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E-Learning I, II & III – the Picasa Albums of the MA ODE

Fig.1. E-Learning I covers FIVE modules of the Open University Masters in Open and Distance Education

E-Learning I – MAODE Modules, include innovation in e-learning, professional practices, open learning and ‘creativity, innovation and change’.

E-Learning II Research Practices in use of technology in learning

E-Learning III The Networked Practitioner

Google offers a myriad of ways to share content, whether images or words, from galleries to entire conversations. with circles and hangouts. Unwittingly I’ve been part of their ‘game’ since the outset, an early adopter of Picasa having migrated from Flickr. I’ve not invited much in the way of sharing though I now have over 175 ‘albums’ some of which contain a thousand images (the album max). Many of these albums are closed, or linked only to key family members or friends as they contain family snaps or holiday pictures. Some now contain an archive of deceased relatives (a grandfather, father and mother no less). Others are concept boards or scrapbooks, not just of OU work, far from it … but a place where these snippets of ideas and moments will be for decades while the hardware changes or breaks down, or hard copies, albums and scrapbooks, get lost, or damaged (or both).

I have THREE e-learning album galleries of screengrabs and photos, graphic mash-ups and such like spanning the three years and nine months I’ve been on the MA ODE.

This current E-learning III album is taking everything from H818. It is in every respect an OpenStudio platform – if I chose to share its contents then people may, with various copyright permissions (creative commons) use and re-use the content – though plenty of it I grab as a personal aide memoir and is therefore of copyrighted material.

The value of these becomes greater over time – it is a short hand back into a topic, and in time, indicative of how swiftly things are moving. These platforms are leaking out into formal learning contexts; there could be a  tipping point, where someone or something happens that galvanises massive interest, say the ‘Stephen Fry’ personality of Twitter, or the Arab Spring of Twitter where J K Rowling or Tracey Emin open their galleries to the world. Meanwhile, without meaning to be unnecessarily derogatory, OpenStudio is the ‘sheep pen’ while Picasa Web Galleries or Google Galleries are the ‘market’ – the sheep pen is closed and local, while the market is global, open, virtual, connected and online.

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.

On the future of learning institutions

Just because an ‘editor’ contributes to content in Wikipedia does not make them an authority. Imagine a feature film or documentary made where anyone can chip in and perform whatever role they fancy. Does this not pander to the poser and the ignorant?

The Oxford Theatre Group on the Edinburgh Fringe, August 1982

Thirty years ago I took a Sony Betamax kit to the Edinburgh Fringe and shot all the action around the Oxford Theatre Group as they set up, rehearsed then put on five productions: Titus Alone, Edward II, The Thirteen Clocks, The Oxford Review and The Hunger Artist.

The clips above are random grabs from the video. The playback quality suffers from drop out. There are several hours of rushes – putting up the stage, putting up posters around town, rehearsals in a sunlit hall for Titus Alone and the Oxford Review, and rehearsing Titus Alone outside on Arthur’s Mount. The cut ‘documentary’ features several copyright music tracks that I need to replace before the entire video can be shown, for now those featured can view by providing their email address.

For three decades the original Betamax tapes have been in a box, carefully stacked, in an attic or garage.

Nicky King, who produced Titus Alone wrote and voiced the ‘documentary’ with Matthew Faulk the editor – all achieved mixing between a Sony Betamax and VHS player.

I’m keen to put together the complete crew and cast list – I had or have programmes and posters somewhere in a large box.

The above include:

Patrick Harbinson, Nicky King, David Tushingham, Nigel Williams, Humprey Bower, Mark Ager, Rebecca Rosengard, Jack Latimer, Carrie Gracie … Stefan Bednarczyk.

Other productions I have from Oxford include: The Taming of the Shrew (OUDS) – hours of rehearsals, Abigail’s Party (Directed by Anthony Geffen) – the entire production, as well as various clips from other Oxford productions I am yet to identify.

