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G Suite for Education

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 14 Apr 2018, 06:56

 

 

Delight at finding the OU has activated G Suite for education. I am well through training to be a Google Educator Level 1 (Certified).  Its impact and benefits are huge, not least replacing most the of current platforms used by the OU. 

This is my account - activated 9 days. I have been Google since the start, transferring to Docs, Slides and Sheets to rid my life of hideous Word, PowerPoint and Excel. It has grown gently from a basic and easy to use set of Apps, to a suite of simple to use, intuitive and connected tools that create the most versatile of learning set-ups.

'Sites' the blog platform could see off this environment I am working in now. This would be a mistake. I rave to colleagues about the affordances of this space because as well as being a blog, it is really a threaded conversation too. 

You can always find someone to talk to smile 

 

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Working Towards Google Educator Level 1

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 12 Apr 2018, 05:56

 ’Getting stuck is part of the learning process. Take risks and don’t worry about getting it right the first time. There are lots of learning opportunities that can come from failure’.

This quote caught my eye first time round as I completed the 17 hours that make up the 13 units. It isn’t a slog, more a case of making the time, taking your time and taking breaks. The learning pattern is a familiar one: a short encouraging introduction and explanation, one or a few very short talking head interview - always with transcripts, a formative quiz rounding off with a tougher one to indicate how much you have picked up.

I find my short term memory excellent so scores are high most of the time. I only need to redo the test a couple of days later to discover how much I have forgotten.

I am now heading back through the entire process. Once again I am taking to and doing to my notes. Once again I am taking the tests.

Soon I will join a few short classes with an Educator and even ’buddy up’ with someone. The goal is to take and pass the certificate while beginning to run such classes myself.

The progression continues, to Educstir Level 2, say in 6 months to a year the onwards to becoming an ‘Innovator’.

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Are Texting, keyboards and touch screens to blame for terrible handwriting?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 5 Apr 2018, 18:36

Various kinds of handwriting

It's generational, but those of us brought up with handwriting competitions at school and handwritten essays and the written examination are judgmental of a generation who apparently have terrible handwriting and can't spell.

Do they need to? They can touch type - can you? Faced with a sheet of paper and a pen to write an essay they may struggle to be legible and make spelling mistakes - but how often do they do that, or will they need to that. 

Isn't it like complaining in the 8th century that scribes would be rubbish with a chisel putting their words in stone.

The goal is everything - clear communication. Doesn't technology deliver this?

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Facilitators of learning rather than a teachers

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 5 Apr 2018, 18:18

Teachers will tell you never to take away teaching time, that they are hard pressed to deliver all the required course work as it is. If you want to involved 'Technology Enhanced Learning' (TEL) that it needs to during added hours.

The OU has taken up with Google's philosophy of more 'facilitator-led learning' with those teachers who create the courses elevated in status, while everyone else takes on what they may see as a diminished role. Or an apprenticeship role before they too become writers of content.

I am putting it too crudely. Teachers do hours of planning to carry the hours of 'taught hours' that they deliver. If they are able to teach may more by including the indirect experience of learning online then this may, in some measure, begin to cater for the millions around the world who want a secondary or tertiary education but don't have access to one.

 

IMAGE: Working in small groups to correct copyrights and Non-NPOV violations. Photo by Shani Evenstein (שני אבנשטיין), freely licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

IMAGE: Medical English student (Group 2) uploading photograph related to their field into Wikimedia Commons

IMAGE:  Children with iPads by  Wesley Fryer 

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Turnitin

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An assignment managent tool from inception, through feedback, assessment and grading. 

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Do these programmes tell you anything about British history?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 5 Apr 2018, 17:57

 

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How to save the OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 4 Apr 2018, 21:38

Rather than retreat, the OU should become a residential, campus based university. Instead of making huge numbers of tutors redundant they should be kept on to work directly with students in blended platforms, directly and at a distance. The OU has the library, has lecture halls and seminar rooms, and the real estate and land. 

Most importantly it has the courage to reinvent itself.

What else can it do when every university and college has attached to it a distance and blended learning component?

This step must be taken before it is too late. 

The first students should be on campus from September 2018.

