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Learning in groups of five with one educator/teacher

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 6 Dec 2016, 02:02

Is this the perfect 'Set'?

It feels both odd and appropriate to be writing this at 01.00am and to be treating my first thoughts to mu OU blog rather than anywhere else: there's greater continuity here than anywhere else and my musings may find a readership through any current MAODE students (I met be one again in 2017 to take on the new module on research into online learning).

Context: I am once again a student. I am at the University of Wolverhampton, part-time MA. We learn via a lecture or two with other presentations in a group of 22 once a month. We have a 'blended' component in the form of a labyrinthine and ugly platform that looks more 1999 that 21st century. Think long lists of clickable options in to great a variety of colours: a list lifted from print and jazzed up. Nothing smart about it. No surprises that no one uses it; not the blog, not the Facebook group.

I remain embroiled in learning, and learning online. I am a mentor on a course here at The OU, a mentor for Coursera, and even (face to face seeing students), a mentor at The School of Communication Arts, London. And a swimming coach! In a variety of ways a 'role play' a real educator for want of a proper teaching job.

Serendipity has me at the home of my 91 year old father-in-law. Considerably less active than he once was, he still spends his day either reading from an iPad, or, with considerable difficulty, writing and reading emails. (He is blind in one eye with severely limited peripheral vision in the other). Reading only from a screen about 7 or 8 words fill the screen. A young granddaughter is researching a piece about being a 'war child'. Zbigniew Pelczynski was 13 1/2 when the Germans invaded Poland. He revealed something about learning that I had not heard before.

You'll soon understand the relevance to learning and the relevance of posting it here: I interviewed Dr Pelczynski on the Oxbridge Tutorial system in relation to learning and the MAODE. He is a former Oxford Philosophy Tutor (Hegel) ...  and East European Politics, and the founder of 'The Schools for Leaders' in Poland and other East European countries. Has he retired? Probably. He published his last book four or five years ago and made his last trip to Poland about three years ago. 

One of his grandchildren, just started secondary school, had the following questions for him. 

1). How old were you and your brother at the beginning of the war? 

The war began 1st September 1939. I was then 13 1/2, and my brother was 12.

2). How did the war change everyday life e.g. did shops close?

Shops did not close and in many way life went on as before, however, with time food became more and more scarce and expensive. People who were poor had a very hard time. 

3). What did you do for family entertainment?

(I have read that in Poland things like cinema and football clubs were banned)

Well, entertainment was very much limited to the family and especially to birthday, christmas and Easters which in Poland are celebrated in a very big way. Cinemas were open, but the films were controlled so that one was only able to see that the occupiers, the Germans, wanted us to see. There were some interesting German films, but most of them were propaganda. I remember Jude Ze. about a a cruel Jew in the middle ages who caught children who cheated everybody and murdered children for blood. There was a tail that the Jews used the blood of Christian children for Jewish feasts. This was meant to make us feel very hostile to the Jews who were being greatly persecuted by the Germans at the time, put into Ghettos and later sent to extermination camps.

(The film he refers to is 'The Eternal Jew' =  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eternal_Jew_(1940_film))

There was no theatre, just light music entertainment, but only for the German soldiers who were stationed there and German officials. There were however some concerts in cafés, specially on Sunday at lunchtime which were very popular.  

Sport. The Germans didn’t allow any sport. All football pitches, running tracks and swimming pools were taken over by the Germans and used by their own soldiers or recovering soldiers. 

You were allowed to play handball or netball at home in your yard. Not allowed to play at school. Not allowed to kick a football about a schoolyard. So the only thing we did was play pingpong at school. In the school there were long corridors in there were several tables and you’d sign up to be allowed to play and there would be competitions. There was the Vistula in Warsaw, where we went swimming or canoeing or in a small sailing boat.  

4. Did you have rationing coupons for food & clothes?

There were no clothes coupons, but there were certainly rationing coupons for food. They would change from year to year, even month to mont and they kept being cut again and gain. Each family was registered in a particular greengrocers shop and you went to buy your rations once a week. However illegally food was imported from the countryside and sold under the counter in the same shops or others shops or in open market, but the price was very high compared to the official regulated price of the rations. 

