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Towards an assessment of my teaching

I often share a post I am writing as I do so. In this case having identified the story to tell : running a workshop to solve a ‘messy’ business problem I am pulling together or creating supporting images, in the above case a grab and mashup from Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ – my goal is to be recognised as one. In a forum post as an Open University ‘Master of arts in Open and Distance Education’ (I graduated in early 2013) I suggested this could be achieved in four years – John Seely Brown thinks that eLearning speeds things up, while Weller reckons on ten years.

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Reflecting on a presentation on learning to students at Oxford Brookes University

Fig.1. Rescue having failed a 4 tonne whale is dragged from Stinson Beach. 

As a student on Oxford Brookes University’s online course ‘First Steps into Teaching and Learning 2014’ here in week 4 we have been challenged to consider an experience from teaching or being taught and in a five minute presentation reflect on this.

My interest is teaching postgraduates and/or ‘in the workplace’.

I should be feeling I’ve stumbled into the right time and place with this one having just given a ten minute presentation online as part of the Open University Masters in Open and Distance Education module H818: The Networked Practitioner, however with that one, despite every expectation to exploit my love of and experience with linear and interactive media I resorted to a Powerpoint. I needed to improve the script up to the line and this offered the flexibility I could not have had with a Prezi or video. There were too many cumbersome technical barriers and trips that I wasn’t happy to pursue or risk.

What I’m doing here is thinking through a presentation I need to prepare. Sharing this, if and where feedback can be garnered, then informs the decisions I take.

My immediate idea, often my best, is to do a selfie-video talking to camera while hurtling around a roller-coaster at Thorp Park. It would sum up the terror, thrill, highs and lows of taking a day long workshop with a class of some 40 year 9s (12/13 year olds) in a secondary school that had/has a checkered history.

The second idea, to change the setting radically, would be a workshop with nine on creative problem solving – the objective was to come up with answers to a messy problem, though the motivation to be present for most was to experience a variety of creative problem solving activities that I had lined up. This nine in an organisation, included MBAs, prospective MBAs, a senior lecture, junior and senior managers and officers: colleagues and invited guests from different departments. This example is probably the most appropriate.

A third might be something I attended as a student – apt because doing this in 2009/2010 in part stimulated me to take an interest in learning: I wanted to know what was going wrong. Here we had prospective club swimming coaches doing everything that was unnatural to them – working from a hefty tome of paper, sitting through a lecture/seminar and expecting assessment to be achieved by filling in the blanks on course sheet handouts. This from people with few exceptions who left school with few or no qualifications – often troubled by Dyslexia. They were swimming coaches to dodge this very kind of experience. It was, you could tell, hell for some. The misalignment could not have been greater. Here the immediate visual image, apt given the subject matter, would be to watch a fish out of water drown – or nearly drown and be rescued. What really grated for me in this course was the rubbish that was taught – too many gross simplifications and spurious science.

Based on the above I should challenge myself to do the video as I need to crack loading and editing. The fish out of water, whale actually, I can illustrate from photographs and the experience this summer of being present as a 4 tonne whale beached and drowned on Stinson Beach, California (See Fig.1. above).

Leveraging mobile technologies and Web 2.0 tools to engage those with an interest in the centenary of the First World War in the stories of the people of the era using strategically placed Quick Response codes.

Jonathan Vernon at the Design Museum. J F Vernon (2011)

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Fig. 1. Lewes War Memorial, East Sussex, England     J F Vernon (2011)

The problem with war memorials is that those named on them risk becoming forgotten words on a list.

By using the Web we can find out who these people named on the war memorials were and where they lived; we can try to put a face to the name and a story to the name  … and then we can share what we find.

There are more than 54,000 war memorials in Great Britain, most of these put up after the First World War. There is barely a community without one. Significant interest already exists, especially as we approach the centenary of the First World War making this initiative a potentially easy one to add to what is already taking place.

