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Loving this!

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Thanks Gillian. 

My kind of read. Often very funny, and smart. It carries you along. An escape. My treat THEN I must write a 4,000 word essay. 

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On the value of reading and re-reading the same quality book

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Aug 2014, 06:52
From E-Learning IV

 Fig 1. Essential reading on British Forces on the Ypres Salient in 1917

I take back what I said a couple of days ago about a module (not OU) that comprises a reading list and set of essay questions. Sometimes I feel the OU modules I have done are too prescriptive, that all of us are passengers on a learning train that will not permit anyone to leave the service. You work from and are assessed on the content given - excellent, succinct and contained. This does not suit everyone; never does the scary freedom to read from a reading list. In many cases the variety seen in both approaches, with overlap, is how and when one comes to understand something.

Back to formal reading

It matters that you are directed to the right book. This is the right book on Passchendaele to understand from a general strategic, to operational, to tactical level what took place.

I read 'Passchendaele: the untold story' first in May for a presentation in June.

The purpose was to lay out the chronology of events and compare two battles within the Passchendaele or 'Third Ypres' conflict relating to command. I took notes: highlighted in the eBook which I then typed up in a Google Doc before creating a presentation. Over two months later I read the book again as if I had never seen the book before; on the one hand I worry about my sieve like brain, on the other I am intrigued to understand what is going on.

From E-Learning IV

Fig.2 Notes taken in Google Docs from the highlight sections in the eBook

On second reading, with the tracks and sleepers of the general chronology becoming established and retained knowledge, and with an essay title ringing in my head, the highlights I make in the eBook are, with a few exceptions, totally different. I am reading the same book, but taking something very different from it. I have a highly selective, easily distracted brain - nothing sticks if it doesn't have to. I know a few people with a photographic memory: they appear to read something once then have the entire contents at their fingertips to apply to a problem. My memory is the opposite - nothing at all that I don't deem of importance to the task at hand will be retained. I have, side by side, the notes I took in May and the notes I am currently taking - they could be from different publications; I struggle to find any common ground. 

There will be a third reading

This third reading will have different purpose as in due course I write a comparative history between Third Ypres: Passchendaele and the First Gulf War to fulfil a desire to respond to something my late grandfather said in 1992 'That's nothing compared to Passchendaele' he said as he watched the First Gulf War unfold on TV. He saw the differences between foot soldiers as unrecognisably different, whereas I saw the prospect of having a leg blown off or being gassed as more than faintly similar. Had the generals used the tactics of 1992 in 1917 they would have gained more ground and lost fewer men; something had been learnt in 75 years of war then.

Fig.3. The mud of the First Gulf War

Visualising the above I imagine a desert; the state of my brain before I read, that over time acquires an invasion of cacti, followed by ground cover plants, until eventually there are established trees and a rich ecosystem.

Hardly surprising, but on second reading you pick out more detail; you see things that you missed, or couldn't take in the first time round. I'm the kind of person who would apply this to entire modules: that the student who wants to should be allowed to, for a considerable discount, to re-sit a module they have already done. Why not even a third time if your goal is to master a subject? A' Level students with poor grades will 'cram' for a year to improve on these. Through-out life things we want to do are achieved as a result of tackling the problem repeatedly until we crack it. 

Finally, I conclude, that given how complex we are, so learning needs to offer a similar level of variety; there can be no perfect system, or learning design pattern. We learn in different ways, and educators teach in different ways. E-learning isn't a panacea, it is simply another approach the complements ones we have always adopted, not least learning directly from experts themselves through talking things through.

More of us should be able to or should have been able to retake classes we flunked - with a different teacher, if not in a different institution. It shocks me to see how a student at school can be put off a subject they enjoy as they don't relate to or get on with the teacher - so change the teacher. 

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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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Sunbathing and reading ...

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It's so rare I have to be in it. I will read and nod off in the sun. I will add PostIt notes and later type these up onto a laptop. I've been known to hide the screen in a cardboard box to reduce glare.

It works for me. I especially like being told when my brain has reached overload and I can sleep for a bit. And potter around the garden to break it up. Putting out and taking down washing. Pricking out seeds. Giving up on the beans and peas. Putting in some more tomatoes.

Sitting a written exam when it is a wonderful day is not so hot; if you have two exams then you miss it all. Not quite a day at work you should tell the student though.

 

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Book or eBook?

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You’re missing a trick if you're ignoring eBooks.

My experience studying at postgraduate level over the last four years, first with the Open University and now with the University of Birmingham as well is that we need to consider and experience the affordances of both.

