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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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Not recommended

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 09:09
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Over doing the reading

I'm trying to put to bed what might be my 27th assignment: the last three have been non-OU but the same rules apply: whether tutor marked assignment, end of module assignment or an essay.

Have I ever been cut out for this?

Clearly, getting from TMAs in the 50s and a couple of EMAs in the 40s to TMAs in the 80s (and beyond) and EMAs in the 60s and 70s (though never beyond) indicates that I've learnt how to provide what is required ... and by default, that I have also learnt something (though my brain will complicate, and bury everything that goes in so fast that it's like putting rotten tomatoes onto the compost heap).

This is what I prefer by far: 'writing from the hip' I call it, or 'jazz writing' where a stream of consciousness, or drivel, fills the page.

I am taking a moments break from the nightshift.

This nightshift, awake at 2.00 am and writing by 2.30am has, over several years, become my default position whenever I need a three hour run at something; even the dog is asleep. I have to struggle to hear much more than a buzz in my head and either the tapping on this keyboard or scratching away of pen on paper.

Can I bring to some kind of conclusion this 'learning journal' in relation to writing 'the perfect essay'? 

Despite my best wishes I am NOT a strategic worker or thinker: my curiosity is too much of a pull. I do exactly what I was warned against a year ago - 'vanishing down rabbit holes'. I am the White Rabbit and Alice combined; an intriguing reference enthrals me so off I go. If I can I will source the paper, even get the long out of print book - I may even read the thing, take notes and then pop my head of this hole and wonder what the feck I'm playing at.

An essay needs a copse, not a forest. Imagine what it is like trying to turn an forest into an essay: too much wood (far too much paper). Not simply tough to digest, but any intrinsic pleasure from the act of writing at last is diminished by my knowledge of how much I will have to leave out. 

In the dead of night.

Giving up alcohol and coffee has not helped.

In every respect the alcohol was by far the easiest thing to cut back and cut out - just the conclusion to a ten year minor skirmish that ultimately was or is a medical irritant (allergic to it). Last week I managed 48 hours, or as it 36 hours without coffee. Hardly an achievement given that I was comatose, walking wounded or asleep for the duration. A mug first thing since has found me taking an afternoon siesta and still sleeping for seven + hours. I am sitting with the requisite jug of coffee now. 

I'll get to the end of this and do it justice

'On reflection' the couple of EMAs in the 40s I received was because having done the work, and got reasonable TMAs I blew it with this last struggle and deadlines ending up submitting the latests draft as the seconds disappeared. This time I have had months, really, months and even now I have another three days. I just want to do what I know has to be done: get a good draft finished a few days before, then do the re-read and edit. Nothing less will do and only then can I feel I've done all that I feel I am capable of. The truth is this does not, nor never has come naturally to me. I prefer being up on my feet doing and taking part with a team of people.

Take a nap, then, trusting to my wits and the fresh sea air, I'll be bobbing around offshore by mid-morning taking part in some global sailing charity event. 

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French L120

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By changing my Google settings to include FRENCH, though not fluent, I now get searches that include French language results. In a tiny way I can tickle my brain a bit as I take this module. 

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What's that book?

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I know there's an OU library, and I can recommend Google Scholar too ... but there is a fallback position that works when these have failed. Believe it or not, Amazon.

Going on nothing more than 'Quoted in Mountcastle, 'On the Move' I track down the author John W Mountcastle and various books of his, including this one, on Amazon. I don't need to buy it, just reference it correctly unlike the author where I first found him.

A module could be written entirely around a set of books, ideally eBooks, available on Amazon. A canny college might prepurchase a dozen such books and preload them onto something like a Kindle 'Paperwhite' and give them to students. I'd buy it; the idea at least.

The University of Northumbria preloaded all the books for First Year Law Students course onto an iPad which they gave to students back in 2011.

 

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Better out than in

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 18 Sep 2014, 07:26

No gadget or software or App will do your learning for you; you have to get the right content into you brain where it can be applied and added to. Garbage in, is garbage out and information you abandon will fester - not die, but transmogrify or lay dormant.

There are both techniques and Apps that that help you to get 'stuff' into your brain.

Take good notes from lectures and books, including TED lectures and Internet based 'linear' content, as well as eBooks and multimedia.

