.2 Neuroscience of dummies

Make it a memory

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

 

Fig.4. Ebbinghaus and his 'Forgetting Curve'

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

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

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

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

Fig.6 The River Ouse at low tide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recalling the First World War

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

In conclusion

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

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Problem-based learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 19 Oct 2014, 06:45

Fig. 1. Lettuce Soup

A glut of lettuce is made into lettuce soup.

So simple. So refreshing cold. I goodle 'lettuce soup' then pick from the BBC recipes. Or Delia. 

  • A lettuce
  • A cucumber
  • Two bunches of spring onions
  • A couple of potatoes

Do the soup thing.

Lettuce washed, spun, shredded. Cucumber diced. Spring onions chopped. Potatoes peeled and chopped. 

Sweat in a pan with a little olive oil, then add a couple of pints of stock.

Season

Blend

Serve

That's it.

Repeat the recipe a couple of times and the lesson is fixed. It doesn't freeze well. Making your own stock is a right palarva - well worth it, but time consuming. This can be frozen. With vegetarians in the house I make up three batches of stock simultaneously:

Beef - with bones from the butcher, an onion, carrot, potato, bouquet garni.

Chicken - from the Sunday roast, as above.

Vegetable - roast a variety of root vegetables with onion, then slow cook in a couple of pints of water with bouquet garni and seasoning.

The problem I find is that the homemade stock is irresistibly good and is gone in the first serving, with seconds ... 

Dealing with the rocket glut by making it into pesto with chillies. 

Any ideas for knotweed? 

On the learning front, very tedious. I read through a small stack of books using those slithers of PostIt notes, then transfer the notes and quotes to an exercise book: longhand. Finally, as I am about to do I type these up, sifting and editing further into a Two Column Google Doc - first column the text, second column the all important reference. There is nothing more draining to find later that you cannot find the right reference for an idea or quote that you want to use in an essay. p. for page number. KL. for 'Kindle Location'. I have yet to see advice on the best way to reference from an eBook version of a publication. I go with the principle, which is to show with precision clarity if and where your ideas and facts having knowing come from someone else - which is just about always, surely?

 

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Less 'e' means more learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 28 May 2014, 15:44

Fig.1. My Personal Learning Environment

For someone who completed the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education over a year ago and has done further MAODE modules here and other MA modules elsewhere it surprises even me to recognise I learn, and probably do, more when I am NOT in front of the computer (iPad, laptop or desktop).

These days I have no choice but to read books and when I do this is how I set about them:

Read and attach PostIts

Write up, selectively, into a notebook the bits that I've picked out (there is a further filtering process here)

Then type these notes up into a Google Doc (typically into a table).

I have become meticulous about citing as I go along as to want to use a quote or idea and not know where it came from can take a considerable time to recover.

An eBook isn't only on the Kindle (now Paperwhite), but also on the iPad and sometimes even on the laptop or desktop. I read in tight columns with few words, fast - like a TV autocue. As I go along I highlight. Sometimes bookmark something important or big. And from time to time add a note. On other screens the highlights can be colour sorted, so I may theme these as highlights for an essay, for their narrative value, or simply their quirkiness (so I can blog about it).

Interaction with the content in any and many ways is key. Having a presentation to give or essay to write is crucial, otherwise you can read a book and highlight/bookmark far too much of the thing.

Invariably I follow up references. I may loop off to read parts of these references immediately, which may be a paragraph in another book, sometimes a book I can find free online, sometimes an eBook for £2 or so ... occasionally a hefty tome that gives me pause for thought. I have a student library card so can get down to the University of Sussex in 30 minutes. Here I've just read a few chapters from a biography on Plumer as I'm preparing something on aspects of Third Ypres, the Battle of Passchendaele. My self-directed reading list my have expanded to some dozen texts by now: divisional histories, several biographies on Haig, several books on military history with specialist books on the machine gun corps and gas. My notes are always created in Google Docs and in this case the folder shared with a fellow student who has added his own notes too. The learning process is akin to making a sculpture out of papier mache - I keep attaching little pieces and am starting to get a clear idea of the thing. 

Is reading still one of the most efficient ways to pass information from one person/source to another? It's quicker than a lecture. Good for many things. Were I studying Law surely reading is everything, whereas Chemistry or Physics you may benefit from and prefer the video/animation, the lecture with charts.

