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As a boy

As a boy, after sunday lunch, I recall sitting on my grandfather’s knee and he would start off with the line ‘have I told you about the time …’ and he’d then add, ‘we were gassed, or we took a German prisoner, or I was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps‘.

Perhaps this started my interest in history.

In his 96th year he returned  to Passchandaele with Lynn Macdonald and I recorded some three hours of interviews, all transcribed here.  We even visited the armoury at the Imperial War Museum where he immediately squatted down behind a Vicker’s Machine Gun and started to set through a routine of checks.

Watching the First Iraq War on TV,  as a contemporary member of the Durham Light Infantry was interviewed he said, ‘That’s nothing compared to Passchendaele‘ which I turned into a TV script of the same name.

Since then I’ve used this memoir and library of references to write ‘Get Jack Back’ relating to the week in late November 1917 when he was stuck in Houlthoust Forrest and ‘Angel of the North‘ about his imagined younger sister who gets herself onto the Western Front. With the centenary nearly upon us now is the time to remember. Jack died in his 97th year. Through various quirks I found myself the guardian of his ashes in 2014. When I research and write about the First World War today, I often think what the man in the urn in the garden shed would say.

 

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Deaf in one ear

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Perforated Eardrum – before and after surgery

This has lasted a week. It’s barely been bad enough to send me to my bed, but the drops and painkillers have knocked me out while the ear-thing has sent me all lopsided. I appreciate entirely that there are people with and who have significant and lasting disabilities here, so I don’t mean to diminish by any means what they go through or need to overcome, it has simply made me realise all kinds of things that never struck me while doing the MAODE module on accessibility.

We’re aware of those suits people can wear to get a feel for what it is like to be heavily pregnant – who do they use it on? teenagers?  Is there value though in the able-bodied getting some sense of what it is like to have an impairment by, for example, blocking their ears for a number of hours, wearing a blindfold and restricting their day to a wheelchair, even typing while wearing gloves. In swimming we get swimmers to try swimming with their fists closed in order for them to appreciate the importance of the correctly shaped hand.

Everything, particularly to do with sound, is different.

If someone calls my name I struggle to know where they are – upstairs, downstairs or behind the door. When I shave it sounds as if I have my ear pressed against the wooden floor while it is attacked with a rotary sander. I feel unbalanced, and totter a bit when getting up and have tripped too as if I can’t quite place my left leg.

I did the idiot thing of putting the phone to the ‘wrong ear’ and wondered why the person had stopped talking. If I sleep on my right side the silence would be pleasing except for the constant ‘sandy’ electronic interference like sound in my left ear.

When you have a problem to solve it helps to do something completely different, either to take a break, or bring someone in who has nothing to do with a project. This blocked ear thing is temporarily skewing or tipping so much, as if one end of the shelf has collapsed and all the books have fallen off.

Trusting it won’t last because for now if at any time it looks as if I am my sunny self it’s something I’m putting on.  It could well be perforated in which case I ought not be using ear-drops. if it is perforated then there needs to be surgery. I suspect that it is and I remember how. I pushed a piece of cold, stiff silicon into my ear and then wore headphones over these when trying to block out the sound of a fire alarm in a B&B, not because there was a fire, but because the alert to say the battery was flat was ringing every two minutes all night long.

CONCLUSION

It was earwax. A jet of warm water into my ear and it was gone. Like three wet cornflakes squashed together. How did they det in there?

Hear this …

From E-Learning V

Fig.1 The cast of Downton Abbey.

How easy is it to put an accent to the character? Have the casting director and costume people colluded to create a class image of both face and dress? What if we turned all the accents upside down? Or is that what we are starting to see and achieve in 2014?

I caught a few moments of The X Factor last night where Cheryl (from Gateshead) had to let go of some of her singers before the live show: with one exception, and this would include all the singers in the show, there is a girl who is ‘well spoken’, one would imagine ‘upper middle class’ (if that phrase is any more or less appropriate than ‘working class’) – privately educated and at a boarding school one would presume. This girl is torn, possibly ashamed of her accent (or lack of accent). She feels it will make her less popular. These days everyone (in the media world) wants an accent that says where they came from, not an accent that says what ‘strata’ of class they are from (unless they’re going to a fancy dress party as characters from Downton Abbey). We no longer have parents who clip their children around the ear if they speak with a hard ‘a’?