Use your notes for essays

Use your essays and notes from which to revise

The ONLY App I have come across that has been tested with a randomized controlled trial and had a dozen or more papers published on it is a platform developed at Harvard Medical School, now called QStream, though developed and tested as 'Spaced-Ed'.

I'm writing this after a THREE HOUR stint from the early hours extricating and sorting 'digital' information from the computer into a format that my head can deal with: sheets of paper, cards, lists ... 

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Print Off

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014, 07:58
From E-Learning V

Fig.1 One of the most thorough, and balanced studies of both the British and German Armies and their tactics. 

There comes a time when trying to read your notes taken over five months, six lectures and two dozen books that you have to print the stuff out. Two printer cartridges later (couldn't get it to print draft) and I have some 400 pages. Nuts. Glad I did it though as I'd have wasted my time doing all this preparstion otherwise. And one more book to read that may finally pull it all together. The theory goes that the British Army survived two world wars with a doctrine of 'control command' while the Germans used 'command chaos'. Inefficiency however defeated efficiency.

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Better together ...

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From 2BlogI

I have a garage full of boxes of cuttings and found this from the early 1990s when I still had wanderlust, and no kids to put through school and keep near to friends. It struck me regarding Scotland that we will be connected whatever happens. 

We heard the debate for an independent Scotland and for a united UK - what about the case for an independent England freed from the 'burden' of the expense of Scotland? Or would having the equivalent of Greece tethered to 'our' head be a far worse burden in the long run. 

Whatever happens lets all wear kilts this weekend.

 

 

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What impact does alcohol have on the brain?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 14 Sep 2014, 08:36

Fig.1 Does alcohol have a permanent effect on the brain?

The answer is 'yes', though of course it is dependant on many variables: binge drinking is bad, like a blow to the head. This comprehensive heavy-weight article I Googled, 'Alcohol's Damaging Effects on the Brain' satisfies my initial curiosity, then the above shocking image catches my eye.

Dare I ask if we know any child who clearly showed such facial traits?

Far too late to do anything about it though.

After this paper like post from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism I eventually start looking to chase up a few references (the very best way to satisfy you curiosity and layer detail onto the ideas you are gathering) when I read that 'memory formation and retrieval are highly influenced by factors such as attention and motivation'.

From E-Learning V

This quote from Kensinger E A et al in the Journal of Neuroscience 2003. Title: What neural correlates underlie successful encoding and retrieval? Not Found in the OU Library so I cut and paste into Google Scholar and there it is to download as a PDF.

It is not surprising that scientific research shows (not speculation) that distraction diminishes attention and therefore retention, nor surprising that a low level distraction has less impact than a high one.

Does a teenager (or any of us) supposedly doing homework while

a) interacting on Facebook

b) answering text messages

c) streaming a movie and/or

d) playing a video game

... complete a task half as well than when focused?

Exam conditions aren't just best for exams:

turn off the radio and phone, shut the door, put up a 'Do Not Disturb' sign, give yourself a set period of time in which to concentrate ... and reward yourself at the end of it (not with alcohol though).

Why we all need a 'room of our own'? (Even if you have to wait until someone else vacates it).

Better an hour studying when motivated and focused, then three hours while streaming a movie, or answering email?

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No coffee for 36 hours

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 14 Sep 2014, 08:40
From 2BlogI

Fig.1. My kind of coffee - in a mug with a punch

Usually any effort to quit coffee ends within an hour; not counting being ill. I am going around in a fug, slept fou four hours during the day today. This can take nine days I have read. 

Had to have a coffee. I cannot spend another day like a Zombie. This might sound like an alcoholic coming off the wagon. ONE mug of coffee with breakfast; my planned quota for the day.

I must have been drinking coffee by the mug, and during A' Levels by the pint mug, since my teens. Of late, the last decade, the quantities have become absurd, frighteningly so with an early energy drink in 2001 if I recall - a real mood changer. And no unusual to have more like six mugs of espresso strength coffee by mid-morning. 

I had a problem

Some more neat coffee mug ideas

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Dead Swimmer

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From Swimming

Fig. 'Dead Swimmer' to 'Streamlined'

One of my favourite swimming drills across all levels of swimmer. Back to teaching after 18 months (or is it two years). Loaded on a Kindle I show it to swimmers in the water and walk them through it. We repeat it in the deep end of the pool and later build in gliding and kicking drills.