I will own the book and the eBook in some circumstances as they offer a different experience and options.

If you are studying a subject in a social context online it helps to be able to share what you find and think as you read. I did this with Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ and found he was reading along through Twitter and my blog. I find where I have the printed book that I take photos of pages, mash these up and then share online – or resort to pen, paper and note taking in the traditional, lonely way. Then there are the huge tomes, some of the history books I am getting through right now that run to 900 pages – it is so much easier to carry around on the iPad. Using an eBook I highlight by themes of my choosing, add notes, Tweet short passages, seek out threads on single characters, link directly to references and post mashups from screen-grabs rather than photos straight into a e-portfolio so that the idea or issues are tagged and ready for later use.

Non-fiction books will become like some LPs of the past – do you want all the tracks or just your choice?

If I can buy 12 chapters of a book for £8.99 on Kindle, when will I be able to buy for 99p that one chapter I need? Speaking to a senior engineer from Amazon over the summer (old friends who moved to Silicon Valley twenty years ago) he wondered if the ‘transformative’ period for books was about to occur, just as it has occurred with music.

There will be a better, personalised hybrid form in due course, several of which I have tried. So far they have been marred by only one thing – poor content, the clickable, multimedia, well linked experience is apt for the 21st century.

Nothing replaces scholarship though , it’s just going to take a while to make the transition.

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Current reading ... recently read, on the go ... just about to start.

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Screen%2520Shot%25202013-05-25%2520at%252009.04.18.jpg

Internet Studies is the 'just about to get stuck in' read. The War of the World from Naill Ferguson is a lyrical and intelligent romp through decades of global conflict ... that only recently ended? Tales of the Field is a wonderful introduction to ethnogrpahy and offers a dozen further reads. Then some 'studies' related stuff. Capital ain't mine ... I got it so my 85 year old father-in-law could read it on my iPad when I was visiting. Teeangers and Technology is a must read from Rebecca Eynon.

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New blog post

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It took me a year ... no longer, 18 months. Even longer than that, two years, to recognise what it took to get consistently high marks.

I couldn't fathom what people were doing.

Is it a formula? Or just application? Is there a method? Whatever it takes until you feel confident you know what is going on ... so read, read again, ask questions. Then going and read something else. Disagree, agree ... sleep on it. Then, ever so slowly it starts to dawn on you. This is what they are on about. I am prone to read well beyond the listed resources though, picking through papers until I find the one that speaks to me - the voice that expresses it in a way that has ressonance. And I am prone, within reason, to get the book that is cited in a paper I like ... so a collection of second handbooks under the table and a larger collection of eBooks. eBooks I read faster, highlight and take notes as I go along, then migrate notes and quotes into a Google Doc. I kid myself when I have a lot to read that it is different on the Kindle, the iPad or on the TV size screen that is ... well the TV (but my computer too).

A couple of weeks ago I took the TV and put it in the shed. One of those things the size of a pedal car.

No one misses it.

Everyone is on a screen elsewhere in the house. We stream movies. We use BBC iPlayer.

I don't miss clicking between channels looking for something to watch, finding nothing much but glued to the thing for a few things all the same.

Movies?

Ironclad

That's the way to do Medieval!

A week away in April and I still haven't recovered my old rhythmn. Nor will I. Instead of bloggin I have every conceivable thing to sort out with the house and garden. Somehow both were abandoned for three years - I wonder why that was?

The lawn was so bad I needed an industrial strimmer. The lawnmower I bought in 2007 is still in its original packaging in the shed.

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Does it work? Have I learnt anything? Have behavious been changed?

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Two things that might have been measured three years ago that show change: the speed at which I type, touchtypye with both hands or with my left only holding an iPad fighting back the desire to fall asleep. And reading. I used to be a slow and clumsy reader, know it can be done at a sprint. I dropped into our library and have some actual books. I have no interest in taking notes on either. The first 'The Salient' on the Western Font around Ypres, the second 'A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare'. This isn't why I took the MAODE - these are side effects, like the digitsl literacies I have gained from forums to wikis.
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New ways of reading

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I'm trying something new, probably in breach of copyright, but if I keep it to myself where's the harm? But does it work? As I read a paper I freeze the page when I spot something I wish to note, crop this image then load this image into a Google Doc where I can add notes, or cross reference from other papers. I assemble my thoughts and those of others like digitial scraps. Currently treating myself to all that I can find related to asthma. I may not be an MD, but an MD doesn't have the MAODE and if there is one thing I've learnt these last three years, it is what I am not understand at all will in time become familiar.
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H809 Reflecting on frameworks (Activity 3.8)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 13 Nov 2014, 10:20

In the light of the podcast and this week’s work, consider how you might revise the way in which you are making notes on studies. Do the questions from Activity 1.4 need elaborating?

