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An introduction to E-Learning

I started my first online degree with the Open University in March 2001. It was one of the first of its kind, the Masters in Distance Learning from the Open University in 2001. A box arrived with books and DVDs, otherwise everything was online. The ‘ChatBoard’ was pretty crude. For me it was a false start, with Brighton work going pear-shaped in September 2001. I should have finished that first module, but gave up. Had someone at the OU ‘reached out’ I would have pressed on. I picked it up again in 2010. I completed my MA in Open and Distance Education in 2013. Started at that time this blog is fast approaching 5 million views.

I have since completed a further MA (albeit entirely face to face lecture and library based) and between FutureLearn, Coursera and OpenLearn a further 27 modules on one subject or another. I’m a mentor on Coursera’s ‘Learning How to Learn’.

I recommend online courses that have tutor or mentor, or at least student interaction. The human element, at least for me, is a vital component for completion. 10 years ago I recall doing a Google Meet ‘pyjama party’ with fellow students in Australia, Japan, Dubai, Germany and England. Not as dodgy as it sounds! But by implication an informal use of the software.

Not all the online courses I have done have worked out. For the third or fifth time I quit a course on French (a BA with the Open University). All I still have for French is a C grade GCSE. Speaking of which I totally recommend Lingvist as the go-to language learning App (I have tried and reviewed all of them). I have gone from a terrible 737 words vocab to over 2500 words in the last 18 months. I’m still 1,200 short of my wife who is bilingual (taught in a French in Canada for a while), worked in France, still works in French …

Also thinking about languages, perfect in a world of social distancing, is Tandem. This fixes you up with someone like a dating App. (Not that I have any need for or experience of one of those).

Where student interaction is slight we’ve always started our online groups on LinkedIn. The group I set up 10 years ago for swimming teachers and coaches has 1,600 members and is still active. Most endure the length of the module.

Take a look at these online courses, join up with a buddy (you are more likely to complete). Most are free, though the best, and the business orientated ones may cost between £35 and £300. A degree module is now something like £2,000. 

30 hours a week I am supporting colleagues and students at Greater Brighton MET. Google Suite for Education is our go to platform. Google Meets are frequent with Google Chat live while I’m at my desk. Last night friends did a 8 or 9 person quiz on Zoom. I promise to wake up my contributions to ‘scenario-based learning’. 

I’m keen to get an art class going. I took a set of 360 degree photos in the lovely barn studio at Charleston a few months ago – with the model’s permission to post online. It was a life class so the nudity might result in the thing being barred. I may give this a go … though any drawing from a flat surface my late mother, an art teacher, would have been against. 

Finally, on reflection, exactly 45 years ago I broke my leg badly skiing. A 13 year old between schools I ended up at home for the entire summer term to prevent me from putting weight on my leg. I was sent a box of books with instructions to read them. Without any other efforts at support at all I didn’t do a thing. Instead I got out my Dad’s Readers Digest book on Gardening and spent the next few weeks pulling myself around the garden on a tea tray. By the end of it I was air-propagating specimen rhododendrons.

Take care. Stay in touch 🙂 

Are your computers ‘sanitized’ – given a clean – of any kind?

A woman at her desks sneezes into her computer without covering her nose and mouth.

My concern for staff who hot desk (me) and students is that they will often sit down at a computer where someone has sneezed onto the keyboard and screen without any attempt whatsoever to shield their environment from the germs they are spreading.

I see this often. What about you?

The answer is to educate staff and students.     

Add cleaning keyboards and screens to what the cleaning staff do.

Get rid of the all use ‘Press this Button’ pads that used to enter the building , and libraries and corridors – except for those with a disability, who clearly need to use them.

Students and staff touch these repeatedly across the day so no wonder germs spread fast and so many people end up off ill.

Without frequent handwashing it is hardly surprising that so many people end up ill.