Of course, every kind of drill and programme can be found on YouTube. 

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French L120 Unit 1: Session 1

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 09:18
From E-Learning V

From E-Learning V

Making a tentative though necessary start. 

When taking an online course such as this my interest is two-fold: the content and how the course is constructed and delivered. 

Regarding the content I last learnt French formally for O'Levels and got a 'C'.

There are multiple holes in my knowledge, use and understanding of the language. Wanting to acquire rather than learn the language I got myself onto a school exchange scheme, spent three weeks in Rochefort near La Rochelle - and returned for five weeks that same summer ending up hitching through France to Andora and back. My new friend was Algerian. In my gap year I worked in a French 4 Star Hotel for five months where many of the staff I dealt with were from North Africa and the south of France. I gained a Marseillais accent and vocab. Finally I worked in French TV in Paris: my immediate work colleagues were a Geordie, a Russia, a Moroccan and an Israelie. By now I passed as Belgian - so long as I said very little. The third phase has come since: gambling away in French thinking I can be understood when that is far from the situation as my grammar is so poor. Finally, a yesr using Rossetta Stone has me slowing down and the few very correct phrases I use have me sounding like a government official from Paris. This sounds like fluency: it is not. My written French wouldn't get me through primary school, which explains why I've enroled on L120.

More grammar to absorb, understand, know then apply ... and be around people who are told to fix rather than tolerate my mistakes.

From E-Learning V

I need to figure out how to generate accents otherwise that will be another lesson that passes me by.

From E-Learning V
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Dreams

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 09:15
From 2BlogI

I rarely write about these, though feel obliged when they are so telling. I had another double bill of movie like dreams. I won't bore you with the detail but I challenge any of these new 'memory' apps to account for them. What is my head up to? It's very probably because I am, after six or seven years of not having done so, thinking about storytelling: character, plot and narrative arcs. Where's that in a mini series such as 'The Borgias'. Some of these series, however often there is a murder or sex act after a while become as interesting as standing at a bus stop and starting to recognise the same faces every day. 

Nabakov said something about 'loving a memory to make it real'.

Can an App love something as abstract as a memory? It strikes me that memories can never be digitised, that as the construct, at that moment, of a chemical process, that they will be forever analogue. Can you digitise a chemical process?

Memory is not a photograph, or recording, not even something you have written down, rather a memory is what your brain at that moment chooses to construct for you drawing upon sources in various, and differing corners and recesses of your brain. It takes very little to alter this mix. Nothing you recall can ever be the way you remember it before, far from being frozen in time, as a digital form would do, it erupts like gas from a swamp.

In my early teens I had one of those 'Five Year Diaries' that offer four or five lines per day. After five years you have what you did on that day for five years. It took a long while for me to move on from these. What I did was try to write something about that day that would provide recall of some kind. I don't need the video of the day. Or an assortment of photographs. All it takes is a phrase, a place, person or event. Something you ate or saw on TV. Oh dear. I just saw that I thought my new girlfriend's breath was bad. She read this by chance a few years later. Together for five years we finally left each other in tatters a decade later. I can see where we were standing. Her Dad had come to pick her up. Neither of us could drive. She was 16, I was nearly 18. Do I need a gadget to replace my mind's eye?

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Pixabay - images for posts and attribution rights

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 09:25
From E-Learning V

A post bellow by Cathy Miller below suggests that images from Pixabay are free. I clicked on this to find an image of a brain for my last post. Many of the images in Pixabay are from commercial operations such as Shuttershock ; their images have a great big digital watermark across them and a request to pay a large subscription fee. On the other hand, I did find the image of neurons below that does the job and has the Creative Commons Non-Attribution Distribution rights - i.e. use as you please without the need to link to or attribute the image. No fus, no future problem, just help yourself - I like that.

The easiest way to find the perfect image though is simply to search in Google for an item adding the word 'images' in the search and then click through 'til you find what gets your attention; click on the image and decide if the conditions are onerous. Depending on what you are looking for most are free with a share-alike creative commons, all you are supposed then to do is to link back to the source.

Cathy, do please open your comments on this one and I'll cut and paste this in there.