Or is living with your accent something to do with self-esteem?

There was a Cambridge Professor of Ancient Music on the radio the other day who sounded very British and ‘educated’ (like the girl), except for the occasional word that hinted at something else. It turns out that until he was 23 he lived in Fresno, California. His accent transformation was almost total. Was this to blend in with the fabric of the Cambridge architecture?

I have friends who have lived in the States for 25 years: some, by my ear, are totally American, while others have barely changed their accent at all. I think it depends on what they do: the ‘English’ educated accent carries weight in academia, while the guy working in engineering has spent his career in the US getting rid of his accent and denying his culture and background.

Personally I love the richness of accents from every inch of the UK and the world: my only criteria has to be – can people understand what you are saying?

Any of us who think we can speak a foreign language can be guilty of garbling and muddling words and accents in such a way that others haven’t a clue what we are saying or meaning: I have a German friend who refuses to accept that often people haven’t a clue what she is saying as her German accent is so strong and her choice of words and word order is so like Yoda. I know that my French has, and still does if I hurry, come over the same garbled way to French people. This is why I am doing the Open University Module L120 – Ouverture: Intermediate French: to get the grammar in place, and learn to speak French as if I am writing it down perhaps? To slow down and be understood. You can still see that distracted glint in a person’s eye though when you know they aren’t really listening, but trying to figure out where you come from. Brits think I’m French. The French think I’m Belgian. My spoken English retains a hint of ‘northern’ – most of it was knocked out of me by parents and grandparents who felt it was their duty to raise kids who spoke ‘The King’s English’. Result: alienated in my home town Newcastle, and still picked out as ‘northern’ on words like ‘enough’ and ‘nothing’ … and ‘film’ (and probably many more), in the south of England.

Saturday Live, September 27th 2014

From 2BlogI

Fig. 1 Saturday Live, Sept 27th BBC Radio 4

A three hour car journey is sustained by pieces of Radio 4: this jad me wanting to pull over and take notes, instead I’ve been into iPlayer. There were pieces about memory and happiness that tickled my interest. I still need to listen a third time to find the point that to paraphrase had something to do with why or how memories are formed by key moments, not the endless ephemera that surrounds them: this is the key error made by all of these Apps and gadgets that aim to ‘keep memories’ for you by photographing and recording your day. Many of my most memorable moments in a 24 hour period are either dreams or thoughts – there’s no photographin them.

Paul Dolan is dubbed the Professor of Happiness. I downloaded his book half an hour ago. A smart and academic-lite response rather than a ‘how to book’

Escape

From NSSC 3AUG14 ARK

Fig. 1 Five Lasers, like butterflies

Helming the boat that set the buoys for this race (it’s called ‘Ark’) I got this shot and likened it to butterflies in the back garden. I so wanted to be out there competing in the race and juggling my inabilities to control the dinghy, but got a thrill from this moment all the same with this imbalance of boats. One getting away, the others heading towards the buoy.

My turn next week.

I’ve done 12 hours on a ‘pond’ in various winds on a Laser so feel ready for the sea, and ready for bruises, muscle pain, a dunking: ready too for managed risk: I will have on a wet suit and life jacket. I will have a pouch containing an inhaler (asthmatic) and water.

I like danger. I need the physical and mental thrills I so enjoyed in my ‘youth’. I prefer a challenge. I want to be hit with a stick and offered a carrot. The Open University equivalent of the written exam and recognition of success: Tutor Marked Assignments (TMAs) are too infrequent for essay writing to become a way of life, whilst End of Module Assignments (EMAs) lack the danger and challenge of an examination. At Oxford University essays are weekly, read out and shared in a tutor group of two or three and at the end of the year you sit exams – terrifyingly demanding but both proof that you know your stuff and a way to distinguish the pack.

‘Ark’ is a bit of a tug, a diesel engined quasi-fishing vessel on which the day’s race buoys are kept – hunking great things on a long length of rope with a chain and anchor attached. It has a VHS radio so you call back and forth to your harbour of departure and the Race Officer in the clubhouse and RIBS in the bay.