Fig. 2. British Legion Poppy featuring a Quick Response Code

In his 2011 book ‘The Digital Scholar’ Martin Weller  shares the thoughts of Brian Lamb to describe those technologies that ‘lend themselves to … the networked and open approach’ as ‘fast, cheap and out of control’.

It was with this in mind, taking an interest in the centenary of the First World War and obsession with war memorials that I started to think about using Quick Response codes as a personalised entry point to the Web that anyone could generate in order to share a story about someone who served in the conflict, and to do so both online and on the street.

Quick Response codes are fast, they are free and their potential in learning has yet to be realised.

Worn in this way, featured in the center of your commemoration Poppy, you can share directly with others the person whose life you wish to remember, as well as directing people to the content online and inviting them to ‘adopt’ a name from a war memorial themselves. Though exploiting the Web, this is designed as a ‘blended’ experience that uses face-to-face, community and classroom experiences, as well as taking people outside to monuments, buildings, streets and battlefields.

                                                                                  Esponsorvik (2014 )

Fig. 3. Toyota Quick Response Code and Using a TV remote control Espensorvik. Flickr

‘QR codes’ are a product of the car manufacturing industry. Faced with increasingly complex components, Denso, a supplier to Toyota, came up with what is a 2 dimensional bar code in the 1990s (Denso, 2010). Made free of patent, and using free software anyone can now generate their own unique QR code. You can even print them out on standardised sticky label stationery.

Fig. 4. Google Search ‘Quick Response Codes Education Images’ (2014)

There are a myriad of uses for QR codes, from embedding information that is read and stored by the device to a quick link to rich content online. Barrett, 2012). The interest here is to use QR codes to link to learning resources, in mobile, or ‘m-learning’ contexts in particular and for users to both read and write such context.

I liken QR codes to using your phone as a remote control to click to a TV channel (Fig 3) . You point a smartphone, or tablet at the QR code to read it and go instantly, pretty much, to a web page.

Their use in education in the last decade has been limited. ‘Refereed (sic) papers are few’ (Gradel & Edson, 2012), but between these and other published reports, suggestions can be made regarding their strengths or weaknesses.

If QR codes are to be used successfully then champions need to be identified to take up the cause in schools, colleges and local associations. Whilst QR codes use the power of the Web to connect people to rich content, that they may create themselves, a good deal of thoughtful planning will be necessary ‘in the classroom’, not just explaining how to make use of QR codes, but also working them in, where appropriate to current learning schedules where QR codes used in this way will meet clear learning objectives. Support online could be provided in a short eLearning module.

What has been shown repeatedly, in museums and ‘out in the field’, is that simply ‘put out there’ the QR codes are ignored (Gradel & Edson, 2012). An innovation such as this requires considerable promotion and support.  This makes the idea of wearing your own QR code on a Commemoration Poppy all the more appealing, as each person becomes an ambassador on the ground, for that nugget of information, especially if they are responsible for creating and hosting that content.

The opportunity exists, therefore, mentored and guided by educators, with support online, for schools, colleges and associations to engage people in bringing the stories of those named on our war memorials alive. In this way a deeper and more meaningful connection is made with the past and our relationship to it.

Copyright © 2010, The New York Times Company. Photography by Jim Wilson

Fig. 5. Handheld curator:  IPod Touches and visitors at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (The New York Times)

According to the 2009 Horizon report (Horizon, 2009) the following would be of growing significance in teaching: mobile devices, clouding computing and the personal web. As an innovative approach, QR codes exploit all three of these developments.

Use of QR codes in learning however has had mixed results. Simply putting a QR code in front of a museum artifact, as they’ve done at the Museum of London and did at the Design Museum does not work (Vernon, 2013)  – there is plenty already, there is little to attract or promote their use, not everyone has a smartphone or tablet of course and the technology is often not robust – ‘out of use’ signs are familiar. Outdoors QR codes added to signs in the South Downs National Park, for example, barely received a view a day during a three month trial and in some instances there was no signal at all (Kerry-Bedel 2011; South Downs, 2012).