I see someone has left a comment but no one else can. A very worthwhile discussion as I am a firm believer in using images at the top of most posts just to hook interest and help tell your story.

Pixabay must be an open platform: anyone can contribute images. Perhaps Pixabox are making money by having commercial stock libraries use it too? Flickr is pretty good, but the Google search would include Flickr images anyway.

I have some 2,000 images in five galleries in Google Pics, E-learning I (1000 images, H807, H800),  E-learning II (385 images H808, B822), E-learning III (521 images, H810), E-learning IV (349 images, H809, H818) and E-learning V (Ouverture, once I get started). As well as module specific, even EMA specific galleries, such as H818: The Networked Practitioner. and H818: EMA (29 images,  L120). Grabbed from everywhere, many CCS (share-alike) just about all related to illustrating various MAODE modules over the last four years. However, I've not been meticulous about identifying where the copyright always lies. It's true, that it is irksome, just adding that extra link or creating the correct Creative Contributions copyright tag as an icon - though we ought to do that. There is a bonus for doing so as the links to and from your post and the image host generates traffic but I'd only do that for a commercial blog, which this isn't.

The other thing to do is to draw your own images, saying using the Apps 'Paint' or 'Brushes" or to take or have your own gallery of photographs to use (smart phone snaps, photos) then you will never have a copyright issue as they are yours. The other one is to screengrab images you like and then manipulate them in a App such as 'Studio'. All of this takes time and a blog is a blog, not an article for a magazine don't you think?

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Best forgotten

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 9 Sep 2014, 10:55
From E-Learning V

 Fig.1. Yours truly - demo tape - age 19

The idea that something hanging around our neck will record our every moment, store, and log it sounds absurd, counterproductive and misses the point about memory formation and the value of forgetting so that you can interpret the past as you like through anecdotes and storytelling. In this BBC 4 Radio programme on memory one character suggested that a grandchild asking his grandfather how he met his grandmother could look at the real playback instead of hearing the story.

I'd gladly forget the above tape: a teen attempt at rockstardom (not). A bunch of hideous songs that I play abd sing to. Cringeworthy. Some things are best forgotten, even buried, certainly not stored.

I'd forgotten how much the topic fascinated me so will in due course dig through everything I've put down on it in the past and see what fresh angle I can come up with. I particularly like the metaphor of 'sedimentation' to describe a way forward to layer digital information stored on us, that is is buried in the virtual sense, under and in layers of other information. This tape (digitised rather foolishly) would then be stored as some kind of fossil - it would be stored, but not readily available as it were.

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memory

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014, 04:11

My starting point if I am to think threw what I understand, misunderstand and don't know about memory is to flick through this blog. What I get therefore are triggers into previous ideas, notes, articles and thoughts. These are of far greater worth than simply doing a Google search or using wikipedia as there is already some association here. By going back to these pages a multitude of catalysts and sparked into action in my brain. All I then have to do is synthesise my ideas and form a new, or refined view. 

Memory 55 tags
Life logging 3 tags
Forgetting 5 tags
Forgetting curve 1 tag
Sensecam 2 tags
Memory making 1 tag
Neuroscience 36 tags
OII (Oxford Internet Institute) 36 tags
Journal 36 tags
Ebbinghaus 7 posts
Qstream 7 posts
Kerfoot 7 posts
Dementia 1 post
Parkinsons 1 post

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Digital Memory - false prophets, commercialisation based on limited knowledge, an inevitable shift ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 8 Sep 2014, 10:43
From E-Learning V 

 

"It's as radical as looking at the difference between the roots of a tree and the petals of a flower".

 

Thanks for the Memory, In Business.

Peter Day Thursday 4th and Sunday 7th September

BBC Radio 4 

The power of serendipity.

At 21:33 last night my wife called from a rural train station. Apologising for being 'like my late Mum', she said there was something on the radio that might interest me. And so, 12 hours later I am about to listen to this for the FOURTH time. This isn’t because of its academic value per se, rather for its irritation factor. Going by the online monnica of ‘MindBursts’ for the best part of a decade hints at where my latent, longterm interests lie. What a mess and joy ‘natural’ memory can be; I’m yet to see an algorithm deliver credible serendipity. When did my mother last call me in this way? She died exactly two years ago. It would have to be about three to two and a half years ago and most likely would have been Samuel Pepys dramatised for radio, or the hints then of the content that is now flooding the airwaves on the First World War.  Letting that memory fizzle, reform and sink back into my brain. Does this programme trivialise or simply ignore the complexity of the brain? No neuroscientist was interviewed. Shame. 