Things were particularly during holidays when it was very difficult to get the various delicacies, for example ham for easter, or chicken or goose for Christmas.  

5. How did things change for children in primary school?

There was virtually no change. Some of the text books were banned as they were thought to be too patriotic of ante-German.  

6. How did things change for children in secondary school?

This was changed. The Germans did not allow any education whatsoever after the age of 16. And only if the secondary education was combined with ‘Fachschulen’ - that is trades school. I for example went to a school that was supposed to train electricians, one of my friends went to carpentry school and another went to gardening school. But very little time was spent on these trades, say a day a week, the other days were much similar to what we had before the war. The exceptions, no foreign language was allowed except German, Latin was banned, Polish history was banned. However, very early in the war, the teachers started organising secret courses called ‘sets’ where five children and one teacher taught Latin, French and Polish history. After age 16, moving to the equivalent of A’Levels there was no school education at all in the ordinary way. Those who continued with these sets of 5+1, would say meet on a Tuesday, and have 3 hours being taught Polish language and Geography, then another teacher would come and teach say Physics … so in this way, instead of studying in large classes, we had what you might call seminars. It was possible, the atmosphere was very informal, made it possible to ask question and disagree. This education was illegal. If the Germans had discovered these the teacher would have been arrested and sent to prison.

I went on like this until 1943 when I was 17 1/2. The Polish Secondary education was modelled on the French and German with four or more subject examination, I did Polish Language, German Language, Latin and Trigonometry. I passed this examination. 

7. What age did you start going to school in secret, tell me about what it was like.

See above 

8. How did children help in the war effort?

It very much depended on your age. Children who were very young did not participate at all, expect  perhaps taking secret newspapers from one family to another. The Polish Secret army told their story of what was happening in the world, otherwise we were limited to German propaganda. Later on you could join a secret scout movement. You were trained in what was known as ‘little sabotage’ for example, painting slogans on public places, ‘Hitler Kaput’ meaning ‘Hitler is finished’. On one occasion we went to church on Easter morning very early, and the whole of Warsaw was covered in these ante-German slogans and symbols of the Polish Resistance (a symbol of hope).

Most Poles are Catholic. During the war people went to church for services and holidays and the Germans didn’t interfere with that. Some of the priests when they preached sermons put in some references to Poland was not free, but the time would come when it would be free again. If caught as there could be spies in the congregation they would be arrested and sent to a concentration camp.

I and my younger brother joined the Resistance Movement in 1943. Even before that he decided to help some friends in the resistance: the people who formed little units in the forests and attacked the Germans, and stole their weapons, and blew up their cars. Kazik had a friend who was very active, and this friend wanted to store submachine guns somewhere so Kazik agreed and would store them in our grand piano which was never used because neither he nor I played. I got suspicious because this friend would come and visit with a violin case. One day, this friend came, and Kazik locked himself in the sitting room, and I listen and realised they were putting something in the piano. I looked and there was a brand new Sten-gun in the grand piano. 

When I was older, 18 1/2 I joined the Resistance Movement and trained as a soldier. We were often asked to store hand-grenades and rifles. We would attach a rifle to a small fruit tree and put straw around it. 

9. What age did children join the Home Army?

There was some military training in the Scout Movement, at 14 or so, maybe 12. Then first of all they were involved in ‘small sabotages’; and then given military training so in 1944 they were involved. 

You joined the underground, the secret Military movement, when you were 16. When the uprising broke, out and the young people were the bravest of all. One friend of mine, who was 16, was awarded two medals. 

Distributing leaflets and illegal leaflets.

Training in the home army, we must in five + one, Meet in someone’s house, once a week, and a military instructor would come and tell us how to use a gun, or blew up houses.

Once a month there was a trip to the nearest forest. It was easy to go for the weekend. Military training was much more serious here, you played at setting an ambush, or crawling under barbed wire or attacking a position. Amazing that the Germans never discovered what was going on.

