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Design Museum

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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Multi-quiz Langue Française

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:44
From E-Learning V

 Fig.1. Un chasseur sachant : a tongue-twister in French

I just stumbledupon this fun, fun, fun way to pick up some fresh French vocabulary AND with some exceedingly difficult tongue twisters to take your mouth to the gym - very necessary if you are to pronounce much correctly in French. After three minutes of these you'll feel as if you've been chewing the entire packet of ten sticks of Wrigleys' Spearmint Gum simultaneously. 

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Jaw dropping, game changing technology

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The last twenty years have been as transitionary for us with computers, digitization and mobile technologies as for our grandparents and great-grandparents a hundred years ago.

Last night my teenage daughter, her boyfriend and my son were in fits of laughter about something in the kitchen. They were watching a 'vine' (a six second looped video) on YouTube. I was caught up in an episode of 'Masters of Sex' (great narrative, naughty ... and educational) when my son came over. I expected him to show me the video playing on his iPhone instead a tap and a swipe and the screen on the smart TV changed and showed the clip.

Having my TV interrupted didn't bother me and the clip was silly enough, what caught my imagination is that so much that last week was, I thought, 'science-fiction' is now 'science-fact'.

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Yes, No

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 11 Oct 2014, 07:57
From E-Learning V

 

“OUI” and “NON” A Typographical Sculpture by Markus Raetz, 2001

 

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On the dangers of getting lost or stuck down a rabbit hole

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 10 Oct 2014, 10:12
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Alice in a hole

This thought, in relation to researching and writing an essay came from retired squadron-leader, prof. Peter Gray. I am often stuck down a rabbit hole; I indulge my curiosity and quickly get lost. It took me half an hour to scramble over images of 'stuck down a rabbit hole' mostly involving small dogs or variations on Alice in Wonderland and randomly including weird artworks and images of vertigo or claustrophobia before I decided to go with the above. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. Types of moustache

This morning I have now been up for four hours and haven't quite completed two hours 'writing'; the rest of the time has been spent trying to find the right kind of beards and moustaches to put on a set of five male characters, ages between 17 and 60, in northern France in 1917. Seeing the respective beards on three of them, the other two are clean-shaven, is just the start. I then have to name and describe them in terms that are appropriate to the era. I can't talk of beard types as a George Michael, Magnum or even Hitler. They have to be described with metaphors and words that would have been prevalent in the press at the time.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 3. Robert Twigger as Richard Francis Burton

I get thrown by spotting someone I know, then move onto how to describe parts of the outer ear and stumbleupon some fascinating fact about miniature portraits made of officers of the First World War as a keepsake. My searches are still prioritising French, so a few words or phrases might be entering the brain regarding Napoleon III beards and the like.

My curiosity indulged I check the word count for this morning's efforts and I might come to 60 words added to yesterday's tally; on the other hand, when I next need to describe a person sporting facial hair I ought to be able to do so rather more quickly. 

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Doing it in French

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From 2BlogI

Fig.1 Google's gone French

I'm sure the algorithm's used by Google split languages so that by when I state my primary language is French everything changes. For a start, the pool of pages that are searched prioritise those written in French. This must surely define my search 'universe' in an explicit way. The impression I have, a refreshing one, is that I am being offered different search results. 

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Without tagging this is your blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:53
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. The contents of your learning journal, or e-portfolio or blog could look like this

As I'm prompted to do so, or is this just a MAC thing? I now tag documents downloaded to my desktop. They can be found wherever I or the operating system has buried them.

I tag religiously here (except, since a month ago, when writing from my iPad as it crashes the page and the iPad ?!).

I tag for a number of reasons:

I jot down ideas and thoughts, facts, even grab, cut and paste stuff that may be of use later so tag it so that I can tickle it out later as the mood or need fancies.