Very often the BBC and Peter Day et al get it right, but here the researchers and writers have got horribly lost, like a kid on their first visit to a fairground they have run about picking up hifhafultiing fag ends, being impressed by trivia, while occasionally calling in an academic or business big hitter. My concentration lapses on each time of listening after 15, then 20, then 25 minutes. The FIFTH and SIXTH listening my start in the middle. What these programme need, regardless of accessibility needs, is a transcript. I could have got this in a couple of sittings by listening to Peter Day while reading the transcript.

There is value in imperfection. There is value in being irritated by a programme. Had this been a lecture I would have had a list of questions at the end, I may even have heckled or muttered my annoyance along the way.

What a hotchpotch.

There are problems of audience, intent, journalist sensationalism, taking such a random and ranging set of examples and setting them as if they warrant or deserve to share the same platform. 

It begins with something that would have a live audience listening to a stand-up comic nodding in agreement: our no longer having phone numbers in our head. Why would we try to recall the complex and the trivia, an area code as a name with and three digit number, say Wideopen 3119 (my home phone when I was a kid) is easy; not so easy, especially after repeated additions and alterations are the lengthy and multiple contacts we have today. And what was wrong with the pocket address book in its day? It wasn't a case of remembering a phone number, so much as remembering where we'd put our address book.

Technology is there to manage our memories. Luciano Floridi

"It's as radical as looking at the difference between the roots of a tree and the petals of a flower".

This is the man who should have carried the programme; instead we get a soundbite at the start and another at the end. As bookends his profound thoughts barely tether this piece. Perhaps it just tries far too hard to cover everything in a myriad of ways and ends up trying to catch smoke rings in its fingers?

We hear from:

Evernote: set up six years ago, a series of digital tools to help people remember everything. Research. Communicate. To visually communicate what you mean. Phil Libbin,

Timehop set up by Jonathan Wegener. The idea is to milk what people put into Facebook. He has big financial backers. Timehop replays a day at a time a year ago, ten years ago, drawing from Facebook. He suggests that ‘old is awesome’. Aimed at getting users, not revenue. Will make money ‘when the time is ripe’. I find it dubious and ethically immoral, even inept naive views of how people want the serendipity of forming and reforming their own memories. His game plan can only be to sell to Facebook. I quit Facebook recently and doubt I will ever return. Far, far, far to invasive and exploitative, and for me, distracting and addictive.

d3i, set up by Oliver Waters. He used to keep a ‘journal’ from ten up to university. So what. Millions do and many for far longer, and in a directed way, say keeping minutes of business meetings led to Linkedin. The key, he thinks, is not keeping the diary yourself. WRONG. D3i is dependent on the nonsense and ephemera that people put into Facebook. a) this Facebook dependence is dangerous and limiting b) a fraction of people are digitally literate or even care, or care to use social media very much c) students, by way of example, are shown to distinguish between their social, digital and student academic lives. My tip is to perhaps keep a dialy log, or diary. Perhaps restrict to a learning journal if you are studying. Or write a travel log for a trip. I have great fun looking at a diary I kept just for a French Exchange I did in my teens. Another for a gap year job in the alps for a season. 

Memoir. Lee Hoffmann. He suggests there is value in the trivia of social media. Such as sitting with a grandchild and they ask how you met and you show them rather than tell them. This is horrid. Far better to learn to tell stories and learn to listen to the story teller. Snapping away at the trivia of the day. Gross failing to understanding the nature, quality and accruing and sifting quality of storytelling. A few memories as a child of sitting on my grandfather's knees while he talked about the First World War would be reduced to ... her son, watch the video while I go and do something more useful with my time. Poppycock. If you take the human out of memory then it is counterproductive.

Rather

Improve what we have. All text with voice, all voice with transcripts, all video with text and audio grabs …. I’m unconvinced that the commercial operators have much understanding of how memory works. The company they failed to spot is QStream, which in a far more tailored, and valuable way, works with our propensity to forget to aid memory creation in the brain - which is where you need the information if you are to do anything original with it. 

