h800

Vibrancy and energy are born of risk

 

Fig. 1. In Dracula mode

I was up at 3.30am and I’m not even presenting. It brings out the vampire in me.

I use these early hours to write – pulling together ideas before they blow away in the wind of daily life in a household where the number of teenagers has suddenly doubled. We have the older teenager couple, and the young teenager couple … and the parents of two of this lot looking at each other and thinking ‘we’re teenagers too’.

Three hours of short presentations and without exception each has an impact and contribution to my thinking an practice.

This despite the presence of a lorry full of blokes with pneumatic drills who attacked the house an hour ago – cavity wall insulation.

I am sitting here with industrial strength headphones – for a ‘test to destruction’ I’d say that these Klipsch headphones are doing their job admirably. I ‘suffer’ from having acute hearing … I do hear the pins drop a mile away. I need headphones like this whenever I leave the house otherwise travelling is a nightmare.

Is this normal?

The great value of a session like this is to listen to your fellow students – a voice, more than a face, evokes character and conviction. Not that I ever doubted it but everyone is clearly smart, focused and keen to ‘play the game’ when it comes to using online tools.

There isn’t enough of it.

The OU has a habit of designing the life and risk out of a module. Bring it back. Vibrancy and energy are born of risk.

Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being.

Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)

H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes

H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change

H808: The e-learning professional

This completes the Masters Degree. I graduate on Saturday 27th April 2013

Currently (March 2013) I am taking H809 as a bridge towards doctoral research or professional consultancy. Complete in June 2013.

H809 Practice-based research in educational technology

I joined the #H817open MOOC for one component of this module. I will register for 2014

H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.

I am applying to undertake doctoral research in education – using learning technologies.
 
H809 will help prepare for applications starting in January 2014 for an October 2014 start. Most are now a 4 year programme, with a Masters in research to begin. WebSciences at University of Southampton is an interesting option – I attended an Open Day in January.
Too many active interests was a stated issue on childhood school reports. Nothing’s changed.
 
I am looking at an MA in History with the University of Birmingham which would give me the opportunity study the First World War. (I have written extensively about this through my late grandfather’s memoire ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchandeale’)
I attended the School of Communication Arts, London. A full-time programme in copywriting, art direction and design and have worked in the ‘creative’ and ‘communications’ industries all of my career.
And ‘EAVE’ (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs)
My first degree is in Geography.
My dissertation was on demographics. I love maps. Perhaps I should try to match maps, e-learning and the First World War. Animated it all and add some interviews and n ‘drama reconstruction’.
See what happens when you let something fester and wake up in the middle of the night.
 
Neuroscience and long term memory are fascinating too.
I need my life over. I need to split into three and start again. I need a coffee and a long walk on the South Downs. (I need to go back to bed)
And then there’s Fine Art.
 
And Creative Writing. And cooking. And the garden. There’s teaching, and moderating … and blogging. There’s movies. And sailing and swimming coaching. There’s family and friend … ah. Friend? I knew there was something missing in all of the above.
Scrap the lot and have a belated 50th birthday to celebrate 20 years of marriage, parenthood and the madness of being. Then sign up to crew in the Round the World Yacht Race.
There’s a reason why I call this blog ‘mind bursts’.

Here in Lewes we shut the town centre down for a march as often as we can.

It all stems from 5th November. We had only been here a couple of months and we were enrolled in a Bonfire Society. That was 13 years ago.

The town also has a Moving on parade for all primary schools in the district, not just the town, but from outlying villages. The town centre is closed to traffic and kids, dressed up, carrying banners and whatnot on a theme, march through town and end it with a party in the Paddock – a large field, formerly part of the earthworks around the 11th century Lewes Castle.

It helps to make an occasion of something when we move on. We’re rather good at it:

  • Christenings
  • Marriage
  • Death
  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries
  • Graduation

I’m down for Brighton or will try to enroll in Versailles for my graduation. I skipped my first nearly three decades ago. I just didn’t feel like moving on. I hadn’t felt I’d had an education to justify the fuss. My fault, not theirs. I put in the hours and came out with an OK degree but that isn’t why I’ll remember my undergraduate years.

I should mark moving on, and away from this blog. It logs, day by day, and in the background countless pages of hidden notes. It has carried me through the Masters in Open & Distance Education.