Seven years since I was last on the thing I had with me a cushion I grabbed from the sofa at home not thinking why I did this … until in the chop I recalled how I had broken my coccyx training to do this when I had bounced off the rubbery side of the RIB and landed on the anchor: twice. Broken coccyx. Imagine how they test for this in A&E? Basically someone prods you up the arse and if you scream there’s a problem. This problem then turns into ‘there’s nothing we can do’. But here’s a rubber-ring you may like to have to sit on for the next six weeks … or don’t sit down????

You live and learn, or rather learn through giving things a go until you can get it right enough.

Fig. 1 Five Lasers, like butterflies

Helming the boat that set the buoys for this race (it’s called ‘Ark’) I got this shot and likened it to butterflies in the back garden. I so wanted to be out there competing in the race and juggling my inabilities to control the dinghy, but got a thrill from this moment all the same with this imbalance of boats. One getting away, the others heading towards the buoy.

My turn next week. I’ve done 12 hours on a ‘pond’ in various winds so feel ready for the sea, and ready for bruises, muscle pain, a dunking: ready too for managed risk: I will have on a wet suit and lifejacket. I will have a pouch containing an inhaler (asthmatic) and water.

A couple of races assisting the Race Officer I will then set a race myself.

Time to move on from thinking that I am, and can only ever be, No.2.

Facebook Positivity Challenge

Fig.1. United Kingdom and Ireland

Prompted by nieces and my sister I have now joined the Facebook ‘Positivity’ challenge.

You post three positive things a day for five days then nominate three others to do the same. I have written 15 ‘Positivities’ already and will adjust and prioritize each day. My wife, Great Britain and learning something everyday (with a plug for the Open University) got a mention today. When I was eleven or twelve I pencilled in all the counties of England, Scotland and Wales where I had visited – parents divorced and living in Cumbria and Northumberland got that one started, with cousins in County Durham and North Yorkshire, and then trips to Scotland and Lincolnshire, London and Oxfordshire. The rule was I had to spend a night in the county. Before I’d taken a look at the above map (and not taking into consideration boundary changes) I guessed that bar a few counties I had stayed in all: largely as work producing training and information videos has had me on overnights all over the shop (nuclear power industry, manufactures, retailers, Post Office, pharmaceuticals …), and Northern Ireland courtesy of a girlfriend of 18 months. Looking again I think I could add that I’ve never stayed in Essex, nor many of the Welsh Counties (or valleys), a couple still in Northern Ireland and probably a couple in North Eastern Scotland even if I have driven through. I started the same kind of thing on the 98 departements of France and guess that I’ve ‘done’ a good fifty, once again, thanks as much to TV work repeatedly travelling to far-flung, non-touristy destinations for a TV news agency I worked for. I miss travelling.

A few years ago I took up the challenge of posting a photo a day in Blipfoto; I took this one step further and determined, with the need for some criteria for editing a day’s pictures, to posting something ‘to feel good about’ – this task is similar, though potentially more abstract if the idea, rather than the image comes first.

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

Master of Arts  in Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) 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 part 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 Passchendaele’)
There is more.
 
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 (BA, Hons, Oxford), MA is in Geography.
My dissertationn 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 ‘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 are movies. And sailing and swimming coaching. There’s family and friend … ah. Friend? I knew there was something missing in all 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.
And if that doesn’t kills me …

 

27 blog posts from all that I’ve posted since 1999

I’ve done an inadequate sweep of the 600+ entries here in order to select 7 entries and have it roughly down to these 27: If I do another sweep I’d find another 27 and be none the wiser. I have another blog with 16000+ entries and some 16 blogs. What interests me is what iWriter next.

I work in an Orchard Emotional intelligence means more

Email is a snowball

Is education a problem or a business opportunity?

Grayson Perry and Rose Tremain on creativity

Fingerspitzengefuegel How where and when do you learn?

152 blogs I try to keep an eye on

E-learning is just like Chicken Masala

Life according to Anais Nin, Henry Miller and Samuel Pepys

100 novels personally recommended

12 Metaphors visualised to aid with the brilliance of blogging

Prensky and the concept of the Digital Native deserves to be lampooned

Love your memories in a blog

The Contents of my brain : a screenplay

We can’t help to think in metaphors it’s what makes us human

Maketh up a quote at ye beginning of thy book

Personal development planning as a thermal

What makes an e-learning forum tick?