The Problem

The need to filter and forget, far better to enhance or support memories that have value, rather than those that do not. So much is missed in this programme. The fundamental background understanding of memory and how and why we forget. 

We hear from:

Peter Baron, Google. He's asked to talk about European Court of Justice ‘take down’ law and the legal and social need to forget things like spent court convictions. 

European Data Protection Law

Then there's a thing called 'Chronicle of Life'

Facebook and Flickr, so long as they are profitable.

And someone called Milan Chetti, of Chief of Research at HP, Boston Maschatucets.

If I can spell these names correctly I'll find them online, see what the have to say and re-invent this piece for my own understanding of the situation. I ought also to revisit anything I've tagged: life logging, memory, forgetting and so on in here.

All this will take time that I'm prepared to put in to write an article, if not a paper. 

One of the profound impacts is that the memorisation process of the human brain has been altered already … constant reliance on mobile devices has hurt our short term memory as mankind, while digitisation of events over time can help recall and improve out long term memory. So short term memory being carried by devices, while long term memory is enhanced. So we forget directions and phone numbers as our devices do this for us, storing contact details and getting us from A to Z and home, while deeper.

Ki Commenenti - Chronicle of Life. To store data forever.

Spelling anyone?

What about life logging, what about problem solving, such as dementia, even assisting at school and in the workplace. The answer is smarter, personalised and mobile and AI.

If it can be done, it will be done.

Luciano Floridi (misspelled on the BBC website) again ... 

Innovation, Legislation … but understanding lagging behind

Reshape huge chunks of our lives in ways we haven’t understood.

From E-Learning V

 

Floridi uses the metaphor of sediments and layers, a better analogy, as it starts to create in the minds eye a complex environment, though as connected information, digital content changes as associations, reviews, use and comments accrue. I made the connection to Hjulstrom's Curve as I was helping my son get his head around this for A' Level geography last night. I dug out my own Geography text books but found nothing on Hjulstrom. This came from a considered search and selection online. I started to teach my 16 year old son how to do a more academic search online. His approach lacks so much finesse it is shocking. A few minutes of my TLC and we find a brilliant short video from an Irish Geography teacher that put it all so very well.

The programme annoys me because from Peter Day and the BBC you expect a far higher degree of scientific even academic certainty rather than something that is part the One Show for radio. Luciano Floridi of all those we hear from is the one to track down as he does what the very best academics do; they take the  complex and try to explain it based on sound research and a depth of experience that few of the others have.

A memory isn’t static, now is it tangible, it is a chemical construct of the moment that the human brain reinvents every time we recall a memory. All that we have experience since that event formed a memory impacts on how we recall it. To preserve an aspect of such an event digitally can never be a ‘memory’ : a photograph of your child’s third birthday doesn’t include the smell of candles and chocolate cake that reminds you of your own eighth birthday, or in my case that my father never attended a single birthday, not my birth, not my 21st … he turned up to say he was leaving. No figuring that. And immediately indicating how a memory is a shifting entity and if you think about it for long enough it is probably very personal.

Just because you can, does not mean it has value. For centuries people have kept diaries, but how many are a Samuel Pepys or an Anne Frank? It is the record of events so much as the interpretation and voice of the author sharing memories and consequences of these events. 

My rant not over. This is a subject that fascinates me. 'Mind Bursts' as a thought has been my external blog for seven years and with hints of something on the horizon I bought the dot com last year. 

The problem now, compared to ten years ago, is finding amongst millions people to talk to about this. Finding like-minds used to be so, so much easier before the Internet got out of hand and now deluges us with stuff, with too much commercialised and gamified content that gets in the way. 

If you listen to the end then perhaps 2020 will be the end - there won't be enough electricity generated in the world to store this digital content anymore. Hopefully it'll all implode, there'll be a massive clear out, and no doubt there'll be a healthy re-invention or return to books and photo albums.

Meanwhile, my memory-support system called this e-learning journal, blog, portfolio thingey offers up the following. The value of these tagged posts is that they are my interpretation of ideas from months or years ago that will trigger an aggregation or assimilation of fresh ideas and thoughts, something that can never occur simply by grabbing new, unknown stuff produced by others on the Interent. It matters that saved content connects with your soul, that intangible part of the brain that nothing digital can ever reach or approach at mimicking.