Lewes Late Night Shopping 2019

Working with tutors to create immersive and effective elearning for SEND students

Now that the development phase is passing into review, first with an SEND tutor and then with SEND studens themselves I am learning:

  • Value of Video Demo: signing in to a the resource centre, logging in to a computer.
  • Importance of talking them through things we may take for granted.  
  • Pick out key things, in this case opening and closing times.
  • Add a quiz to this to give it emphasis and to engage them.
  • Tell them often. They love repetition and will return regularly to something for a reminder
  • As Immersive Reader provides, best to have text on blue, yellow or green background and use Comic Sans as their favoured font as it is less ‘harsh’ than others.
  • Not all have Smartphones, say 5 out of 14 have no phone. 
  • 360 headsets would be fun to use if we had them, but proper ones!
  • 85% are auditory, or visual/auditory learners
    • Though my learning from the OU is that these learning preference categories are a nonsence unfounded in any science. Rather in this instance it is a medical aid surely? Someone who cannot see, or cannot hear will have a preference away from seeing or hearing – naturally, with it having nothing to do with learning.

I am delighted to share this with the OU community and my followers. Thoughts and comments please!

I was delighted with the course tutor’s response, though I’m mostly awaiting for a response from a number of the SEND students themselves. It has to work for them, and be adjusted, even reinvented so as to appeal to and to work for them!

https://www.thinglink.com/mediacard/1244284378704510977

“Slick, professional … and a lot of clicking which they will love!”

Thinglink Tour of the Learning Resource Centre for SEND Students

Give it a go. Let me know what I might change to impove it!

Video Production Kit

Having to become a videographer in my own right or at college required me to kit up. All from 12 things a filmmaker must have

This is lot is recommended. Some I have.

  1. PC with video card, RAM and screens
  2. Full HD camera with Manual 
  3. Memory – lots of cards
  4. Filters – for shallow depth of field
  5. Fluid head tripod e.g. Manproto 501 
  6. Sound Recorder – Tascam or Zoom HR4N
  7. Headphones
  8. External microphone – shot mike AT83JB 
  9. Mic stand boom pole
  10. Lighting & Disk Reflector
  11. Editing Software: hit film express
  12. External harddrive

1: Desktop Computer

I have always been a MAC person and run an iMac with two full on screens from home. I don’t have such luxury at work where I use a PC at whatever desk I land on, never a double screen and sometimes a challenge to upload and use the software.

2. Full HD Camera with Manual Setting

I got myself a Sony Alpha 7 four years ago and use this with a mixture of lenses supported by a lens adaptor for a zoom lens. I have a 50mm, a 40m prime lens, a short Sony zoom and longer 300m Minolta that must be 30 years old, ditto a fish eye.

3. Memory Cards

I need more to be safe!

4. Filter

I tend not to use anything more than a filter to protect the lens. How often is it so bright in the UK. But if it is advisory to have one then I’ll do so.

5. Fluid head tripod

Crucial, but who buys one, me or college? There’s also the opton of a steady-cam gimble.

6. Sound Recorder

This is vital. The sound quality we are producing at college is pants. It matters that we can hear the speaker and hear them clearly without background interuptions. Whether this means going the whole hog and having a second system and operator is another matter. I cannot direct, ask questions and hold and monitor the sound via a boom pole can I?

7. Headphones

And then concentrate. Despite already doing the job of three people.

8. External Mic

To go with 6 & 7.

9. And to support it.

10. A disk reflector is a fine idea, but now we need a third or fourth pair of hands surely?

11. Edit Software. I edit on whatever is simplest. I’ve never managed with anything fancy. iMovies has been my starter, so I’ll take a look at Hitfilm Express. There are pros and cons.

12: External Hard Drive

Despite all the above I had a former editor/videographer showing off what can be done in camera on an iPhone. Beautiful smooth wide shots, dropped into a time line, butt-joined and GVs added even cutting to a single audio track to produce a pro looking cut almost in real time.

Would it be simpler to invest in a better iPhone?