The point that had me wake in the dead of night having mulled this over was the importance to him of 'the set', or seminar, what in fact became for him the lifelong love for an commitment to the 'tutorial' : not a seminar, a class of students, but a small group, relaxed with tea, coffee (or sherry), reading over each other's essays for the week, being able to falter, make mistakes, received praise and correction.

This works. I believe it works online too. I have had plenty of experiences of it on OU modules where from my tutor group a small 'break-out' group forms. These are never exclusive, but rathe a handful of people usually three or four, who form an affinity and begin to confer, converse and meet regularly online to discuss the course and its progres.

I recommend it. Blog, Use Facebook or LinkedIn or Google HangOuts. Make use of platforms offered by The OU. Be part of a group. Form a group, or what I will now call a 'Set' or perhaps, in Polish 'Zestaw'. 

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What's in a word?

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

Fig.1. What is a tutorial?

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

It'll pan out over the years.

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

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

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

 

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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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The value of the OULive Session

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 18:29

With six OU modules under my belt, five MA ODE and one MBA module and a year working at the OU Business School my personal and inhouse experience of these live tutor moderate sessions convinces me that, for all their foiblee Elluminate before and OU Live now are vital tools - they can give you some of that residential scholol/tutorial feel but CRUCIALLY they are an often well needed injection of 'humanity' if I can put it that way: humour, friendship, sharing and even team building and committment. My very best experiences of the MA ODE have been during and after such sessions - I wonder therefore if I go back through this OU student blog I can identify a 'bounce in my tone' coming out of them. There may be stats that if nothing else coming into and leaving a Live session increases activity and improves motivation - even works in favour of commitment and seeing it through?

Sometimes the appeal of the Elluminate sessions was so great that we'd meet up in Google Hangouts too afterwards to keep it going ... the most memorable, and 'clean, open and honest' in an OU student way, was the 'pyjama party' we had. A laugh and worthy as a 'memory making' experience - and this with people across several time zones. We clearly had amongst us something of a hyper-gregarious 'party girl' (not a sexist term I trust, would 'party person' be better? Anyway, it isn't gender specific, more the outgoing, gregarious, organising, doing person).

So yes, a crucial ingredient that personally I feel should be right at the start of any module. Hear a person laugh or sneeze, get a sense of who we all are and buy into that natural inclination amongst us to want to learn together, help each other out and feel we belong to a thing.

To add to my experience of this I will keep signing up to things so it is about time I wrote this up ... doing a traditional, on campus MA is an extraordinary contrast. I really feel that it had might as well be the 1960s: long reading lists, back to back lectures (I fall asleep in the afternoon) and picking an essay title every couple of months for assessment ... but you chat over coffee and share a sandwich in the canteen and slowly form a bond, even if it's as if we are fellow galley slaves and to graduate will require two years of rowing! And come to think of it, one of the impromptu 'hang outs' we did in an MA ODE module included food and drink ...

What I miss was getting to know six or seven people as people - not the 2dimensional 'Gravatar' and biog, but, as it can slip out, a person doing 'person' things even as simple as ducking out to answer the door or put on the kettle. Though odd if you think of them as a formal learning gathering where in one case a fellow student always brought a plate of food to the session and the other tended to be in bed - once, LOL, with her grumbling husband at her side trying to read a book! People eh!?

This is the point, to a degree, the door just open a chink, you see a little bit into the lives of your fellow students.

And do we learn something? I don't remember, but is the learning the LEAST important reason for doing these things?

Fascinating, but possibly a couple of years since I did one.

 

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Understanding what primes us to behave in a certain way must have impacts on social behaviour

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 07:50

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Fig.1. Eyes & Ears - A public awareness film produced featuring the Emergency Services and members of the cast of Byker Grove

Understanding what primes us to behave in a certain way must have impacts on social behaviour, from the London Riots of 2011 and police behaviour at Hillsborough in 1989, through to schooling, training, coaching and e-learning - and of course, how hypnotists play their tricks.

  • Are we so vulnerable and easily led because we cannot think about too much at the same time?
  • How must this influence the savvy learning designer?
  • Surely the context of any learning environment must be highly significant, from the buildings and resources, to your peers?