By tagging by module, and by activity you can then regularly go back and add a further tag as you plan a TMA (tutor marked assignment) or EMA (end of module assignment). For example, L120 is my current module. I will (or should) add L120A1 perhaps or L120S1 to identify an activity or session (NOT necessarily shared at all if I am giving away answers potentially or breaching copyright too blatantly by privately 'curating' content). Potentially L120TMA1 obviously helps me pull out content pertinent to this. That's the idea anyhow. The OU used to have an e-portfolio called MyStuff, a bit clunky, but it did this and then allowed you to re-shuffled the deck as it were, to give order to the things you picked. In theory you then have a running order for an assignment.

Tag clouds, number of tags or simply the weight and size of the font, indicates the strength and frequency of certain themes and ideas. When playing with the idea of an 'A-to-Z of e-learning' it was easier for me to see, under each letter, what I ought to select ... and then immediately have a load of examples, some academic, some anecdotal, all personal to me, at hand.

I come here to find things I've lost! Amongst 20,000 saved images I know I have a set from early training as a Games Volunteer for the London Olympics. I searched here, clicked on the image and thus found the album in Picasa Web (now Google Pics). Why can't I do that in my picture/photo pages? Because I never tagged the stuff. There is no reliable search based on a visual - yet.

No one can or should do this for you.

My blog and e-portfolio is fundamentally and absolutely of greatest value to me alone. So why allow or encourage others to rummage in the cupboards of my brain? Because it tickles and stimulates me to share views, find common or opposing views and to believe that others are getting something from it.

 

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Immersed in French

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From E-Learning V

Fig.1. My computer is doing everything in French

Google now offers me search results in both English and French. Clicking on Wikipedia offered me the choice of selecting results that are only in French; I did this, with some trepidation as the change in what it offers as a result. Perhaps the unpredictability of it will do more good than harm. All the little instructions you get to surf the web are also in French now. At a glance you can see that generally a single word in English becomes a multi-syllable in French, or a phrase. I'll also find that in France the default would be the English anyway. I remember how, working in TV, no one said 'magnetescope' instead of 'video', for example. 

I'm now forced to read in French and consequently obliged frequently to look up a word or a grammatical construction.

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. Google Translate

I turn to Google Translate by default. I'd have this open and live on a Smart Watch if I could. With an earpiece giving me the word or phrase in whichever language I required. On its way?

In an instant, at the point of need, I have what I hazzard is an accurate translation; I'm talking about a single word, or a short phrase. Any doubt and I play around with the English translation then see how Google gives me that in French then call on buried memory banks to tell me if that sounds right.

'Le dos' is NOT how to describe the back of a house, for example.

So, I'm getting what I wished for. Will this however translate into a renewed confidence to both speak and write the language?

That's the plan.

Trouble with Java and OU Live

The L120 Student Forum on problems with JAVA now runs to over 45 responses. I don't need to tear my hair out, I can feel it curling up and dying in horror at the thought of having to sort out why my MAC and or Google Chrome are incompatible with JAVA because of the OS 7 operating system. My hope is that I can jump ship and use my wife or son's PC. I do not fancy having to delete OS 7 and reactivate OS 6, then use Safari, still to find that I cannot do the interactive exercises in Session 1, or take part in an OU Live session.

Keeping my learning French from my wife will prove trickier if I am at her computer speaking in French checking my pronounciation. I'm unsure my teenage son will want me anywhere near his computer: I'll ask.

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. Rosetta Stone. Brilliant for fixing pronunciation and accents

Or I skip those bits. I've had a year using Rosetta Stone which has a considerable amount of accent and pronunciation software. 

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L120: Session 1 - Activité 1

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 6 Oct 2014, 07:56
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. L120. Ouverture. Intermediate French

Revelations and reflection. Activité 1

Whilst my comprehension is 90% correct the mistakes I make could be and were/are a significant problem if or when working in France. I get dates like 1936, but can too easily mistake 17h00 for 19:00 i.e. 'dix sept heure' is NOT seven O'clock of course, but by the 24 hour clock it is 7. I'm also lazy: I chance my response where I could have listened a second time and got something correct. 

It is far too easy, when only listening, to make up a meaning for a new word and therefore make major mistakes.