Look back at Reading 1 and consider the questions that were asked in that research. Do you think they represent a dominant ‘paradigm’ for research in any particular period? Are the research questions and methods still relevant today?

My response

Questions : what research questions are being addressed?
Setting : what is the sector and setting?
Concepts : what theories, concepts and key terms are being used?
Methods : what methods if data collection and analysis are used?
Findings : what did this research find out?
Limitations : what are the limitations of the methods used?
Implications : what are the implications (if any) for practice, policy or further education?

1) I will still ask, what was the problem? What is the hypothesis? I may ask why this research is being carried. I will certainly look at who the authors are, how the research is funded and the methods used.
2) There's more to setting than a name and an address for where and when something took place. It matters and helps to know the context, the time, people and environment.
3) They may only be noticed if they are unusual or controversial, but there will be reasons why a certain theory or concept is used. This will put a slant on the research, because of the choices made by the authors, the choices that are current and appropriate and whether they have been used before and what the conclusions were then. Activity Theory, for example, is going through changes, Diffusion of Innovation theory transmogrified with the idea of a ‘chasm’. Activity Theory is becoming ‘Cultural Historical’
4) Methods are taking advantage of computers to gather and analyse data, including 'big data' in new and revealing ways.
5) There is inertia of approaches and adopting new technologies, even a bias towards conformity and 'old ways' of doing things which is how and why the breakthroughs and disruption tends to come from outside.
6) The implications are for HE and schools to try to do what industry has been doing for the last 20 years – to embrace change as a constant to be embraced, rather than as a rare occurrence to be resisted. New ways of doing things, new ways if undertaking research, new ways of analysing and sharing the data and outcomes.
7) Keep an open mind. Have a set of questions that require a comprehensive view and be prepared to be a magpie - to think outside these parameters in terms of scope, depth and spread – so cross disciplinary, historic as well as the future.

I can see if you go in armed with a list of forensic questions you could get bogged down, in particular it is just another reason to lose the sense of narrative in a piece of research.

Which reminds me of an ancient OU Text called 'How to Read' or was it 'How to study?' Anyway, the idea from Richard Northridge (I think) was that you read a piece of text three times: skim read to get the gist of what is going on, the 'landscape' as it were, read a second time taking notes and then a third, more surgical read extracting what you want and being critical where criticism is due - in the light of your own interests.

Jo Neil (26th Feb, H809 Student Forum) suggested that when creating a framework for reviewing research papers thought should be given to:

  • Structure of the research - imposed or emergent
  • Existing research in this area
  • What is the methodology/philosophy background
  • What frameworks?
  • Terminology - are the questions relevant
  • Motives
  • What research does it build on/contribute to

And my response:

I am struck by the dichotomy between 'imposed or emergent'.

I wonder, my reading, if you are saying 'traditional' or 'emergent'. I don't supposed traditional or imposed are any the less valid, just choices alongside the 'emergent' that have to be made.

Just as the old structures are going into meltdown, becoming transparent, fluid and available to all courtesy of Web 2.0 so all manner of approaches need to change to keep up.

Further down the line the entire academic publishing route is under scrutiny: academics and those who ought to be influenced by these papers aren't reading them - they prefer to speak directly to experts/authors where they can; journals take too long to publish in a rapidly changing environment; institutions are fed up with paying academic publishers and authors are fed up of the current necessity of giving up copyrights/IP (varies), volunteering their content when it isn't necessarily adding to their reputation or career anyway.

This all comes back to your single word  - emergent.

In commercial e-learning at the micro scale real-time student analytics, monitoring progress, tailoring content, managing a learning 'career' is producing a new level of detail and immediacy to research while at the macro scale 'Big Data' is able to isolate factors that would have gone unnoticed with smaller student numbers. This in turn enables finer fine tuning of a module or course.

The old manufacturing paradigms of incremental and evolutionary change, where everything is bolted down and would have to be demolished in order to allow change and over. Modules created in a digital environment or ecosystem need to be seen to be growing and changing all the time and institutions should reflect this and come in like gardeners with bamboo canes (scaffolding), nutrients (social learning and student support) and pruning shears - cutting out the dead growth and guiding this 'organic thing' in the desirable direction.

