OU blog

Personal Blogs

Picture of Anna Greathead

Word counts... again!

Visible to anyone in the world

I had no idea where to begin with the 2000 word part of my current TMA so I began a narrative describing the process I've been through in producing the first two parts of my TMA and the project I am working on.

Got to 1800 words.

Of just nicely written but unreferenced narration!

Argh!

Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

Networking?

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 31 Dec 2019, 18:24

I have been listening to a Tutorial I missed in chunks. I perceived that the first bit was about the poster so I listened to that twice while I was tweaking the poster. I have, once I decided on a format, made steady progress on the poster and it's been the nuts and bolts of actually making it rather than indecisiveness or prevarication about content which has taken the time.

The next step is an accessibility statement to show I have appreciated and made allowances for the needs of people with various disabilities in the creation of the poster. This means I included an audio track, clear graphics and text. The need to think about, and write, this also acted as a catalyst to upload the presentation as a YouTube video (something I have never done before) as I could tell that my iPhone wouldn't play a PowerPoint presentation and assumed that other people's mobile devices may not either. A series of slide images was not what I created and not what I wanted any viewers to see.

Then came the abstract (in progress.... very early progress) and then I listened on the the tutorial. Simon emphasized the importance of networking and how we had to demonstrate that this skill was one we had significantly developed during H818. I panicked a little! Had I done any networking?

So here is my list of 'networking' activities which I think (hope) may count!

  • Created a survey, asked existing contacts to complete it and used Twitter and Facebook to disseminate it further
  • Directly approached some blog users on the OU Blog tool to ask for their insight
  • Exchanged emails with some survey respondents which indicated they'd be willing to discuss further and gave me their email addresses
Now what else could I do?
Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

Charting New Waters

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 15 Jan 2020, 13:12

TMA 2 of H818 is proving to be a challenge! So much so that I pursued my time-honoured transition of pretending it wasn't happening for a slightly too long. I suddenly found that I should have done more and that I really hadn't got any clear idea of what I was supposed to do, let alone what I was expected to achieve!

I knew I was doing my overall project - essentially the whole of H818 - on the use of the blog tool with OU students. I knew that the main two benefits of blogging reported in most of the literature was reflection and collaboration so my initial poster simply reflected that:

A large word BLOG with the mirror image reflected in water. Lots of smaller words 'BLOG' interconnected with arrows above.

I liked this poster but, upon seeing the lengths my colleagues were going to, became sure it was too simple. I couldn't see how I could add additional media such as audio or animation as the point of the poster was its simplicity and the room it allowed the viewer to make their own interpretation.

I remembered the TED talk by Amanda Palmer which we viewed a few weeks ago. The point we were supposed to get was about open access models but what most struck me was the power of story telling. The reason I find blogging helpful and one of the reasons I believe blogging is so popular is because of the power of stories. It therefore made sense to give my poster an element of story telling too.

With this in mind I created a narrative path of two people - one of whom blogged for reflection and the other who blogged for collaboration. I wanted to underline that both paths were both theoretical and actual uses and benefits of blogging, and that both augmented and enhanced learning.

Using PowerPoint I have added an audio track which are also on the slide and viewable to anyone not able to hear the audio.

This has been very 'out of the comfort zone' for me... but I guess that's the point! I also having to write an accessibility statement, an abstract and an essay detailing the progress of my project! Argh!

Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

The Return of the (Dreaded) TMA02

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Anna Greathead, Saturday, 25 May 2019, 18:57

I was actually at a National Trust tea room when my WhatsApp started to buzz with the news of the TMA02 results being out. This could have gone either way - I could reward myself with a lovely cream tea if I did well, or I could console myself with a lovely cream tea if I didn't do well!

I couldn't get my feedback on my mobile phone but I could log in and get my score..... and I did well! So much better than I was expected - a full 20% higher than I was braced for. Celebratory cream tea it was!

I'd found TMA02 hard work - I had a good idea but I found it hard to demonstrate a good theoretical grounding for it and had struggled a LOT with the word count. I understand that the OU don't want to make their tutors mark 10,000 word essays but sometimes the word limit is so restrictive that keeping within in is only possible at the cost of good examples, ideas and quotes.

I got home and immediately got my feedback. In light of the word count issue I was someone bemused to find many suggestions for extra things I should have discussed or points I could have developed further! Absolutely no comments to indicate which bits were superfluous! OU marking protocols are clearly devoid of irony!