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Talk about what you are learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 5 Apr 2018, 17:59

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking needed to talk in order to understand and express what he was thinking. All learners need to talk about their studies more than merely reading and writing about it. All learning should include opportunities to discuss, debate and present,

 

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Positivity and the future of The OU

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 23 Mar 2018, 09:46

This is both a reminder to me, and a suggestion to others. I find that far more is achieved by being positive and 'can do' without being overly enthusiastic to the point of being unreasonable. I am prone to say 'yes' to any request I get from people to do a thing. I was brought up where all request were met with a firm 'no' before I had even finished my sentence ... It's taken a few decades to get over that one.

Meanwhile, as I emerge from a temporary 'blank' where I went off radar with viral bronchitis that turned into bacterial bronchitis I am starting to feel refreshed and even re-invigorated.

The world of e-Learning is my future and at last I have a stake in it as a 'Learning Technologist'.

Many years ago I opted to get into TV from the bottom, not as a trainee producer. I got to make coffee, type up scripts, prepare budgets, organise presenters and actors ... and in time to liase with agents, to edit, to write scripts and direct.

I would have loved an apprenticeship, even an old fashioned 'Technical College' to my academic training at Oxford, even, to some degree to the mixed academic/hands on experience of the Open University MA in Open and Distance Education. 'Getting Your Hands' dirty as soon as possible matters. 

Think of working online as more like learning to cook or garden. You will never learn to garden or cook simply by reading books, attending lectures and seminars, researching and writing essays: you must do.

I would also hope and encourage people who study part-time to be 'in the business' they are studying - I was too tangential to it and so lacked the insight of a practising teacher (in primary, tertiary, or secondary).

Meanwhile, good luck Open University in a world where every university is rapidly offering distance learning online ala OU.

As I expressed here six years ago, one day every university will be like the OU, but will the OU ever be like other universities and have 10,000 campus based undergraduates and post-graduates on site? 

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Learning Technologist

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It is a modest start but at least now the MAODE and practical experience of three years as a Digital Editor will be put to use in a University setting. I will be migrating content to the Web, acting as an intermediary and support for academics wanting to get content online and making the platforms sing.

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Active Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 6 Mar 2018, 06:59

I wanted to write something about Active Learning.

I gave it 20 minutes of thought, writing it here. But the platform repeatedly failed to save it once I added tags and I lost it.

I've rather lost the will to have another go.

Another time.

Active learning is important.

Engage with you work.

Take notes through the filter of your own mind when reading or sitting through a lecture. Do not cut and paste or write down what is said verbatim. 

It is never too late to get this right. In my case I am completing my second MA and working on a dissertation. I have a habit of indulging unnecessarily a tortuous process of reading, note taking and refining when I could get to the point sooner simply by committing my ideas to paper right away. 

It is these moments that I will lace together into an essay, not a serious of highlighted chunks from the book. 

There is an abundance of material online regarding 'how to take notes'. 

What is the best. most effective way to take notes? 

The OU used to produce an excellent book on how to be a student or some such. 

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7 Years Writing my OU Student Blog

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I remember the first milestone: I wrote every day for a year.

I remember the next milestone: 1,000 views.

Then 10,000 views.

Then 50,000 and onwards to 500,000 and even 1 million.

Having reached over 2.25m views I wonder what the next goals might be?

Blog for 10 years and 5 million views?

Actually, the pattern is that on 6 February I reflect where the MAODE has, or has not taken me.

My efforts to become embedded in an University involved closely in Learning Technology have been thwarted. Just a toe in the door would do - something I had by working for the Open University itself but something that was impossible with my family living too far away to make a commute viable.

I am marking today by getting CVs out to a number of Universities, for a variety of remarkably similar roles, all based in a 'Technology Enhanced Learning' team, some making greater use of my historic skills and experiences as a video and TV producer.

 

 

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13 Good Reasons to Go Vegan today

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 29 Jan 2018, 12:58

This all began in May 2016 so I've been tinkering around with Veganism for a while. My daughter would argue that I am 'Plant Based' ... and lack the willpower or evangelism to be truly Vegan. I wear a leather belt and have sheepskin slippers on as I write.

Once in a blue moon, or to be more exact, once in a full moon I may succumb to something with egg, or even ham in it. This is invariably when I am away from home. In the A&E of the regional hospital for the best part of 5 hours I went on a quest for a Vegan sandwich and had to make do with the 'Vegetarian' Salmon and soft cheese sandwich. 

