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Fell off the wagon :(

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In my last post I blamed the wait for my marked TMA for my feelings of disengagement but 2 weeks after I got it back I am only just properly logging in to my OU account. I have flitted in and out, I attended a tutorial (for which I was pretty unprepared) and I kept making plans to 'really get stuck in for a few hours this evening'. It's not been happening.

I do have a lot going on. My eldest child is, as I type, on a plane en route to Hong Kong where he will spend the next 5 weeks. He's been very chilled about it leaving me to complete the appropriate and necessary amount of worrying! My next child finished her A-level exams less than a fortnight ago leaving the whole household in a quivering heap of nervous exhaustion. I have two other children and a husband who have been somewhat neglected plus I have moved into a period at work which requires a fair amount of travel and diminished energy for study. Plus it is gorgeously sunshiny outside and studying is an inside activity. 

Thankfully an extension for TMA03 was agreed by my kind tutor! 

I imagine I can't be unique in a cyclical pattern of being 'in control' and 'on top of it' and 'coping fine' to the absolute opposite. 

Self directed adult studies require you to be a grown up. Absolutely no one harasses me to study. No one checks I am keeping up with the reading and the responsibility to log in and do the stuff lies entirely with me. Adulting is a skill which even an old woman of 44 sometimes finds tricky! 

Anyway - I now have the bones of my TMA3 together. I have started the activities for weeks 21/22 and I have looked at TMA04 and liked what I saw - it's more academic and less personal context dependent which is a relief. 

Just have to keep this up! What I really need is for my mum to draw a sticker chart and promise me a MacDonalds when I complete it! big grin

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Collaboration

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Thursday, 7 Jun 2018, 23:15

We are gearing up for TMA03 which is basically the plan for our EMA which is the big one. 

The final question we are the address in this short assessment is:

What is your current response (possibly very tentative at this stage) to the question: ‘To what extent do you find the concepts of “individual” and “collaborative” learning useful in understanding your experience of learning this year – whether on H800 or elsewhere?’

I knew that H800 (and MAODE more generally) would be a mostly solo exercise and I was happy with that. I am a full on extrovert but I have lots of outlets for this personality trait so I figured that a few hours alone at a laptop wouldn't hurt me at all!

In some ways I was right - I am finding that working at my own pace is very pleasing and that being able to investigate interesting tangents is satisfying (albeit time consuming!). What I hadn't banked on was the constant niggling question of 'Am I doing it right?' This need for affirmation can easily be satisfied by being in a peer group. 

The exchange of ideas and insights is valuable and collaboration in research vital. And I have missed that. I love the forums but they're not quite the same (especially as we are quite directed in our activity there).

I have found Adobe Connect frustrating generally. It's not quite similar enough to being around a coffee table; but tonight eight people from our tutor group met for over an hour to discuss TMA03, EMA and the course in general. It was so much fun and SO helpful. 

We also have a WhatsApp group and a Facebook group. People have started to follow each other on Twitter. I feel we are building really useful and productive relationships. I know I can learn a lot from these people and hopefully can offer them something as well. 
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Technology doesn't educate people, people educate people

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Monday, 4 Jun 2018, 23:14

I began yesterday by describing technology as 'neutral'. A comment suggested that this did not make technology inert and I have since been formulating a response. 

The gun control debate within the USA (and between the USA and the rest of the world) is frustrating and circular. One regularly cited soundbite is

Guns don't kill people, people kill people

You can't argue with it when taken as a standalone sentence and I suppose my argument that 'technology is neutral' is in a similar vein. However - it is not the 'slam dunk, check mate' soundbite many who cite it consider it to be!

A gun cannot shoot itself, it has no agency. However - it absolutely amplifies the agency of the person holding the gun. An angry person and an angry person with a gun have entirely different levels of power and incomparable potential to cause harm. A depressed person with a gun is more likely to end up successfully killing themselves than a depressed person with a bottle of pills. A police force with guns are more likely to make snap judgements which turn out to be fatal and unjust than a police force armed with pepper spray and truncheons. Additionally - society at large changes due to the 'neutral technology' that is the gun. A perception - real or exaggerated - of likely harm creates an atmosphere in which people who may not want to own a gun feel they have to 'just in case'. In short - the neutral technology distorts situations so much that not only is the impact of behavior changed, but the behavior changes as well. 