Translating, as if literally to English is a huge mistake. A couple of examples include the use of the word 'profiter' in French which as nothing to do with 'making a profit', but rather, a nuanced English use, 'to take advantage of ...' in this instance, the sun and sea on a holiday by the coast in the summer. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. Learning where, what and why 'Pondichéry' is. A bit of history and geography with L120

Lack of adequate understanding of how France has retained some of its tiniest colonies around the globe as 'French departments' had me wondering why an indian looking gentleman could possibly come from a small island in the south atlantic, actually he was taking about the south of india. And I neither knew where, nor can I still pronounce this one:

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. La Ciotat

It would be brilliant if when listening to a French person you could have their words as subtitles ... maybe this is a trick that Google glass will deliver in due course. Not a translation, but the words as text to help with comprehension until you can hear and see for yourself the words that are being used without making it up or guessing. 

I jotted down a few linking phrases, those fillers too that we use that add colour and credibility to any spoken language:

  • car
  • bonne
  • ailliers
  • plutôt 
  • ça depends

Checking the spelling was vital too, and not just figuring out how to get the French accents on the QWERTY keyboard but doing so. I had 'ailleurs' as 'yiers' or some such. 

And also a few terms and phrases that I liked, possibly because of the English derivations or equivalents and will use:

  • le rush d'été
  • tourisme en masse
  • idéale

Pronounce a word like 'idéale' correctly and you can fool them that you are French ... you can even take French words we use in English and add a French accent, though saying 'amelioration' is equally pretentious in both languages. Many French people when speaking English will trip on the word 'Idea' and pronounce it 'Idéa' even if they've lived here for decades; who'd correct them though?

A few hours into L120 and of course I crave to be back in France

I must also reflect on the learning design and platform. I've done a year of Rosetta Stone - the ultimate 'gamified' language learning platform. L120 does, understandably, feel more like being back at school. But that's what I need; it shouldn't be easy to learn anything, or how else can you learn? Rosetta Stone becomes very repetitive. You learn through tireless repetition, through immersion and ultimately by default. You won't ever be able to say why a thing is done one way or another, just that it is ... that it sounds or feels right. i.e. how an infant learns a language.

As a adult learner I think we need to be told why a thing is too i.e. have a variety of ways, even if it takes a few moments to think about it, to get something right.

A very, very different way to learn that taking a humanities module, but also exploiting many e-learning tools and methodologies in a different way. I have to wonder how such practices could translate into other subjects, that learning some things 'parrot fashion' could be beneficial whether learning history, geography or medicine: that you have to have the accurate facts and figure in your brain before you can use these facts. 

On verra.

Why blog this?

There are a number of ways to look at this: the value to me, and as I perceive it the value to others ... playing the game and my belief and understanding of how learning online in a 'connected' world works.

The value to me: as a learning journal. A record, tagged liked this, is a fabulous aide memoir. I could and nearly did do this on paper, but these get lost. I couldn't find a new exercise book anyway.

The value to others: the spirit of learning in the OU community, particularly in the student forums for your own module, is to share your thinking in order to stimulate and engage in an asynchronous conversation: had I been on a residential course much of the above would have come out over coffees and meals.

So why blog 'to the world', and in my case copy this or some if it, in due course to my external blog 'my mind bursts'?

Pride in the Open University is part of it. Why not plug something I love and would recommend to others?

Comments and contact: The stats say and I know that comments form a tiny fraction of viewers to a page, perhaps as low as 1%. Just this 1% I find of huge value; by finding a common interest, often beyond the confines of the module and this intake of students, I find the information begins to embed in my longterm memory. I know no other way of doing it as my brain is my sieve than sponge - everything gets filtered out and transformed unless I engage with it in a variety of ways.

And I am as interest in the e-learning and learning design of a module as I am in the content that I wish to learn. I have those interested in e-learning too to share with. 

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Hear this ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 6 Oct 2014, 05:50
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 The cast of Downton Abbey.

How easy is it to put an accent to the character? Have the casting director and costume people colluded to create a class image of both face and dress? What if we turned all the accents upside down? Or is that what we are starting to see and achieve in 2014?