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Extensions

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From E-Learning V

In my experience if you ask for an extension for a TMA you will always get one; I've occasionally asked for a couple of days and got a week. With EMAs the deadline is sacrosanct. I've asked on the day and a week back; I guess the earlier you see the problem the better. It depends on the problem. Never really meeting my online tutor it took me too many modules before I'd pick up the phone, yet nothing has ever worked better than a short chat. If your request for an extension is genuine, like the kind made of hair, you'll want and probably need a helping hand so take what is on offer. 

The problem with an extension is that it could simply be delaying the pain ... you continue in the same vein, blocked, muddled, reluctant to start, or finish or submit; or you haven't done the work and know it.

If you've done the work but are having a mental or academic block then ask here, ask in your student forum (too often quiet) and most certainly talk to your tutor. Often some focused advice will say you are on the right track, press on, talk it through, now write it down and send it in, or that you are trying to write a chapter rather than an essay, to narrow it down, to think strategically.

If you haven't done the work then use the extension to figure out how you can put in enough hours, strategically, to cover enough of the ground and do it. If that means a few late nights or early mornings that so be it.

And shit happens - I've lost parents. The worst. And I've been made redundant. In fact both happened together in my first module and I quit ... I sulked instead of talking to someone. The OU would have been understanding. Anyway, you may have to drop everything for a week or more. Everyone will he hugely sympathetic.

Otherwise, like teachers with decades of experience, the tutors will smell a rat if you simply haven't done the work and don't intend to. If this is the case then personally I'd just knock off a submission and send it in. You may still pass. You may be asked to resubmit. The assumption will be that you've done your best even if you haven't. Or perhaps you have? Honesty is always heard with sympathy.

I'm reminding myself that however distant distance learning might be you are always a phone call away from your tutor. I always regret not taking up the offer of talking it through. They won't think you're an idiot; they'll admire you for caring about wanting to try to get it right. In seven modules I think only once did our tutor group have such an active online presence that we could sort out each others' problems, another the tutor didn't just say they were available, but they proved it by being online moderating and 'seeding' conversations rather than waiting in the background (or just absent). And then a time when I kind of buddied up: she was great at one kind of thing, I could help with another - she was an 'adapter' I was the 'innovator' I guess. 

Have I had a reprieve? Not exactly. I have, or thought I had a 10th September deadline - actually thats for resubmissions for April !? So I have until the 24th September. I have worked my way into a corner so will take a day off, then see what I can write in exam conditions, see if a fresh approach can produce something more fluid. It's a relief to be able to step away from a disaster. 

I am so envious of people who turn mountains into molehills. I turn mountains into a range of mountains and usually get lost until someone drags me out. TMAs are foothills, EMAs the one mountain. They all count, so press on.

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Too much coffee? Its a product of too many TMAs

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 6 Sep 2014, 13:45
From E-Learning V

 Fig.1 The effect of drinking too much coffee

With an assignment, TMA or EMA or exam deadline comes the inclination to get up earlier and drink stronger coffee, in larger doses over longer periods. Easing off the caffeine in take comes at a price: headaches. This isn't a drug you can come off in an instant ... or in my case, at all. 

I'm trying to stick to water after breakfast; the problem is that I may have had a jug of expresso by then. If I get a headache later in the day what do I need? Paracetamol and caffeine. 

My symptoms:

  • Ringing in ears
  • Heart palpitations
  • Gut rot
  • Dehydration
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Restlessness

NONE of this is conducive to getting much done. I need to put in a couple of hours a day for the next four days at least. 

Quitting coffee is on the cards. Done with alcohol, meat might be cut back to the weekend or cut out entirely. Quit Facebook. Cut back on Linkedin. Off on retreat in a couple of weeks when I plan to leave all gadgets behind - let's see or prove how productive that can be. Five days with pen and paper.

 

 

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A terrifying realistion

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 5 Sep 2014, 06:37
From E-Learning V

Writing an assignment takes time and requires focus.

Not rocket science, but never before have I been quite so aware of the time it takes to achieve something. Prep over the writing has begun. I use an hour glass to hold my focus, but what do I achieve in an hour? 400 words.