So does technology cause or encourage change? I would have to concede that yes - it does both. I can see that technology distorts the status quo ante significantly enough that the outcome of people's behavior and actions are different and that the mere existence of technology creates an atmosphere in which people makes different decisions. 

Learning Technology seemingly offers so much in terms of pedagogy, reach, impact and engagement that educators may begin to make the technology central in their learning design and the technology could massively amplify the impact of their teaching. Then the perception that 'everyone else is doing it' can create an atmosphere where using the available technology becomes imperative for fear of falling from relevance. Of course - our studies thus far have shown that the 'enhancement' offered to 'learning' by 'technology' is far more complex than some of the hype would have you believe - but it is the perception which changes behavior far before the statistics and facts do. 

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Chickens or eggs?

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Sunday, 3 Jun 2018, 22:14

Is technology itself a cause of reform or an instrument used to encourage reform?

One argument I have repeatedly made within H800 is that technology is neutral. It can be used for good or for ill, it can enhance or detract, it is neither good or bad - it simply is. Whilst this is not a fully formed position I tend to think that it's a good place to begin from. 

However - this question doesn't really ask if technology is good or bad. It assumes a correlation between technology and reform and asks us to assess a causal link.

The personification of 'technology' is the first problematic idea we face. Technology is not independent - it is all created by, and for, people. It can not cause or encourage anything. The people behind it may do so. Do these people develop technology with a view to reform? I suppose some may but I would be surprised if that was the majority position. Technology, ironically, seems to evolve in an almost biological way with unexpected successes, inexplicable failures and a messy march in the general direction of forwards - but with many tangents and offshoots. 

The company I work for could not exist without the internet. All of our services and products are bought online, a great many of them are delivered online. Was this was Tim Berners-Lee had in mind? Or Bill Gates? No - absolutely not. The long term impact of their inventions was not so much unintended and unexpected as beyond our wildest dreams. 

So many aspects of everyday life (in the developed world, and increasingly everywhere) are now technology dependent. Banking, shopping, travel, communications - all heavily reliant on the internet. Did the development of the internet cause this reform or was it a tool used to encourage reform? Did we, 20 years ago, even perceive that reform was necessary or possible? 

Given that we are specifically looking at 'learning' in H800 I suppose the question must be applied to the classroom, lecture theatre, study hall and library. What is technology doing there? I think I can safely assume that the experience of a student - at any level - right now is unrecognizably different to the experience I had at university in 1996; the main difference being the birth and growth of the internet in the interim. But did the internet cause the change or merely encourage it? I'd argue neither. The internet grew and the people used it. As more people used it, the internet grew more. The internet became more useful to more people as more and more people were able to manipulate it. So more and more people used the internet. It has been an organic process despite it being an entirely inorganic invention. 

Future reform may well be just as the internet was 20 years ago. Limited only by our imaginations. 


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The advantages of blogging in learning

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I did not plan to be an OU blogger but the option of 'access to your personal blog' on the StudentHome page caught my attention and the rest is history. 

I have found blogging my journey with H800 (so far) useful on a number of levels

  • Sometimes ideas occur to me which I want to flesh out a little but which don't really fit into the forums and which I don't imagine my fellow students to be especially interested in (though I am, obviously, happy for them to engage on the blog)
  • As I make notes about tutorials, webcasts, papers etc. then blogging them firstly means I have had to organize my scribblings into coherent sentences and points, and secondly I know I will always be able to find them!
  • I will get very engaged in a specific point which I want to record and reflect upon. 
  • The emotional aspect of studying again after 20 years is considerable. Blogging is a vent to some of those doubts, frustrations and joys
  • If I make my blog posts public (which I do) it is a way for other people to engage with what I am doing - entirely on their own terms (not by me backing them into a corner and talking excitedly about what I am learning for hours!)

TMA2 offers an opportunity for me to write about how blogging is, and could be, used in education and learning, I can anticipate many of the administrative and organizational objections but I can see huge opportunities for a better learning experience, and more effective learning, for learners. 

When blogging was an 'activity' on H800 the response of most students was, at best lukewarm. I got that! It was not exactly required, but it was 'encouraged'. I immediately understood why it would be a useful activity for people but the activity didn't explain it well. It certainly failed to inspire students to use their blogspace. A few wrote a few posts but there was palpable reluctance! 