I caught a few moments of The X Factor last night where Cheryl (from Gateshead) had to let go of some of her singers before the live show: with one exception, and this would include all the singers in the show, there is a girl who is 'well spoken', one would imagine 'upper middle class' (if that phrase is any more or less appropriate than 'working class') - privately educated and at a boarding school one would presume. This girl is torn, possibly ashamed of her accent (or lack of accent). She feels it will make her less popular. These days everyone (in the media world) wants an accent that says where they came from, not an accent that says what 'strata' of class they are from (unless they're going to a fancy dress party as characters from Downton Abbey). We no longer have parents who clip their children around the ear if they speak with a hard 'a'?

Or is living with your accent something to do with self-esteem?

There was a Cambridge Professor of Ancient Music on the radio the other day who sounded very British and 'educated' (like the girl), except for the occasional word that hinted at something else. It turns out that until he was 23 he lived in Fresno, California. His accent transformation was almost total. Was this to blend in with the fabric of the Cambridge architecture.

I have friends who have lived in the states for 25 years: some, by my ear, are totally American, while others have barely changed their accent at all. I think it depends on what they do: the 'English' educated accent carries weight in academia, while the guy working in engineering has spent his career in the US getting rid of his accent. 

Personally I love the richness of accents from every inch of the UK and the world: my only criteria has to be: can people understand what you are saying?

Any of us who think we can speak a foreign language can be guilty of garbling and muddling words and accents in such a way that others haven't a clue what we are saying or meaning: I have a German friend who refuses to accept that often people haven't a clue what she is saying as her German accent is so strong and her choice of words and word order is so un-english. I know that my French has, and still does if I hurry, come over the same way to French people. This is why I am doing L120: to get the grammar in place, and learn to speak French as if I am writing it down perhaps? To slow down and be understood. You can still see that distracted glint in a person's eye though when you know they aren't really listening, but trying to figure out where you come from. Brits think I'm French. The French think I'm Belgian. My wife thinks most of what I say in French is laughable sad Someone her French overtook mine 25 years ago simply because a) she did a course b) she got a job in a French speaking company. She supposedly sounds Parisian while her English accent is 'Oxford' - because that is where she was born and raised. Not a hint of her Polish father and Maltese mother. I retain a hint of 'northern' - most of it was knocked out of me by parents and grandparents who felt it was their duty to raise kids who spoke 'proper'. Result: alienated in my home town Newcastle, and still picked out as 'northern' on words like 'enough' and 'nothing' ... and 'film' (and probably many more), in the south of England. 

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Mind Bursts

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Germany though.

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

Also an exhibition at the British Museum

More in the BBC Radio Series Producer's Blog

 

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Mois international de la contribution francophone 2014

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 04:56

From French Exchange 1979

Fig.1 Mes amis français qui m'a pris à l'île d' Aix en 1979

Normalement si je veux lire français je le fais: aucune problème. Pendant L120, J'ai déjà changé mes paramètres Google pour rechercher et utiliser le français. 

Il y a quelques secondes j'ai decouvert que des les pages de Wikipédia sont en français aussi parce que c'est le 'mois international de la contribution francophone 2014'. L'idée est que je vais lire en français habituellement en fasaint L120 comme si je travaillais en France et je vis là déjà

On verra. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.2.  'Les Origines de la Guerre Mondiale 1914-1918'. Pierre Renouvin

Je lis 'Les Origines de la Guerre Mondiale 1914-1918'. Mon vocabulaire français sera d'autant sur ​​l'histoire militaire, l'équipement, les commandants et les effets de la guerre mondiale - en utilisant un langage d'une centaine d'années.

From E-Learning V

Fig.3 Grâce à Google Maps et mon journal 1979 j'ai trouvé la maison exacte où je suis resté il ya 35 ans. Sur la droite , 28 Avenue Camille Pelletan, Rochefort. Ma chambre était au troisième étage à l'arrière.

Je vais donc sortir le journal, j'ai écrit quand j'ai 17 ans quand je suis allé sur une visite d'échange 'French Exchange' en France à la Rochelle. C'est quand mon amour pour la France et les Français et certainment les Françaises sont commencé.