DSC00380.JPG


Fig. 2. A Oxford Tutorial - now as in the 1950s

  • Do Ivy League and Oxbridge Colleges have a centuries old model that works still in the 21st century?
  • Why do some libraries work better than others and why do we like to meet for coffee or for a drink?
  • Are we primed to open up, to be more or less receptive to ideas?
  • What therefore does the loan learner do studying at a distance, even if they are online?
  • What makes the experience immersive?
  • Synchronous learning in a webinar or seminar?
  • Active engagement in a discussion, multi-choice quiz or virtual world?
  • And how might they prep their context?
  • Close the curtains, dress to study?


20121014-045552.jpg

Fig. 3. Thinking, fast and slow

I was introduced to this concept by Daniel Kahneman in his 2011 book 'Thinking, Fast and Slowly' in the Linkedin Group for alumni of the Open University MBA Module 'Creativity, Innovation and Change'.

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Some online tutor sessions work, some do not. Some social platforms work, others do not. Why?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 May 2014, 09:58

Gagne (1970 pp29-30) suggests that instruction in an organized group discussion develops the use and generalizaton of knowledge – or knowledge transfer. Oxbridge tutors contend that the 'Oxbridge Tutorial' – a weekly, structured micro-meeting of two or three people, achieves this. One student reads out a short essay that the tutor and students discuss.

'When properly led', Gagne continues, 'such discussions, where the knowledge itself has been initially mastered', not only stimulates the production of new extensions of knowledge by students but also provides a convenient means of critical evaluation and discrimination of these ideas. Gagne (ibid).

Forty years on from when Gagne wrote this there are what are meant to be or hoped to be learning contexts where this kind of knowledge transfer through group discussion can still work – or may fail to work – either because the degree of subject mastery between students is too broad or there are too many students, or the wrong mix of students.

For example, in the Open University's Masters of Open and Distance Education (MAODE) between 12 and 16 postgraduate students meet online in a series of strucutured online tutor forums – some of these work, some do not. As these meetings are largelly not compulsory and as they are asynchronous and online, it is rare to have people in them together – the discussions are threaded. What is more, in any tutor group there will typically be a mixture of students who are on their first, their second, third, fourth or even fifth module of the Master's – some of whom, given the parameters offered by flexible and distance learning, may have spread these modules over five years. Then there is the task and how it is set, whether the participants are meant to work alone or collaboratively – the simplest and most frequent model online is an expectation to read resources and share notes and thoughts. However, personal experience over five such modules suggests that the committed engagement of say six people, working collaboratively on a clear set of tasks and activities with a time limit and climactic conclusion of delivering a joint project, works best.

Too many of these online tutorials drift, or fizzle out: too few posts, posts that are two long, fragmented posts linking to pages elsewhere, the indifference of participants, the lack of, or nature of the tutor involvement, excessive and misplaced social chat, or discussing subjects that are off topic ... It depends very much on the mix, inclinations, availability and level of 'knowledge mastery' as to how such online tutorials work out. As well as the eclectic combination of students the role, availability, online and other teaching skills, even the personality of the tutor and of course THEIR knowledge experience and mastery matters.

Just reflect on how such workshops or seminars may work or fail face–to–face – the hunger for knowledge on the topic under discussion, the mix of personalities and the degree to which their experience or level of understanding is the same, at slight or considerable variance, let alone any differences of culture, background, gender or in a business setting – position and the department they have come from.

Ideally the workshop convener, or what the French call an 'animateur' should, assemble or construct such groups with great care, like a director casting actors to perform a piece of improvisation. Different contexts offer different opportunities. As a graduate trainee in an advertising agency six of us were repeatedly assembled, the various departmental specialists and directors playing roles at specific times – bit players in these scenarios. On reflection, stage management by a team in the HR department had been vital. It is therefore 'stage management' that I consider of significant importance when trying to construct such collective learning experiences online in a corporate setting.

CONCLUSION

Know your players, cast with care, give direction, record what goes on and step in to nudge, re–kindle, stop or start conversations or activities.