Barcelona Day 3

Day 3: Barcelona

It is a joy to be close enough to walk and to prepare our own low carb breakfast: spinach, tomatoes and egg.

We head out along a series of tall streets to the edge of the park around Montjuic.

Museu National d’Art de Catalunya

Arriving soon after opening whilst there are a reasonable number of people outside taking shots of the view and selfies, there are few people inside. Skipping the 13th to 15th century church art entirely we opt to jump any chronology and go straight to the modern art.

For the first hour it feels like we are VIPs on a private viewing. This is ended by couple like us, the difference being the constant desire to be photographed in front of their favourite pieces.

Sculptures by Enrico Claraso

We marvel at sculptures where stone has the texture of skin and the muscles and skeleton are so apparent beneath the surface.

Sculpture by Enrico Claraso

Other sculptures that caught my eye were Little Gypsy Girl by Joan Rebull and a cheeky bust of Picaso by Pablo Gargallo.


Little Gypsy Girl by Joan Rebull c.1933

Modern Art

End-of-century styles thought of as too decorative, and lacking form and structure resulted in a return to classicism. At the same time urbanism and industrialism brought brutally realised in the First World War and resulting in experimentation and collage saw another shift with a return to traditional craft skills.

Too many people for my liking posed for selfies or posed in front of works. Am I being a hyporcrite? We took plenty of photos ourselves. It is permitted but perhaps people should be encouraged to turn off the shutter sound on their phones.

A game we played in the evening, as we meandered around the exhibitions, sometimes together, sometimes apart, was to play ‘snap’ with images we had both been drawn towards. This was one of them. It looks like Joan Miro. It is the same period. 1937.


Affective Harmony. Pen and ink and gouache on paper. Jose Garcia Narezo c1937.

I realise I am drawn to a common palette. Such as these:

We were on our way out. Two hours in one place appears to be enough for us. When we saw there was a temporary exhibition on a Spanish photographer.

The photo journalism shot of a model, legs akimbo, all 1960s reminded me of . What we got was a much more, a mixture of Don Mcullin and David Bailey with the humour of David Hockney thrown in.

Oriol Maspons. Contests in the 1950s. Against award seeking behaviour. Paris and the Club des 30 x 40. He also had to leave his job with an insurance company. The fifties saw Maspons’s developing interest in realistic and utilitarian photography.  The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya conserves over 6,500 photographs of Oriol Maspons, of which 503 are on display in this exhibition. Mostly original prints.

I was immediately struck by the quality of his compositions, the way he guides the eye to a specific part of the frame, also his wit and ability to observe and captures what matters in the moment whether a model, cattle, nuns, soldiers, or a family at a funeral.

His life was reproduced as a timeline.

Outside was bright and humid. We took a slight detour to walk across the park. On a less grand scale the water cascade reminded me of Alnwick Castle gardens some 1100 miles north of here.

Fundacio Joan Miro

Having visited at length six years ago I rather felt that I was seeing it all exactly as before, this time with the bustle of a busy August crowd. There are the Garden and terrace sculptures, the Mercury cascade and its bobbing movement, the eclectic Rope tapestry with beach bits and other collages and constructions. We were flagging from our morning’s exhibitions. We avoided the bright primary colour sculptures and prints. Maybe this is what you do on repeat visits, you start to look at the niche exhibits and to feed a curiosity for the particular, rather than trying to take it all in.

I spent longer in the underground cave with its rough earth and rock strewn ground and a mechanical seesaw sculpture and these tiny rods with flower like stems – which I have only figured out days later in close up.

When I was here last we walked off the hill to the nearest metro. That was six years ago. They have built a hillside funiciar which connnects with the Metro system. We opted for this rather than my prefered ride in a cable car down to the marina.

We had a series of long trecks courtesy of closed stations and lines, or simply getting fed up of being underground when on the surface you discover, rather as in London, that things are not that far apart on foot -0 necessarily.

