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Thoughts on the FutureLearn MOOC platform

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The new world order, not so much the 'flipped classroom' as turned inside out then put through the blender - and brings aspects of education back where it always used to be: part of open human experience rather than locked away and institutionalised.

FutureLearn is worth exploring.

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Assessment

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 11 Dec 2014, 12:09

The MOOC model for assessment is that the students do this.

The cohort of 'writers' on the Start Writing Fiction MOOC in its 7th week is probably around the 1400 mark. Of these, let's say 1000 submit their 1000 word piece for assessment. Each of these takes between 1/2 and 1 hour to read, re-read and assess across three criteria. I find a well-written piece with some flaws takes half an hour, an excellent pieces takes ten minutes while a piece that is a difficult read, misses most points taught over the last 7 weeks or simply fails to answer the brief can take an hour. Am i getting that wrong? Am I trying too hard to make up for a student's failure to grasp much or anything at all over the preceding weeks? Perhaps the answer is to seek out some positives: getting this far, the idea behind the writing, a line or phrase ... and leave off either picking through all the problems or offering a summary of all the points they have clearly not got, or simply skipped over the previous weeks.

Not a tutor or AL, though I've had a dozen, this is quite an eye-opener. Good feedback takes time to think through and then to deliver.

The tips on how to give feedback on FutureLearn are succinct. I learnt a technique in sports coaching: sandwiching praise with constructive feedback. This is all well and good. The problem is where it is a huge struggle to find something to praise. Not possible on the FutureLearn platform, my preference I see now, with a couple of the 36+ reviews I've now done of fellow students, is to leave the toughest ones for 24 even for 48 hours. At least then you may get a sense of where the person was coming from and how you speak to them if you had them over for a coffee rather than writing in the quasi-anonymous tone of randomly selected fellow reviewer.

Not easy, but from a student's point of view you have to learn how to take feedback. Occasionally you have have to stand you ground. A couple of times, not ever with The OU, I have taken issue with feedback and a grade and on review it is found that the reader/tutor could not have taken adequate care: posting a set of generic responses on a point missed or references, or saying the essay needed X and Y when, in my case X and Y were introduced in the introduction, covered in the main body of the assignment and mentioned in the conclusion - something I had to do when I was a point off a distinction. 

It will be a new skill for students to become assessor, and a new world for academics to allow students to so boldly enter their domain, but a necessary one if we are to 'educate the world'.

 

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Open Warfare and 'The Battle for Open' - E-learning gets connected

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 11 Dec 2014, 06:52
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 The Battle for Open - Martin Weller. Available free to download

Full of the latest thinking and facts on open learning with special attention paid to MOOCs. Of most interest will be the work of Katy Jordan on retention rates. Here various papers are easy to find.

Enrich your knowledge on where learning is going. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. From The Battle for Open. p102 Attrition rates at a glance

Here are the figures to have at your fingertips:

  • The average (median) sign up is 43,000 of whom 6.5% complete - the range is from 4,500 to 226,652.
  • Completion rates correlate to course length, the shorter the more complete. Though the variance is from 0.9% to 36.1% with a median of 6.5%. Completion rates of 5% are typical.
  • 50% of those who enroll become active students. This is vital to recognise. All sign-up figures should be halved to give a working student population.
  • Completion rates as a percentage of those who are active range from 1.4% to 50.1% with a median of 9.8%.
  • The caveat I would give is that completion rates are too generous, you only have to do 50% of the course to qualify, so these figure could possibly be halved again. For me, completion means someone who takes part from beginning to end.
  • 45% of those who sign up never turn up or do anything. By the end of week two we are down to 35%. And by the end of week 3 or 4 it is plateauing near 10%.

REFERENCE

Jordan, K 2013, Hill 2013 MOOC completion rates. Initial trends in enrolment and completion of massive open online courses. http://oro.open.ac.uk/39592/

Weller, M. 2014. The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn't feel like victory. London: Ubiquity Press. DOI: http://dx/doi.org//10.5334/bam

 

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What role does the protagonist play?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014, 06:28
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Maka Paka from 'In the Night Garden'. How would Maka Paka cope in the real world? An idea for a short story. 

From 'How to Read a Mind' a FutureLearn MOOC from the University of Nottingham

I expect a protagonist to instigate and respond to people and their world and changing circumstances in a way that is in character - even if I don't know fully what this character is until the end of the book ... or a series of books in which they might appear.