Vomit Bobbins

20130730-091430.jpg

As a child whenever I was going to be sick I dreamt of bobbins drifting through the sky like clouds, as if my head was upside down in a brightly lit drawer of the things.

I saw bobbins yesterday and my mind took me back to the 8 year old who felt unwell – it turns out that my system can’t abide certain things: too much chocolate icecream might have done it, or just a Cadbury’s Fudge Finger and a Coke.

Curious is it not how the brain first constructs such an image and then tags it?

Not so much a learning environment so much as a learning tool kit

FIG.1. Projected onto the sitting room wall

The migration between kit and now the use of multiple devices tells its own story – that and my enhanced levels of digital literacies.

And dependency on my Open University blog???

I am too used to starting there then cutting and pasting the HTML results into WordPress (here). This platform works because it is kept simple. OK, you have to get your head around a few basics (which are good for any blogging platform), but the thing is stable and robust – it hasn’t changed much in three years and it is always there.

Either I’ll wean myself off it or I’ll plugin to another module of course and be here for another decade.

You get used to a thing – especially when it works. Calls to other institutions regarding their VLE have left me cold – some still old school box of books and turn up for an all day Saturday face-to-face once a month as your only tutor and peer group contact.

From a clapped out Mac Book that died and a Psion I moved on to a borrowed PC laptop … and scrounging computer access around the home. Only recently I got a Mac Mini – for the previous 18 months I’ve been fine on an iPad with moments on my wife’s PC to view and print off DOCX.

The Mac Mini gets what ever screen my teenage son leaves me with – he tends to snaffle away any new screen I get, just swaps them over. I may take me days to realise something is afoot.

And then there is the above – projected onto a wall with me working on a wifi keyboard and touchpad. It changes things. Next to this screen there is a large whiteboard. I get up and doodle.

As for the sitting room? Long gone.

Cries for a TV to bring the family together fall on deaf ears. Why would any of us gather to watch ONE version of an event when we can each take or leave our news, or films, or anything else as we please on a bigger or smaller screen in various other rooms and cubby-holes around the house?

An iPad mini will replicate when I had a decade ago with a Psion, something handheld, light and discrete that I can tap on whenever I wish and wherever I am.

 

 

‘The Private Life of the Brain’ Susan Greenfield is my current highly recommended read. It is certain to take you off on a tangent from whatever you are studying, but if offers a layperson’s view of the inner workings of the brain.

 

On reflection

It has been refreshing not to blog for a month. It is easier to reflect. 

Had it become compulsive? A necessity to post whether I had something to say or note?

Now qualified with a Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education am I inclined to be more circumspect and scholarly?

Is this ‘jazz writing’ as I call it resistance to or an alternative to ‘proper’ writing, whether academic or storytelling.

I miss what I have missed and the need to catch up. I have been busy with a trip to walk in and out of the old line along the Western Front at Ypres. I have read copiously and widely on psychology, neuroscience, e-learning and history. I have seen a movie a day.

On reflection I am better off WITH rather than without the regular habit of capturing thoughts and ideas as they are experienced. I gain from the e-portfolio, the aide memoire, if nothing else.

Stumbling upon the work of Baroness Susan Greenfield, for example, prompted by a radio talk has had me reading her take on neuroscience.

 

 

Reading ‘Red Nile: a biography of the world’s greatest river’ – a gem

At times you laugh out loud, always informative, great stories, full of well-known facts with a twist, as well as a myriad of gems. The kind of book I would have bought and sent to people for the pleasure of it … not sure how that works with an eBook. If Michael Palin had got stuck in Egypt for six years, without the film crew, he might have made a stab at it. I described Robert Twigger to my wife as Michael Palin’s mischievous younger brother. (I know Robert, though I’ve not seen him for twenty years). He’s exceedingly bright but very modest, even humble. A boffin you might find going through second-hand books in a pile at a charity shop.

There’s an intimacy, cleverness and a flash of British funniness throughout. Encyclopedic whilst as readable as an unputdownable novel.