From E-Learning V

Fig.4. Un extrait de mon journal mai 1979 cum album couvrant ma visite à Rochefort

Mon amie a été appelé Frederic, le mec je restais avec. Curieusement, je suis en contact avec LUI grâce à LinkedIn il y a deux ans. Son anglais est parfait, mois, j'avais reçu un grade 'C' en 'O' Level French'; c'est la première fois que je l'ai étudié depuis 1978 même si j'ai été en utilisant Rosetta Stone c'est année dernière.

A note in English

On seeing this picture of Freddy's home for the first time since I stayed there I immediately could hear the buzz of the mobilettes that took students up and down the streets and would be the sound that greeted me in the morning. They were a very traditional family, with grandparents living in the house, his mother a widower. Breakfast was cake dipped in a bowl of hot chocolate while the evening meal was served in several courses, the peas served in a juice as a course in itself. My memory is jogged because I kept a diary: more of a scrapbook as it includes tickets, programmes, sweet wrappers and postcards, as well as an album of photographs. Fred made me a tape of songs too and wrote out the lyrics to the adorable Francoise Hardy. And he introduced me to the poetry of Jacques Prevert. I even learnt the first lines to 'Je Suis, Comme Je Suis.' 

What did French teenagers listen to then ... as now?! Supertramp!!!

Jacques Prevert gets passionate

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Definitely 'yes'

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From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Quote from John Gardener

My writing tutor Susannah Waters quoted Gardener during a one to one on plotting last week; 'the vivid and continuous dream' is what she described as my job as an author. That evening she read out the 3,000 words I'd written that form a lynchpin scene in the novel I want to write. 

I would have welcomed the support and pointers three decades ago. That was then; this is now.

Even half an hour spent here is a half hour lost? Or a jinks?

We'll see.

Part of the 'definitely yes' for me was recognition that a) the isolation and TLC of a retreat works and b) having someone to deliver words to every few days is crucial - writing for an audience makes you concentrate, as does preparing and giving a presentation, or reading out an essay in a tutorial. 

 

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Detail at your fingertips

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 14:11
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Moon phases in May 1917

Studying with the OU for the last four years it soon become natural to conduct online niche searches for books and papers related to course work. You learn also how to tag, store and gather the information and ideas that you find: this is one answer to that, a blog that serves several purposes, not least as a learning journal and e-portfolio. 

Searching for the obscure, that essential detail that forms such a vital part of the sensory palette used by the writer, is as easy to find and just as necessary. This morning I stepped out one May evening in 1917 and wanted some hint of what I'd see, hear and feel: a few searches and I can see a waxing moon at 10.00pm on a cooling evening as the temperature dips below 12 degree C, and the noise, in this instance of thousands of men in Nissen huts around a camp soon giving way to a robin trilling and burbling in the trees and the sound of the sea washing against the Channel Coast. 

These details are far more than accessories that overlay character and plot; they are what gives it credibility. Writing on and as the Great War rages requires significant care. The wrong detail will throw a reader, worse I'll end up in a conversation about my claims. Posting a piece of fiction some years ago an irate reader told me what I'd said was rot and went on to correct me - I had been writing fiction. I'd said that a character called Gustav Hemmel changed his name to George Hepple and fakes his own death - the reality is that he went missing over the English Channel in his plane. 

THREE HOURS working on writing fiction, five days a week, is the goal . The OU will have me for TWO hours a day (averaged with longer stints at the weekend). That's the plan. 

On verra. Il faut que j'ecris ici en francaise de temps en temps.

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Free Distance Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 14:12
From E-Learning V

Turn on Radio 4: leave it on and listen from the other side of the kitchen, bedroom, sitting room or bath. Take notes when you hear something interesting. I'm now well through a book on research done into happiness mentioned on Saturday Live and am starting to make 'Homefront' a daily fix. Blog about it and discuss: that's the e in e-learning. That and having the book in eBook form. And quite a bit of Radio 4 is OU anyway: The Bottom Line and that one on statistics come to mind.

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To make myself ill ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 14:16
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 All images too disgusting to share ... so here's a diagram instead!