Why Flickr on the Great War?

Social Media is knowledge sharing

Making sense of the complexities of e-learning

Social Learn (Like Open Learn but networked)

Twelve books that changed the world

Some thoughts on writing by Norman Mailer

Visualisation of the nurturing nature of education according to Vygotsky

Woe betide the Geordie linguist

Does mobile learning change everything?

The Digital Scholar. Martin Weller

The pain of writing and how the pain feeds the writing too

Digital Housekeeping and the Digital Brain

My heads like a hedgehog with its paws on a Van den Graff generator

Where’s education in technical terms compared to the car?

My preference, having created an @random button for my original blog started in 1999 (and the first to do so) is to do exactly that: hit the ‘enter@random’ button 7 times and see where it takes me.

I find reflection spiralling out of control into an extra-terrestrial maelstrom of thought that has nothing to do with the ‘job at hand.’

At the macro level reflection for me is on the scale, and of equal significance to Douglas Adams and ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and the Meaning of Life and Everything.’

I find reflection spiralling out of control into an extra-terrestrial maelstrom of thought that has nothing to do with the ‘job at hand.’

At the micro level, the job at hand is a tiny part (10%) of a TMA in a unit, of a module of an OU Course.

My mindset has to be of a myopic jeweller with some gems and a gold band.

I don’t mean to trivialise it. On the contrary. I worry how in my life reflection has never imposed itself. I see, I feel, I do. If I reflect it is to look in a mirror and accept what I see, not try to change it.

Reflection has been hijacked by educational institutions. Don’t have time to mark a student’s work, get them to mark it themselves  … and then judge their ability to reflect on what they have done.

I think you can take from this that I don’t value reflection as a tool to assess a student. As a tool to gauge a person’s position, as a coach or facilitator to build on that person’s personal view of themselves – brilliant. But to give it a mark, pants.

Given that for the seventh or eighth time in the last two decades I have been advised that I am skewed towards action and visualisation I have to wonder how I can, or do, generate this amount of verbiage.

I am transcribing a dialogue between characters. I have a scene in my mind’s eyes as I type. I even see people, from the OU course, tutors, others … friends, as if attending a garden party.

For me reflection has to be, as it has been taken twenty years to engrain itself, the kind of introspection, sharing and reflection, fictionalisation and admonition, of Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Virginia Woolf and Proust. I favour, absolutely, the indulgence of a Proustian ‘Involuntary Rush’ and its relevance to the person in this state. Serendipity. Where is there space for it if we are shunted down a dead track, into a Waste Land.

I go with Kolb and Cowan, their cycles and spirals. I favour the hurricane, the tornado over the spinning top. Which is what this is, spinning a top through a set of questions: what happened? What next? So what?! And then, I suppose, not a lot, or a lot, you defend your position, you stick, you retreat or move forward. Is this reflection.

Stopped by a Police Motorcycle on the A1 South of Gateshead my mother turned to her children and said, ‘cry,’ look uspet.’ And in due course, the traffic cop, seing three miserable children and a harassed Mum let her off the speeding fine.

Was that micro reflection on her behalf? Is this a Proustian ‘involuntary rush’ on mine.

Where lies this in education? Everywhere, especially in education social networking, which I have hated and now smile at. Reflecting on the whiffs of conversation I dared pick up as my daughter typed into Facebook with the speed of criminal law court copyist. The bulk of what her generation are learning is being done this way – socialising, homework, the entire mess of life a 21st century melange which says to me the OU is not right to say I am wrong, when I may be proved right and ‘they’ haven’t a clue.

I suggested to someone today that I would like to do one MA after another, five years a time, ’til the day I day. The OU can have my money and my mind. This is a little boy in a sweet shop.

Next up History of Art … with the OU, while doing an MA in Fine Art.

Then a return to History, 1066 to the Restoration for starters. Or Modern or Contemporary History? I fancy the First World War and have trunks (literally) a libary of books and other resources and artifacts on that one.

Geography, and all that it embraces.

English Literature and creative writing.

And French, once I’ve mastered the written language.

and kite surfing, and paragliding …

In your dreams mate, in your dreams.

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