Where QR codes have been successful is in targeted learning experiences in schools (Tucker, 2011; Gradel & Edson, 2012), where the affordances of the QR code have been exploited to form part of an engaging, constructive and collective learning experience. To be effective this initiative with war memorials requires galvanising people to take part in a joint exercise – easier with a class in school or college, less easy with the general public unless it is through a national, regional or local community association or interest group.

Examples where QR codes work include where participants are ‘equipped’, and where they can take an active role, such as in ‘on the spot’ surveys or quizzes, where they are prompted into cooperative learning and where timely ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ are given. (Awano, 2007: Information Standards Committee 2008; So 2008; Robinson, 2010; Hicks & Sinkinson, 2011; Ryerson Library & Archives, 2012.)

K Lepi (2012)Copyright 2013 © Edudemic All rights reserved

Fig 6 . A Simple Guide to Four Complex  Learning Theories. Lepi (2012)

The theory behind the idea of using QR codes in a mobile and open way, is that in the digital age ‘connectivism’ is the ‘modus operandi’. In this diagram (Fig. 5)  from Edudemic (Edudemic 2012) traditional and digital theories are concerned. All are relevant, each has its place, with the digital environment offering new and additional approaches to learning.

Whilst traditional learning methods have their role in schools, lecture halls and with mature students too, the complete learning package requires a level and quality of interaction and connectedness that can only be achieved on the Web and be effective where the body of learners is large and their approach is open and shared so that knowledge acquisition comes through the challenges and rewards of such intercourse.

Connections won’t occur however unless they are nurtured. By way of example, wishing to support and promote the combat memoirs of my late grandfather John Arthur Wilson MM (Vernon, 2012) a number of organisations will be approached up and down the UK in relation to his experiences in the Durham Light Infantry, Machine Gun Corps and Royal Air Force. The Web will both help identify, forge and maintain and develop first and subsequent connections in what would hopefully be, to be effective, a two way, shared, open and reciprocal relationship. The beauty of having content  already online is that others can quickly view it and images, text and sound files, even video, adjusted to suit different audiences, or uses – and used freely where appropriate copyright permissions are given.

JFVernon 2010 from statistics from Jakob Nielsen (1999)

Fig 7 . Creators, commentators and readers – how use of the Web stacks up. Vernon (2010) after Nielsen (1999)

This degree of connectedness does not come naturally. Just as there can be no expectation that people will use a QR code because it is there – they won’t. With an innovative approach such as this promotion is crucial. Significant time, thought and effort need to be put into letting people know what is taking place and supporting their participation.

Only a fraction of a population are naturally inclined to generate content.

Jakob Nielsen (1999) would suggest that as few as 1% create content (Fig. 6). If content is therefore to be created by participants then very large numbers need to be made aware of the initiative. Online, openness helps when it is massive. Participation is improved where it is supported and moderated. Creators, commentators and readers each have a role to play.

The balance needs to be found between the qualities of a tool that is fast and cheap and where out of control means that something isn’t used in a way to benefit a formal learning requirement. On the one hand those who want to generate content can be encouraged to do so, while in a formal setting the intention would that everyone generates content of some form in order to receive feedback and assessment.

J F Vernon (2011) 

Fig 8. The Newcastle War Memorial by Sir William Goscombe John RA

The potential weakness of using QR codes are the requirement for participants to have a suitable device, say a smartphone or tablet and the possible communication fees when connecting away from a free wi-fi source – which is likely to be the case at a war memorial (Gradel & Edson, 2012).

Reading from and using a smartphone or tablet may also present accessibility issues, from the need for dexterity and reading content that isn’t offered in alternative forms, such as text sizes and background or audio alternatives.

There are many examples where local councils feel a war memorial or building is so important that they have invested in information placards on site (Fig. 7). As commemoration of those who served and died in the First World War is of local and national interest funding is potentially available to help support initiatives such as these through the Heritage Lottery Fund, while organisations such as the Western Front Association have funding for branch activities too.