Unusual that during a hospital visit the consultant asks me to make myself ill and return the following week for a biopsy. This is testing for 'Lichen Planus' - an unpleseant ulcerating of the soft tissues of the mouth. Breakfast the morning before will therefore be: a packet of hullahoops, a chocolate HobNob, martmite on toast with tomato ketchup, a spoonful of heated up Chicken Phal, cheap icecream say a 'Feast' and a small glass of Spanish lager, or Guiness or Newcastle Brown Ale. I can then rinse my mouth out with a specific brand of mouthwash that contains some chemical that causes a reaction.

I predict ulcers, a large blood spot and what are like raised, scratch marks inside my mouth. If I really eat the above I think I'll be sick. Come to think of it, if a handful of HulaHoops does the job why bother with the rest?

I will have some prescribed pain relief and an anaesthetising mouthwash to use straight afterwards.

 

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On happiness, memory and a whole lot more

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 14:19

Saturday Live, September 27th 2014

From 2BlogI

Fig. 1 Saturday Live, Sept 27th BBC Radio 4

A three hour car journey is sustained by pieces of Radio 4: this jad me wanting to pull over and take notes, instead I've been into iPlayer. There were pieces about memory and happiness that tickled my interest. I still need to listen a third time to find the point that to paraphrase had something to do with why or how memories are formed by key moments, not the endless ephemera that surrounds them: this is the key error made by all of these Apps and gadgets that aim to 'keep memories' for you by photographing and recording your day. Many of my most memorable moments in a 24 hour period are either dreams or thoughts - there's no photographin them.

Paul Dolan is dubbed the Professor of Happiness. I downloaded his book half an hour ago. A smart and academic-lite response rather than a 'how to book' 

 

 

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On writing fiction

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 7 Apr 2015, 10:44
From Writing

Fig. 1 The Writers' Retreat, Sheepwash, Devon

have filed away somewhere all my writing efforts that begins with 'Adam & Evie' - a kind of Blue Lagoon in space that I wrote when I was 13. Since then, forty years ago, I have filled a garage, or at least a corner of one. Much of my effort is on Amstrad floppy discs, ZIP drives, CDs and harddrives. Some is printed off. Some are TV series and screenplays. You haven't heard about me because it is all rubbish: around a fireplace I could tell you the story, even illustrate it with photos from my research, but until this week I could not get from my head to yours the story I wanted to tell.

This all changed this week. Though I fell short of the goal of four, 2,500 scenes written I delivered one 3,000 word scene, developed several others, sketched out seven or so more and worked on the story arc. Last night three writers read from their work: an author whose third book comes out this week, my tutor who has two books published and two in the wings - and me. It worked. I had their attention, it gripped and scared them more than I could imagine and there was half an hour of discussion about the place and events.

Crucial to me is understanding the concept of a 'scene' and its needs in terms of writing, what my tutor Susannah Waters describes as a 'palette of senses.'

A new year, an new age (I turned 53 an hour ago) and a new opportunity to 'get stuff out' On verra.

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Sheets

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 14:35
From 2BlogI

Fig.1 My nemesis: a feather duvet

Abandoning a feather filled duvet in the B&B 'retreat' in Devon for health reasons (asthma) I find my feet tucked, contained and strapped into place like it was the 1960s and I'm eight years old and sleeping over at my Granny's house. 

The efforts to learn how to write a novel are thus far proving highly productive: one 3000 word scene written, substantial plotting, seven further scenes concieved with another two reaching the 1000 word mark, two key characters established with a third making his presence felt. 

All would be fine except next week sees my head back against the grindstone and L120 over my shoulder. The trick would be to do it all in French.

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The subject matter

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 14:39
From Writing

Prince Edward was sent to France during the First World War. He lost his virginity in an Amiens brothel soon after his 21st birthday and recieved the Military Cross for duties that included the organising of firewood collections. 