In the TMA I plan to explore how the reflective and organic nature of a personal blog can facilitate very deep learning - and circumnavigate the ever present threat of 'strategic learning' whereby students learn exactly what is necessary to pass the course, rather than aiming to get a full and deep and broad appreciation of the subject being learned. 

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Being first!

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The OU week runs from Saturday to Saturday and as I work a reasonably normal Monday to Friday week I try to get a good chunk of OU stuff done at the weekend. If the OU demands 15 hours per week (this varies a bit to be honest) then I want to get between 30% and 40% done before I go to work on Monday. 

It seems I am alone in this though as for the past couple of weeks I have arrived at the 'discuss this in the forum' bit of the activity and found that only the tutor has left a comment thus far (basically the question) which means I have to go first! Of course I don't have to. I have written my responses in Word with the intention of copying and pasting them into the forum after a few people have had their say first (obviously I would check their comments to ensure I hadn't said something utterly stupid first!) but even I can see this is a bit foolish! 

I suppose it is like that moment at a social gathering when no one wants to be the first to break into the buffet or be the one who cuts the cake or even the first on the dance floor. The validation you get from joining in is far more enjoyable than the risk you take in striking out first! 

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I'm Lovin' It!

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I just wanted to blog quickly about how much I am enjoying this journey. I know I moan a bit but I am really enjoying being 'a student' and learning something new and engaging. 

I think I am still somewhat afraid that I am totally unqualified to do this, and incapable of doing it well, and that any minute I'll be exposed as 'not really knowing what you're doing' but until any of those things happen I will enjoy the whole thing as much as I can. 

The only downside is that it is making me wonder what other hugely interesting subject areas are there and trying to schedule time to study those as well! The introduction this week to OERs did not help! 

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Slogging and blogging

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Week 10 has been full of interesting H800 activities and full of Anna's professional and personal activities so it's been something of a busy time and I reach the first day of week 11 without having really done justice to week 10. 

I am not sure if it was intended but I feel that week 10 has been inviting us to consider the motivations of people, institutions and maybe even ourselves. 

We began by thinking about Wikipedia and how much we could rely on it given what we know, and have learned, about the politics behind the editing and writing process. Wikipedia seems, on the surface, to be benevolent and good; concerned with making as much information available to as many people as possible without charging. It is easy to understand their model - they don't pay experts to write the articles and check for accuracy - they engage experts with the overall ideal and get them to do it for free! And they do! The credentials of the 'experts' are not checked and anyone can self proclaim as an expert. Vandalism and mischief should abound surely.... and yet neither do. The project is now so big that almost all edits - both mischievous and genuine ones - are checked very quickly and Wikipedia remains remarkably accurate overall. I find myself trusting Wikipedia because all of those mischief makers can't stand against the majority of people who stand with the Wikipedia ideal and want to give the user good, accurate information. 

Of course - an analysis of Wikipedia for 'facts' (the population of nations, the height of mountains, the careers of politicians) is one thing. An analysis of Wikipedia's reporting of 'issues' (Palestine and Israel, gender politics, abortion law) may well reveal a particular worldview prevails. 

Next we looked at Stack.com (and I quickly went to similar sites such as Quora and Yahoo answers) where individuals ask questions and other individuals answer them. The questions are often very practical 'how do you....' rather than the more non specific 'should someone....' Individuals who see a question may also vote for the answer they think is best. I have found these sites very useful. Again - I am aware of the potential for mischief but if someone has asked 'how do you poach an egg?' I would not expect hundreds of people to vote for 'place the whole egg in the microwave without cracking the shell'. I rely on the desire of people to be right - and give /confirm the right information - and the desire of people to be helpful - and give / confirm the right information - over the desire of people to cause mischief or discord - and deliberately give / confirm the wrong information. Of course this benevolent assumption is rather thrown into sharp relief as we learn more about how both the EU referendum in the UK and the 2016 US Presidential election seem to have been deliberately influenced by false, inflammatory and deliberately discordant use of social media in particular and the internet in general. 

And then blogging. I felt a small smug thrill as I realized I was ahead of the curve on this! There were some very interesting articles about what happens when blogging is required (it's not good) and how students use blogging in studies (see all my former posts for a wide representation of reflection, ranting, catharsis and thought development). 