But either way it's been good. I calculated that I now have 17.64% of the 40% I need to pass H817 and 35.28% of the 40% I need to pass the OCAS. That is not a bad place to be in when I have only completed 21% of the overall work and 42% of the OCAS marks available. 

Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

Cut and paste

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Anna Greathead, Wednesday, 8 May 2019, 19:31

Word processing is a technological enhancement to learning right?? It's certainly a technological enhancement to assignment writing. 

Writing an assignment in report form is a new skill for me and something I didn't have to do in H800. Post graduate study was challenging, even daunting, but I did feel confident that I knew how to write an essay. Writing a report is something I have not done before except for TMA01!

Today I actually reached the word count and have something I could submit. It wouldn't be my highest scoring assignment but I think it would comfortably pass. I won't submit it right now. I will spend a bit of time every day reading, re-reading, polishing, editing, reconsidering and rewriting but essentially I am on to the accessories rather than the outfit. 

I was struggling a lot over the bank holiday weekend because my report was so unbalanced. I worked out an approximate word count for each section based on the percentage each section would count towards the final mark and endeavored to keep the ratio approximately the same. One section which should have accounted for 20% was taking 30% of my word count and another which accounts for 30% of the mark was only using up 20% of the words. And then I realized than a few key points were simply in the wrong section. Cutting and pasting a few paragraphs between them rectified this main problem almost immediately. 

The final three sections are extremely context specific and I was struggling to find a way to include references to justify my position and suggestions. I queried this on the group WhatsApp then went to bed. Upon waking this morning it occurred to me that I could just google the section question and search within the OU library. I opened WhatsApp and discovered that my colleagues had suggested I do just that (and had kindly omitted the 'duh!' I so clearly deserved!)

Anyway - here's to a few days of reading the same 3000 words over and over in an attempt to ensure I neither repeat myself (repetition), omit key facts (hesitation), or go off subject (deviation)! If only I were playing 'Just a Minute' - the whole process would be a lot less time consuming!



Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

When the horizon gallops towards you: a reflection on the word count

Visible to anyone in the world

There are two types of people in the world:

1. Those like my son who see a word count as a distant horizon. Such people develop complex ways of adding words where none are needed. They may, when writing about Cecil the lion, say something like 'Cecil's brother (who is also a lion)….' just to add five words. The more dishonest among them may write a whole load of stuff at the bottom of the page and colour the text in white hoping that the tutor who marks the paper will trust the word count reported in the document statistics. (I don't think my son ever did the dishonest thing here but he certainly fell into the '1732 words left to write' end of the spectrum.)

2. People like me who view the word count in the rear view mirror and then have to navigate the complex process of reversing! Deleting carefully crafted sentences, truncating carefully selected quotes, shaving every connective, descriptive or emphatic word I've used. 

In TMA02 (in common with every assignment in my OU journey to be fair) I began in camp one. I sat at my laptop determined to do 500, or 1000 or even just an unambitious 200 words before I went for more coffee. And then, as a means of procrastination more than anything, would do one more search in the library with slightly altered terms.... and then another.... and then just one more.... and then I would have so many ideas, examples, quotes and arguments that I realized that whilst the word count was still distant I had become fueled up to such a degree that overshooting it was inevitable. 

So now the scope of my imaginary project has had to shrink massively. It's the only way I can properly fit it into the word count! I will be very VERY annoyed if my feedback comes back with a single comment about how I could have started with a wider vision or expanded further on how the project may expand! 

Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

TMA02 is back

Visible to anyone in the world

I have found it very hard to focus on H800 whilst in the 'waiting for a score' limbo. I am not sure why this is - maybe my university assignments were always due before a reading week or a break and I am accustomed to a few days off after the slog of completing then handing in an essay.

I did have a week off on holiday but even when I got back I found my visits to the OU site always featured a click on the Assessment button before I looked elsewhere.

Late last night the email came, and I got out of bed and logged in. I am happy. I moved up two whole grade bounds from TMA01 and the feedback from my tutor is very encouraging. One slight gripe - a few times he questioned why I didn't expand on points or justify statements - because of the word count! Every single time the word count stymied me!

Now I have a fortnight of other H800 activity to catch up with! And TMA03 to work towards and TMA04 to begin thinking about.... oh and the EMA too!

Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

TMA02.... a week later

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Anna Greathead, Saturday, 2 Jun 2018, 14:24

I submitted my TMA a few days early as I was going on holiday and wanted it off my desk!

I actually completed it a few days before I submitted it but was reluctant to actually hit the send button. I was also reluctant to read through the completed assignment another time as I was concerned I might notice it was absolute tosh! 

In the end the H800 WhatsApp group encouraged me to submit and forget and that it what I did! Then I went to Cornwall for a week with my family (17 of us aged between 4 and 76) in the sunshine by the sea. It was glorious. 

As before I cannot judge how the TMA was! I had to rethink parts of it quite radically as I re-read and re-understood the question. In the end this was what I did:

Part 1a - a critical view of the net-generation

Are young people today really qualitatively different because they grew up with the internet? Not really

Part 1b - reading Price et al

Does the convenience of distance learning mean the potential loss of experience is worth it? All depends!

Part 1c - blogs and blogging

Reflect on your learning people! It's really cathartic and useful! 

Part 2 - redesign an activity

Everyone should blog! Rename it learning journal and give people some examples of how they could use the tool.

Part 3 - new research

Do some side by side comparisons of learning activities and their distance learning equivalents - do both types of exercise with the same group of students for control purposes. 

Hmmmm...... not sure why it took 4000 words given my super-succinct summary!

Here's a holiday picture! 

Family pic

Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

A rethink

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Anna Greathead, Saturday, 2 Jun 2018, 14:12

I've spent hours on the TMA over the last week and particularly over the weekend. 

Unfortunately I have had to dump one of my sections which was more or less developed. I realized - too late - that it simply doesn't answer the question being asked and cannot be realistically manipulated to do so. So no more PowerPoint on the Global Digital Divide. sad

I tried to recall what had engaged me in block 2 by re-reading my blog and re-visited the Price paper about online vs face to face learning. I did some searches in the library and managed to put together a whole 1000 word section in an afternoon, complete with lots of good references and quotes and I am happy with it. 

I am now looking for another 'third' - shall I do the same as I had planned (I haven't done anything on it at all) or look for something new and complementary to the sections I already have (more of less) completed. 

I have 'redesigned' blogging within H800 but the learner experience and methods section is still pretty rambley and I would definitely dump what I have already done if a fabulous alternative idea arose. 

Arrrrghhhh. 

Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

TMA02 - the panic settles in!

Visible to anyone in the world

I want to finish TMA02 by Friday 25th May so I can go on holiday with my family and have a week off. 

This means I now have 8 days to complete the assignment. 8 days to organize my 1000s of words of disorganized notes and quotes into coherent and logical discussion points! 

Here's my plan:

1. The Global Digital Divide - a PowerPoint Presentation

I want to present how the internet growth in Africa (specifically - it's true elsewhere too) is much more driven by smartphones operating on 3G and 4G than by more familiar (to us in the developed world) laptop and broadband set ups. Many OERs have been developed and made available which should help teachers and learners in Africa but it depends on what those OERs are. If they're videos - especially HD videos - then the data munching will make viewing them expensive and potentially time consuming and jumpy! Plus - if they're watching it on a smartphone screen the picture will be so small that only one or two other people can even share the experience. 

I am going to suggest that the growth of smartphones should impact how teachers choose to teach and how learners can best learn - and especially how the developers of OERs should proceed! 

2. The Net Generation - 1000 words

It seems so intuitive that growing up with the internet will make you qualitatively different that actually suggesting students are still, in the essentials, much as they've always been sounds blasphemous! My argument here is not that student have changed due to the internet but that education has not changed for decades. It is not fit for purpose now - with all the available technology and resources - but it wasn't really fit for purpose before then either. The technology has presented new challenges and new solutions but using technology for the sake of it without a well grounded pedagogy is a fruitless as refusing to use technology because 'chalk and talk' worked very well for hundreds of years! 

I want to suggest that practitioners must be strategic in how they employ technology and learners still need to put the brain work and metaphorical elbow grease in! 

3. Blogs and blogging - 100 words

Reflective learning fits neatly into the social constructivist theory of learning and learning journals and learning diaries have supportive literature going back decades. The blog is a new, and I would argue, improved version of this. Firstly it's much harder to lose and much easier to edit. Secondly it can (if the writer wishes) engage other students and tutors in debate and conversation. Thirdly it provides a record of a learning journey which adds to the resources for future learners. 