At this rate it'll take another ten hours just to complete the first draft. My only hope is that the preparation will have paid off and that these 4000 words with some spit and polish will do the job.

We'll see.

Suddenly time feels finite and the deadline like 'The Wall' in Game of Thrones looms on the horizon. Just so long as the next series isn't released in the next few days. When is it due out by the way?!

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How to plan an essay

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 4 Sep 2014, 12:02

 

Fig.1 A mindmap using the App 'SimpleMinds'

You try all kinds of different approaches, software and apps. You can any of this on paper (I often do), even working on a mindmap on a whiteboard. Practice, and pain, taught me the way that works for me. Ahead of the deadline with the bulk of the reading done I assemble and sort 'the facts' and 'issues'; I'd liken this to taking a large bundle autumn leaves and sorted them out by colour and leaf type. Then I create a mindmap.

SimpleMinds is free - the basic version does more than enough.

My habit is to keep it under 12 'themes' so the 'clock face' is a starting point for the mindmap, not best practice according to mindmap aficienados but what works for me. Six to eight 'tendrils' is probably about right. If I can be bothered to so so that I'll re-order all of this to that in chronological order I have the topics to write about. Any set of these links can be 'closed', which in effect means that you are looking at the introduction. It is no more than a doodle so few of my mindmaps are finished: the above is enough to work from, it's not going to illustrate the essay.

Of course, talking about 'how to write an essay' is one thing: sitting down and getting on with it is quite another.

The first draft is always the hardest. Get them out of the way and hopefully it's then just a case of editing. It takes far longer than you could imagine. I repeatedly used to run out of time and wished I'd got down to it earlier. If you're really brave you might write a version under 'examination conditions' - you, three hours and a blank sheet of paper. You can be surprised at how much 'the Muse' will deliver to your fingertips and there'll be little else that you write that will be so fluid.

Bonne chance.

Various tips, hints and guides on this kind of stuff are hereabouts on the brilliant OU Student platform

Yes, it does help to read the thing out loud! The pain is to listen back and realise that at times you're not making sense sad Re-writing is pain, pain, pain. 

The final thing (click the link for a larger version)

From E-Learning V

 

This can also be exported as a wordfile with the sub-menus creating a set of logical sub-headings. Depending on the density of the mindmap you may end up with too much, or too little information on which to build an essay. It also rather depends on the length of the assignment.

The other thing I do is to TAG content here from a module that could be used in a pending TMA. When you select that tag you may then export the assembled notes and entries you've gathered over a few weeks - with comments too. Again, you can end up with 8000 loose notes for a 4000 word assignment, but its a start.

Any kind of engagement with the content is better than none?

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Loving this!

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Thanks Gillian. 

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

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What's the science?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 1 Sep 2014, 09:07

Fig.1 Orphan Black

You take on an OU degree and there is one thing you need to steer clear of - TV, especially these compelling series. It took a couple to become hooked. Yes, the TV equivalent of of page-turning plot means you blink and someone has died but there are many reasons to be drawn in: the idea of the many ways a life may spin out, or in this case, out of control; the ethics, dangers and possibilities of cloning, the delicious acting and tour de force from the lead Tatiana Maslany who conjures up many, extraordinarily different versions of herself and dips back and forth between various accents: US East Coast, Brixton UK, Posh Brit, Ukraineian, Ditsy Dish ... 

Is the science credible?

Distraction alert.

The solution is to earn it ... get the hours of studying out of the way first!

 

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Dying wasn't what bothered them, so much as how they might die

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From First World War

'A man left the front line wounded slightly at dusk on 12th and on the morning of the 13th was discovered stuck fast in a shell hole a few yards from where he started. Repeated efforts were made to get him out with spades, ropes etc: At one time 16 men were working at once under enemy fire. But he had to be left there when the Battalion was relieved on the night of 13th/14th'.

Such stories were common place during 'Third Ypres' or 'Passchendaele' July-November 1917. They'd then suffer the further ignomony of being recorded as 'missing in action' and as their body would never be found listed on the walls of the Tyne Cot memorial or at best placed in a grave marked 'Known only to God'. 

It's become the inspiration for a science fiction story.

 

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