What makes them believable can be a tiny thing: a turn of phrase that sounds familiar and right for them, the detail of something they are wearing, how they eat or write, the choice of music or radio station, very particular things: if eating but engrossed in chat between friends do they keep chewing, swallow, speak with their mouthful, spit it out, choke?

A protagonist becomes believable when I recognise their traits in others, real or fictional, but in a way that gives them an original slant and so a new take on the world.

I have personal conceptions of mother, brother, father, grandfather, friend, as well as conceptions were I to be in someone else's shoes, or reading a novel. I fear that a set of criteria could be as stultifying as any of a myriad of books I've looked at or read on 'how to write fiction', whether in a novel, movie, radio or stage play. My tack will always be to take interest in one remarkable detail.

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Learning how to learn online with FutureLearn and The OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 12 Dec 2014, 07:18
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 My progress on The OU MOOC on FutureLearn 'Start Writing Fiction' (c) FutureLearn 2014

More than any module or exercise I have done over my four years with The OU, it is a MOOC in FutureLearn that is giving me the most thorough experience of where the future or learning lies. I'm in week seven of eight weeks of 'Start Writing Fiction' from The OU, on the FutureLearn platform. Just in these few weeks I've seen the site change to solve problems or to enhance the experience. Subtle lifts and adjustments that make a positive out of constant adjustment. Those tabs along the top: activity, replies where under a tab. I think 'to do' is new while 'progress' was elsewhere. This is a responsive platform that listens to its students.

In the final week we submit our third piece of work.

As assessments go these are far less nerve racking than a TMA. The first piece was 300, the second 500 and the last will be 1000. These are assessed by fellow students. In my case I had one, then two reviews. Most people seem to get at least two sometimes three. The system is designed, I'm sure, to try and ensure that everyone's work is reviewed at least once. Tens of thousands, certainly thousands of people are on the course.

We're here to the 19th of December or so ... if you follow the tracks as laid.  

I hazard a guess that between 20-100 have posted there final piece already. Some, I know, got to the end of the entire course a few weeks ago; I looked ahead to see out of curiosity. There have always been 20 who post comments one, two even three weeks ahead. If 20 are posting I hazard a guess knowing my stats on these things that another couple of hundred could be clicking through the pages to read and observe. They may, like me, be coming back later. They may only be following the course, but not participating. Often, it is like standing on a stage looking into the gloom of the auditorium. Someone probably out there. One or two let you know. The rest don't.

I hope those that race ahead come back ...

I find that if I get ahead then I slow down and retrace my steps. To learn in this connected and collaborative way you are far better off in the pack ... it is not a race to get to the end first. In fact, those who do this have already lost. They've missed the point. I'd suggest to people that if they have the time to do the week over. That's been my approach anyway - the beauty of these things is everyone can come and go as they please, at a pace that suits them. Skip a bit. Go back. Follow it week by week, day by day ... or not. Whatever works works?

There's another very good reason to stay with the 'pack' or to come back and do a week over - the platform depends not on tutors and moderators commenting and assessing work, but us students doing a kind of amateur, though smart, peer review. This is what make a MOOC particularly vibrant, memorable and effective. Not listening to an educator telling us what's what, but the contributors sharing, figuring it out, answering each other's problems in multiple ways. We all learn in different ways and at a pace that shifts too. I find that often a point I don't get first time round, on the second, or third, or even the fourth visit to an activity someone, somewhere puts it in a way that suddenly brings complete clarity - their way of seeing a thing, or expressing it, makes more sense than the writes of the course could manage. Because they can only write one version, not the 'tartan' that comes from an intelligent, threaded online conversation.

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Week 7 'Start Writing Fiction' The OU @ FutureLearn

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

Fig.1. My mashup from the FutureLearn App using Studio

I continue to wonder what impact FutureLearn will have on future models for e-learning platforms. I turn screengrabs into aide memoires like the one above. 

Comments on the 'Start Writing Fiction' threads are now down from 3000 per thread to a few hundred ... a fall out of 95% is usual for a myriad of reasons. It'll be interesting to find out how many make it to the end ... and in due course who ends up a published author, and most especially how many migrate from a FREE MOOC to a paid-for course with The OU. I have a sense that most on the module are over 60 and broke.

We've just listened to a handful of authors talking about the importance of reading.