Why go vegan? Take you pick:

1) It tastes fantastic: fresh pesto and pasta, Siam soup, dips and chutneys, risottos and a wide range of burgers and falafels and of course salads and fruit raw. 

2) It's cheaper. This lot cost under £60. Meat, fish, milk and cheese would push this up considerably.

3) It's healthier. We've checked and between the variety of nuts and range of foods we lack no vitamins. Our gut isn't suited to take quantities milk we have become used to. It helps to cut out sugar too. Vegan's can be unhealthy and overweight by living on fizzy drinks and crisps. 

4) It's ethical. If you think this way. I didn't for 18 months. 'Nothing with a face on it' has been raised and killed.

5) It'll feed the planet. It will feed more people and reduce degredation of the natural environment.

6) I'll save the environment. Farm raised meat, poultry and fish, especially if it is on an industrial scale, damages the environment. 

7) It's less messy in the kitchen. No fat and grease on pans, kitchen surfaces or blocking the drain and sink. 

8) Less waste. Waste can be composted.

9) Less packaging. Fruit and veg can be bought lose and put in paper bags. 

10) Grow your own. For taste and convenience. You can grow a good deal of it yourself.

11) Saves energy. Less cooking. 

12) Greater karma. Relax. Love life. 

13) Be part of the movement. The 'early adopters' got there first so taking this on now you become part of the peak uptake. 

 

Some essentials for the Vegan Kitchen: 

A cookbook that has recipes with cultural relevance i.e. typically every day foods from India, Asia, Africa and some Mediterranean. 

Food blender

Spice Grinder. Great for nuts, pesto and chuntney blending too. 

Ginger

Red Onions

Garlic

Garam Masala

Tumeric

Chick Peas (buy dry and soak overnight)

Nuts: Pine nuts, cashew, pistachio, walnuts ...

Seeds: Sesame, mixed.

Soya Milk

And so much more ... 

 

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Language Learning Platforms

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Several fairly new language learning platforms have come to my attention. None solve the problem of 'will power'. My preference would always to be immersed in the environment of the language and to be living and working it.

Go to Coffeebreakacademy.com

You can pick your level and then have a trial where over a number of weeks you will have three lessons to complete. Each course runs to 40 lessons.

I'll let you know how I get on. 

I've used Rosetta Stone successfully over a few years to improve some grammar and perfect my articulation around the harder to say words for an English gob. 

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Historiography of Enthusiasm for war and the reasons men enlisted in 1914

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I'm still doing MindMaps and still using SimpleMind. Having compiled, builty on and grouped ideas, authors, bullet points and quotes the entire thing can be exported as a Text File. A bit of shuffling about, a few added notes and links and you have a coherent and detailed article, piece or chapter.

In my case this is part I of a three part dissertation on the opening weeks of the First World War in Great Britain. 

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Spaced Learning and more ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 25 Jan 2018, 09:38

Innovating Pedagogy 2017 is a free download. Each piece is written in the form of an extended summary making each easy to read with ample references for those who wish to take it further.

My interest lies with 'Spaced Learning', 'Immersive learning', 'Student-led analytics' and 'Learning with internal values' - actually each piece is a fascinating and insightful read. 

'Spaced Learning' for me (see this blog for much more' and 'SpacedEd' which developed into a commercial Pharma Sales Learning tool 'QStream' was a Harvard Medical School e-learning platform developed by Dr Price Kerfoot in 2010. Having taken the unusual step for a medical student to study for an MEd he then applied lessons on forgetting, Ebinghaus, to a simple platform that distributed learning parrot style over days and weeks. Like everything out of America it has to be monetized. 

The Institute of Education has applied such thinking andthe latest neuroscience to apply this thinking to a single lesson broken into sessions 20 mins study with 10 mins physical exercise, then 20 mins recalling what was learent in the first 20 mins and so on. This isn't 'spaced learning' as in defeating the Ebinghaus 'Forgetting Curve' so much as making information stick by having to lay down a memory, or construct a memory either through intermittent testing or through project work to construct something from the initial knowledge intake. 

Here are the contents:

 

 

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Applying Multi-Disciplinary Ideas to crack open an historical phenomenon

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 21 Dec 2017, 18:18

Diffusion of Innovations Bell Curve

As the fog clears and belatedly the history dissertation I have been working on for ten months starts to ’show itself’ to me I find I am using insights gained from degrees in geography and in education and from the one OU MBA module I completed on ‘Creativity and Change’. 

