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Anna Greathead

PROMPT Criteria

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Part of the main activity of H817 Week 1 was to ensure we learn to recognize and source good resources going forward. The PROMPT criteria are, in my mind, quite obvious! I can imagine them being very useful in undergraduate studies but post graduate? Does this stuff really need to be spelled out?

On reflection (that is, after all, the point!) I can see that I have utilized a few short cuts to avoid falling foul of the criteria - principally I get my resources from the OU library and I filter for peer reviewed journals, and give algorithm preference to newer material. 

Peer review and simple dating must take care of the OMPT part of the criteria. My own preference may deal with the initial P although in my experience the peer-reviewed journals tend to look and read similarly to each other. The R is the challenge - partly because the huge number of resources available can muddy the waters and require increasingly specific and detailed search criteria. Secondly is my temptation to look for things which intrigue me rather than resources which will help me answer the question! 

PresentationGiven the age, condition and format of the information, is it as readable as it could be? Is the information clearly laid out and easy to navigate? Is it obscured by busy designs, animations or images?
RelevanceDoes the information you have found meet the need you have identified? Does it make sense in the particular context in which you are working?
ObjectivityDoes the author or owner of the information make clear their own and/or alternative views?
MethodIs it clear how the research was carried out? Were the methods appropriate? Does it permit the author to come to a sound and reasonable conclusion? Note that these criteria are particularly important when evaluating scientific and historical information.
ProvenanceCan the author or source of the information be considered a reliable authority on the subject?

When was the information produced? Is it recent or dated? Is it obsolete? Does the age of the information matter on this occasion?

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Anna Greathead

Defining Learning

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Prepare your own definition of learning.... should take 3 to 3.5 hours. 

I suppose the length of time allocated to this activity should have alerted me to the fact I was on a rabbit warren journey - deeper and deeper, more and more forks in the burrow to note and come back to, no signposted final destination and all whilst in an extremely unfamiliar environment. 

I began at Wikipedia which is a strategy some may roll their eyes at but I defend it nonetheless. Wikipedia is written in language I understand and, in the event of a term or concept being unfamiliar to me, it's likely to be underlined in blue and will deftly take me to a place where I can learn that straight away. (And then, before I know it, I will have 42 Wikipedia tabs open on my desktop and will still be clicking!)

The Wikipedia article was a very good starting point. I was pleased to immediately be able to recognize some words which aligned to Sfard's Acquisition Metaphor and a few which also brought to mind her Participation Metaphor, as well as concepts such as Identity Change. 

I then went to my favourite online place - the OU Library! I literally searched 'What is Learning?'  and the first hopeful hit was a book called What is Learning? by Mark Haselgrove, dated July 2016. I was very hopeful about this book as it was written in a very readable style and there were concise chapters. Hazelgrove described very well how learning is not restricted to people (animals, plants and machines all 'learn') and he made practically no mention of education or schooling at all. He began at the start of the human journey with Habituation, moving on to Conditioned Responses and there is kind of stopped. Whilst I absolutely can see how vital these early learning experiences are (we learned not to touch a fire as it hurt, we learned that if we didn't wipe our feet we got told off) I think that this is only part of what I am being asked to define. 

I then found the book How We Learn by Henry Boyd Bode. My initial search made me think this was published in 2007 but the opening paragraph (where the word 'man' was used in a context where both men and women clearly should have been) made me double check and I saw it had actually been published in 1940. He made the distinction between learning a skill as an apprentice and learning 'the three Rs' as a pupil and how the method must necessarily be different. I was interested in the way he described the fact that 'learning theory' is (or was) little thought of by teachers and students who simply do what they have always done without question, and with the desired outcomes. His book went on to be far more psychological and even philosophical so I book marked it - trying to kid myself I'll come back later to learn more!

My third, and most successful hit was Education and Learning: An evidence based approach  by Mellanby and Theobald from 2014. There is a nice mixture between theory and examples to demonstrate it. They look at the purpose of education, which must (surely!) be connected in some way to the purpose and nature of learning. The most interesting idea in the first few chapters is the idea of education is for the reproduction of a culture. I initially recoiled at this idea - imagining history lessons reporting colonial triumph or literature only celebrating the works of homegrown authors - but I realized that the term was intended to convey the passing on of values and, as they quoted Thomas Arnold as saying, "The best that has been known and thought." 

I have also asked my considerable number of Facebook friends for ideas. Many are teachers, all have been students, but I don't know if any have studied H800! I'll report back!

My tentative first draft of the 'answer' to the posed question is: Learning is both spontaneous and deliberate and protects and maintains the learner, their community and their culture; it can be seen in the gain of knowledge and understanding; it can be for the improvement of the individual and others.

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Anna Greathead

Week 1, H800. A post-graduate newbie!

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 14 Feb 2018, 23:31

I have not formally studied anything since 1996. I signed up to do MAODE in a mad moment when I thought I wouldn't be busy by the time February rolled around! I really didn't know what to expect and I was apprehensive.

Technically week 1 has been slightly less of a challenge than I expected. Whilst I use computers and technology all the time I have only the most passing familiarity with how anything actually works and I was somewhat intimidated by the idea that there would need to be a wide variety of materials to download, save, print, annotate and so on. I bought, just this week, a new laptop as our old PC showed itself unfit for the job. I've also bought some USB headphones. 

I am under no illusions that week 1 has been an 'easing in' exercise. We have watched, read and listened to people who have made interesting and thought provoking arguments and points. We have conversed on the forum (so far it's been very friendly and supportive - long may that continue) and I have looked at some of the extra reading and also followed some links provided by others in my tutor group. I have found it fascinating.

Things which have grabbed my attention this week:

1. A reflection on the short and long term effects of the invention of the printing press in Europe was simply mind blowing. As a sociology graduate the details about the lengthening of childhood - not for sentimental reasons but simply because it takes longer to learn to read and write than to speak and listen - was so interesting. This sent me on a train of thought as I considered the impact of other technologies in a much wider and long term way.

2. A TED talk linked to by a tutorial group colleague by Sugata Mitra inspired me! His account of how organically children can learn by themselves with little adult intervention (The School in the Cloud) turned my experience and expectation of education upside down. I reflected on how this could work in a context where formal schooling is the norm and whether adults who have been formally schooled in a western setting may be ruined for this kind of peer to peer learning. The SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environment) seems miraculous but I wonder if it can be effectively used alongside more traditional and familiar schooling methods or if it really is an either / or situation.

3. A webcast (Dr Ian Rowlands) about the 'google generation' multi tasking also made me think a lot. (I watched it and then read the transcript). In common with the interview with Gregor Kennedy there was a discussion about whether the generation who had grown up with the internet were fundamentally different in their learning behaviours, or if they simply were using new technologies to behave exactly as all generations have behaved. I recalled my own undergrad studies where I could often be found with ten books on a library desk, a few folders crammed with print outs and photo copies of journal articles and a fellow student to discuss things with. I was a pre-google multitasker! My (tentative) conclusion is that learning to be a focused student has always taken some people some time and that the advent of the internet hasn't altered that - it just makes the multitasking (procrastinating? distraction?!) easier to log and count.  

So far many of our resources have been very old (2008 may not sound that long ago but it was before widespread social media penetration and before the smartphone was ubiquitous) which concerns me a little. Surely the changes between 2008 and 2018 are at least as much, if not more, than the changes between 1998 and 2008?

I am looking forward to exploring the online library. A few experimental searches have convinced me it is a veritable treasure trove of fascinating and relevant material (not to mention fascinating, irrelevant and time consuming!).  

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