 

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Just thinking

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 28 May 2014, 16:00

Learning works if it makes you think; this is why most videos don't work. Watching TV you 'sit back' and turn off. How often does it make you think?

Books require some engagement - the activity is called reading. You think a bit of you takes notes. You think even more if you interpret what you read in a way that makes it your own. This is best achieved if there is a specific goal, typically to research and write a response to a problem addressed in an essay title. In the longer term to sit an exam or to write a longer piece, such as a thesis, or to give a presentation. To read without such application is to row your boat without a rudder. 

If in the past I've said that is it 'time and effort' that leads to learning, then I'd now reduce two words to one. Thinking = time + effort.

What do you think?

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The right way and wrong way to assess

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:46

Looking back over four years can be revealing. In 2010 I was struggling with my third Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA03)  in the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education (MAODE). I queried the assignment process. In particular I felt as if it was akin to making a tapestry. Three years on I feel my last couple of TMAs and EMAs weren't simply making a tapestry - but doing so wearing roller-skates on a ship in a heavy sea.

Nothing would stitch together. I had far too much wool. 

The criteria, meant to be helpful, detailing paragraph, by paragraph if not sentence by sentence what the examiner is looking for ties my head in knots. 

I contrast this, favourably, with the MA I am doing with the University of Birmingham. Clunky but effective. I have a reading list. We attend lectures and take part in seminars and I write a 4000 word essay drawn from a list of 12 to 16 titles.

This allows me to be fluid, rather than the ground beneath my feet.

Throughout the MAODE I think the only module the regularly had this 'essay writing' approach was H809: Research practices in educational technology. 

I can be accused of over thinking and over preparing a TMA or EMA - yet this, too often, is how the things have been designed. Less would be more. Simpler would not be easier, writing is hard enough without having to second guess what a third party will be thinking as they read while running down a check list to give you a tick and therefore a mark and ultimately a grade.

Reflecting on four years I can see marks in TMAs, and EMAs especially, improve. I think TMAs in 60s, and 70s and the odd EMA in the 40s, then 50s give rise to TMAs of 80s, even in the 90s, though my best EMA was a 76. Of course, in their wisdom, my student grades for each module simply reads 'PASS'. I feel this rather diminishes the effort and evidence. There is certainly a different between a candidate scoring in the 40s and 50s between one scoring in the 60s and 70s and 80s. 

I met an MBA student who had achieved a distinction in every module. I was in awe. Not your usual OU student (are any from the Business School). She had a first in her first degree from Oxford: Classics. Some people have a mind for these things. Perhaps it is my head that sloshes around like the proverbial storm, rather than the system I have been part of?

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Chaning behaviours in my Web 2.0 world courtesy of H818: The Networked Practitioner

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 06:51

Trying to rationalise and reflect on what next I've reduced it to this mnemonic:

S=Strategic

C=Connectedness, Collaboration and several other Cs

A=Applied

R=Reciprocal

F=Financed.

In that order too.

S =Strategic is a term I know a few fellow students of the MAODE have used. This means time management to some, curbing the desire to disappear down intellectual rabbit holes to others ... while for me it probably means taking on less and being more focused and less distracted. Immediately on leaving this space I will refine my contacts on Linkedin and reduce the groups I am in yet further. I should concentrate only on people I know or strategically relate to and then make time for them - ditto the groups. I only need to be in a couple. These can be vibrant and worthy of your attention. "S' might also stand for 'sustainable' - see 'financed' below.

C=Collaborative is probably key for me. Historically success has always come from at least two, sometimes a small team of us doing something. I find the second person or others creates a responsibility to see a thing through to its conclusion which may not happen when I am left to my own devices. And of course, two heads are better than one from a problem solving point of view.

A=Applied, over the other 'a' word 'academic'. While the MAODE usually draws from your real life experience I really want to be spending most of my time putting into practice the many insights and skills I have gained on the MAODE and had to bring into play for H818. This means, most likely, returning to L&D - agency side rather than client side. This may happen sooner rather than later as I have a second interview with a learning company this week. This would see me designing learning for workshops and online. 'A' needs also to stand for 'ask' - see 'Financed' and 'O' below. 