I found this insightful and helpful across the board. I relate to Louis de Bernieres in terms of reading habits - different authors, same approach entering and re-entering writing/reading modes in months ... something I need to change i.e. write, edit and read a daily pattern. Patricia Duncker says she read and views everything - a philosophy of Francois Truffaut who I was a fan of, especially trashy novels in his case. And from Alex Garner I see the value of seeing a novel as a screenplay, even as a director setting scenes, something incidentally Hilary Mantel talks about in an OU / BBC interview - write in scenes. Succinct. No messing. It relates to her understanding of how we reader in the 21st century - that we are used to and know the snappiness of the movie and TV. She says that the lengthy descriptions of Victorian novels are no longer palatable. I take from this that we have far too great a vivid view of the world. We know what slums, jungles and places globally look like. We see through time in documentaries, and film and now online. You mention the mud of Passchendaele and most people can picture it from commonly shared photographs and documentaries. An editing exercise reduced 500 words to 50. Most novice writers grossly overwrite. This OU MOOC favours pithy craft. 

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Evangelical about FutureLearn

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

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

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

FutureLearn is now achieving this. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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War breeds hate; hate festers and breeds war.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From E-Learning V

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

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

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

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. Wonderous word tools - thesaurus.com

What would make him 'menacing' though?

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

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

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

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Future Learn WW1 Aviation

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 9 Dec 2014, 21:55

 Fig. 1 Flight Cadet John Arthur Minty, RAF Crail late 1918

A fascinating stimulus to further study, though by its title and how grouped in WW1 themes by FutureLearn I would have expected the focus to have been the rise of aviation during the First World War to the exclusuion of all else, with some introduction to aviation coming into the Great War and a period to reflect on the interwar years. There have been criticisms by fellow travellers on the broad and 'open' nature of the learning experience as if kearning should be exclusive and elitist. 'Open' should mean exactly that for a myriad of reasons. Fundamentally this is about the quality of learning through the amazing 'connectedness' of the Internet and the recreation online of a 'community of practice'. It is also about what the former Xerox Head of Learning John Seely Brown calls 'learning from the periphery' where experts at the centre attract and welcome the newcomers on the fringe and finally, it is about 'vicarious' learning, not always knowing what you are going to get - the many insights and surprises that we've had here. I'm sure people aren't making full use of the tools to filter these massive threaded discussions: by recent activity across the topics, by those you follow and where there may be a reply to your own comment. To design, write and manage a MOOC you need to do them. 

Most MOOCS and most online courses, struggle with the quizzes. These deserve as much thought and preparation as a lecture series. They are hard to do well. The very best examples I've found were created on a platform called 'Spaced-Ed' now QStream by a team originating from the Harvard Medical School supporting Junior Doctors. Multiple choice can be a stimulating learning experience in its own right: challenging participants to use what they have learnt, and adding to this knowledge by making them think through responses that are not necessarily obvious. Replies to getting the answer right or wrong need to recognise the choices made and then inform, guide or further the learning experience. For the only example I've seen across six FutureLearn MOOCs where they are getting it right is The OU's module on 'Start Writing Fiction' where the 'quiz' makes you think. They don't need to be light-hearted.

If the BBC are closely involved in the production of video sequences then I'd expect three things: ideas around presentation that work, are relevant and make you think; media training for non-professional presenters and however done to 'broadcast' standards technically and stylistically.

What a truly brilliant discussion. I need to get my head around this and my copious notes from my mechanically minded late grandfather who trained as a fighter pilot in 1918 and was fascinated by the engines and had a few near-fatal scrapes with the things when they failed mid-flight. I'll wake him up, or bring his ashes over to the computer so that he can listen in!

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

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

Fig.1. FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction

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

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

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

From E-Learning V

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

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

Go see.

FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction

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

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The value to you of keeping a diary or learning journal

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

Fig.1. March 1975 ....

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

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. A reading list from 1978

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

This blog is something else.

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

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

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. The wonders of FutureLearn

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

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Facts in an essays are like pepper in soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MOOCs R OK

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'If you're not lost and confused in a MOOC you are probably doing something wrong.' Wrote Martin Weller 18 months ago (25th March 2013)

A MOOC is a 'Massive Open Online Course'.

Rubbish name I know. Free Online Learning for the masses might sound better. 

It's no longer the case. The FutureLearn MOOCs couldn't be more straightforward. If 'you' the student are lost then the course team and instructional designer in particular haven't done their job.

It's all about communication: clarity, consistency and simplicity. It's about being connected, engaged and inspired. It's about your curiosity being satisfied.