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Weeks 8 and 9, slogging and misunderstanding

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Weeks 8/9 were actually spread out over 3 weeks. Week 8, a week off for Easter, and then week 9. Weeks 8 and 9 actually shared activities which I (numpty) had not realized. I slogged away to get through week 8 so I could enjoy a bit of a break (catch up!) and was still a whole activity from the end when week 9 was supposed to be beginning. I'd worked hard in week 8 and the week off so I was a bit fed up. Then I saw the activities for week 9 were the same as those for week 8. Hence the week 8/9 I suppose!

I'm not sure if it was this slog and misunderstanding but these weeks felt very much like a slog. The first block of H800 was what I expected - how do people use technology to help learning and how well does it work. These weeks fit in with the 'Technology Enhanced Learning' but in a way I hadn't thought about - using technology to design lesson plans, and learning plans more broadly. 

Of course I can see the benefit of this. Planning lessons on a sheet of paper must regularly result in a bit of a scribble as new ideas are inserted, difference activities swap places in the time line, things are crossed out. Planning lessons on a word processing document may result in a tidier plan but surely there is more scope for using technology that simply replacing a paper sheet for a laptop screen (which will likely be printed on a paper sheet). 

It's obvious when you think about it but, it seems, more complicated to enact than to imagine. 

We looked at a wide variety of 'learning design templates' which attempted to provide a base for learning design which encouraged designers to look at their overarching pedagogy, how balanced their program was and what resources would be needed - and then represent the lesson in a graphical and visual manner which could not only be used by the teacher but could also be shared for reuse and repurpose.

The templates we looked at seemed old. There was a few good ideas and some neat tricks but I felt like there must be versions of this which are newer and more streamlined. I asked the Facebook hive mind (I must have almost 100 teachers / educationalists on my friends list) and asked what they did. Some used online templates but after a little digging they were all simply online forms which they completed and then printed. None reported using a template to assist in their planning, simply to record it. Some of them reported 'downloading' complete lesson plans and such like from various (paid for) sites online. 

Later on we looked at 'schemas' (yeah - I had to google that!) which helped us map activities along three spectrums:

  1. Individual and Social
  2. Active and Passive
  3. Information and Experience

Despite our discussions about the value of participation and student centric learning - I am still convinced a variety of activities is the best way to learn - even including some passive, information and individual ones! (Such as reading a journal, watching a video or listening to a podcast alone!). 

I enjoyed this mapping as is was a more general and 'big picture' activity. I am finding the very specific 'nitty gritty' activities are harder for me to engage with. The bigger picture things I find I can apply to my experience - as learner and teacher - and also to my context. I find it harder to contextualize things from specific to general than from general to specific. 

Anyway - weeks 8/9 are done! (Thankfully). Week 10 beckons and looks interesting! 

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TMA01.... 68%

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 3 Apr 2018, 10:28

I have been stressed over the past days about the TMA score. I feared it would go badly, hoped it would go well but I hadn't considered my own personal 'badly to well' grade boundaries so now I am now sure how I think I did! 

I got good marks for my forum participation which I expected. I have been active and have received good feedback from both my student colleagues and tutor about my contributions. 

I dropped 3 marks (our of 10) on spelling and grammar which is a slap in the face! Though the feedback notes a couple of OU style omissions (which I confess to having deliberately omitted because of the blasted word count!) which may have been a problem. 

My biggest mark drops were not properly relating things back to my own context (it turns out my own context is not the rich seam of technology enhanced learning examples which I had previously assumed it to be!) and dodgy referencing. The second is especially annoying as I had an extra 24 hours in which I could have reviewed this again but I submitted early to get it out of the way. 

So I have a good 'Pass 3'. 2 marks off a Pass 2. This TMA only counts for 5% of H800 so it doesn't matter much in the overall scheme but it does and will affect my psyche and attitude. 

I am trying to use the Easter Break to crack on but everyone else is on their break which means getting on is tricky as H800 is more collaborative the further it goes! 

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Narratives, representations and designs

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The beginning of week 8 has been building up to the concept of learning design. The first four activities have been very time consuming in terms of what was asked of us, and also of the thought space the ideas have occupied. 

I think I have arrived at something of an epiphany though.