REFERENCE

Gagne, R (1970) The Conditions of Learning

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Robert Gagne Wikispaces

Theories of Learning

Cognitive Design Principles

The Nine Events - from Kevin the Librarian

Various Models of learning - Illustrated

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Social Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 15 Oct 2014, 07:11

Reading the biography of Dr Zbigniew Pelczynski is to gain a fascinating insight into a natural educator - an academic who is passionate about supporting and motivating learners. Faced with a cohort of students who were prodcing poor exam results he set up a couple of student societies where undergraduates could meet informally to here an inspiring guest speaker, have a drink and talk around the subject and what they'd just heard - it worked. Results began to improve in the termly and annual exam results.

  1. This is what it requires for social learning to work online.
  2. A champion to make it happen

The incentive of a great mind or celebrity academic to offer an insightful short talk as an incentive to the later discussion.

But what about the food and drink, nibbles and tea (it doesn't have to be alcohol). A couple of times in previous modules a bunch of us 'Hung Out' in Google+ and on one occasion we were meant to 'bring along a drink' while in on one memorable occasion, which was a giggle and truly innocent, one suggestion was to make it a pyjama party!

They key thing was to fix a date, which we co-ordinated in Google Events or some such, then be prepared to chill out, and keep the orientation on topic without the pressure of a formal tutorial.

How though to give it the continuity and impact of a student society? Given the session a name? How would we flatter, even pay guest speakers?

Or could we just watch a selected TED lecture first?

And why do results improve?

Motivation

Social cohesion and responsibility to the group?

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Towards my own theory of learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 18:14

photo.JPG

How do we perceive and share knowledge? What matters most in this equation?

Society, the institution, department or the individual educator?

Learning occurs at the interface between individuals, between the teacher and pupil, between pupils and of course between the thinkers, the educators, researchers and academics.

This interface is expressed as an artefact: a lecture, a book, a TV appearance, a podcast, a chapter in a book or a paper – as an expression of a set of ideas. This interface is also a conversation, in a tutorial, at a conference or less formally in passing over a meal, or drink (in the Oxbridge experience at the High Table, in the senior, middle or junior common rooms, in halls and rooms where societies and loose groupings of people meet, as well as in studies and rooms). Recreation of this online as minds meet, discuss and share. Informal or proactive groups or societies coming together. People with people.

On the one hand we like to put the institution above the person, whether in academia or the commercial world we rank and recognise Oxbridge and the Russell Group 'above' other universities while, for example, in Law we put Freshfields, Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith in the top ten of 125 or 500 legal practices.

However, it is an the individual level, at the interface between one person and another, one mind and another, where the learning occurs, where the knowledge is applied and changed, and in various forms written up or written out to cause or record effect.

It is at this interface, where minds meet, where ideas are catalysed and formed.

Towards my own theory of learning ?

Or trying to get my head around Engestrom's Activity Theory that fits the bill for me?

 

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Turning thoughts into action - one of the world's great educators

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 17 Aug 2012, 10:52



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I read this cover to cover yesterday, into the evening and small hours. I'm now onto the second read, with various notes to add, references to pursue and further research to undertake.

Yet to be published, see detials below on how to get your hands on a copy.

Why read 'A Life Remembered' ?

It's a fascinating life story of a now British Citizen, Zbigniew Pelczynski OBE - from surving the Warsaw Uprising as a teenager in the Polish AK to landing on these shores after seven months in a POW camp as a corporal in the British Army. It would be 12 years before he saw his parents again by which time he had learnt English in Gateshead, got a degree from St.Andrews, a B Phil then a D Phil from Oxford and was a Fellow at Pembroke College.

A book on the German philospher Hegel made his academic career and he went on to lecture and tutor at various leading universities around the world Yale and Harvard, as well as universities in Canada, Japan, Israel and Australia while pursing various interests and causes with passion and dogged determination.

A life lesson? I think so.

Zbigniew tutored Bill Clintonm a senator and dozens of government ministers across the globe and was an adviser to the Polish Government after the fall of communism.

Who would hten on 'retiring' then sets about his life's work?

The School for Leaders in Warsaw develops the skills of future politicians and ministers and it is here I believe there is an OU connection as materials from the OU were adapted for use in Eastern Europe.