H809, my bonus track, will mark the end.

For this reason I am migrating most of the content and the journey it records to an external blog.

My Mind Bursts

From time to time I’ll post a note at the bottom of the page to say this is where it’ll be from June.

My moving on.

By May, I’ll also know if the next few years have been set up. We’ll see. I may even be back at the OU in some capacity. I rather

 

Metaphors in learning

Anna Sfard – Two Metaphors

Acquisition metaphor vs participation metaphor
All our concepts and beliefs have their roots in a limited number of fundamental ideas that cross disciplinary boundaries and carried from one domain to another by the language that we use.

Conclusions
Essential live with both – each has something to offer the other can’t provide.

My thoughts
•    How Sfard defines the acquisition and participation metaphors

Acquisition metaphor (AM)

•    ‘the act of gaining knowledge – Collins English dictionary – human learning is seen as an acquisition of something.
•    Since Piaget and Vygotski – growth of knowledge in process of learning has been analyzed in terms of concept development.
•    Concepts – basic understanding of knowledge that can be accumulated gradually refined and combined to form even richer cognitive structures.
•    Can talk about learner as a person who constructs meaning.
•    Knowledge acquisition and concept development – human mind – container to be filled with certain materials – learner becomes owner of these materials.
•    Gaining ownership over some kind of self – sustained entity.
•    There are many types of entities that may be acquired in the process of learning – key words generated by acquisition metaphor , knowledge and concept.
•    Making entities your own – reception and acquisition
•    The idea of learning as gaining possession over some commodity has persisted in a wide spectrum of frameworks.
•    Differing methods concept development
o    Passive reception of knowledge
o    Actively constructed by the learner
o    Development of concepts – acquisition metaphor

Participation Metaphor

•    The terms that imply the existence of some permanent entities have been replaced by the noun ‘knowing’, which indicates ‘action’ – the talk about ‘states’ has been replaced by attention to activities.
•    Permanence of having gives way to constant flux of ‘doing’.
•    While the concept of acquisition implies that there is a clear end point to the process of learning the new terminology leaves no room for halting signals.
•    To put it differently – learning a subject is how conceived of as a process of becoming a member of a certain community.
•    Ability to communicate in language of that community, and act according to its particular norms.

•    How she distinguishes between them

o    PM – learning as part of a greater whole
o    PM – bonds between individual and others
o    AM – individual mind
o    AM – inward movement of the object known as knowledge

•    The significance of Table 1 and the difference between questions of what learning is versus how learning happens.

It depends upon the type of learning, the table shows that to learn form the PM point of view there needs to be some external contact – with participation, and discussion, with the AM view there is the idea that learning something individually and just taking knowledge in allows for acquisition of that learning.

Note that Sfard sees social theories of learning drawing on both acquisitive as well as participatory models of learning

•    When you’ve read through the extract, use the AM and PM metaphors to reflect on the way you use (or have used in the past) technologies for learning in a formal context in comparison with an informal one. Select two contrasting examples from these learning experiences and simply note down what you learned and how you learned it.

•    Formal learning – mandatory e-learning – I have used an online learning environment to access an elearning course, I am participating in this to achieve cpd and so have followed the course to gain the certificate.
•    Informal – learning a new authoring tool, e.g. storyline – I am learning to use storyline, I have been to the learning technologies exhibition and see it demonstrated and then have looked at  book on the tool and now I am having a go and so learning to use the tool by doing.

•    Now look at the words you used in your responses. Notice whether you’ve talked about:
o    knowing more – didn’t mention knowing more just learning more
o    gaining something – I talked about gaining a certificate
o    being able to do something – yes I talked about learning to use storyline by doing
o    participating in new activities or a new group – talked about participating in the elearning
o    having new ideas or new possibilities for yourself – feeling differently about something. – didn’t talk about this as yet, perhaps this will come once I am more proficient at the tool.

Doubtless you used several of these phrasings, so your learning might have been quite varied or rich in significance.

•    Do all these instances refer to learning in terms of either acquisition or participation or a combination of both?
I think they were a mixture of both as even working on my own I am acquiring knowledge and participating.