R=Reciprocal. This I have known for a decade. There is no 'gaming' the system to create collaboration or connectedness online. You have to be less selfish and more altruistic. It pays to seek out like minds and take an interest in them as they will return the favour. Just a handful of people will do. I feel I had deserted a few of the folk I used to converse with all the time ... and have let relationships with some people from earlier MAODE modules slip. No more!

F=Financed. So funded too. Contracted or raising funds for my projects. Applications have gone out seeking funds for the Quick Response Codes Poppy thing - either to apply it to the activities, say of the Western Front Association, or simply to go to schools or associations and give a talk ... which would in due course become a self-contained why and how to e-learning module. This means asking for money. Yes, it is about selling. Amanda Palmer is a reminder of this. Crowd funding is a little distance, while applying to appropriate sources of funding is another. The entrepreneur in me has raised funds commercially too in the past. If I need financing I have to ask for it.

There ought to be an 'O' in this coming out of H818, but I have to differentiate between 'Big O'', 'little o' and 'gratuitous exposure'. I tend to have been the former. It all goes online whatever its value or not. It doesn't take much to make more postings closed and use a blog as an e-portfolio so I will. I use to say to people that the best place to hide a secret was to post it in a blog - the sophistication of the probing search engines means that this is no longer the case (if it ever was?). Serendipity isn't as effective as a request i.e. 'ask'. So 'open', but nuanced. Early in this module we reflected on this. So I wonder what the outcome might be? For some it would be the value of being open at all, whereas for me it is to be less so. 

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Would you prefer to read widely or pick the brains of experts?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 19:39

Reading a history of the Armistice after the First World War - I'm a few years ahead of the centenary of 1914, I learn the Lloyd George preferred the former: picking the brains of experts was preferable to resding widely. Studying with Open University can be neither: reading is tightly focused by the content provided and you are penalised rather than admired for widing readily: you are supposed to stick to the text as it is on this that your tutor will assess you. And the participation of experts is random: my seven modules with the OU has had some of the more prominent names of distance and open education as the chair and as tutors, though more often they appear only in the byline or tangentially not daining to take part in discussion or debate - it is their loss and ours. Nor should I sound as if I am denegrating the tutors as here my expectation has come to seek in them an 'educator' - not necessarily a subject matter expert, but a facilitator and an enabler, someone who knows there way around the digital corridors of the Open University Virtual Learning Environment. Studying with the Open University can also be both: it depends so much on the course you are taking and serendipity. If you are goash you ought to be able to approach anyone at all in your faculty - not that you have much sense of what this is. You can read widely simply by extending your reach through references courtesy of the OU library, though I think whst is mesnt here is a more general and broad intellect, that you take an interest, liberally, in the arts and sciences, in history and politics ...

Being online affords a thousand opportunities to both read widely and to pick the brains of experts; what this requires is Web 2.0 literacy - the nous to drill deep when you read in a way that has never before been possible, unless, perhaps you have been privileged enough to have ready access to and the time to use one of the world's elite libraries and your father or mother is a senior academic, government minister or captain of industry who loves to hold 'house parties' at the weekend. For the rest of us, there is now this new landscape - if not a level playing field (there are privileges based on cost and inclusion) - it is one where, with skill, guile, knowledge and experience you can gravitate towards and rope in the people and the books.

 

 

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xMOOC or cMOOC?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:14

The realities of MOOCs

I stumbled upon this succinct article on MOOCs by Ben Betts.

MOOCs are why I returned to the OU having completed the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) at the end of 2012. I followed H817:Openness and Innovation in eLearning, joining the Open but, and have now complete two further modules: H809: Research based practices in Educational Technology (with an eye on research) and the phenomenal H818: The Networked Practitioner (just completed) ... this as the field keeps transforming I intend to stay abreast of it. Indeed, I'll keep on eye on H817 for 2015 as this is a considerable advance on the old H807 I did in 2010 that had its content stuck somewhere between 1999 and 2005.

What is interesting in this article is that the author Ben Betts ponders as a passing thought at the end of the piece on the need to 'learn how to learn'.