I am applying the theory of the diffusion of Innovations to the enlistment of civilian volunteers into Kitchener’s New Army in the first weeks of the First World War.

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Extensions - not the bricks and mortar type

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Illness and injury have made their mark this year. As my work commitments are some 20 hours a week and 6 hours travel this has for the most part been easy to manage - I get behind, I catch up.

Having treated an MA 15,000 word dissertation as if it were for a PhD I have unnecessarily burdened myself with too much ‘manner for the mind’ - it’s proving a sod to bring to heel. And now a tight schedule to meet an end of December deadline is being put at risk by yet another ’developing’ illness. Dealing with sinusitis in the past was easy - I took prescribed dosages of Codeine for between 3-6 weeks. However, it no longer works and I had to go through horrible withdrawal symptoms to come off it this summer. In the past my asthma never compromised the oxygen I was taking in - now it can, leaving me overly and easily tired.

Excuses I resign myself to rather than being able to ignore any more.

There are formalities to pass through in order to apply for an extension - less tricky than planning position but requiring approval from the top nonetheless.

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What do Maria Sharipova, Stalin, The Queen, Caligula and Susan Boyle have in common, other than playing at Wimbledon?

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'The Reputation Game' is a compelling read that has you nodding along in agreement, turning the page for another insight and then pausing to take in the academic research. Written by a former Financial Times journalist and PR guru David Waller and a Business School academic Rupert Younger, the blend of the journalism and the academic gives you two books beautifully blended into one.

It is a business book. The kind you can buy for a relative at Christmas.

I find you become engrossed for hours a at time - it has that ‘can’t put it down’ quality, but also as it skips through so many examples and references that any of these can form a satisfying quick read making it good not only for a commute, but to flick through between stops on the underground.

I know a dozen people who should have a copy, one who probably wishes he had written it. On the one hand I can send them this review, on the other I might just buy them copies and tell them why they should read it and how it well both be a pleasure to read and of value to them either because they have a ‘reputation’ to maintain, build or rejuvenate, or because they are in the business of doing this for others, both individuals and organisations.

My review: http://bit.ly/2zBMlZR 

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The delights of research from original sources

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Bundles of letters in the Liddle Archive, Leeds University

Two days spent in the Liddle Archive, Leeds University reading through bundles of letters sent by, and received by the 20 year old Iris Mary Hotblack. These were written and received between 1914 and 1916 and were to and from her soon to be fiancé then husband, a second male 'pal', a friend from school who had married an American and was in California and her brothers. 

They are a fascinating insight into the times, the outbreak of war, the billeting of 10,000 men on the town of Lewes and a developing love story. Iris married the 'boy' she had met on holiday in Norfolk one summer when she was 15 and he had been 18. He was following a military career in the Royal Artillery and was called up straight away in 1914. Alan Morton worked closely with the RAF, qualified as a pilot and was an artillery observer in the air, and on land. They married in June 1916, an ominous time for the war and ahead of the 'big push' that he was aware was coming. He returned. 

Contrary to mistaken popular perceptions most men did return, over 83%. Figures for individual battalions could fair far worse or better. The 22nd Division that appeared in Lewes and was billeted on the town and later sent to Salonika saw over 90% of men return, with casualties split between combat and disease.

47% of men of eligible age did not go into combat. Again, despite popular misconceptions and a press obsessions with photographs of women in every kind of role, there were always a substantial proportion of men deliberately pushed out of the shot when these photographs were taken. They were in the mines, shipyards and munitions factories, they were running essential business and in the civil service. 

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Learning from mistakes

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I don't know about you but I learn best by doing and making mistakes. I want to get stuck in, be guided, give it a go and try again and keep trying. These is harder to do in academia than in just about every other walk of life. We should be knocking out short essays every week in preparation for the longer, tutor marked assignments. 

As an OU student on the MAODE I went 'totally digital': no printing off, books on an iPad, type everything off. No more! It made my brain soft and inclined to lazy ineffective learning practices like highlighting passages or cutting and pasting text instead of taking notes the proper way.

I'm now all paper and pen. Handwritten notes in files like it was 1979. Once I've got a draft written THEN I will go the the computer to type it up, add footnotes, correct, share, fix, correct, adjust and eventually submit. 