If permission is required for personalisation of a British Legion poppy using a QR code, then alternatives may be required, from working with other suitable groups such as the Imperial War Museum or Western Front Association to putting the QR code on a badge instead.

Where used in the field it is likely that a teacher would put out sets of QR coded markers in advance and collect them afterwards. Where a photograph in a town featuring before and after views permission may also be required if any kind of QR coded plaque or poster is to be put up. Other inventive ways to use a QR code would be to attach them to an obstacle course like trench experience where each code triggers elements of a task, sound effects or narrative in keeping with the setting.  By way of example, at the ‘In Flanders Museum’ in Ypres a number of exhibits require the visitor to duck, crawl or crane their neck before supporting audio or lighting is triggered by a Near Field code in a bracelet.

  J F Vernon (1989-2014)

Fig. 9. The memoir of a Machine Gunner and RFC Fighter Pilot. ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’

In his 2011 book ‘The Digital Scholar’ Martin Weller shares the ideas of Robert Capps (2009) who coined the term ‘the good enough revolution’ – in relation to creating and sharing content in an open culture. This precludes being prescriptive or from expecting perfection.

Whilst output on the First World War from the BBC, the Imperial War Museum or the Open University should understandably attain a certain professional standard, the kind of creation required of those research names on war memorials should take inspiration from that is more than just ‘good enough, from ‘pinning’ names from a war memorial to a home address, to ‘pinning’ submitted World War One photographs to Google maps over former battlefields, as well as numerous inventive YouTube videos and memoirs presented as blogs.

REFERENCE

Awano, Y (2007). Brief pictorial description of new mobile technologies used in cultural institutions in Japan. The Journal of Museum Education, 32(1), 17-25

Barrett, T (2012). 50 Interesting ways to use QR codes to support learning. (Last accessed 6th Feb 2014  https://docs.google.com/present/edit?id=0AclS3lrlFkCIZGhuMnZjdjVfNzY1aHNkdzV4Y3I&hl=en_GB&authkey=COX05IsF

Denso (2010a). QR Code Standardization. (Retrieved 6th Feb 2014, from http://www.denso-wave.com/qrcode/qrstandard-e.html )

Edudemic. Traditional Learning Theories. (Accessed 19th April 2013) http://edudemic.com/2012/12/a-simple-guide-to-4-complex-learning-theories/

Gradel, K., & Edson, A. J. (2012). Higher ed QR code resource guide.

Hicks, A., & Sinkinson, C. (2011). Situated questions and answers: Responding to library users with QR codes. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(1), 60–69.

Horizon Report 2009 (2009) Educause (Accessed 14th Feb 2014 http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/2009-horizon-report )

Information Standards Committee (2008) Section 3: QR code, Synthesis Journal. (From http://www.itsc.org.sg/pdf/synthesis08/Three_QR_Code.pdf )

Kerry-Bedel, A (2011) Smartphone technology – the future of heritage interpretation: Its in conservation (Accessed 14th February 2014 http://www.kbstconsulting.co.uk/QR/images/ITIC.pdf )

Lepi, K (2012) A Simple Guide To 4 Complex Learning Theories. Edudemic eMagazine 24th December 2012. (Accessed 14th February 2014. http://www.edudemic.com/a-simple-guide-to-4-complex-learning-theories/ )

New York Times. The Best Tour Guide May Be in Your Purse. Article by Keith Schneider. 18 March 2010. Copyright © 2010, The New York Times Company http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/arts/artsspecial/18SMART.html

Nielsen, J (1999) Web Usability

Robinson, K. (2010). Mobile phones and libraries: Experimenting with the technology. ALISS Quarterly, 5(3), 21–22

Ryerson University Library & Archives (2012). QR codes. Retrieved 6th Feb 2014, from http://www.ryerson.ca/library/qr/.