This for me is where too many practitioners go wrong - they have their eye so firmly fixed on the 'next big thing' that they forget or ignore the understanding we have gained about how we learn over decades. There needs to be a healthy loop that obliges us to consider the basics: learning theories and to see MOOCs in context - all learning is 'blended' - even the purely online learning module is conducted by someone with their feet or bum firmly on the ground or in a chair.

The other mistake that other authors make too often is to sensationalise activities or developments such as the MOOC. Every advance builds on something else, and for all their strengths they have weaknesses too, and whatever affordances they have may be exploited or ignored. Interesting times and delighted to find an expert author and practitioner to follow.

What I needed, and got from H809 was a grounding in learning theory which at last I am starting to master. If a further course is required for me it would be more on the application of learning theory, probably in the broader setting of 'education' rather than an e-learning context and probably informed by a role educating on the ground - so practice based and applied. Which rather suggests in business - as indeed I did for the best part of 15 years. 

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On blogging. It isn't for the most part. Thoughts on my own future tracks

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 6 Mar 2014, 12:18

I posted my first content to an 'online journal' - no one called them blogs way back then, on the 24th September 1999. I've been at it ever since - every day for at least the first four years then I reviewed my practice, split into a number of parts and specialised. I also took an MA in the next best thing 'Open and Distance Education' (MAODE). So, yes, blogging fascinates me. Twitter as a 'microblog' is not - it is chatting. And many so called blogs are actually something else too - corporate marketing brochures, magazines, radio shows, TV channels, photo dumps and galleries. For me, and those of us writing in 'Diaryland' over a decade ago a blog, like a diary, is something you kept up every day, reflected your daily life and was largely secret: you wrote amongst friends rather than to an audience. This meant that they remained authentic, deep, even 'in confidence'. Has all of that been lost? I wonder. 

What we have here is either a 'learning journal' or 'an e-portfolio' - that's if you want to attach it directly to your studies. Because of it's odd nature and history it is also what was once called a 'Bulletin Board', indeed, I had a go of an early one right here - sort of, that as on a Masters in Open and Distance Learning module in 2001. It really was posting to a bulletin board, a sentence or two attached to any others that were going up. More like an early version of a Student Forum.

Having said all of this, as a direct result of just completing H818: The Networked Practitioner  (EMA away last night). I plan to review, refine and redirect my blogging behaviour. Here it will be business as usual, though only if my relationship with the Open University is continued in some capacity or other (I got up early to do some application forms). Beyond these 'walls' I will professionalise my blog on e-learning and post continent aimed squarely at practitioners - for educators, on learning. I do think the 'e' is redundant regarding e-learning, indeed the 'm' from mobile learning is redundant too. Currently at 'My Mind Bursts' this will go into the fledgling 'Mind Bursts' which will go live once I've got 100 of my choicest posts in there. Or, 25 ... my 'A to Y' of learning, named so courtesy of the Open University where you will find the Computer Help Desk has no 'Z', so don't think you can look up 'zipping files' as I did while struggling to post an EMA. The response I got back was characteristically obtuse. 

The blog I stopped posting to on swimming teaching and coaching (I did for ten years as a direct consequence of taking my kids down to the pool eleven years ago) gets more views per day than any of my other blogs - go figure! It is useful. I answer direct daily questions. The biggest 'seller' is the 45 minute lesson plan for teaching or coaching swimming - I have all strokes, all stages and all problems addressed. That should tell me something. More at the catchily named 'Coaching and Teaching Swimming'.

This by the way is called 'reflection'. I should have Kolb's Learning Cycle spinning through my head right now. I don't. My head is fudge and I need the coffee that is brewing on my desk,

The other blog, 'That's Nothing Compared to Passchendaele', which requires and deserves tidying up started out as the memoir of my late grandfather, a machine gunner in the First World War - the only one who survived it would appear. Actually, in 1992 there was a 75th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Ypres) and there were four of them. One was an ammunition carrier. The other two were machine gunners, you could tell from their thumbs - like the beak of a spoonbill, squished flat from periods of anxiety pressed against the triggers of a Vicker's MKII Machine Gun. Like the swimming thing I need to hone this down to a resource of value - just his story, his words (over three hours of interviews) and photographs with references which would do the historian in me proud.

There will be a lot of 'ditching of babies' - there will be a good deal of painful unknitting of layouts and extraction. 