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

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

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

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

From E-Learning V

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

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

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

From Drop Box

Fig.3. An Oxbridge Tutorial (1960s)

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

From E-Learning V

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

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

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

From E-Learning V

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

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

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Mind Bursts

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 6 Oct 2014, 05:49
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Niel Macgregor's 'Germany: Memories of a Nation' 

I've loved this phrase 'mind bursts' for longer than I can remember so find it refreshing when something comes along which for me is expression of what I mean.

Niel Macgregor's 'Germany: Memories of a Nation' takes the massive and complex and makes it interesting and explicable by picking focused, memorable starting points. Every episode makes you think, but the one that got me hooked was on Konisberg and Strasbourg, two cities, once German: Konisberg now Russian as Kaliningrad, and Strasbourg now French.

Niel Macgregor's 'The History of the World in 100 Objects' has received some 33 million downloads!! THAT is a 'Massive Open Online Course' (MOOC) without the need for instructional design or assessment. It is informative, educational and entertaining.

Back to Germany though.

We are all probably used to history taught and written about as a series of chronological events, with historians questing for a truth interpreted through the philosophy and means of their era: Niel Macgregor therefore is using 21st century approaches to deliver his history, but what is so memorable and effective are the exceedingly carefully chosen objects, the considered, interpreted and historically accessible language and his smart, even 'other worldly' intelligent and dare I say it 'posh' voice.

Also an exhibition at the British Museum

More in the BBC Radio Series Producer's Blog

 

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Why some e-learning is evil

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 16 Jun 2014, 11:31

 Fig.1 Student marginal notes in a second hand book

A couple of weeks ago it started to dawn on me that in some respects e-learning is evil; I lost the thought a couple of times a) because I was driving my daughter to her last A' Level exam at the time and b) starting to compose the ideas my wife felt the need to share with me some pressing thought and I did her the courtesy of holding everything to listen - not just to look as if I was listening (a man things?), but actually take it in to offer a response (another man thing?) The thought was lost.

Rummaging through boxes of text books in the hope that I will find a plug for an imminent trip to Paris by wife and daughter (a post exams and 18th birthday treat), I stumbled upon a book on 'The Causes of War' by Michael Howard and the thought returned:

E-learning is evil because it negates a student 'learning how to learn'.

This matters as most graduates don't apply WHAT they learn at university, but rather the process of learning itself; that application, thought, time, discovery for yourself, seeking out your own meaning, interpretation, sharing, nervous first attempts at constructing an opinion or stance, building on this through mistakes, correction and further reading, attending lectures, seminars, and tutorials. It is NOT a case of consuming within tight confines content that has been specifically constructed for you to follow, to the letter, without little expectation, or desire for you to wander off on any tangents of your own. This has been my too frequent experience of modules in the Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education as with few exceptions the module is written and presented to you like a huge stack of packed lunches for you to eat your way through, without deviation, pretty much day by day for a period of weeks and months.

This is a convenience that suits the nature of distance learning - to hook you into a diet of these set-meals that can collectively building into a degree. The tough reality and self-evident experience of learning is that few students are ready to be assessed until a year, if not two years into their subject. Otherwise the pattern of grades is surely likely to be a gradual step by step, incremental improvement from the 40s, to 50s, to 60s ... and hopefully 70s and even 80s. 

I would far prefer to master my subject first and then be assessed and in so doing get 70s and 80s across the board, once the cumulative effect of sustained learning over many months has had the opportunity to mature. 

There is probably therefore a lesson to be learnt here for the reasons why Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) fail - they fail because they promise a trick that in learning never works - there is no short cut, the brain doesn't allow it, thoughts and ideas take time to mature. Which brings me to the fallacy of so much e-learning that tries to suggest that a revolution in learning is occurring, that there is a quick fix through gamification, having Google and Wikipedia at your fingertips and worst of all by reading condensed books, or courses that hand you all the answers on a plate in a ready-meal, or drive-in take-away manner that may satisfy at the time, but fails to deliver in the long term. 

Six of sixteen MA students doing a Master's degree with the Open University have recently completed degrees with the Open University; we often compare thoughts. We're universally derogatory of both approaches! Learning is a pain in whatever form it comes, but the answer would be a developed blend of both worlds and approaches.

Books, the printed form, certainly have a place. It is a pain to read a book, to identify salient points with notes into a book, or with PostIt notes, and to filter these into a format where they can be preserved and then later applied in an essay or presentation. It is this pain, and the time and effort it takes to condense books, to gather your own thoughts on the ideas of others, and then to construct your individual take, with support from your faculty (tutor, chair, fellow students) that builds your confidence so that you write what you think, not what the you are required to express, in a format that can be marked by an autonomon. 

