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It won’t get me a job as a learning technologist (aka technician) but I’ve said it (in a presentation interview online) and will repeat it now and develop the argument, that the best learning experience a student can have is you in the room with them; if this cannot happen, then it is you LIVE, online, talking them through a topic, guiding them and praising them, correcting them and challenging them, responding to their individual stops and starts. Of course, one to one is not scalable. Nor is it sexy tech. So there have to be compromises.
In my five years completing a Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) with the Open University, taking the five required modules, and in due course another two or three to complete the ‘set’ I can recall two positive modules and equally positive experiences – and outstanding results. No longer the 42/53 and odd 70 I got in other (and admittedly earlier modules), but 92/93 – If I’d retaken the entire MAODE I guess I might have gained a Distinction. Though I am certain I would have needed the kind of support these tutors provided, but they only provided that support on their modules.
This was all online, ‘at a distance’ and very little of it was live. Rather we were ‘as live’ as much as anything putting content into a common OU Student Blog that our tutor and fellow students could dip into. I know that one or two students did outstandingly well and barely interacted at all … but I’m a social learner, I like the praise, I like to be ticked off and corrected too – and to put awkward questions, and to ask ‘why?’ over and over again. I don’t mean to be annoying but when I don’t ‘get it’ I just don’t and it takes a new angle, a new link, something else to read, a chance comment, an analogy or visualisation to get me over the line. Then once I understand it, I really understand it 🙂 I wear it on my sleeve, it is tattooed into my brain.
So where does this leave online learning?
It requires engagement, it requires responsiveness to the individual, even tailor-made – it requires direct engagement from the tutor – ideally the course chair, and where not that someone highly qualified in the subject – NOT a ‘nanny’ moderator who knows f*** all on the topic. Expertise matures over time, it is not last year’s PhD student or this years MA student, it is ideally a professor, or a senior lecture, who lives and breathes their subject.
But how can this be scaled up to teach hundreds, even thousands?
When I last checked there were over 223 million young people around the world hoping to go into tertiary education. There aren’t the professors and senior lecturers to teach them. So we have to create learning, create learning, gamify it, modulerise it, make it ‘smart’ and compromise. AI will do a better job that some tutors and mentors in due course – what is the point of a jobsworth mentor/tutor who restricts their engagement with you to a couple of hours on a Thursday evening – because, they tell you, they are only paid X to do X hours. This is where you need people who teach as a vocation, whatever the risk is to exploitation. This is for their line manager to protect them from, their union to negotiate or challenge if it goes wrong. Can a Chatbot behave like someone whose vocation it is to teach? To experience students finding and developing their strengths?
You have to make the time. And where time is limited you have to use Tech to make more time available – but it is always diluted. Online learning needs to be simple and effective for very particular tasks – I love the determined simplicity of the language learning platform LingVist for example. Involved tangentially in the development of a language learning platform in 2000/2001 I have followed developments closely, tried many apps and approaches (including failed attempts at an A’ Level, and even a undergraduate degree).
Online learning in the form of a course or module must be offered in a multitude of ways to provide a complete experience which includes live/as live, interaction, solo study, old fashioned reading and essay writing, lectures too, as well as smarter IT elements to ingrain specific necessary elements which are suited to a Tech approach.
A morning spent taking some 80 VR 360 shots across Northbrook Theatre and an afternoon beginning to stitch them together. I relax with a trip down to Hope Gap to take further shots under the chalk cliffs looking east down the coast to the Seven Sisters, Birling Gap and Beechy Head.
18 years regularly taking shots along here and plenty to show the way the cliffs erode and collapse.
So advises Google as you undertake 12 hours of self-directed online learning to become a certified educator – Level 1.
Easy said, harder to fulfill if you are being overlooked by your employer, scrutinized by your peers and exposed to unsympathetic and potentially cruel students.
When Stephen Hawking lost the ability to speak in 1985 he realised with great frustration that he could no longer talk through a problem with others and in so doing clarify his thoughts.
For a student to be able to talk through a subject with tutors and fellow students is a vital component of learning that risks being absent where e-Learning is supposed to provide all of that. Face to face in tutorials and at other events, such as in a debate or subject-some specific society is ideal. The next best thing is having formal a Google hang-out and other interactions that are live (synchronous) as well as asynchronous.
I was brought up on a fountain pen. Snobbery at my boarding prep school equated Biros, ITV, Radio 1, comics and guitars with a different class and one that they were not going to indulge. You develop your handwriting with an ink pen age 8-13 and there’s no going back. Writing with a Biro I find is like trying to scratch your name in ice with a ski-pole.
Hear I am, prefered time of working 3.00am to 5.00am, head down, collecting my thoughts, ploughing through reams of paper as if I was sitting a time examination.
I think it works, for me at least. The ‘Muse’ joins me after half an hour and the ideas flow. I then sleep on it. Further ideas and fixes bubble up and I add these before breakfast. If I don’t write it down, by the evening it is lost. If I add it to the many hundreds of pages of Google Docs and notes it is as likely to become buried in electronic fluff.
In the image above I’d been brought to a halt by an empty ink cartridge. These have become costly. £4.50 for a packet of five cartridges! I must go online and find a supplier.
Around 2011 during the Master of Arts Open & Distance Education I resolved to give up on paper entirely: no files, no printing off and all books on Kindle. This time round I stay off the computer except for wordpressing, posting essays and supervisor feedback. Instead I am back to my teen student days of pen, paper, scissors and Sellotape and large scraps of coloured paper. It works for me, even if it is somewhat time consuming.