Are these blogs? Actually no. I ought to think of them as books and give them the professional focus that is required before you can go to print.

And finally, a blog on the use of Quick Response codes in education. This as a consequence of H818 and the ten minute presentations we gave a couple of weeks ago.

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Blog usage

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 May 2014, 04:40

Is this new?

I've just looked at the statistics and was rather overwhelmed, ok over 600,000 views is going some, but I have been doing this for four years and use this as a blog and e-portfolio by default. 

Are there over 4000 posts! I guess from what I've said this is feasible, perhaps 40% are 'hidden' cut and paste jobs or links or references to books or papers I may never read.

And if I'm less engaged directly here this last year it is because those fellow students on the MAODE haven't been using the OU Student Platform at all ... or very little indeed. I'd recommend it.

The temptation is to stick around to take the 'views' up to 1 million. This will require a few more years. The thing is I don't see myself back on an OU module 'til the autumn of 2015 at the very earliest. I wrap up H818 today then concentrate on things elsewhere.

I say it often.

On verra

'We'll see'

Working in some capacity or researching at the OU would change things.

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My Personal Learning Environment

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 11:49

I should look back at how this has changed over four years. Taking on more technology took a while. I remember the days of printing off. Then I migrated to an iPad and constantly looked at ways not to come offline ever. Now I mix it all up: I use a white board, I doodle in a notepad and I shift between devices as everything is done in Google Docs.

I have some favourite apps:

  • SimpleMinds
  • Studio

And load perhaps 50-100 pictures to Picasa Web Gallery every day ... there are over 2000 images and screen-grabs from the MAODEs alone. And far too many pictures of the dog hiding when I take her for a walk.

My only bete noire are the ruddy cables you need to supply power to the kit; I went away for a few days armed with iPad and Macbook Air but forget the charger for the laptop. The iPad cable feels as if I am packing a coil of rope - it ways more with the plug and takes up more space.

My test over the next couple of months is when I set off for a month to Belgium, France and the Alps. Will I hanker after a robust broadband signal all the time?

 

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I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014, 13:32

Don't be fooled into thinking that when expected to deliver a five minute presentation that it will take less time to write than a ten minute presentation - it won't.

In fact, the harder assignment would be to expect a one minute presentation.

I always thought that it was Jonathan Swift who apologised to a recipient of one of his very long letters that he hadn't had time to write a shorter one. Did he? A Google search gives you Blaise Pascal

Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.

 

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A shivver of vibrancy in a project to use QR codes as another way to egage people in remembering the combatants of the First World War

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 18:39

This morning I got a lengthy email from someone whose grandfather is featured in a 1918 photograph of RAF cadets I put up on Flickr, I also got a lengthy email from someone sharing a review on a book on the First World War on Amazon. Today, Dan Snow helped launch an initiative through the Imperial War Museum that aims to repeat what the IWM started to do in 1919 - campaign for people to share photographs, artefacts and stories of people who served, suffered, thrived or survived the First World War - this is at the 'Who do you think you are' exhibition at Olympia - I will try to get over on Saturday. And finally, a fascinating conversation with my brother in law on why a gallery curator is inviting people to feedback and respond to works of art through social media - and the curator's philosophy of 'openness' and a desire to move away from the grand voice of the patron in favour of mutliple voices and interpretations. He particularly likes to describe the value of 'dirt' to challenge perceptions and permit the points of view of anyone, and called this dirt 'soil' that would nurture fresh and vibrant ideas - he's Italian, speaks with an accent and chooses his words carefully (he is a tutor in fine art and art history). We got into discussions on learning and why as a student he'd have to queue up early in Bologna in order to hear Umberto Eco. This enthusiastic, reflective discussion continued as he prepares supper and I help - eager to pick up some cullinary tips too.

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Reflection: we are all so very, very, different when it comes to learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014, 13:25

Just ten minutes. A live presentation. Why for me should it be such a big deal?

I said to my wife that I have not problems delivering other people's words (acting) and I have no trouble writing words for others to speak (speech writer, script writer), but what I loathe and struggle with is delivering my own words on any kind of platform.

Big fails on this count, emotionally at least would include:

My grandfather's funeral

My groom's wedding speech (I was pants at proposing too)

My father's funeral

My mother's funeral 

...