For me this is the very best travel writing. I’ve bounced into it via a need to take an interest in ethnography in H809 Practice-based research in e-learning. I found myself watching ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ then reading the book by Heinrich Harer. ‘The Red Nile’ is written in a similar vein, though Robert’s relationship is with the river and not the Dalai Lama. The book touches on a good deal of anthropological study of the peoples of the Niles (blue and white). It’s value is how easy it is to read after all the academic papers, and how quotable and informed it is too.

‘It seems peculiar to me that specialisation should involve developing a point of view that obscures the very subject you wish to study’.

This is I will take as a warning as I venture towards doctoral study. My interest is in learning, and e-learning in particular. Learning can apply to many, many fields. We all do it whether we want to or not.

31 Years Ago – Oxford 1982 on video

Fig.1. The author/auteur with his Sony Betamax out. My study, Staircase 11, Balliol College, Trinity Term 1982

31 years ago I was an undergraduate at Oxford University.

In my second year, eager to develop my interest in TV production I managed to get myself a Sony Betamax Camera. It was semi-portable – a backpack and cable. I’ve had the 20 tapes digitized. The pleasure for me and for those featured will be to see themselves and their friends in a way that will have quite escaped them. You are faced with the spatial disjointedness of seeing and hearing yourself as others presumably saw you and the temporal disjointedness of seeing a 19 or 20 year old from the perspective of a fifty-something. There’s some 17 hours of content. I got through it at x18 in a few hours yesterday afternoon.

Fig.2. Rehearsing in the Oxford University Drama Society (OUDS) production of Taming of the Shrew. I played Baptista.

These are the obvious observations:

  • How young we looked. Look at the fashion (hair, clothes) and the cars.
  • Did I really look like and talk like that?
  • Even an idiot could see that I couldn’t grow a beard, so why did I try!
  • Why did I buy that shirt?

The more nuanced thoughts and realisations are:

Fig.3. The Oxford Lightweights Crew, Henley. My purpose had been to video them in training.

How amazing it is that watching a blurry clip of a team of rowers an image no bigger than a pea tells me quite quickly that I know one of these people, a few moments more and I have their name. The ability of the human brain to identify faces is remarkable. (The above is far closer and clearer than the silhouette tat initially gave me the location, purpose and person).

There are events I covered, even moments where I appear, that I simply cannot recollect at all.

Being behind the camera can do this … you’re cut-off from the moment slightly in any case as you should be tending to the camera (on a tripod), lighting and sound. There’s a good deal that I didn’t cover – the camera often went out with others.

Then I see a person, and it does ‘come flooding back’ – this personal emotional tie to a person or event is vital.

Just a few seconds of a person and I feel warmth and longing for a lost love. I know the name, when we met and the times we spent together. But what unintended hurt might I cause even these decades later? Or others who had no inkling of my interest? Or is this just part of being who and what we are at that age? And we have, of course, move on … so far beyond that the past really is a different country. And we are not those people who populated it.

Getting myself back into the head of a 20 year old feels like a kind of lobotomy – it had might as well empty my head of everything that has happened since. The perspective makes you realise just how naive and inexperienced you are even at that age.

There are inevitable technical issues:

  • The tapes, stored for three decades, are damaged.
  • The lighting, anything in doors or when it was dreary, is atrocious.
  • The sound, through the directional mic on the camera is pretty dreadful too.

Fig. 4. In conversation somewhere, with someone – but I don’t know with whom, and can’t even tell what was on our minds.

What next?

Just a screen grab shared with a handful of the participants has produced glee. It is a reminder of how friendships are formed, a bond and trust that slips into place between strangers after they’ve got to know each other and then spend more time together doing things and making fond memories. This is its value if nothing else. None of the video will go online. I’m even reluctant at this stage to store content online and offer a password to people. I know that it is too easy for content to ‘leak’ which at this stage I feel is too unfair to those concerned. I’ll start just by sharing the moments with them.