•    Did you find instances that do not seem to fit exactly with either acquisition or participation?
No I think they fit in with either.

•    Is your learning process more oriented to you as an individual or to you within a social context?
At present more as an individual, with the examples I used, though this course will change that as I am participating in the learning on line and individually.

Things I wished I’d known when I started the MAODE three years ago (I’ve finished, I’m doing H809 as CPD – already!)

A thorough introduction to the platform and tools as a common 16 hours to all modules.

An afternoon, face-to-face tutorial? Through OU Students regionally if not with your tutor. Perhaps through Alumni support groups in Google Hang outs or some such?

This may sound like anathema to the online, distance learning purists, but I wonder if the OU will have to ‘turn itself inside out’ and have undergrads on campus – not just postgrad doctoral students. As ‘traditional’ universities offer everything the OU and a handful of other distance learning specialists around the world used to have as ‘unique selling points’ they will be able to offer it all: e-learning support for resident students, e-learning for distance learners and blended learning for everyone in between.

Turn the Michael Young building into the OU’s first Hall of residence.

If I go into academia I will want to teach even if my ‘job’ is research. I can think of no better way, intellectually, to master (literally) my art and subject than by supporting others. Knowing some star ‘educators’ in other institutions I wonder if tutors would gain also from greater contact. The weekly tutorial (at a price) is feasible through Google Hangouts.

I digress:

H809, understandably is a module to take once you have several modules under your belt, however, H809 light, say these first couple of weeks, might be an invaluable, even open and free ‘stand alone’. I would have scrutinised more closely, fewer papers had I known what I know now.

These first few weeks has been applied learning – using the OU Library not simply as an exercise. Invaluable.

(p.s. cats were fighting in the street. I got up to survey the aftermath and couldn’t get back to sleep. Why not catch up on H809 as a few postings from fellow students suggests I am getting a tad behind this week).

Don’t get behind. The ‘tick boxes’ on the VLE ‘ladder’ are a blunt instrument. Every exercise deserves a ‘tick box’ too, though I understand why the OU wouldn’t do this – it starts to smack of primary school. It really is the case (like exercise), that a a couple of hours every day is better than trying to do it all at the weekend, or worse, abandoning it for a week/10 days because catching up is a monster. If this happens seriously think about abandoning that week – keep up with everyone else first as learning with them is better than learning alone.

Isolation is a state of mind, or a behavioral issue. The sooner you learn to tip the contents of your mind out on your lap the better. Learning together is a joy.

Make time to get your head into gear in the first few weeks. If you have to give it more time than the course notes suggest put in the extra hours so that you ‘get it’ otherwise you will struggle all the way through. You can’t do much about is as an EMA approaches if you’re still asking ‘but ?’ about weeks 1-3.

There is no need to print anything off! Get an iPad and a Kindle. Get your digital literacy skills up to speed ASAP.

Write it all down. The default button in this OU Blog is private. Use it as a learning journal, portfolio, digital notebook, aide memoire.

Take the initiative. Meet online in week one. Buddy up, agree a time. Nothing beats meeting your fellow travellers. Google Hangouts work. The nuttiest one I remember was a ‘Pyjamma party’ – all above board and ‘propper’ but given the time differences some were in bed and woke up for it. I guess it requires the ‘hyper gregarious’ character in the group to do this.

Don’t get distracted:

Most don’t blog at all … it should fit in to the regular programme.

Contribute to student forums always, even use RSS feeds but get used to putting the next activity first otherwise you can expend too much of the week’s allocated hours discussing the first couple of activities. Enough is enough. Get the other activities out of the way then come back.

The Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE).

Fig. 1. The Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE).

Expressed as a Wordle. A personal collection of key influencers based on those tagged in this blog. Includes my own reading and indulgences.

On Friday, at midday, My OU student blog reached a significant milestone.

I’ve been at it for 33 months. I’ve blogged the best part of FIVE modules now – most of which required or invited some use of the blog platform (or another). I required little encouragement – I used to keep a diary and have found since 1999 that in their digital form they are an extraordinarily versatile way to gather, consider, share and develop ideas.

The investment in time, on average, an hour a day in addition to – though sometimes instead of coursework over 1000+ days.