Because it matters to me far too much when, and only when, the words that I give seem to emanate from my soul. 

Let me blog, let me write letters, let me smoulder from my ears into the atmosphere with no expectation of feedback.

...

Both positive and negative feedback, especially if constructive, sends a shiver through my bones. Why is it that I crave confrontation, that I want to be mentally smacked around the head, then kicked up the arse and sent back into the fray to deliver some amazing show of ability?

...

We are all so, so, so very different, yet how we are taught, or expected to learn seems so very contrived, so set by context and numerous parameters.

I would prefer to be stuck in a cabin for a couple of weeks with an educator who hasn't a clue about the subject, but is a natural educator, than someone who has ticked a collection of boxes in order to obtain their position. The natural educator can teach anything. The subject matter expert thinks they know everything. eLearning can be the subject matter expect - 'IT' (literally) thinks it knows it all.

So, connect me, and for me connect students and educators - worry only about the desire and ability to teach or transmit and manger those hungry to gain knowledge, and for students concentrate almost entirely on motivation. If they want to learn pores will open up in their skull so that you can pour in the information and they'll never be satiated.

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Curiosity Satisfied

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 24 Feb 2014, 14:57

It amazes me how when reading something and pointed to a footnote or reference that if I choose to do so a few clicks and the reference is before my eyes. Reading up on the First World War there are books from 1914-18 that are freely available in digital form - the additional insight is when you glance at such a reference is to wonder why an author chose that sentence or paragraph, often I find there is something far more interesting being said.

All of this has me reflecting on 'interpretation' and how increasingly, because we can, we should, because we can, check up on authors - certainly take them off their academic pedestals as their word is never absolute, is inevitably biased - and sometimes they get it wrong.

There are two kinds of connectedness here:

1) with references the author has used - how selected, why they thought them of relevance or interest (and the authority and credibility of these references)

2) with fellow readers - which, if you want a response, I increasingly find in Amazon of all places. There are always a few people who have picked  through the text, who are willing and able to other a response or to sleuth it out with you.

How does this change things?

The Web puts at anyone's fingertips resources that until recently were the exclusive domain of university libraries - the older, wealthier universities having the richest pickings and broadest range of references. To 'look something up' as we now do in a few moments could take a couple of days. 'Learning at the speed of need' is a phrase I like, used in the context of applied learning in business, but just as apt here.

As a consequence, earlier in their careers, students will have a broader and stronger, personal perspective. And as a consequence there will be more people 'out there' to join an informed discussion. And as a consequence more new ideas will come to fruition sooner and faster. And as a consequence, collectively, or common understanding will grow and develop faster than before.

 

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Repeat. Remember. Be Original

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 23:44
From E-Learning III

Repetition or re-visiting is vital. We cannot help but change our perspective as we gain more experience, insights and knowledge. We need repetition in order to get 'stuff' into the deeper recesses of our brains where wonders are worked. Therefore, far better to exposure to brilliance often, rather than giving them something less than brilliant simply because it is new, or an alternative. If nothing else Web 2.0 ought to be giving students the chance to find and limit themselves to the best.

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H818 Conference: Day One

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 16:29

I was up at 3.30am and I'm not even presenting. I use these early hours to write - pulling together ideas before they blow away in the wind of daily life in a household where the number of teenagers has suddenly doubled. We have the older teenager couple, and the young teenager couple ... and the parents of two of this lot looking at each other and thinking 'we're teenagers too'.

Three hours of short presentations and without exception each has an impact and contribution to my thinking an practice.

This despite the presence of a lorry full of blokes with pneumatic drills who attacked the house an hour ago - cavity wall insulation.

I am sitting here with industrial strength headphones - for a 'test to destruction' I'd say that these Klipsch headphones are doing their job admirably. I 'suffer' from having acute hearing ... I do hear the pins drop a mile away. I need headphones like this whenever I leave the house otherwise travelling is a nightmare. 

Is this normal?

The great value of a session like this is to listen to your fellow students - a voice, more than a face, evokes character and conviction. Not that I ever doubted it but everyone is clearly smart, focused and keen to 'play the game' when it comes to using online tools.

There isn't enough of it.

The OU has a habit of designing the life and risk out of a module. Bring it back. Vibrancy and energy are born of risk.

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