We eventually made it to the seafront but disorientated by Google Maps we walked in the wrong direction for a while. We worried about not getting to our next vegetarian restaurant before it closed.

Aquaribay

Gaspachio

Pad Thai sweet potato rice noodles

Museu de Disseny de Barcelona

The Best of 2019 was a Design & Art Direction exhibition of the top three in a multitude of categories. The inventiveness of these always fascinates me, from a Nigerian school design to encourage a draft through the building as an inexpensive solution to the heat, a temporary event display made from paper and light to look like an a lava flow and knitted fashion styled around New Guinea tribal costumes and customs.

Domestic Inventions

Intriguing practical designs from tongs to pick up ice-cubes to the usual variation on a chair, bicycle or cabinet.

History of female fashion 1550 to 2015

Used to the V&A, Museum of London and others, it was a pleasure to have a different take on the development of fashion of the centuries with a very clever use of mannequins with articulated sections that could be expended, extended or stretched to show how the female silhouette has changed.

There were entire floors also dedicated to ceramics and print publishing design.

Green Spot

Pea, coconut and mint gaspacho

Sweet potato taliatelli, cabbage, macadamia nuts and pine nuts

Goats cheese foam

Pizza cauliflower and chestnuts

Coconut yoghurt and mixed berries and dragon fruit

And home to our Air BnB apartment.

It’s only two flights up to our apartment, but the steps are narrow and steep. After a long day on our feet, walking between exhibitions and eateries (between 15-20km) this final stretch is a push.

Barcelona : Day 1

Day 1 Barcelona Air BnB Trip

Deposited at terminal C and found ourselves wandering off towards a distant train station in a gradually dwindling group. Soon lost and in building works we shared views and I found myself leading the party the length of the airport from terminals C, through B towards A.

Starting to realise the length of the walk and realising that the bus parked by Terminal B was headed for Placa de Catalunya near to our final destination I opted for that. Having only ever got the train into town this was a departure for me, that left a few who were on my trail temporarily bewildered.

Having arrived 30 minutes late I now fear I have badly misjudged our arrival at our Air BnB. My phone plays up too, being full, apps don’t load, I miss messages and end up relying on phone calls. All calls from our host give no identity which starts to bug me. At last we speak and we get the full address. One letter error and we are delayed again and now someone else will meet us there. Once resolved we find ourselves at a door to a late 19th century or early 20th six storey mansion block. Reminiscent of Paris but corridors somewhat narrower and darker, winding steps up steeper and the paintwork more chipped.

The small flat is all that we expect and could wish for. Two bedrooms (double and single), a modest dining/sitting room area off a kitchenette and a bathroom with a large shower. We are two storeys up, on the corner with views up, down and along a typical Barcelona street.

Lonely Planet is our guide. That and Google Maps and happy that we can do most of our trips on foot we are quickly out of the door.

Centre d’Arta Santa Monica

The Arts Santa Monica presents itself as the entrance to an international corporation. It is both imposing, and deserted but for a couple of receptionists at different desks. We find ourselves under a collection of huge paper drapes hanging from the ceiling with haunting folk music playing in support of a video installation. Its an ominous start in an obscure gallery we stumbled across simply was we walked from the Rambla del Raval to the marina.

A parallel world of exhibitions exploiting Google Street View

Twelve artist/photographers are featured. One of the most engaging is by the Cuban artist and photographer Ruben Torras Llorca. In his series ‘Road Movie’ he revisits famous movie locations using Google Street view and superimposes a mashed-up shot from the film. Off hand I remember: Easy Rider, Paris Texas, Zardoz and James Bond.

Google Street View and James Bond mash-up by Ruben Torras Llorca
Google Street View and Easy Rider mash-up by Ruben Torras Llorca

The most relevant and practical series Beagle 2.0 by Roger Grasas took excerpts from ‘A Naturalist’s Voyage round the world’ by Charles Darwin and revisited the spots now urbanised and too often piled with litter.