(This excludes 8 months I spent on the Masters in Open and Distance Learning in 2001)

To mark this event, and as I need to go through this online diary, this e-journal, this ‘web-log’ (as they were also once momentarily called) ahead of some exciting meetings coming up next week I thought a simple task might be to click through the tags to identify who have been the key influencers in my reading and thinking over the last two and a half years.

Fig.2. Another way of looking at it.

Beetham, Conole and Weller are key MAODE authors from the Open University. John Seely Brown is a vital undercurrent, Engestrom one of several enthusiasms like Vygostky. While Gagne, second hand hardback, needs to be on your desk for frequent reference.

What I thought would take an hour has taken nearly 40 hours.

Clicking on a tag opens a corner of my head, the notes take me back to that day, that week, that assignment or task. It also takes me back to the discussions, resources and papers. And when I find an error the proof-reader in me has to fix. Aptly, as we approach November 5th, and living in Lewes where there are marches and fireworks from late October for a couple of weeks peaking of course all evening on the 5th, my head feels as if someone has accidentally set light to a box of assorted fireworks.

Just as well. Meetings these days are like a viva voce with eager ears and probing questions – they want the content of my mind and whatever else I bring to the subject after thirty years in corporate training and communications.

Fig. 3. Wordle allows you to say how many words you want to include in the mix.

To create weight I had to repeat the names I consider most important twice, three or four times in the list. I also removed first names as Wordle would have scattered these into the mix independently like peppercorns in a pan of vegetable stock.

The Task

    • List all authors who have been part of my learning and thinking over the last couple of years.
  • Include authors that my antennae have picked up that are relevant to my interest in learning, design, the moving image and the english language.
  • Visualise this and draw some conclusions

Fig.4. This even makes three of the key protagonists look like an advertising agency Gagne, Beetham and Conole.

The Outcome

I can never finish. Take this morning. I stumble upon my notes on three case studies on the use of e-portfolios from H807 which I covered from February 2010-September 2010. To begin with I feel compelled to correct the referencing in order to understand the value, pertinence and good manners (let alone the legal duty) to cite things correctly. (Even though this post was locked – a ‘private’ dump of grabs and my thoughts).

Then I add an image or two.

These days I feel a post requires a visual experssion of its contents to open and benefits from whatever other diagrams, charts or images you can conjure from your mind or a Google Search – ‘the word’ + images creative commons – is how I play it.

Fig. 5. From David Oglivy’s book ‘Ogilvy on advertising‘ – a simple suggestion – a striking image, a pertinent headline and always caption the picture. Then write your body copy.

A background in advertising has something to do with this and the influence of David Ogilvy.

I spend over two hours on the first of three case studies in just one single post. At the time I rubbished e-portfolios. The notes and references are there. Tapped back in I can now make something of it. A second time round the terms, the ideas – even some of the authors are familiar. It makes for an easier and relevant read. What is more, it is current and pertinent. A blog can be a portfolio – indeed this is what I’d recommend.

From time to time I will have to emerge from this tramp through the jungle of my MAODE mind.

Not least to work, to sleep, to cook and play.

Fig. 6. In a word

USEFUL LINKS

Wordle

Date duration calculator

REFERENCE

Gagne, R.N. (1965) Conditions of Learning Holt, Rinehart and Winston

Learning vocariously and gregariously online – does it work? Why shouldn’t it?

From My Mind Bursts

The Open University constanly ameliorates its vital student and tutor forums – I even remember them as a bulletin board called ListServ in 2001. Several kinds of space are offered now: the closed tutor group forum, typically the tutor and his 12 or so students; a general or cafe forum for the entire cohort to mix and related to these, but providing very different affordances, this space – the OU blog that is less than an individualised blog space, but more than a bulletin board – it is an odd hybrid that is quite restricted, but all the better for that – it is easier to get your head around and because every new post is stacked one on top of the other you are guaranteed a readership.