Methodologies and Frameworks are were I need to do some work.

I need to get the terms, definitions and explanations firmly in my mind or in a table. Like a deck of cards, or a set of choices, or herbs in the kitchen from which I can make an informed choice. To use the cooking metaphor I am at the minute inclined to stick everything in because I know no better! Which is of course why I am on H809.

I don't question the importance of knowing what research has gone before and what research it contributes to - building on the shoulders of giants and all that, though, given this 'emergent' field we are entering a transitioning period.

Related to some thoughts above, the technology permits the author to cite far more that they feel has touched or is touching upon their thinking. This will influence how a report is written as we must all now have examples where in any sentence or paragraph more of the text might be taken up with references than it is with the line of thought. Whilst the references need to be there, within reason, there are other ways I've seen of doing it. For example, numbering references like footnotes and giving them in chronological rather than alphabetic order at the end of the text. This 'system' probably has a name.

Relevance of questions too - that they are pertinent, of the study, not imposed on it. My feeling is that considered choice of the questions is crucial. Knowing the right question(s) to ask is a fundamental technique or approach in business consultancy where intractable problems need to be resolved ... the answer does lie in asking the right question in the first place.

And 'motives' as well 'motivation'.

This isn't to be cynical, but research has to be funded and institutions look for academics who attract or can secure grants. The grant making bodies in turn have their own criteria and agendas. Are there no 'fads' here. There was something I was reading recently where the authors refer back to the requirements or stipulations of the funding body - not a negative view, just a statement or re-statement of the parameters that institution had set so that readers could decide ok a) there is further research to be done beyond these parameters c) the research was undertaken under these conditions.

As for motivation, it matters why we/they the authors are doing the research. I enjoy the opportunity to hear an academic present their findings as you then get a sense of what their motivations are ... because of a virtuous, altruistic love of the topic, to get a paper published - another one notched up, to move on (another institution is more suited, or attractive) ... and the commercial potential of going into an agency or client, or starting your own operation. Or because they like being centre stage.

Am I being unfairly cynical here? Everyone has a motive of some kind or another. Should these motives be apparent in the research - probably not, which is where, perhaps, fairly or unfairly, some of us may have been judgmental about the Hiltz paper (I was).

I keep finding myself reading article and books on e-learning and the Internet written by Journalists.

They are another breed entirely. Too often the desire to sensationalise to get an article and books sold produces a plausible package that convinces thousands but on close inspection is either highly dubious, 'thin' and speculative or has extracted only excerpts from research to support their hypothesis. Yet they get the message out in a way that must academics and institutions repeatedly fail to do.

From which I conclude - greater scrutiny is required over what I read. I've got to ditch an indulgence that was encourage two decades ago when I was studying Francois Truffaut the French filmmaker who argued that it was necessary and appropriate to read everything. This of course was in the context of writing fiction, but his reading list (he wrote letters and kept a diary of soughts) was eclectic to the extreme ends of pulp fiction to literary greats.

Still a valid approach if you want to nourish you mind with the unpredictable?

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Reading this with such ease makes me smile and glad to be human and not an android.

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Acocdrnig lo an elgnsih unviesitry

.suttly llie oredr of ietetrs in a wrod

dosen't tnttaer, the ulny thnig thta's

iopmrantt is that the frsit and Isat

Itteer of eevry word is in the crcreot

ptoision. The rset can be jmbueld and

one is stiil able to raed the txet wiohtut

dclftfuUy.

 

Anyone can to say how or why???

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Distance Learning 80 years ago

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 26 Jun 2012, 17:55

DSC04797.JPG

I am reading a 52 piece part work 'World War' edited by Sir John Hammerton and published between 1936 and 1937 with occasional contributions from H G Wells, this alongside various staple and new reads on World War One.

As a piece of learning design what could be simpler? A magazine delivered each week, chapters deliberately left unfinished between parts, photos offering points of interest explained and developed in later issues.

Tommy%2520SNIP.JPG

Perspectives shift of course, just as they had a view on the Napoleonic Wars. However, in many cases 1914 was not dissimilar to a battle of 1814, or 1870.

'Read in a period until you hear its people speak' E H Carr.

I play this trick of falling asleep with an event in mind and courtesy of the painkillers I am currently taking I enter a vivid dream world much of which I can recall.

The problem with WW1 is the clammer of voices, not just what you can read, but the voices you can listen to on DVD or podcasts, indeed I have several hours of my own grandfather in a County Durham accent that those not familiar with the North East would call Geordie and find, at times, incomprehensible.