Beagle 2.0 by Roger Grasas

I’ve been doing the same with the First World War and the Western Front using Google Street view for the three volume 1938 publication ‘Then and Now’ to revisit the original pilgrimage to the Western Front 1914-1918 to 1924-1928 with a visit made by ‘The Camera Returns’ between 1982 and the present day’ and Google Street View 2014-2018.

With some cajoling, rather than heading for any of our hit list visits on our first afternoon, I got us in to the Museu Marítim. The vast and empty hall and ticket office suggests it is not a visitor to Barcelona’s priority.

This 14th century shipyard, come armaments factory was brought back to life in the early 1970s with a modern refit in the last decade. It is an impressive space that blends the gothic architecture of the original shipyard with a 21st century museum space.

Various histories are told, from the development of the shipyard and maritime trade as part of the history of Barcelona. The most revealing and shocking is to contemplate the lot of a man shackled to a bench to work out his life as a galley-slave.

There are numerous cleverly designed and revealing interest points, multi-media stations and short drama-reconstruction films.

Tired from an early start in England we ate at a very British time at a vegan choice, Rasoterra, found in Lonely Planet

Image by Rasoterra featured in Tripadvisor

It was awkward to be put next to the only couple in the place, also English. We avoided any excuse to introduce ourselves. Efforts to have us go for the tasting menu fell on deaf ears.

It was a memorable, freshly prepared meal of lovely surprises, from Seaweed Tartare, to croquettes of spinach and bao with asparagus.

Together. The Rituals, Pleasures & Politics of Cooperation

Ditching Museum of Craft & Design is a gem. Its aesthetics, book choices and cake are amazing. It was worth joining simply to get the discount on all the books I bought.

As a budding local politician negotiating the slippery-slide of collaboration with other parties this is proving insightful. How do we get on as humans when our ideas might differ? How might we get on when our ideas overlap totally and we wish to avoid point-scoring and one up manship?

‘Cooperation is embedded in our genes, but cannot remain stuck in routine behaviour; it needs to be developed and deepened’ writes Richard Sennet in the Preface.

‘Cooperation is a craft.’ He continues, ‘It requires of people the skill and understanding and responding to another in order to act together, but this is a thorny process, full of difficulty and ambiguity and often leading to destructive consequences.’

He defines cooperation as ‘an exchange in which the participants benefit from the encounter’. He goes on to describe three types: cooperation in organise competition; cooperation in rituals spiritual and secular and cooperation that is both informal or formal.

Collusion is not cooperation.

The most important fact about cooperation is that is requires skill. Aristotle defined skill as techne, the technique of making something happen, doing it well.

Modern society, Sennett writes, is ‘de-skilling’ people in practising cooperation.

Sennett considers how the infant develops and learns to cooperate and to read its surroundings. These are life-lessons.

He uses music practice, rehearsal and performance as a metaphor. A talented musician he both played and conducted. He argues that homogeneity is dull.

Cooperation is built from the ground up.

Musicians with good rehearsal skills work forensically , investigating concrete problems.

The good listener detects common ground more in what another person assumes than says.

In everyday conversation, which is less easy to achieve online, ‘bouncing ideas off other people’; is where ‘these verbal balls land may surprise everyone’.

Curiosity figures strongly in empathy.

Life Drawing

A delight to be back with Silvia MacRae Brown at Charleston – only 2 months short of three years since I last attended. And possibly as long since I did any life drawing, though I may have had a few sessions at Sussex Arts Club.

I got through 15 ‘cheap’ sheets and a few more expensive sheets. I enjoy the rapid fire drawings and the exercises, such as drawing with you eyes closed once you have the shape in your head. I had already been taking my glasses off to see and mark shadows before adding detail.

My Mum would be proud. I always hear her tips gently spoken over my shoulder. How to observe. How to make your marks. The importance of keeping everything you do.

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