A learning narrative is simply telling the story of learning. All of us have learned and all of us have taught - even if only in a very informal sense. Any parent has taught their child simple things such as the names of colours, types of food, species of animal, different vehicles and so on. None of them write this down as a formal plan. No mum wakes up thinking 'I will teach my toddler about cows today and therefore we shall go to a farm' but if their activities take them past a field of cows and the child takes an interest then she may stop and point to the animals. Explain that they are eating the grass and that we get milk for our cereal from the cows. They may talk about how the cows are black and white and how they're bigger than a dog but not as big as a horse. This is all very informal and responsive to both the environment and the interests of the learner.

If the same mother was asked 'How did you teach your child about farm animals?' she may write down:

  1.  We went for a walk past a field of cows and my child pointed at the animals
  2. We stopped to look at the cows and I asked my child what colour the cows were. My child said the cows were black and white. The child then remarked that the cows were big.
  3. I pointed to a dog walking by and said the cows were bigger than the dog and asked if the child could think of any animals the cows were smaller than. The child thought and then said that a horse was bigger than a cow.
  4. I asked the child what the cows were doing (they were grazing) and the child didn't know. I explained that the cows were eating grass. I told the child that the cows turned the grass into milk and asked when they ate milk. The child said they'd had milk on their cornflakes in the morning. 
  5. The child then lost interest so we continued with our walk.

This list represents the encounter. It describes what happened, some of the thought processes and some of the ways the teacher (parent) directed the learning of the child by answering questions and offering new information. This is more of a report than a lesson plan but the same information is conveyed and the learning experience has been represented in a way which could be analysed, reproduced or repurposed by someone else.

If this encounter were to be 'planned' then the lesson plan may look like this:

  1. Take the child for a walk close to a field of cows
  2. Assess the child's interest in the cows. If the child seems interested encourage them to speak about the cows. The child may remark on the size, colour or physical characteristics of the animal
  3. Ask the child if they have any ideas about the behavior of the animal - what does it eat, where does it sleep, what does it do?
  4. If the child seems interested tell them about milk production and see if they can associate milk with their day to day lives.
  5. Continue chatting until the child has lost interest and then move on. 

This lesson 'plan' is still very learner focused and is in-keeping with a constructivist theory of education - allowing the learner to build on their existing knowledge and learn that which engages their interest. 

A learning design is the next step and may take a broader approach. It may involve planning for any necessary resources, extension activities, and have a more formal plan for setting a learning objective and assessing learning outcomes. It may be more generally worded so that the same lesson idea could be used for other animals! 

I am finding it easier to grasp these concepts when I apply them to the education of young children. I think this may be because it is a setting I am familiar with even though I have never been a school-teacher. I have had four children, I have 'taught' in many mother and toddler / playgroup settings, I have taught Sunday school lessons for my entire adult life. I can easily see how informal, formal and specifically designed learning both differentiates and converges. 

Applying this to classroom learning for adults (or lecture theatre, online tutor group) is more straightforward than applying it to my own setting where our e-learning platform essentially has no interaction between student and teacher. I am having to mentally separate interactive e-learning from online revision. What we actually provide is the latter. This is challenging but I hope that H800 will allow me to develop our services to be more broadly helpful to our learners.  

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Getting away from it all and Getting it

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Twice this week I have read a paper, found it impossible to comprehend, and then abandoned it for a while. 

The paper by Zimmerman about IALC (Interpersonal Action Learning Cycle) felt preachy and irritating before coffee with friends and a workout at the gym.... but somehow made a lot more sense afterwards!

The exercise about Learning Design almost reduced me to tear before I did some mum taxi duties and made a sandwich and now I think I get what the exercise is about (though the fine detail may still require wine!). 

I wonder if my subconscious is working away at some of this even when I am not concentrating on it. I have had a few 'light bulb' moments when I've stepped away from the laptop and the OU website for a few hours. 

I approached this course with a traditional education model in mind (how stupid am I?) and expected to be able to read diligently and listen carefully and then simply understand the material. I was not prepared for post graduate study to ask more of me than that. However - I can absolutely see the value in this way. It's just hard work! 

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Student Online Rooms

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2018, 11:49

They really want us to use these! Really really!

I understand the theory. I can see that discussion what we are learning, how it applies to our experience and practice, and how we can move forward as a student body is valuable. Imperative maybe. I certainly welcome the chance to bounce ideas, concerns and frustrations off the very people who really are sharing the experience. 

However - I am not sure that John Seely Brown is right when he asserts that the distributed learning group is just as effective as the situated one. 