So, S. (2008). A Study on the Acceptance of Mobile Phones for Teaching and Learning with a group of Pre-service teachers in Hong Kong. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange, 1(1), 81-92.

South Downs (2012)  Use of QR Codes (Accessed 14 Feb 2014 http://southdownsforum.ning.com/forum/topics/signposting-and-qr-codes )

Tucker, A. (2011). What are those checkerboard things? How QR codes can enrich student projects. Tech Directions, 71(4), 14-16.

Vernon J.F. (2012) (Blog Post)  (Accessed 14th February 2014 http://machineguncorps.com/jack-wilson-mm/ )

Vernon, J.F. (2013) (Blog Post) Mobile learning at the Museum of London: QR codes and NFCs (Accessed 14th February 2014) http://mymindbursts.com/2013/11/10/molqr1/

Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice. 5% Loc 239 of 4873

 

Web Sciences – faster, rich, responsive, shared …

Life happened at the opening of the MOOC on Web Sciences from the University of Southampton (SOTON)  – the imminent arrival of a great-grand child is announced while two in their late 80s make their departures, one with little warning, the other with a reluctant move to hospital.

Born in 1928 or to be born in 2014 …

Keen as I am on ancestry I try to reflect on what has and is changing.

How great in truth is or will be the impact on how we live, love and die? Of course the frenetic, massive Web impacts on the neuronal activity in individual brains feeding us with knowledge, news, information and misinformation like never before, but how much does it change the intimacy of a family, of childhood and education, of working and falling in love, of starting a family of your own (or not) and beyond?

The Web, like a strange digital mist now surrounds us – but in the Darwinian sense does it change anything at all?

Words of a distraught young woman from the Philippines coming out of the recent typhoon smack you in your digital face when she starts with ‘no Internet, not smart phone, no food, no water, no roof on our heads, no medicine … ‘ We will surely reflect on that fact that for all the opportunities the Web it is exclusive and fickle.

Yet it is the speed and ease by which this information is disseminated that changes things. I remember the Japanese Typhoon that I watched on multiple TV channels calling to my son who was watching the same online directly from people’s smart phones.

The new arrival mentioned above was posted on Facebook, the ‘departure’ was a call to a mobile phone. Both will feature online to welcome to the world or to reflect on a long life and commiserate.

Web Networks – from the micro to the macro

20131124-083814.jpg

We are each unique – our brains make us so. At the microlevel the network in our heads is then tickled out into the the Web in, at first. the simplest of ways. Our first post, our first comment is that first baby-step. Unlike our firsf steps though, online everything we do is saved, is monitored, is shared. It takes on a life of its own. Multiplied billions of times now many millions of us have learnt to crawl, then walk, then run online. As we are virtual we can split into many versions or parts of ourselves too – the professional and private the immediate split, but then into hobby groups and as here, a study group. The network of networks is a living thing that mathematics can help to weight and categorize, even to visualise, but crucially – the point made here, humanising the maths requires the insight of someone asking questions, seeking to interpret what it taking place. I see currents in a digital ocean that transpires into a cloud that then precipitates digital artefacts in a myriad of other places. Others, like Yrjo Engegstrom, see the growing tendrils of a funghi. Either way it is fascinating to condense, simplify and sharing the thinking.

Mobile learning at the Museum of London: QR codes and NFCs

Fig.1. YouTube video for the Museum of London‘s NFC initiative in 2011

Having picked through links that came to a dead end in a fascinating paper on the variety of technologies and tactics being used by museums in relation to mobile learning I started to see and read more and more about the use of QR codes (those matrix two-dimensional bar codes you use with a smartphone) and NFC ‘Near Field Communication‘ which is becoming an industry in its own right.

Having been kept awake at night about a need for ‘constructing knowledge’ rather than being fed it I knew that visitors, students especially, need to engage with their surroundings by somehow seeking and constructing their own views.