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M is for M-learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014, 12:54
  • Jenny Moon
  • Multimodality
  • MOOC
  • Mobile (m-learning)
  • MAODE
  • Microsoft
  • Motivation
  • Moodle
  • Trevor Marchand
  • Dr Yoshay Mor
  • Professor Sugata Mitra
  • Memory

Is 'm-learning' even used anymore? I doubt it had a shelf-life of more than five years, a decade tops. It is just learning courtesy of a computer in your pocket (that smart phone), or a tablet, and of course a laptop. I had a Mac Classic that I took into the garden so that I could write and sunbathe at the same time; was that mobile learning? If I'd been writing something about gardening it could count. For m-learning to be it is more than just taking desktop computing power outside. It is taking advantage of mobility and location, using information 'just in time' to add to your knowledge on the ground. On the beach learning about coastal erosion you use information and apps, or connect with others to better understand what is going on under your feet, for example. Walking the Western Front as you pass over a spot a dead man grabs your leg and tells you their short life story. Col. Sean Brady of the Royal Marines was taking an MBA with the Open University; a busy man, he called the online course 'a university in his pocket'. It had to be.

MOOCs are the current thing. They are changing so quickly I wouldn't doubt that in format, there are many, we are yet to see a settle shape to them, or even the term. It smacks of jargon. Online Course is adequate. A 'free course' would do, though many are short modules, not courses. Is it a MOOC if is compromises of two hours of activities a week over three weeks? Isn't everything free these days? Look at MOOP (massive open online porn). Or don't.

Sugata Mitra is worth following, from his 'hole in the wall' project in India (computers concreted in to slum areas) to themes on educating those in the greatest need of access to computing and the Internet.

Yoshay Mor specailises in patterns in learning design and is particularly strong on MOOCs. Until recently of the OU and IET.

Motivation I believe is the key to all learning. Why else do it? Where there's persistent and consistent motivation there are ways to acquire the knowledge you desire. But what has that got to do with e-learning? Quite a bit if it requires you to find your own way around the Internet. 

There are shelves of books on memory. Without it you unable to learn. How does memory work? Why do we forget? How do we overcome that? You get into neuroscience, surface and deep learning, and learning design. Relevant to learning wherever it might be. 

 

 

 

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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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Rethinking education in MOOCs

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

http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/rethinking-online-community-moocs-used-blended-learning

This is fascinating and important. It was brought to my attention by a fellow student on H818:The Networked Practitioner. The differences between how a person spends their time when learning is spent whether online, say on a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), 'tradionally' and in blended forms. 

Having ways to present data in an informative and engaging way is vital. Here at a glance you can see how behaviours differ. I'm eager to read further papers on this to see how the research was undertaken and how therefore I might apply it as 'how we learn now' is of particular interest to me. The Educause article this came from offers ample further reading.

I thought these were DNA patterns. I'd like to see these charts as animations annotating and illustrating examples so that we can see and are therefore be reminded of the context. Simply put blended learning increases the time a student spends on a subject - that's as good as it needs to be from my point of view as with more and varied ways of engagement comes a developong interest, improved motivation and lasting learning formation. I rather think we blend learning anyway - once it comes off the screen 'it' interacts with the contents if your brain and is invariably shared in some form or another too.

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What would Steve Jobs have done with e-learning? Other than calling it iLearning?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014, 13:21

Martin Bean, OU Vice Chancellor: We are at the Napster moment in Higher Education

Martin Bean Key Note - notes from the 2012 HEA conference.

If there is a transcript please let me know!

I took a couple of hours as part of H818:The networked practitioner to follow this presentation closely. It makes you proud to be an OU student, or in my case now, an OU Graduate. Our Vice Chancellor, better perhaps than any other, has an inspired and informed, and often witty outlook on the future of education.

He makes the point that technology in education has everything to do with brain-ware, not software,. that 'we thought our job was done when we got people plugged in'.

He calls for educators in tertiary education to 'do the right thing by our student'

Technology is the enabler - it still requires great teaching.

He is at pains to point out that our approach to education is stuck in the past, that it is NOT about rote learning to regurgitate in an exam, but helping students make sense of the information available to them.

He is HIGHLY critical of research students who rely on the top 15 hits in Google Search and Wikipedia.

His handle on the current student is insightful. He makes the point that 'they want to blend their digital lifestyles with their learning - rather they would say it is 'just the way they live'.