How does an historian deal with history when the record is everything? Had a soldier gone into battle in 1914 with a video headset what would we do today with years of material? My grandfather, for example, had no leave from the day he left England in early 1916 to his transfer to the Royal Flying Corps at the very end of 1917.

Would the reality be a huge amount of sitting around dealing with the boredom, discomfort and fear?

DSC05047.JPG

This is a map I drew with my grandfather in his 97th year. This and his visit to the trenches the previous year would allow me to retrace his steps, almost by the day between September and end of December 1917.

But why?

A researcher from UCL quizzed me on this some years ago and I had to conclude that for me it was less an obsession with WW1, but rather reminding me of a dearly loved grandparent. I can't see drawing up maps of my grandmother's trips into Newcastle on the tram having the same appeal (or historical record or value).

Gradually online I am connecting with grandchildren of veterans and others interested in WW1 so that there is a component of 'Social Learn' between blogs and Facebook. All the books I read I share on Twitter, which may help promote the book, but is also attracting many like-minds.

At what point do I become so well informed that I could sit an exam without sitting for the qualification?

Can I short-circuit the steps to an MA in History? There are two parts to the degree, but it is the second part, the ellective, that takes me into WW1 territory.

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Kindle Joy

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It's taken me two years to get round to figure out how to send a PDF file to my Kindle. This is an experiment. I've also sent it to an iPad and may even follow with an iPhone.

If I can combine a day walking on the South Downs with some stops to read a paper then I kill several birds with one stone; most importantly I get through the reading and don't feel I've been confined to the house. The dog goes for a walk, I enjoy the fresh air and exercise my legs.

Mobile Learning?

No need for fancy software or an MA in Instructional Design either. This is like taking a paperback with me, or a file of papers in an arch-level file. Which is how I often read and revise: up a hill, in the woods, by the beach. Its that or not get it done at all as hanging around the house I find it too easy to get distracted (and I don't have a study or even a room of my own).

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Immersive reading and research

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'Read in a subject until you can hear its people speaking', said the Historian EHCarr but who said 'Research in a subject until the narrative reveals itself?'
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The Girl at the Lion d'Or

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 25 Nov 2011, 13:34

Girl%252520at%252520the%252520Lion%252520Dor.JPG

Having enjoyed 'Birdsong' by Sebastian Faulks I not only went on to read many other Faulks' novels, I also went on to read much of Pat Barker too (for the First World War setting), and Ernest Hemmingway. Indeed, written at the time, HGWells take you to a similar place.

I find myself reading 'The Girl at the Lion D'Or'.

As is too often the case I realise half way through I have read it before; I should know the characters and recall the events and outcome: I don't. In fact, I am compelled as much to read it for the story as to satisfy this nagging feeling I know something dreadful or beautiful is about to happen. We get a little of each. And some wonderful interludes, as if Faulk's wove in some short stories that weren't going to endure as novels. (There's a nifty idea).

I want to talk about this lovely story, how Anne comes from Paris to work at the Hotel Lion D'Or. Who and what she is touches many lives, she is a catalyst for misbehaviour, action and change.

But I can't help but reflect on how I read, or skim read. I simply do not take it in, or rather, my mind leaves it on the surface, like a conversation overheard on a train. My mind, my kind of mind at least, or how it has formed, through a combination of genetics and experience, treats all readying as frippery. The consequence of this is that when I have academic reading to do it takes a huge effort to get anything at all to stick.

Reading on its own is pointless.

Historically I took notes long hand of everything I read. Historically, at school and university this would become an essay, the essay would be discussed in a small tutor group, filed, then looked at again months later for an exam. This kept that knowledge for the required period. Today I take notes through a QWERTY keyboard and upload. I am toying with adding pen to paper again. Then what? So long as I return to the notes and develop them the topic may become a living thing. Best of all, for me at least, are the vibrant tutor groups, or some online forums where I can find them. I need to wrestle with a topic, to agree and disagree, to read more, to seek out my own heroes and villains from further references. Then, and only over a period of months, if not years, do I make any sense of it, do I feel a sense of conviction about what I have picked up, understood or misunderstood.

I'm coming to apperciate why 'scholarship' takes time.

I don't take notes when reading a novel; perhaps this allows me to enjoy the second or third reading. You discover new things, you pick up the detail, nuances that weren't apparent the first time round. You may even get a better sense of the author's voice and purpose.

