From time to time I am faced with finding the most obscure of articles

From First World War

Fig.1 Motorbike Ambulance of the First World War

I came across something about the Ambulance Service using motorbikes during the First World War. I then saw a photograph of a motorbike with a sidecar with a set of platforms that would carry two stretchers. The arguments for the use of a motorcycle are made: lighter, quicker, tighter turning circle, use less fuel …

A article is cited. The British Medical Journal, January 1915. A few minutes later via the Open University Online Library I locate and download the article.

It is the speed at which quality research can be fulfilled that thrills me. This article is satisfying in its own right, but glancing at the dozen or more articles on medical practices and lessons from the Front Line are remarkable. We are constantly saved from the detail of that conflict, the stories and issues regurgitated and revisited as historians read what previous historians said without going back to the original source.

This is how a new generation can come up with a fresh perspective on the First World War – instead of a handful of specialist academics burrowing in the paper archives now thousands, even tens of thousands can drill right down to the most pertinent, untampered with content.

From First World War

Amazed.

I’ve written a novel in a month ..

From E-Learning V

Fig.1 A flippant title for the first draft of a novel set in the First World War

The power of social learning? I’d a two hour an online meet up on Tuesday – and topped 1,200 words.

On Sunday as eight writers met in a café in Brighton to write.  This ‘Write a novel in a month’ has over 200,000 participants – novels are written at these events and published. We’ll have to see what I can do.

There’ll be a dedication to The OU should it ever comes out. As there is a fabulously vibrant Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) they are running on FutureLearn “Start Writing Fiction’ that has put the emphasis on character – another month to run on this. It is free. The OU BA in Creative Writing runs for several years. It works. There are plenty of published authors.

I’ve written on about blogging and its worth for over 14 years.

Regularly kindly people have suggested I stop blogging and put my energy into writing fiction. Courtesy of FutureLearn ‘Start Writing Fiction’ (From The OU) and the Write a Novel in A Month think for November I have duly written close to 60,000 words. This first draft, I understand, could take two or three months to edit – that will be the next step.

Gladly my early morning hour or two has been spent on this, rather than stacking up things to blog about. Instead I have fretted about scenes, characters and plots. The FutureLearn MOOC became apt and timely ‘applied’ learning as I’d had to write 1,600 words a day – today I topped 4,500.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 2. Stacking up the numbers

More than any MOOC I’ve ever done I feel certain that this will convert some for doing a freebie to becoming students. It’ll be interesting to see what the take up it. I know the percentages from OpenLearn are very modest 0.7% being a good figure.

I’ll reflect on what this means in due course.

Learning promoted like the Lotto? With badges, prizes, write-ins, writing wars … and more prizes, and tips and incentives.

What I think it means for e-learning and what personally I have picked up. I shouldn’t fret about TMAs anymore. You do a marathon and a short run ought to feel like something I can do in my stride. I always wished I could write first drafts under exam conditions then edit.

From E-Learning V

Delightfully explained here. 

Offered as an Open Education Resource (OER) easily shared through Twitter and Facebook. Come on, let’s speak French like the French  and not Ted Heath :)

And some wonderfully expressed and illustrated that we’ve made it into a party game at home. My wife is word-perfect having gone to a French-speaking school for a year age 13 in Canada. She always picks me up on the ‘r’ – maybe I can finally crack this.

Not easy.

I had elocution lessons as a boy age 7 as I couldn’t manage my ‘Rs’ in English, let alone the greatest challenge.

Brilliant. Wonderfully put and comprehensive.

Pilates for the British tongue. I still can’t quite manage ‘Bruno’ though – something about the mouth position for the ‘B’ to the ‘R’ – currently the equivalent of trying to do a standing backflip.

Thank you. L120 Team smile

P.S. Also the most charming way to learn how to say ‘tongue’ with a French accent smile

The value of using a 3D timeline in writing

Fig.1 Word and Tiki-Toki

Constructing a length piece of writing – over 50,000 words and need to stick to the chronology of events, at least in the first draft, I have found using the timeline creation tool Tiki-Toki invaluable. You can create one of these for FREE.

Over the last few months I’ve been adding ‘episodes’ to a timeline that stretches between 1914 and 1919. You get various views, including the traditional timeline of events stretched along an unfurling panorama. However, if you want to work with two screen side by side the 3D view allows you to scroll back and forth through the timeline within the modest confines of its window.

FutureLearn MOOCs – learning of the future has just arrived

I’ve done enough of the FutureLearn MOOCs to be certain of one thing: those produced by The OU are incredible.

Somehow, not surprising really, they know how to put on a show. Just the right amount of content, the right number and type of activities, the right amount of moderation and support.

Over the last few years I’ve see a quest for a format that can be a panacea for challenges to learning. Setting aside the obvious need for a person to have the kit, the line and therefore the budget to use online learning … and probably a space, or context where they can do so undisturbed for regular parts of the day, there have been various efforts over the last decade to make ‘social learning’ or ‘connected and collaborative’ learning work.

FutureLearn is now achieving this. 

I’ve done, or tried to do some FutureLearn MOOCs that are either make false promises and are rather hollow in content, failing to exploit the value of the platform, and others that are so intense that I feel you need to be a postgraduate with a niche interest. In both these cases I could simply say that very different target audiences were addressed: school leavers and those applying to university in some instances, those seeking to go on to PhD research at the other. In which case, no wonder I struggle to relate to either one.

The pleasures of the FutureLearn MOOC: World War 1 Trauma and Memory

Should I return, each time I’ll be happier to stand back and let others find their way. I will have read more, seen more, thought more and written more. If I can help nudge others towards finding their own ‘truth’ I will have done something useful.

Inevitably over the next five years many of us will become imbued with a unique sensibility on the subject. I think my perceptions shift on walks, or in the middle of the night.

TV is a mixed bag, and I’m reluctant to recommend much of it, however I am currently watching ad watching again the brilliantly smart, moving, visualised, engaging ‘War of Word’ Soldier Poets of the Somme which is far broader than the title may suggest – this goes well beyond the obvious to paint a vivid sense of how impressions of violent conflict alter and sicken.

Several of these poets are now forgotten, but celebrated here, as we come to understand how they transitioned from glorification and patriotism on joining up to the ghastly reality. War of Words: Soldier-Poets of the Somme must have been shown on BBC2 in the last week or so – available for a month I think. Very worth while. Expertly done. A variety of approaches. Never dull. Often surprising and some stunning sequences of animations to support readings of short extracts from the poems. And it even tells the story of British Military advances during the period running up to, through and after the Battle of the Somme.

When a MOOC has buzz the learning is social, collaborative, sticky and connected

Fig.1 What makes for a busy restaurant?

It’s the difference between a busy restaurant and an empty one; a party you never want to leave because of the buzz and one that you wish you’d never gone to the trouble of turning up for.

This is because ‘social, collaborative and connected’ learning isn’t properly factored into the design of all online courses – at least not until the last couple of years.

I’m sure the techniques and platforms used at FutureLearn will find there way over here – but not, I believe until the entire system on which the OU learning operates I believe. I think there is an inherent weakness in Drupal that will never permit the kind of interactivity that is no possible on other platforms.

Fixing this will be like unknitting the Bayeux tapestry and re-stitching it in silk without anyone noticing. Now there’s an IT challenge.