 

 

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Wretchedness of allergies

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 08:43
From 2BlogI

Fig.1. Raycop

My habit when travelling is to take at least my own pillow, even a duvet and a mattress cover; this because of asthma and rhinitis and a fairly severe allergy to house mite dust (their faeces). I have on long stays ended up sleeping in bathrooms, on balconies, even in a tent in the garden. Most frustraingly with two more nights to go on what is otherwise turning into a transformstive, even pivital writing experience, it feels as if I have had a rubber tube shoved up my left nostril and a sack of sand liberally sprinkled with pepper, had been poured into my head then packed into place with the handle of a wooden spoon. I've been stuffed. The result is miserable, a face that aches, earache, a,igraine lije headache and a left eyeball that feels as if it is swimming in chillies. 

The swollen soft membranes of my mouth and sinuses, even if I evacuated to the sea, may take anything from a few days to a few weeks to clear; work is severely compromised and my mood has sunk. A shame as the lessons and experiences I am having with my writing are hugely promising. 

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Eight hours

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 08:49
From 2BlogI

Fig.1 Another writer on the retreat in Devon

I use an hour glass to count the time I spend 'at it'. Five hours pulling together ideas, then three hours writing. 600 words. Which is a multiple of ten less than I'd historically generate. I need to speak to my tutor about what this may or may not have achieved. Progress if I am successfully transplanting images and sounds from my head to hers, otherwise not. 

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Writing Retreat

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 08:52

Fig. 1 Retreats for You, Sheepwash, Devon

Day One.

An hour with my tutor yesterday evening. Buzzed, but fell asleep soon after. It was a four hour drive yesterday afternoon/evening and I'd been up since 4.00 am or something. Which is when I woke this morning and rattled off 1 1/2 following guidelines on how to 'set the scene'.

Armed with a pot of coffee I plan to get another hour in before breakfast.

The goal is to write four completed scenes, each of around 2,500 words this week. I may, a new experience for me, write each of these scenes several times as I try out the approaches I've been given.

The premise for my novel got the thumbs up as did my 'voice': not so hot were the gaping holes in my scene setting - I leave far too much untold.

On verra. 

By the end of the week I will decide either to give up once and for all, or that there's a future in it and the boxes of manuscripts, scripts, zip drives, discs and flopping discs, hard drives, notebooks and diaries have served a purpose or should go to the skip.

And I'll rejoin the family for my birthday.

 

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Bart's Bash: The Guinness Book of Records Challenge

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 08:58
From Bart's Bash 21SEPT14

Fig. 1 Some of the 30 boats taking part in our 'Bart's Challenge' 

The idea is to make it into the Guinness Book of Records. All over the world clubs took to the water. I had the Guinness Book of Records adjudicator on the rescue boat with me. The race had to be so long, with at least 25 participants. Photos and video was required for starts and finishes. She enjoyed it so much she helped lay and pull in buouys for the course.

Andy 'Bart' Simpson, a Brit, died racing in the America's Cup last year.

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Essay writing style: clay or concrete aggregate?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014, 15:10
From River Ouse Low Tide

My tried and tested methodology, beyond the doomed 'winging it' is 'concrete aggregate'. Other weeks or months I accumulate a lot of stuff, much of it in a blog like this; not quite a relational database but the 'stuff' is here, tagged and of reasonable relevance. In a now defunct OU ePortfolio called 'MyStuff' or 'MyOU' - I forget, you could then shuffle and rank your gobbets of nonsense and so, discounting the volume of stuff, potentially, have a treatment that could then be turned into an essay.

Such stuff, if it contains, 10,000 words, often with chunks of verbatim passages, can be a hell of a task to hack into shape. You build in bold forms out of concrete and can only get it to look like a garden, or park sculpture, with a pneumatic drill and chisel. Sometimes it works. You get there. It is dry and workable. You'll more than pass. It depends on the subject, the module and the specific expectations of the assignment. Where you need to tick many boxes this approach may work well.

Clay is the better way forward in most situations. Here you build up your arguments in logical steps then refine them at the end. This, particularly in the social sciences, is where the tutor wants to see how you argue you case, drawing together arguments and facts, mostly those you've been exposed to in the module, though allowing for some reading beyond the module. You have to express your opinion, rather than listing the views of others. Get it right and this is the only way to reach the upper grades? Get it wrong, which is the risk, and you may end up with a hollow or limp structure with grades to match. 

 

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