Can anyone recommend a good read?

I feel a novel a week inbetween OU reading and employment would be a good tonic for my mental well being. I beleive I work and think better too, but escaping from it all regularly.

You can immerse yourself in a subject and drown.

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HOLIDAY READING - Bad Science. Ben Goldacre.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 15:54
Bad Science Discussed often as my wife read it. I'm familiar with the articles that I used to pick up from The Guardian, or was it the New Scientist?(I no longer. Uy ps eras or magazines - ever). Wanting to highlight and add notes I bought a Kindle version of Bad Science for £3.99.
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Scrambulation

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Feb 2013, 07:46

I think I did the equivalent of throwing the files out of the window yesterday afternoon and no doubt the TMA grade will reflect this.

I reached a stage of total scrambulation.

Currently doing a 24 hour spring clean, pack the car, find wetsuits that no one can get into, fix the box on car roof, get keys that work for the car ... listen to Pepys dramatised on the radio (see the blog) ... while feeding teenagers and accommodating my wife whose computer died when it was purloined for World of Warcraft duties sad

(P.S. I am advised that my avatar remains wondering this world in her underwear. Meanwhile, after three weeks of doing a paper round my son has purchased a virtual motorbike for his World of Warcraft avatar - think Harley Davidson - he also has an upgrade on his pet -  an Elephant.

Both impress I am told.

Educators enter here at their own peril.

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My advice would be to so so with an experienced 13 year old to assist and you may end up like me, female, in your underwear, doing dances for your living. Seriously, this is my experimental taste of virtual worlds.

I learned that my son has several characters online, somehow, and each has a distinct personality and I suspect gender. I am 'Val Desire' her twin - is creation - is 'Not Val Desire'.)

And the dog is on heat sad

And my 15 year old daughter has decided the contents of her attic room are childish and is currently bagging it (while my wife is going through said bag convinced that everything has a value and ought to be put in our lock up garage for the next decade or two. A garage that is 11 miles away and we took possession of temporarily when we moved house ... four years ago.)

Otherwise a normal day.

Pencils and pastels I have, but I need cartridge paper and a new drawing board.

I'm disinclined to over use the digital camera as it will require immediate downloading to a laptop then editing, then uploading and all that eJazz. Do I go with the flow, indluge this? Maybe I should, passing on some basic craft skills along the way in relation to shot size, editing, action cuts and so on.

I realise too that this desire to go off and draw is akin to being behind a computer screen.

A sort of hunkering down escape into my own head. Though drawing is likely to be less distracting than being online.

Basically, what I crave, and did for decades with my Dad is a boat, to sea with all those challenges and absolutely NO contact with the outside world.

On these trips I took books, paper, guitar. I am inclined therefore to need the iPad that now is the books, the paper and all the sheet music my heart could desire.

Impossible of course because he is long dead and the boat sold.

 

 

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Simple, huh?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 31 Aug 2011, 12:54

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But what kind of an activity is reading? Is it interactive?

Often I find, after weeks of working online I hanker after ONE author and the chance to hear enough from them to get a true sense of where they stand.

I buy the book, as I did with Engestrom's 'Teams and Knots.'

 

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Interrogating texts: 6 required approaches to reading

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 14 Aug 2011, 19:00
Interrogating texts as my habit is to read for insights and edutainment; studying requires something more.
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H800: 41 Sources

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 25 Mar 2011, 06:07

 

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If you develop a keen interest in a topic suggested by a report then it can be taken several ways: more reports/papers by this person on the same topic, more reports/papers by others on the topc ... a book by the author on the topic. It isn't often that I want to do this, it is sometimes then only way I can start to understand something as some authors, particulalry sing a heavy, academic style, fail to communicate. The suprise is to find these same authors may express the idea far better elsewhere, or in a recent paper.

(Should read 'synopsis' of course)

Over a longer period of time does this cursor not ride back and foth, as we return to a topic, expand and develop our reading?

I can think of authors and topics I revist over decades, this is how books fill a shelf (and now the Kindle).

Talking of which, wouldn't it be handy to be offere e-journal and papers as articles I might like, instead of just books?

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H800: 22 Reflecting on H800

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

How goes it?

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

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

Ilness changes things

Nothing more than a rubbish cold made uncomfortable by asthma.

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

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

We're in the week of metaphors for learning.

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

Gathering my thoughts will take time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next pool? Where is that?

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

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

Piaget next?