This could be, at least in part, a technological failing. At present we all have audio and a screen on which we can write messages (although only on the whiteboard and not in a chat format). We can see who is in the group and who is speaking. However - when speaking I can't hear what anyone else is saying so don't know if I am getting 'hmms' of approval or questioning. As with all web based technology the risk of a shaky connection means that the conversation is not seamless. And the lack of actual human people and all of their body language and cues is really sorely felt. 

I think I like my tutor group a lot. I think - were we to meet in a Costa for coffee - then I'd get on well with all of them. But using the online student rooms leaves me either sitting through an awkward silence for fear of starting to speak at the same time as someone else.... or 'taking charge' and worrying that my colleagues resent my assertiveness... or simply listening and not really participating.

It is also difficult to find times to 'meet'. We all have busy schedules and trying to organize it through a forum which people may only check once a day leaves little opportunity for spontaneous chat as might happen if we were on campus together. 

We have a Facebook group which is outside of the OU which I have found more immediate. I wonder if a tutor group WhatsApp group might actually be really useful. I don't even know how to propose that though! 

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TMA 01 - minus 4 days

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Thursday, 15 Mar 2018, 22:18

I don't know what they want.

I can demonstrate that I understand the papers and other materials they've directed me to

I can give examples of how my thinking about learning, and professional practice, has changed already

I can see how different learning theories fit with different learning practices

But I don't know if that is what they want..... 

The word count is horrifically low. In 500 words they want me to explain how a single H800 activity reflects (or doesn't) my own experience as a learner / teacher AND evaluate the activity as a part of the module. Now I assume I have to give some indication that I understand the material but that takes a couple of hundred words. Relating it to my experience or practice takes another 250.... so it's a mere sentence or two to evaluate the activity. 

And I have to do that three times. For three activities. From three separate weeks. (But not from three of the activities which we have had tutorials about!)

And then there is a discussion about those three tutorial activities. I am to discuss how much they reflect my experience AND engage critically with the text AND refer to other associated writings both within and outside of H800 AND make use of the forum posts and contributions of other students AND include a picture or two to support my argument (what? I am supposed to be making an argument?) AND all of this must be done in 800 words! 

I had a full length essay to hand in two days ago but I am so unsure. I have edited, re-edited, cut and pasted, checked the word count a thousand times. As I drive to work, or lie in bed, or watch TV, or do anything really new thoughts come to mind which I suddenly think are key and must be included. So something else must be jettisoned. But what? I've already taken out every adjective. I have phrased things as economically as it is possible to phrase them. 

Thankfully there are 10 marks for spelling and grammar! So I won't get a zero!

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Doubting

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Thursday, 15 Mar 2018, 22:26

In the introduction for week 5 we were told that the workload for this week as much reduced as they were aware we would be starting to thinking about our first TMA (Tutor Marked Assignment) which is due in 9 days time.

For a start - week 5 has not been a walk in any park! There are a lot of things to get through and whilst I appreciate not all were mandatory there was still a lot. I have not left any optional activity undone as yet - I know it might sound foolish but as I am such a newbie I don't want to risk missing out on any learning or important concepts and ideas.

This week has sent me on quite an enjoyable rabbit warren (can I introduce a new verb - warrening - for when you find yourself a dozen links on from your original article having explored multiple offshoots en route?) as I looked at the work of Wesch. Wesch is an anthropologist which, odd as it sounds, feels more familiar to me than the education and psychology environment I have found myself in. However - the work of Wesch, in common with so many others in my H800 journey to date, has intrigued me and got me thinking but NOT about technology enhanced learning! I am thinking about learning, and technology, and societal change, and educational pedagogy but I am not putting these together in quite the way I think I am supposed to be. 

Which brings me to TMA01. In this I am to choose three activities I have looked at so far and report on them and relate them to my current practice. I could choose almost any which have intrigued me. I could choose almost any for which I had to apply a sociological or philosophical or political analysis. But I have to apply my own experience in learning. 

I have written my first two 500 word sections and I think I am on the right track but the third is proving difficult. Is the sentence 'this form of learning simply won't work well if technology replaces the actual people' an example of 'relating to technology enhanced learning'? I am also suddenly flooded with self doubt. I am not convinced I am clever enough for post-grad study. I understand the material (on one level at least) and I can make links and connections between various arguments (in one sense at least) but I am doubting my ability to write an essay which fulfills their criteria. 