Without QR and NFC the simplest expression of this is taking notes, and or photographs of exhibits – not just selfies with a mummy or your mates. Possibly doing bits of video. And from these images cutting/editing and pasting a few entries in a blog, Prezi or SlideShare. QR and NFC feed the visitor controlled and curated bite-size nuggets, so more than just a snap shot, you can have audio and video files, as well as more images and text.

Fig.2. South Downs Way QR Code.

Successful trials mean that these have spread. Funny I’ve not noticed them living in Lewes and walking the dog most days on the South Downs. I’ll take a look. NFCs have been used extensively, for 90 exhibits, at the Museum of London – so a visit is required. Though I won’t be ditching my iPhone. Apple does not support NFC believing that the technology is still in its infancy … like Flash, like Betamax and VHS, and all that stuff, a battle will be fought over the NFC benchmark.

So 60% penetration of smartphones in the population … most of all of which can use a QR code, but less using a early version of NFCs. My experience?

Fig.3. QR Codes at the Design Museum

Last year a visit to the Design Museum I found the ‘Visualizing the mind’ exhibition littered with QR codes.

They didn’t work. Just as well they had ample computers. How often do organisations jump on the IT bandwagon only for a couple of wheels to fall off further down the road?

Fig.4. Evie

Meanwhile I’m off to walk the dog .. then using a trip to see Gravity at the Odeon Leicester Square with my kids to include an educational tour to the Museum of London (always handy to have a teenager around when using mobile technology).
REFERENCE

‘REPORTING RESEARCH’ 2013, Interpretation Journal, 18, 1, pp. 4-7, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 November 2013.

The limiting experience of the museum visit unleashed

A lifelong love in art galleries yet I still feel unmoved by galleries and museums, possibly because I expect the gentle, guiding voice of my late mother at my shoulder (artist, art historian, Mum).

What could be a more personalised visit than to have someone who knows you so well point things out, guide you to things that will interest or irritate, then offer an insight – invariably linked to ‘what do you do next?’ i.e. look, learn then apply.

 

Reflections on postgraduate learning, online or taught

20130930-161125.jpg

Fig. 1. Ironically, given what I am writing about below, this book is recommended (though not compulsary) reading for the Open University (OU) module H818: The Networked Practitioner. I could only find a print version.

I’ll add notes to this blog (which I use to aggregate notes and as an e-portfolio, not just as a shared or private journal-cum-log) as the differences between the online and ‘traditional’ learning experience dawn on me as I do two in parallel.

An MSc in Development Management (a convenient way to be recognised for a collection of education and further modules on e-learning that I am doing with the OU) 100% online … except for the above book.

An MA in British First World War studies (with the University of Birmigham) 97% lectures and tutorials on campus. (There is online support, an online library and database, but books and 100 year old archive as physical artefacts in collections are the primary materials)

Actually there’s a third comparison I can make – that of ‘corporate learning and development’ which the other week with the E-Learning Network included something neither of the above formats offer – ‘social learning over an excellent buffet lunch’. (see below for my view of campus fodder).

Time Managment

The ‘traditional’ seminar or lecture forces your hand somewhat – you have to be there. Many these days are recorded for you and put online, though mine will not be. I’m inclined therefore to take either a digital or audio recorder along to record these things. I have, just a couple of times over three years, got behind with the online course as I kept putting it off.

Travel … and the associated cost

It’ll be around four hours door to door once a month. This means getting up at 4.30 am. Not of course something someone in full time tertiary education needs to do. Off peak, unless booked well in advance it’ll cost £74 return … £24 if I stick to exact trains. Lunch I may have to take with me as the campus only had premade Spar sandwhiches at every outlet.

Nodding off

After lunch on my MA induction day I did something I remember last doing in double Geography on a Friday afternoon with ‘Dusty Rhodes’ – I sat at the back, cupped my hands over my eyes as if in deep thought … and grabbed ‘forty winks’.