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

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Kindle 3 JV Unwell and Kindling

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 28 Jan 2012, 16:06

When your 14 year old daughter is in bed with flu, and running a temperature, you relent when she pops her head up from under the duvet and wants to use your laptop to watch a movie and get in touch with friends.

I think, because I use a keyboard extension that the chances that I will pick up her germs are reduced; I forget that we both use the same mouse. She blows her nose, uses the mouse, goes to sleep for three hours. I pick up the laptop, go online, do stuff like making a sandwhich  ...

That's four out of four now down with the bug, only the dog and the guinea-pigs seem fine (so far).

It doesn't take long before I wind down

An odd sensation, like your battery has gone flat.

If only it were as simply as plugging yourself into the wall or changing a battery sad

I am just grisly and very tired

I had a flu jab in October so I should be avoiding the worst of it.

Sit back from this screen ... you just can't tell how infectious these things can be !

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If it is one bonus it is the Kindle

It can be read in bed, your head on a pillow, operated with one finger, one thumb ... and as my brain is mush I can make the text huge and read three words across like a TV autocue. When I fall asleep, so does it. When I wake up it is picks up where I left off. In fact, it will read the book to me ... however, will it tell when I am asleep? That would be clever.

I've gone from one book to several

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Between them Amazon and Kindle have their fingers in my wallet.

I'm 46% the way through the Rhona Sharpe book. Here's a new concept ... no pages.

In addition I have samples of six other books, two blogs and a magazine on a 14 day free trial (I will cancel these 7 days in or earlier to be sure I don't continue with anything I don't want)

And new books, and old books.

In the 1990s I bought CDs to get back or replace LPs of my youth. Over the last five years I've got rid of most of these and run with iTunes.

Books, due to lack of storage space, are in really useful Really Useful boxes in a lock up garage we rented to help with a house move ... three years ago. Is there any point of a book in a box? I have over the decades taken a car load of books Haye on Wye and sold them in bulk. A shame. I miss my collection of Anais Nin and Henry Miller; I miss also my collection on movie directors and screenwriters. Was I saying that this part of my life had ended? Or I needed the space (or money). I fear, courtesy of my Kindle and lists of books I have made since I was 13 that I could easily repopulate my mind with the content of these books. Indeed there is no better place to have them, at my finger tips on a device a tasty as a piece of hot toast covered in butter and blueberry jam.

Page Views

I do nothing and the page views I receive doubles to 500. What does this mean? I am saying too much? That the optimum blog is one per day? Or have folks found they can drill through here for H807 and H808? Who knows, I don't the stats provided by the OU are somewhat limited. I'd like the works. Which pages do people enter on, which are most viewed, where do they exit, what's the average pages viewed by an individual and so on. In my experience 500 page views means three people reading 100/150 each with a few others dipping in and out.

How Kindle has changed me in 24 hours

My bedtime reading for anyone following this is 'The Isles' Norman Davies.

I read this in the 1990s when it came out. I felt it deserved a second reading. It is heavier then the Yellow Pages and almost as big. Because of its bulk I may have it open on a pillow as I read; no wonder I fall asleep. (Works for me). Having downloaded it to the Kindle last night in 60 seconds and for less than £9 I may now read more than a couple of pages at a time. I can also annotate and highlight the Kindle version. I have an aversion to doing this to the physical thing ... I am used to selling on my old books. Not something I can do with a Kindle version. Which makes me think, should these digital versions not be far, far, far cheaper? Take 'The Isles.' The dust cover is in perfect nick, I took it off and boxed it rather than get it torn. The damp in the lock-up garage hasn't caused too much harm. I could get £8 for it, maybe £5.

What else?

More on E-learning:

  • Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age. (Rhona Sharpe)
  • Creating with wordpress (blog)
  • Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (2010) Will Richardson
  • E-Learning by Design (William Horton)
  • How to change the world (blog)
  • SEO Book (Blog)
  • Digitial Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications (2009) Paul Argenti and Courtney Barnes
  • The Online Learning Idea Book (Patti Shank)
  • Using Moodle (Jason Cole and Helen Foster)

Some bought, some simply samples. The blogs on a 14-day free trial. Neither worth £0.99 a month.

Best on Kindle

The big surprise, the book that is so beautifully transmogrified by Kindle, lifted by it, is 'The Swimming Drills Book' (2006) Ruben Guzman.

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No! This isn't what happens if your swimmer gets it wrong. This is a drill called 'dead swimmer' in which they float head down, then slowly extended into a streamlined position, kick away and then swim full stroke.