We need to create a trusting environment where the student can challenge the information. 

There needs to be deconstruction and reconstruction of the pedagogy to make it more relevant

He calls for the 'sage on the stage to coach on the side'.

Our National Surveys say that our students want to spend time with us.

This human component is crucial for success and retention.

Martin Bean asks, 'what would Steve Jobs do?'

  • People and process remain more important than the technology
  • What the OU does: relevant, personalised, engaging learning.

How do we inspire people in those informal moments?

The OU are lucky and unique to be able to work with the BBC on productions like the Frozen Planet ...

  • YouTube as an open education repository
  • iTunes - 1:33 come in to find out more
  • Apple authoring tools

The value and opportunity of mobile

  • Akash - a tablet in India running on Android for under £50, so cheaper to give students one of these and access to the Internet than buy academic books.
  • 400 eBooks. e.g. Schubert's poems, listening to music, seeing the manuscript, reading annotations then looking at the original handwritten manuscript ...

How do we as educators do what we do so well?

  • MOOCs - engagement of hundreds of thousands, if not millions in meaningful ways.
  • More than anything esle technology creates access

We are at the Napster moment in Higher Education

See the Hewlett Foundation website for the scale of OERs. 12,000 hours of OU Open Learn for example.
Nurturing powerful communities of learning

  • Break the content down into shorter milestones
  • Qualifications with market currency
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H818 Activity 1.1 Reflection on how collaboration works and fails

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Dec 2014, 07:47

Collaboration amongst strangers is a tricky one. I've seen it work and I've seen it fail.

either

1) It requires scaffolding in the form of rules, or guidelines, mentor or leaders, and incintives in the form of punishments and rewards i.e. the risk of failure as well as recognition and some kind of reward (which might be a qualification, a monetary award, or part of a completed artefact, or pleasure of participation).

2) It requires people with an obsessive common interest; I don't believe having a common interest is enough. There needs to be an obsession, which means that the level of expertise can be mixed, indeed, thinking of the John Seely Brown concept of 'learning from the periphery' this might be best as invariably the natural human response IS to support those on the edge. The classic example is the young and eager student or junior employee keen to learn from his or her elders.

My concern with the role of collaboration in a module on e-learning is that the above don't fully apply. We are not GCSE or A'Level students. Most are MA ODE students who need this towards their MA, but I'll stick my head out and say the pass mark is, in my opinion, too low. I believe that it matters to be paying for it out of your own pocket or to have a commercil sponor expecting results. I know that some working for the OU do these modules almost on a whim because they are free and they do the minimum to pass - I've seen this on various courses,  seen it myself and have had it corroberated by other students. Anyone who is along for the ride in a module that relieson collaboration is a weak link - of course plenty of OU people do take seriously, but some don't and no line manger is looking over thre shoulder. At Carnegi Melon they ran an MA course where students gave each other, on a rolling basis, a mark for collaboration - those with the lowest mark risked failing that module. In fairness some people are not born collaborators, whereas others go out of their way to be a participant, potenially at the expensive of other parts of their studies.

To my tutor group I've posted too long a piece on a collaborative exercise I have been doing on and off for the best part of twenty years - I'm researching and writing my grandfather's memoir from the First World War. The Internet has exposed me (in a good way) to several sleuths.

I can however give an example of the learning design MOOC earlier this year that whilst having a good deal of scaffolding and human support relied on strangers each coming up with project ideas then joining forces to complete one. In a rush of activity, with some big name e-learning folk and too much formal theorizing, reading and activities to groups formed. I had no takers and joined a group of three that became five, but very quickythis became two of us ... we gamefully pressed on but at some stage felt we were missing out on the real action so eventualy pulled out as active participants.

Then there is a two week exercise in a subgroup of an MA ODE module where circumstances brought a magic bunch of strangers together - this has proved to be the exception rather than the rule.

Amateur dramatics, even volunteer cricket, to take a couple of examples, work because the show is the collective reward. We have bonfire societies here in Lewes that rely on volunteers too - though the complaint will be that it is always the same handful of people who do everything. In a work or academic setting should everyone be rewarded and recognised in the same way? It depends very much on a group dynamic or bond, a common sentiment that comes from working together in the flesh.

I believe that the First World War, now that I am an active member of a society and studying it on a formal course, is largelly of the type 2 participant. We are 'trainsporters' in that nerdy, glazed eye way - with specialists who know everything about uniforms, or tunnelling, or submarines, or dental decay on the Western Front, or a particular general, or like me - a grandfather, or greatgrandfather who was a combatant.