Now in his 86th year Zbig as he is known, or 'Bish' by kids who got to know him in the 1950s, is either in front of a Mac emailing colleagues and friends, walking or cooking. This September he hosts a conference on the philosophers Rousseau, Hobbes and Machiavelli, attends the Polish Embassy for the official launch of this book then fliesto Warsaw to take part in meetings at his School for Leaders.

Pembroke College can be contacted at the following address:

Pembroke College  Oxford  OX1 1DW

The main College switchboard number is:

Tel: 01865 276444  Fax: 01865 276418

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Livewire with Brightwave

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 23 May 2012, 06:48

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I have no reason to plug these guys but as an e-learning practioner I want to try and engage with everything 'out there'.

I was fabulously impressed with this service and totally sold on the benefits of blended learning, of doing it live, synchronously with a highly professional, amusing and sparky moderator and equally passionate fellow students.

This is how to learn on line.

Though I appreciate that this level of intensity is unsustainable over the duration of a module, it is nonetheless what the once fornightly Elluminate session ought to be like.

It doesn't require bells and whistles. The platform is simple.

The human interaction is key. We learn best from each other with the right mix of the knowledgeable and the ignorant who are keen to learn.

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What's better the online tutorial or face to face?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 7 Dec 2011, 12:56

We're asked to consider this as part of the MAODE; it may even be a component of the EMA in H800, yet after three modules I had not experienced a face to face anything - the MAODE (Masters in Open and Distance Education) is entirely (stubbornly?) online.


It has been with trepidation and fascination that I find myself attending group tutorials or seminars, booking in for a Residential School and having to face an exam.

These are part of an elective, a 30 point module that forms part of the OU Business School MBA (Master of Business Administration).


I can say with complete conviction that there is no competition, though evidentially different, both the online and face-to-face tutorial meet the same objectives, albeit with significant differences. Both should be experienced before you pass judgement.


There are pros and cons to each.

Two face-to-face tutorials of two and a half hours each had me in a group of first 16, then 11. We listened a bit but interacted a good deal. I took notes but am still writing them up. Online you talk with you fingertips; I have met up with fewer at a time, six or less on Elluminate, more asynchronously in a forum. There have been threaded discussions of 100+ posts running to 16,000 words or more.


On the other hand, travelling to a tutorial 63 miles from home last week I lost a good piece of the day, caught in a traffic accident going in and a worse one on the M25 coming back. Then again I've had tutor group forums that have been badly attended by both the tutor and fellow students.

Research (Richardson, 2005-2011) shows that satisfaction rates for online or face-to-face tutorials are now matched: electing for or receiving one or the other, from the OU at least, students are just as satisfied.

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Design Museum

H800: 47 H800 Week 8/9 Activity 7 Cloudworks 'Swim lanes' for learning design,

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014, 14:23

It is one thing to contribute to a flash debate, it is quite another to embrace the Cloudworks platform.

There is only one way to test the water, and that is to get in. We talk of 'swim lanes' for learning design, I like every platform, every social network, business network or here, educational network, to be a visit to another pool, a lido, indoor or out, leisure pool or training pool.

They need to know who you are, you have to sign in. Then you have to change, get in, and give it a go.

So I am for the umpteenth time adding a profile picture and a profile, tagging, finding favourites debates and linking to people.

It all takes time.

Online you control time. Intensive engagement might move things along ... on the other hand, it may irritate those who've been here a while.

It should take time.

Find the rhymn of the place, observe when and where there is a buzz. Identifiy the 'champions,' come in on the periphery, pick up a thread, join in tentatively, give it a go here and there.

I make a contribution to a Flash Debate on the futre and threats to universities

Universities will flourish as they become part of the mainstream and engaged with the world, rather than distinct from it. Relationships with governments, industries, schools (for future students) and alumni (for past student) will develop and become continual, rather than passing. Student cohorts may look the same on the ground, but in the virtual world will be broader and deeper, technology and systems allowing a greater diversity. Not all institutions will have the ability, whether through lack of financing, the burden of their past and costs, to be flexible and change. The overall impact will be of an evolutionary change, though for some it will be a fight for survival.