I can offer several examples of when things work and when they do not. A recent change in layout of the VLE has sidelined all but your own tutor group so the other offerings are moribund – these worked best when we had a ‘big name’ from the OU’s Institute of Educational Technology chairing and seeding discussions – I think it was during H800 a year ago. Another time when five or six of us just like to catch-up and share ideas often – triggered by the absence of our tutor for a few weeks and one of the group showing how we could take it in turns to post the week’s activities and moderate. Serendipity. I’ve been in a group where 75% of the group took no part at all …

Can lengthy posts be an issue? You don’t have to read them whereas if that person were talking you’d have to hesr them out. Lengthy posts were moderated, though not very well – an answer for a period was to write at length and provide a link to your OU Blog but this quickly fragmented as some people abandonded their OU blog for WordPress or Blogger. A fix has been to provide a prominent collapse ‘-’ button and ‘+’ expand.

Like all new things it takes a few stabs at it to understand the ‘community rules’ and from personal experience recognise that as a learning activity this is effective – an early opportunity to apply what you pick up and for it to be useful would be an incentive to keep coming back? Or simply feeling part of something? Being supportive and supported too?

Some online tutor sessions work, some do not. Some social platforms work, others do not. Why?

Fig. 1. Robert Gagne – a must have for anyone interested in learning

Gagne (1970 pp29-30) suggests that instruction in an organized group discussion develops the use and generalization of knowledge – or knowledge transfer. Oxbridge tutors contend that the ‘Oxbridge Tutorial’ – a weekly, structured micro-meeting of two or three people, achieves this. One student reads out a short essay that the tutor and students discuss.

‘When properly led’, Gagne continues, ‘such discussions, where the knowledge itself has been initially mastered’, not only stimulates the production of new extensions of knowledge by students but also provides a convenient means of critical evaluation and discrimination of these ideas. Gagne (ibid).

Forty years on from when Gagne wrote this there are what are meant to be or hoped to be learning contexts where this kind of knowledge transfer through group discussion can still work – or may fail to work – either because the degree of subject mastery between students is too broad or there are too many students, or the wrong mix of students.

For example, in the Open University’s Masters of Open and Distance Education (MAODE) between 12 and 16 postgraduate students meet online in a series of structured online tutor forums – some of these work, some do not. As these meetings are largely not compulsory and as they are asynchronous and online, it is rare to have people in them together – the discussions are threaded. What is more, in any tutor group there will typically be a mixture of students who are on their first, their second, third, fourth or even fifth module of the Master’s – some of whom, given the parameters offered by flexible and distance learning, may have spread these modules over five years. Then there is the task and how it is set, whether the participants are meant to work alone or collaboratively – the simplest and most frequent model online is an expectation to read resources and share notes and thoughts. However, personal experience over five such modules suggests that the committed engagement of say six people, working collaboratively on a clear set of tasks and activities with a time limit and climactic conclusion of delivering a joint project, works best.

Too many of these online tutorials drift, or fizzle out: too few posts, posts that are two long, fragmented posts linking to pages elsewhere, the indifference of participants, the lack of, or nature of the tutor involvement, excessive and misplaced social chat, or discussing subjects that are off topic … It depends very much on the mix, inclinations, availability and level of ‘knowledge mastery’ as to how such online tutorials work out. As well as the eclectic combination of students the role, availability, online and other teaching skills, even the personality of the tutor and of course THEIR knowledge experience and mastery matters.

Just reflect on how such workshops or seminars may work or fail face–to–face – the hunger for knowledge on the topic under discussion, the mix of personalities and the degree to which their experience or level of understanding is the same, at slight or considerable variance, let alone any differences of culture, background, gender or in a business setting – position and the department they have come from.

Ideally the workshop convener, or what the French call an ‘animateur’ should, assemble or construct such groups with great care, like a director casting actors to perform a piece of improvisation. Different contexts offer different opportunities. As a graduate trainee in an advertising agency six of us were repeatedly assembled, the various departmental specialists and directors playing roles at specific times – bit players in these scenarios. On reflection, stage management by a team in the HR department had been vital. It is therefore ‘stage management’ that I consider of significant importance when trying to construct such collective learning experiences online in a corporate setting.

CONCLUSION

Know your players, cast with care, give direction, record what goes on and step in to nudge, re–kindle, stop or start conversations or activities.

REFERENCE

Gagne, R (1970) The Conditions of Learning

ADDITIONAL LINKS

Robert Gagne Wikispaces

Theories of Learning

Cognitive Design Principles

The Nine Events – from Kevin the Librarian

Various Models of learning – Illustrated