Nine days until it must be in! I have the full word count already. I haven't answered all of their questions... I think! 

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Metaphors for Learning

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 20 Feb 2018, 15:30

The main activity I have been engaged in on Week 3 of H800 is reading a paper by Anna Sfard about metaphors for learning. I have been quite gratified to see that my reading, reflection and learning thus far have already led me to similar thoughts as those expressed in the paper albeit with a different vocabulary.

The two 'metaphors' described as 'Acquisition Metaphor' (AM) and 'Participatory Metaphor'.

Acquisition metaphor characterizes knowledge as a 'thing'.

"the growth of knowledge in the process of learning has been analysed in terms of concept development. Concepts are to be understood as basic units of knowledge that can be accumulated, gradually refined, and combined to form ever richer cognitive structures."

Or

"The language of "knowledge acquisition" and "concept development" makes us think about the human mind as a container to be filled with certain materials and about the learner as becoming an owner of these materials."

It is easy to identify how this metaphor is used in education at all levels, and even more broadly within learning. Even the most ‘immersive’ of learning environments such as a young child acquiring language I am reminded of how life with a young child involves a lot of answering ‘what’s that?’ kind of questions. Parents usually continually ‘transfer knowledge’ for their offspring to acquire – “Look at the car. It’s a red car. It’s going fast.” The child is taught the words and concepts car, red and fast (aside from the connections and associated grammar).

Schooling seems to be very rooted in the AM. Especially in the contemporary ‘data driven’ atmosphere of league tables and Ofsted reports. Children are taught facts, methods and concepts which can be easily quantified and tested. The test results are compiled and the schools compared to one another (not to mention the children themselves) based on them. The danger is that schools will teach children to pass the test to acquire the right data to be compared favourably. (My personal view is that this has already happened).

Our familiarity with the AM means that we (or maybe it is just I) gravitate to this kind of education after school as well. When I go into ‘learning mode’ I seek out experts who can inform me of facts. The expert may be a person, a book, a journal, a website – but I want the information to be presented to me in easily digested bite size chunks. My early experience of the Open University has been slightly alarming in its open approach to learner initiated learning. Where is the text book? When are the lectures? What ‘facts’ should I be memorising?

I found it harder to identify specific examples of my own learning by PM. Maybe that is because I have conflated ‘education’ with ‘learning’ and have undervalued the skills and knowledge I have gained outside of a formal educational environment. In feeding back in the student group forum the example I gave for this kind of learning is kind of embarrassing! I used the example of learning to be a parent and housekeeper. So parochial! However – it is well known that children don’t come with a text book (or at least not one single text book!) and that cooking for a family is a significant task which requires skill, knowledge, planning and flexibility. Like almost all parents I felt like I was making it up as I was going along and certainly I had more coherent theories and strategies of child rearing before I actually had children to rear! However – 20 years on the task is in hand and going ok!

Others in the group have suggested areas of PM such as driving and using a smart phone which I think are good examples. Skills you simply cannot learn without actually doing them. Skills where trial and error are a key part of the learning process. I would also add swimming, playing a musical instrument, dance and sport. There are facts one must know, things to learn and acquire – but without participating in the activity you cannot master the skill.


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Reflections

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Sunday, 18 Feb 2018, 19:51

I am astonished by how many things I have never considered before! Over the last two weeks of H800 these dichotomies have begun to crystalize in my mind:

Education vs Learning

Education (specifically schooling) is linear, systematic, ordered, knowledge focused, teacher-centric, data driven, testable, general

Learning is immersive, organic, understanding focused, learner driven, specific

Knowledge vs Understanding

I *know* how a plane flies - the air goes over the wings faster than it goes under the wings. It makes no sense to me whatsoever so I don't understand how a plane flies. 

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Reflections after a day at a university

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Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 14 Feb 2018, 23:28

I've spent today with my daughter who is applying to universities for 2019 entry (she's planning a gap year) and we have been at Lancaster University.

Part of the day was spent with current students in the course she is likely to take. One student - Lewis - said these things which I though it worth recording:

"I find I don't learn that much from my lectures, I learn far more from talking about it at my tutor groups afterwards."

"They record a lot of the lectures. Some people watch them rather than go to the lecture but it's also useful if you want to check on something and can watch it again later."


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