My worry about e-learning as a collaborative arena is that it is the process, so we are a cookery or gardening club. However, there is significant variation in each of these - vegetarian cooks, cupcake bake off specialists and Heston Blomenfal wannabes - amongst the gardens their are PhD research students growing dwark barley and weekenders who've keep an allotment. Whilst we have interst and the module to sustain us, only in a conort of 1000 or more would for some, there be enough likeminds to form a team.

I'm off to the School of Communication Arts in London. It operates from a workshop like open studio. Students are put into pairs to work. There is collaboration here between an art director (visualiser) and copywriter (words). Whether students are forever looking each other's shoulders when they are working on a competitive brief is another matter. I've noticed how one creative brief given to the whole studio has now become three. What is more, the 'collaboration' as such, comes from a couple ofcfull time tutors, principal and then a 'mentors' who go in as a sounding board cum catalyst cum different voice or perspective. What these people are doing is 'creative problem solving'.

Why, historically, does one band stay together while another falls apart? Collaboration is a tricky business - and maybe only in a business setting between employer and employee, or between contractor and client can it be sustained?

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H817 Open Activity 8: Imagine you are constructing a course in digital skills for an identified group of learners

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 21 Jun 2013, 07:40

H817 Open Activity 8

ACTIVITY: Imagine you are constructing a course in digital skills for an identified group of learners (e.g. undergraduates, new employees, teachers, mature learners, military personnel, etc.). It is a short, online course aimed at providing these learners with a set of resources for developing ‘digital skills’. It runs for five weeks, with a different subject each week, accounting for about six hours study per week. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Often the messiest and most problematic of tasks prove to be the most revealing.

Thinking of a group of swimming teachers as participants in some Open Learning was a challenge as some would never have used a computer at all. I thought of another group, nursery nurses and even contemplated going on to undergraduate medical students or junior doctors so that I could imagine working with a digital literate group but then returned to the challenge of introducing those with no experience of computers at all.

Do you try to teach someone to swim butterfly when they cannot swim? Can a swimming teacher learn anything if they don’t have access to a swimming pool? This is what it felt like - clearly OER is never suitable for everyone - the learning outcomes must come first, then how to deliver these in a way that suits the participants. There’s a saying in advertising, ‘preach to the converted’ i.e. you are selling goods and services to people who want them anyway. The easiest ‘sell’ would be to create a course on digital skills for those who are just coming online and are eager to acquire the skills, rather than a group that includes those who have no digital skills and are even belligerent or disinclined to take any interest.

Coming from Learning & Development we have sometimes been expected to ‘shoehorn’ other people’s content, or the client’s old content, into the production. We decline. We will use the material to inform the production process only. There is a reason, for narrative and continuity why I still feel that creating your own bespoke content is often a better alternative, otherwise there can be discontinuity, the need for writing in caveats, or simply reversioning as participants take a negative view of the smallest of things - say US English used instead of UK English.

Week

Topic

Resources

Suitability (G/M/B)

1

INTRODUCTION

to the Web and digital skills

Learning on the go

Mobile devices

Just in time or applied resources and tools.

Websites and social media

Twitter, Facebook … WordPress

Wikis

Keyboard Basics

6 Learning Methods Every Teacher Should Have

Internet Basic (UK GOV)

Using the Web (BBC Webwise)

M

M

M

G

2

SEARCH

Find a variety of content on MSM Website related to schedules, programmes, events, Swim21, contacts and compliance

Download and open PDF files.

Login and add personal details

Searching: Making the most of being online (BBC Webwise)

Searching the Internet (UK GOV)

Mid Sussex Marlins

Locate Swim21, download the Code of Ethics PDF, email the Swim21 Officer to say that you agree to abide by these guidelines.

G

M

3

VIEW

Select a video on swimming  technique from the Breakwater Swimming Website and note tips you would use in a training or teaching session.

Breakwater Swimming Training

M

4

PARTICIPATE

Register with IoS

Online Forms

Navigate/Search Function

Find and do a 1 hour free CPD of your choices

Multiple-choice

Audio/View

Rate/Comment

Register with the Institute of Swimming

Do a Free Continual Professional Development (CPD) refreshed - 1 hour

Working and Learning in Sports and Fitness

Open Learn, The OU

Track 6

How to develop reflective skills and improve leadership techniques. Part of The OU course E113 Working and learning in sport and fitness.