What works for you?

 

 

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Knowledge and understanding needs to be earned, not spoon feed

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 7 Aug 2017, 08:08

Medal Index Card for Private Percy Jones 9th East Lancashire Regiment

British World War I Medal Index Card identifying the man, his regiment and the medals he was due. (C) Ancestry, via Fold3

Some people can learn by rote with ease: they are exceptional. We all know someone who has a 'photographic memory'; though of these, some of these you will simply be playing coy over the hours they put in. The 'photographic memory' is exceptional.

For most of us learning doesn't simply require us to feel we have put in an effort - this effort is part of the very process that facilitates knowledge acquisition. 

Moving on from a period of essay writing based on a few lectures and crawling through a reading list I now find myself engrossed in the digitised part of The National Archive. I find I am, of necessity, doing the digital equivalent of thumbing through boxes of index cards. Every so often I make a match with information that the system doesn't have that I need in order to 'triangulate' the record with a specific person. What I am after are relatively rare First World War Service Records of specific men, from specific battalions, who enlisted in the first week of September 1914. When I get a result, and of some 2000 records I've so far identified 262, the information embeds itself in my head like metal-burning Alien vomit on my skull.

I've earned it; and feel confident that I will be able to work with it. The insight is mine.

I find I am able to do no more than sniff at information from prescribed texts and lectures. I make catch a whiff of something that makes sense, but usually I lose it. I have to be told what it was, and why it matters. I end up writing in a prescribed way. This can produce results, but not very good ones. 

Engagement with others, in discussions (online and face to face) and having the kinds of projects we used to get at school when we were still a year or more off an exam, did more for me.

What about you?

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The happy face of research

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Archival Research turned into a smile

Engaged in several months of research I find myself working my way through around 2000 records relating to some 10000 men who served in the 11th Welsh 'Pals' Cardiff Commercial Battalion and the 9th East Lancashire (Service) Battalion during the First World War. They all enlisted in the first week of September 1914 and all ended up, at first, being billeted on Lewes, in Sussex, where I live. 10,000 men turning up in a town of 10,000 caused quite a commotion. I want to know who they were. Thanks to extensive digitised Soldier Records, Census Returns and the British Newspaper Archive I am starting to build a complex picture.

However, this is like panning for gold. Of the Welsh Pals I am finding that only at best 20% of the Soldier Service Records survived the Blitz (the warehouse caught fire) while the 9th East Lancashires there are less that 10%. Simply listing all the men took time enough. I am sticking to around 2,000 men. Even this might be too many as it can take anything between 10 minutes and an hour to research each name depending on how scrupulous I am feeling and whether the records begin to hint at revealing themselves too many. From time to time, once a week, some magic occurs where I find a photograph and story in a digitised local newspaper, the full Service Record from when they 'attested' in early September all the way through to being discharged in February or March 1919. What matters to me is who they were in civilian life, so the Census return, 'triangulated' with as much as I can uncover, is crucial. I can then be certain that this man was in Lewes. Perhaps he was billeted in a public building, perhaps he stayed in someone's house - perhaps he even camped out with mates in a racehorse owner's stable and was brought breakfast each morning by the owner's butler. 

Sometimes the scorch marks, tears and decay on the old paper record is an apt reminder of a man's story: killed in action. Though my 'men' of the New Army '22nd Division' who served in Salonica for some 2 years, for the most part returned. Those who died in any numbers did so on an attack in September 1918. Plenty caught malaria, some died from it, and many were discharged with a disability rating of something between 10 and 50% because of the malaria. 

My inclination is to engage with and seek out the stories; the formal research I am undertaking will be more an evidence based barrister's paper putting the case that these men enlisted for a multitude of reasons: the weavers out of desperation when the South Lancashire mills closed in August and they found themselves with only a few days work a week, or none at all, while the men of the Cardiff Pals were leaving secure clerical jobs and the businesses they ran. I have found stockbrokers and architects, solicitors and council clerks who enlisted en masse.

And so the evidence reveals itself. And every so often a record makes me smile.

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Whose benefiting from MOOCs?

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This fascinating article in the Harvard Business Review, with Daphne Koller contributing. Anyone on the Master of Arts Open and Distance Education will have followed Daphne Koller from the days of the earliest MOOCs that she created.

Whose benefitting from MOOCs?

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