Practitioners who employ this reflective tool are providing scaffolding which will, all being well, result in learners becoming self-directed, independent and not teacher dependent. Learners writing a blog may find it extremely useful for organizing thoughts, having a moan, reflecting on a side tangent and planning a TMA!

4. How would I redesign blogging in H800 

I would incorporate it with the forums. Lots of people write long reflections in the forums (fora?) and I am sure they also have long reflections about less specific questions and about the tangents and active mind inevitably travels. It is a shame if these thought processes and reflections are lost to the rest of us because they don't neatly fit into a forum question. As a learner I would benefit greatly from this - and for more interaction with my own blog posts. 

Making reflection a mandatory activity is fraught with difficulty! I'm going to have to think about it!

5. Which aspects of ‘learner experience’ do you think should be investigated – either on H800 or in your own context – and which methods would you use to do so?

I haven't got here yet! I guess I ought to look to my own context as a professional rather than as a learner given that my last activity was learner based. Maybe I could assess how much doing endless practice MCQ questions benefits a learner over more visual, interactive or 'deep learning' methods. 

Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

The narrowing of the digital divide

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Anna Greathead, Tuesday, 15 May 2018, 23:00

One of the activities I plan to write about in my TMA is the Global Digital Divide. When doing this activity a few weeks ago I looked at the region (ha!) of Africa (a pretty big region!) and speculated that the provision of OERs by western universities would be unlikely to be helpful to most people in Africa as internet connectivity was both rare, poor and expensive. I looked up infographics to show how the undersea cabling simply didn't reach Africa as strongly as it reached North America and Europe.

https://www.submarinecablemap.com/#/

I assumed that the vastness, and relatively emptiness, of the African continent meant that stretching the infrastructure from the coast inland simply hadn't been done and therefore, the videos, quizzes, resources and lectures being provided 'for free' would not actually contribute to the improvement of the learning environment for Africans but rather sit there uselessly - an unusable but expensive white elephant. 

However - this was based on the information linked to by H800 - mostly at least 5 years old. 

I've now done some much more up to date research (aided by the hive mind that is Facebook and specifically three computer-y friends who exploded with geekiness upon being asked for advice and information!) and see that the global digital divide is narrowing - pretty much before our eyes in a visible way. 

This website is full of very up to date information about the whole world and if, how and why it connects to the internet. 153 pages of fascinating data. Yet not one which expressly refers to learning or education. Lots about social media, banking, commerce... but no learning.

I also was linked to this initiative by Facebook which also fails to explicitly refer to education and learning except for two video diaries of learners - one school boy and one adult learner. It addresses connectivity and some of the technical efforts they are making to address the shrinking inequality. 

Other projects were linked to which had the aim of both strengthening the internet connection in Africa, and utilizing it for the common good in various ways - though education was, once more, notable in its absence. 

So it's back to the drawing board! I think that 10 years ago my planned plea for OERs to be made in text form, avoiding bandwidth munching pictures and videos, would have been right on the money! However - now I think I will have to rethink. Maybe the same problems which always faces schools in Africa will be the key - simply having buildings, teachers, uniforms and equipment will continue to be the challenge. The equipment may be more technological, and the teachers may need more training and the buildings may need internet connectivity.... yeah - there's still 1000 words in that!

 


Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

The advantages of blogging in learning

Visible to anyone in the world

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. 

Permalink
Share post
Picture of Anna Greathead

TMA 2.... tentative makeshift attention

Visible to anyone in the world

I want to get TMA2 in early as I am going on a long anticipated family holiday for the week and want it off my desk and out of my head! So I am starting to think about it. 

Tentatively my 3 activities for the 1000 word sections are to be:

1. Wikipedia / Stacks (I must choose one as a primary but can refer to the other) 

OR 

Blogs and Blogging (Both are from week 10 so I can't do both)

2. Global digital divide - referring to OERs. I'd like to expand my research into internet connectivity and access in Africa (particularly sub-Saharan Africa) and consider how OERs could genuinely be developed to be helpful rather than another adjunctive service for developed world learners. (Week 11)

I think I may take up the chance to do this section as a PowerPoint. I think it lends itself nicely to a few infographics and images. I had a quick search for some and there are lots - though many of them are quite old so I must be careful.

3. Something from the future! 

So far nothing in Week 12 has grabbed me but that might change after the tutorial as last time I got quite fired up about Sfard and her metaphors for learning! 


Permalink
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 61670