'The Swim Drill Book' is a mixture of text, almost in bullet point form, and line drawings of swimmers in various stages of effort to perform a stroke or drill or exercise.

If an author needs advice on how to write for a Kindle, or for a tablet, I'd point them at this book. This is NOT how it was conceived, but it is how it works on this alternative platform.

You can try it for free

Download Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac then find 'The Swimming Drills Book.' You can then view a sample which takes you beyond the acknowledgements, contents and introduction into the first chapter.

A thing of beauty

By tweaking the layout, text size and orientation, you can place the diagram/drawing full screen. It simply works, just as the stunning black and white engravings and photographs that your Kindle will feature (at random) when 'sleeping.'

Here's an thought: if you're not reading a book it is gathering dust, a dead thing, whereas with a Kindle your books are simply asleep.

 

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Gobsmacked by Kindle and my first e-Book

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 9 Feb 2011, 12:51

In less than ten minutes I bought one of these.

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I then bought this.

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For now I'll read it on my laptop; the Kindle arrives tomorrow.

The world is changing, mine just has.

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Buzzing

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 Nov 2012, 06:10

I'm not tired, which is the worry; it'll catch up with me. When I wake up with a clear, original thought I've learnt to run with it. Time was I could have put on a light, scribbled a bit then drifted off again. 17 years of marriage (and 20 years together) I've learnt to get up. And once I'm up, then I know it'll be a while before I can sleep again.

(I'll sleep on the train into London; at least I can't overshoot. I once got on the train at Oxford on the way into town and woke up in Cardiff).

I have the thought nailed, or rather sketched out, literally, with a Faber-Castell Artist Pen onto an A5 sheet of cartridge paper in Derwent hardback sketch book. This seems like a waste of good paper (and a good pen), but this doodle, more of a diagram, almost says it all. My vision, my argument, my persuasive thought. My revolution?

Almost enough, because I then show how I'll animate my expression of this idea by drawing it out in a storyboard. I can do it in seven images (I thought it would take more). I hear myself presenting this without needing to do so, though, believing myself quite capable of forgetting this entire episode I'll write it out too.

I once though of myself as an innovator, even an entrepreneur. I had some modest success too. Enough to think such ideas could make me. I realise at this moment that such ideas are the product of intense mental stimulation. To say that H808 has been stimulating would be to under value how it has tickled my synapses. The last time I felt I didn't need to sleep I was an undergraduate; I won't make that mistake. We bodies have needs. So, to write, then to bed.

(This undergraduate thing though, or graduate as I now am ... however mature. There has to be something about the culture and context of studying that tips certain people into this mode).

You may get the full, animated, voice over podcast of the thing later in the week. I'll create the animation myself using a magic drawing tool called ArtPad and do so using a stylus onto a Wacom board.

(Never before, using a plastic stylus on an a plastic ice-rink of a tablet have I had the sensation that I am using a drawing or painting tool using real ink or paint. I can't wait 'til I can afford an A3 sized Wacom board ... drawing comes from the shoulder, not the wrist and certainly not the finger tips. You need scale. Which reminds me, where is the book I have on Quentin Blake?)

Now where's a Venture Capitalist when you need one at 04.07am. That and a plumber, the contents of the upstairs bathroom (loo, bath and sink) are flooding out underneath the downstairs loo. Pleasant. A venture capitalist who is a plumber. Now there's something I doubt that can even be found if you search in Ga-Ga Googleland.

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Rubbish fonts are more memorable, ditch usability and make the brain work for the information.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 13 Nov 2012, 20:46

From BBC Radio 4 Today New scientific research reveals that students learn better when learning is made harder, specifically when using a font that is more challenging to read. Neuroscience blogger Jonah Lehrer discusses his own gut feeling that we remember ugly fonts much more easily.

 

Comically ugly fonts are the best.

 

So perhaps I should blog like this?

 

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Try these:

 

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And what about handwriting?

 

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'It’s a really interesting way to convey information', says Jonah Lehrer, 'as it can take a lot of work to decipher handwriting'.

 

How about these for examples if you’ve forgotten what handwriting looks like?


 

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or this?

 

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Let's get back to handwriting.

Or find a way to handwrite here. With a stylus and tablet?

The handwritten note, letter, or journal entry tells you something about the writer' mood, gender, age, level of education (or intoxication), even their occupation.

I've collected hand-written letters between 1969 and 1993 from family members and friends, including my grandfather whose 1918 RAF Log Book I feature above. If ever published, these artefacts will be best read in their original form rather than transcribed.

 

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