Something, however common to many people on any part-time distance learning course is ‘the early morning shift’ – putting in 90 minutes or so before breakfast.

Library Services

While this and other support services are offered to us on our VLE it was invaluable to to have a person run through it as a presentation in person. This kind of stuff should be given a linear expression … a mini-module for newcomers and as a refresher. All I’ve done, two years after the event with the OU was a webinar on using RefWorks.

People ‘in the flesh’

It was obvious as we gathered in the hall below the lecture rooms that the group of mainly male, mature students were turning up to the same gig. A handshake, a look in the eye and after pleasantries about where we had travelled from we got straight down to what MA were were doing and why: First World War, Second World War or Air Power. Meanwhile online, as many have been ‘gathering’ asynchronously online saying ‘where they have come from’ i.e. their last module, nerves and who they already know. No handshake, some faces, but not all, and largelly female. What these have in common is that human desire to find something in common amongst strangers. Doing a head count I’d say the ratio of male/female for war studies was 80/20 … for the MA in e-learning modules it would appear to be close to 30/70, perhaps 40/60.

Tutors

In three and a half years with the Open University I have not met any of the Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) tutors or moderators. I wouldn’t even recognise some of them if I met them. In some cases I might know the voice. The ‘Chair’ of each module is the intellectual powerhouse, with tutors as moderator-cum-markers can be professors, not necessarily with the OU, or ‘fellow’ students who are a few steps ahead having completed the MA ODE. At the University of Birmingham the ‘intellectual powerhouses’ are our tutors and they were out in force – which given the subject matter included two retired Air Commodores.

Learning that is ‘any time, any where’

The MA ODE can be studied any time, any where – though in practice it is studied evenings, weekends and vacations as students tend to be in fulltime employment, those with children, during the term at least, may have some semblance of a ‘student day’ if they can settle down each morning. The MA WW1 is strictly confined to a Saturday, and not just one lecture, potentially three or four. There are Tuesday evening talks which I will never make and can only hope will be recorded and put online.

What does any of the above say about:

opportunity
motivation
support
retention
the traditions of learning
the subject matter
formal postgraduate learning for mature students in the 21st century

20130930-162659.jpg

Fig. 2 The First World War archive at the university of Birmingham

This would have been quite impossible online – handling archive 90-100 year old materials from a university collection. I was particularly taken by the personal diary and several hundred photographs of an officer who was posted widely during the war, from the Western Front to Malta, Italy and Egypt. The original artwork of Louis Raemaekers also impressed and inspired, while the actual typed up letters of cabinet ministers reasly brought home the opportunity to ‘turn to original sources’.

Kiss the frog

Fig.1. ELearning Network team exercise

Throughout my career I have relished the company of like-minds that comes from being part of a ‘trade association’. Since I was a teenager I was part of the IVCA – the communications industry and the extensive use of video in training and communications.

Over the last decade, with the digital takeover and the demise of video in favour of faster, personalised delivery mechanism and smart learning online new associations have emerged. Personally, a Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) has convinced me that video is a blunt, even bland and potentially forgettable and disengaging response to a learning need – well written text can be read at a pace set by the participant.

I joined the ELearning Network doing a bit online and following various stories. Last Friday I joined 30 or so for a day long series of talks. I was impressed. It worked.

Over the course of five hours there were five presenters – the format was engagement rather than lecture.

It gave me the perspective of the industry I wanted as I contemplate taking my interest in an academic approach to the next step – PhD research.

Where is the ‘smart e-learning’ and what can I isolate into a piece of original research that warrants three years of research and a 100,000 thesis?

I gained insights on:

  1. Composing questions
  2. The role of games and gamification
  3. Tools
  4. Design for social interaction
  5. Designing interaction: games, social, tutorial …

In the process our table invented a game called ‘Kiss the Frog’ where participants have to battle against the odds and each other to ‘kiss the frog’ – so that they too can become a frog and live happily ever after and a game to explain genetics in relation to colour-blindness.

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