BRANDING

Established, motivated, well-supported and well known colleges and institutions, where there is strength as a brand, as well as financially, in their governing body and from alumni will thrive. They can afford to exploit the changing circumstances (and they can’t afford not to). Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Bristol, UCL and the OU are not about to go under. On the other hand, new, complacent, poorly supported, little known educational institutions where the sources of income and grants may be narrow or uncertain, with weak leadership and ill-established (or disloyal) alumni will fail.

BUSINESS

The opportunities to flourish are extraordinary; the global demand for tertiary education with tens of millions of people from Asia, for example, seeking higher education over the next decade means that there is a growing and hungry market if you have the right ‘product.’ Education is a business, whether the model is that students are educated for free or pay part of the fees, cash flow matters. Retailing has been in constant flux, from the high street to out of town shopping, with national and international brands dominating, and then online shopping cornering certain markets, from books to electronic goods. Retailers have had to change the mix, where they locate and what they sell. Universities are less agile and less prone to the vicissitudes of short-term purchasing decisions, but the impact on them of new technologies is no less profound. Negotiating their way through this will require skill, the most vulnerable institutions will fail.

QUALIFICATIONS

Letters after your name differentiate you from other candidates for a job or promotion. Where there are many applicants for the same position where you studied, indeed, who you studied with, will matter. It helps to study under the best in your field. It depends entirely on where you wish or plan to go afterwards, where and if a position or job requires a certain qualification, and if a qualification from one or another institution has greater perceived or actual value. However, as those with experience of the job market will tell you, it is how what you have been taught is applied and how you relate to other people, that will determine your success.

CAMPUS BASED vs DISTANCE LEARNING

Technology is blending the two: increasingly students are opting for this, to be campus-based, but to take advantage of the technology to better manage their time or support their learning. Far from being the death-knell of the traditional university, new technologies will assist in their finding ways to develop and support a broader and deeper student body. Participation and collaboration, socialising away from the screen, is a vital component of the university experience for those coming out of secondary education – the demands and expectations of a mature student are very different. How people get on, how they work together, is a vital lesson that a campus based university offers. Whilst increasingly our online experiences are as ‘real’ as everything else we do, it is how and if we can work as a team that will decide how we progress. The student experiencing this will better know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, and suitability for different career paths.

CHANGE

Like retailers, manufacturers, broadcasters, publishers and the post office, we are in a period of significant change, new technology was already having an impact, the economic down turn has aggravated this, obliging some forcing other institutions to act. How this change is managed will decide who survives and who struggles on. There is a fine line to tread between innovating early, or too late, changing wholesale or piecemeal. The wise institution not only spreads its risk, but also casts its opportunism just as wide as spreading your bets covers you in a world where nobody knows what will work or not. Libraries, one of the draws to a campus-based university, cannot be as influential as hundreds of millions of texts become instantly available in digital form. Senior lecturers and researchers should be employed for their ability to communicate, support and rally students around them, not simply because of the paper they are working on. Students will demand more if they feel it is the cash in their pocket that is buying what the institutions offers. Errors, failings and shortcomings of a person, a module or course, can be spread through online reviews and will decide their fate. New blends of courses will invent themselves where a student feels able, supported through e-learning, to cherry pick, even to study simultaneously quite different subjects. Cohorts, if on the ground still that 17-23 year old age group, will become far more diverse, with groupings formed by mutual interest in a subject. Life-long learning, already apparent in some professions, will become more common place as people recognise the need to refresh their understanding of some topics, while gaining new skills and additional insights.

Am I responding to a thread, or like the second or third speaker at an Oxford Union Debating Society getting up to say my piece?

And if I sit on the fence, what kind of debate is that?

We should be obliged to take sides, THAT would be a debate, otherwise it is a conversation, another online tutorial.

Thus far Cloudworks is like a new swimming pool, refreshing and full of opportunity. To thrive, let alone survive, it needs people coming down to swim, to jump in, to train, to meet ...

And once you have your regulars, keep them coming back.