G

5

CREATE

Register withe blog host

Create a journal entry on a session and reflect

ELABORATE

Find and comment on other club and personal blogs

Create and load video

Legalese

Starting a new Web Site

Blogging, a tool used to reflect and learn

Be Secure Online (UK Gov)

How to avoid online fraud

Twitter Users.  A Guide to the Law (BBC Webwise)

B

B

G

G

 

REFLECTION

It was recently announced that a company had created a connector or ‘brick’ that allows those playing with either Lego bricks or Konnex to connect to two. It strikes me that OER requires some conformity in the creation of the learning resource in the first place to allow such bonds and that templates or connectors are required too. However, even if the learning resource is an idea expressed as a doodle with some text or a series of annotated diagrams from a whiteboard that are photographer and put online I believe this is far preferable to shoehorning another’s ideas into your learning design. Can you construct a new short story by lifting paragraphs from others? Can you construct original Shakespeare by mashing up lines from different monologues? Can you create a coherent painting by grabbing elements from a number of masters? This isn’t the same as the remixing musicians do, or is it? This isn’t the same as taking a cooking recipe and changing some of the ingredients - it is about the quality, truth, conviction, coherence and flow of a persuasive narrative.

My greatest challenge is the nature of the intended audience, whilst ‘Swimming Teachers and Coaches’ is one way to define them, for most this is a volunteer role for an hour or so a week, for a few more a modest part-time and paid role for perhaps 6 to 8 hours and only part-time and professional for 3 or 4 - say 12-16, sometimes 22 hours a week. They are a disparate group too - from airline pilots and Doctors, to a retired postman and an assistant in Waitrose who left school with no qualifications and now understand that they have Dyslexia. One is doing an MA in Sports Science online, another gets his wife to receive and send emails - yet another her husband. This spectrum of digitally literate ‘residents’ to the ‘occasional visitor’ even the non-user - and in some cases belligerently ante-Internet means that to reach this group requires more group workshops, face to face applied ‘poolside on the job’ and hand-outs. Content online needs to be printable so that if necessary intermediaries can print off in specific fonts onto coloured paper for those with Dyslexia. Content in the post, the traditionally distance learning approach would be favoured by some.

PROBLEMS

Links no longer valid or content removed, sometimes for declared copyright issues, such as here. Not having adequate input into the bespoke construction of the content in the first place, and then the possibility that the content may be removed is a problem.

Several hours too late I gave up on the depositories. I have always found UK Gov websites very easy and clear, say for calculating and paying tax, or getting a Road Licence for the car. With the drive to have everyone on Universal Credit using the web - those in the community who are most likely also to have no or poor digital literacy skills or access, I wondered what training and support UK GOV offered. I was delighted with the ‘We Make Getting Online Easier’ website and feel that it would support those for whom using the Internet would be a struggle - how and where they get online is another matter if they don’t have an Internet connection at home, or a Smartphone. For continuity reasons I may then use this website through-out with the only venture away to look at YouTube ‘How to ...’ videos relating to swimming teaching and coaching. I then checked the BBC and for UK residents found the BBC WebWise resources perfect. Start on the home page, run through the content bit by bit over the weeks.

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Is Google translate teaching me written French or am I teaching 'it' to translate French into English?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 14:31

It's 21 years since I lived in France.

Amongst other things I translated kids TV cartoons from French into English! I'm now trying, once and for all, to get my written French in order courtesy of:

  • Doulinguo
  • Qstream
  • OpenLearn French
  • Google Translate
  • A MOOC in French (ABC of business start ups if I have understood what is going on!!)
  • And the threat of legal action from the owners of my late Father's timeshare flat in the French alps (he died 11 years ago ... ). Only this week have they finally acknowledge my letters - probably because I chose to write in pigeon French rather than bolshy English.

When I want to write in French I give it a stab, stick it through Google Translate then  jig my English around until I get what I would have said in French out of the other end. (I can speak French - like a Belgian I am told).

When I read any tricky French I paste it into Google Translate and adjust until, once again, it has the sense of what I would have understood had I simply heard it spoken to me.

The test is how quickly will I be found out in an all French MOOC.

The only issue is that hopping around computers in our house (My teenage son has a couple of huge screens which I particularly enjoy using while he is at school) - I found one viewing of the MOOC was being automatically translated - which can in itself be quite a laugh. But at what point will such translation be seamless, at least to the non-linguists? At what point will it suffice as an adequate stab at what is being said and meant by what is being said?

Will be have a Bable Fish in our ear along with the Google Glass(es)?

 

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