What I haven’t understood is that greater academic skill at taking notes from references would greatly reduce the need to compost, then filter down a mass of too much information at a later date.
Getting there. This 15,000 word dissertation on the behaviour and mood of volunteers as they enlisted in early September 1914 is not due until July.
Cows on the meadow off Stanley Turner looking toward Mt Caburn, Lewes, Susssex
This is an agenda-drive, single-answer to the world’s problem, California and US centric production.
There are problems with its presentation, the production techniques and approach and the choice of and use of evidence, and the ethics of how they treat those interviewed.
This is not a BBC Horizon or Panorama, or a BBC / Open University production. In GB we are used to the highest production standards. Ask yourself if the BBC would broadcast this.
Cowspiracy is the TV equivalent of the News of the World.
The story telling technique and style is to use exaggeration, scaremongering, a pastiche of the Hollywood storyline template, and exploiting tropes and clichés of the investigative documentary genre.
- People and organisations that do not wish to take part are assumed to be guilty of a cover up just because they do not wish to respond to emails or the presenter doorstepping their offices..
- Doorstepping and gratuitous use of ‘hidden camera’ angles suggests that those approached have something to hide – that is not proven; they just cannot respond to every nutter who presents themselves at their door waving a camera.
- Using emotive scenes where animals are killed or culled.
- Unnecessary and gratuitous lingering on a duck as it goes under the chop then cutting later to the presenter puffing up his cheeks and shaking his head. Yet this was an example of small-scale backyard farming that in reality is one of the answers to decreasing industrial-scaled meat production.
- The presenter playing the role of Jesus in the wilderness. ‘Someone like us’ – not a journalist, or academic, just a member of the public making his enquiries. He claims to be going on a learning journey but follows a singular path to prove his hypothesis.
- Scaremongering by making unqualified claims about potential mass extensions of species and lines such as ‘we’ve stolen the world from free living animals’.
- The death of an activist.
- Shot choice and cliches: tuna fishing, animal culling.
- By the end of the film, with lingering shots of California trees there is a distinct ‘hug a tree’ atmosphere.
- Cutting away to the presenter and his easy to read body language and facial expressions.
- Emotive, exaggerated animated graphics that are unrepresentative of the evidence they purport to come from making naive scaled-up calculations to illustrate the problem and make projections.
- Inadequate introduction to those interviewed i.e. their context and stance relating to the argument.
- No interviews with the people who wrote the reports, news paper, magazine articles the ‘evidence’ was selected from.
- The quality of the research is weak. The sources poor, biased, limited and often of no value.
- The assumption that ‘peer reviewed papers’ were read and used throughout, when in fact only three are given on the website as ‘facts/
- Failure to adequately cross-reference and corroborate the ‘evidence’ uses.
The Ethics and Legality of some of the interviews
- Setting up an interviewee to be mocked/humiliated on camera then putting this online.
- Recording before and after the interview to get the person off guard then using this. It must be assumed that a ‘release form’ of some kind was used, yet did these people know that the material would be used in this way?
- Showing and naming children on a sustainable farm who were indirectly mocked. If I was the parent of this farm I would have taken legal action against the producers.
- Using access to a sustainable farm and a backyard farm to mock them and in the case of the sustainable farm probably doing significant damage to their reputation and trade. Implying that what they were doing is worse than industrial farming was ludicrous and revealed the presenter and the programme makers to be unscrupulous activists not documentary filmmakers.
A single issue mockumentary aimed at animal activist vegan supporters.
More like a recruitment video for a movement or cult produced for believers to support their preconceptions.
The US is the guiltiest party, with by far the greatest consumption of meat per head in the world.
Abuse of selected evidence too often using newspaper and magazine journalists as the supposed ‘expert’ sources. (See the website).
Causality is complex but the presenter wants to reduce it to one thing
Do Your Own Research. Draw Your Own Conclusions
Go to a reputable source such as the Oxford School of Geography and the Environment and find and use only peer reviewed papers in reputable journals. Take nothing for granted, check the papers cited in these papers and construct your own understanding of the issues.
Use Google Scholar if you don’t have access to a university library.
Don’t just read the relevant papers. Follow up the lines of argument and researched cited by these papers too.
Don’t buy the DVD or T-shirt.
Developed by Hermann Ebbinghaus some 150 years ago while the hypothesis is sound the results are representative rather than an individual’s response. How might e-learning respond to the different capacities and inclinations of each learner to retain or lose the knowledge they pick up?
A number of platforms have tried to address this, the most successful coming out of Harvard Medical school 6 years ago and more recently rebranded and commercialised for sakes training for the pharmaceutical industry under the name QStream.
Trained and experienced educators will know that they are constantly faced by the challenge of getting what they teach or facilitate to stick . How can these techniques be supported online? How do you educate a class of many thousands? Coursera are determined to crack it. As a Coursera Mentor it feels as if their technical team is responsive on a weekly basis to making improvements – improvements that increasingly come from the 1,900 volunteer mentors they have recruited and trained in the last two years, all of us completing a Coursera Community Mentor’s course before we are permitted to interact directly with students on a course we have already successfully completed.
It feels like being part of an educational movement and a pleasure to be in touch every day: you gradually see patterns in where people get stuck, where they need a hand, where the technology may trip them up, or the content could be improved. Everything can be refined so Coursera take the view that nothing stands still.
These are the benefits educators commuting their content to Coursera get – opportunities to refine, and improve the ‘knowledge transfer’ part (the lecture typically) so that once ‘flipped’ they can give, in small groups by rotation something akin to the personal attention of the Oxbridge Tutorial.