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Design Museum

H800: 26 Guest lists and where you sit at the tutor's table (even if they're not there)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 1 Mar 2011, 07:09

How do you study if you are both a tutor and a student?

I guess if you are a chemistry tutor and you’re studying e-learning the two are complementary but you cannot, be both tutor and student of the same course (though interestingly this has/is occurring in our module with a tutor absent the OU failing to accommodate).

It’s rather making me think that student as tutor is absolutely possible.

Why not? All it requires is leadership and initiative. I don’t see tutors as subject matter experts. Can you cater for everyone? In communications you need to know your audience. Writers are meant to think of their reader as one person, not millions. How should teachers/tutors think? Of student, or students? Does it matter anymore?

Can we, knowing or indulging ourselves, choose from a plethora of ways into a subject?

I have to wonder, thinking in extremes, why we don’t have tutor groups by gender, by generation, even by profession … let alone our current professional status. Would for example all those working for the armed services benefited from being in a group of their own?

And how do we make such a choice?

Too late if you buy a book, even read a sample, only to find the rest of the content doesn’t deliver.

What about a course?

You pay the fees for a module only to feel or realise a week or so on that it is going to disappoint all the way to the end?

Do you choose by Brand?

Do you choose by awarding body?

And what say do we have?

Can we play-act the model online student?

Would it help to have such an image and then be this person?

Can we assume ourselves into a level of comprehension what we haven’t yet reached and as a result of such aspirations and performance become this more informed and ‘educated’ person?

With an interest and some training in sport and developing young elite athletes I’ve studied Long Term Athlete Development. With a sport, let alone studying, we can group children by gender and biological age. When or where do such groupings or any groupings become difficult to create, or politically incorrect to create? Should not institutions go to greater lengths to group people scientifically?

And to mix these groups up as we go along, if only to change and balanced the learning opportunities?

This is the OU’s show, their party. They are hosting an event, or series of events or have we simply taken a few steps beyond getting a box of books and CDs on the doorstep at the start of a module … to the set of railway tracks that is the like a cartoon, are laid before our eyes as each new week approaches? Who ‘owns’ this course? I get know sense of that, or someone leading. The tutors/authors of the course left years ago. Perhaps this is obvious and given the topic and the speed of change in e-learning is detrimental. I wonder, if given time, more ‘natural’ tutor groupings would form in the national forums of ‘General Discussions’ and the Café from which break-out tutor groups could be constructed (or they do?) I wonder if the solution is in the ways resources are presented, that there need to be multiple ways into a topic. That once size never did fit all.

That ideally we would each have a personal tutor, that all learning would be one to one and tailor to our needs, as they are and as they change … and as we are changed by the process and anything else that is going on around us.

Do we all want a take-away, or a pot-lunch?

The set menu and if so as a school dinner, or from a top restaurant? Home cooking or our own cooking?

Might I say with H800 are getting the ‘set menu,’ i.e. the choice is limited. All I’m discussing here is choice; the next point would be the size of helpings. How do we respond to either being hungry as a wolf (read everything) or not hungry at all (graze nonchalantly doing the bare minimum?) The answer, as I found in H808, was to have plenty of moderated activities in the General Discussion, Café and Supplementary Activity Forums … where like minds could meet, where if you found you had time or wanted to make time, you could get involved in a different group and therefore benefit from an alternative dynamic. I have found that with groups, even more so away from the OU, that are global in scope, that you find groupings that are topic specific and where you can, whenever you like, find a conversation to engage with that adds to your knowledge.

It is a vital part of the learning process I believe, where you form opinions and develop ideas as a result of your engagement, the only issue being that your voice comes out of the tips of your fingers rather than your mouth, which rather suggests we’d all have been better off communicating to our parents and siblings at home via a QWERTY keyboard from an early age so we had these surprisingly necessary skills in place.

Perhaps, as there appears to be so much inclination, whether desire or otherwise, to shift towards the Oxbridge tutorial system as a model, (small tutor groups), might not we also have junior, middle and senior common rooms?

Might we not also have a variety of virtual colleges? And taking just one idea from this … ought we not to have more than one tutor, even within a module, perhaps a different module for each TMA?

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