  • How much do we need or want to remember?
  • Doesn’t the brain, for those of us who are and remain physically and mentally well, do a perfectly adequate job of forgetting?
  • Is it not better to see the past through the prism of narrative, anecdotes and recollections. To feel, either good or bad about people and moments rather than getting this ‘in your face’ absolute?
  • Twice I spotted people who were lovers.
  • Twice I spotted people I ‘fancied’.

Is it not healthier and correct to reinforce my marriage of twenty years with memories of equal strength of her and our children?

Wherein a wedding and some holiday video footage may have served a purpose. On graduation I never, or very rarely, have ‘gathered’ amateur footage like this. Perhaps understandably I want to work with a team of professional broadcasters and filmmakers.

There are fictionalised stories I want to tell about this age group.

This content is an invaluable record and reminder of all that we are at that age. It is also noticeable, even in the streets of Oxford on May Morning, how the student population dominate, while of course cast and audiences of students productions are for the most part students too. For a period, or for some weeks, you live away from your family, without a family – most people around you are your age and possibly, its weakness in the 1980s, amongst those from a white caucasian middle class background. This too would reflect the bias of whoever was behind the camera, and the events covered.

Fig.5. Oxford Theatre Group (OTG) rehearsals for the Oxford Review. I have several hours of footage of setting up, the hall and rehearsals for three out of the five productions: Titus Alone, Edward II and the Review.

Best of all, and the fullest record, is the Oxford Theatre Group on the Edinburgh Fringe in August and early September 1982. As well as our edited highlights from this, behind the scenes, rehearsals and productions, there are several hours of ‘rushes’. There is also coverage of an Eight’s Week (College Rowing Event), the Oxford & Cambridge Ski Trip to Wengen, one May Morning (May 1st, 1982 I presume) and Lightweights and Woman’s Eights at Henley … and some ‘Student News’ from a single edition of ‘Oxford Television News’. I didn’t need three tapes of rushes for an English Language School for Japanese Students.

In a world where such images are so easily gathered are we even more inclined to bin or wipe them?

Do most young people live in a world of image overload where the recording and broadcast of content is instantaneous so little thought needs to be given to what is recorded, how it is stored, how it is shared and who sees it? In thirty years time will my children be able to look at content the way I can?

At my mother’s funeral my God Father presented me with a couple of DVDs containing digitized 16mm footage of my mothers age 17 from the late 1940s. Would this have lasted sixty years on tape? In sixty years time will people want to or need to see clips of themselves in their youth? Isn’t it too easy, even expected to dip back and forth through your timeline?

Fig. 6 I know the people in the line and the person who recorded the footage – rain damage put the camera out of action for several months, perhaps worth it for several minutes of frivolity during May Day celebrations, May 1st 1983 (or 82?)

How will people change if they cannot forget and are not allowed to forget?

I’m sure we’ll become more accepting of the human condition – that politicians who ‘had a life’ may be preferred over those who did not? That we will be accepting of a good deal more of what we do and how we were and how we change, that we have different personas in different settings and at different times.

Fig. 7 My study – second year, a study with separate bedroom. In College. The key to this era, should I wish to explore it, is the diary on the shelf in the background. Whilst the video record is selective and patchy, the daily journal is complete.

What though the value of keeping a diary? I understand the academic value of reflection, but a record of what you did, what you read and maybe who you saw and most especially what you thought back then? Digitised, a process I started patchily two decades ago, others insights – some best left in the past. Devices that capture your day, sensecams and wearable devices … how much more are these a record if the data they provide can be analysed for you or does a memory need and deserve the filter and effort of being recorded as you experienced  and felt it?

Several edits into the above I realise I have failed to sate the obvious – after a part-time Masters Degree in Distance and E-Learning (MAODE) I am now applying to undertake doctoral research. The youth of these images didn’t have postgraduate study on his mind largely because he didn’t understand who he was – deeply curious about people and learning. If an education is wasted on youth, then I’d say this is even more the case with postgraduate study.

When I think if learning, I think of the minuscule intricacies of the component parts of the brain and at the same time the immense vastness of the known universe.

As humans we are eager to understand everything.

It seems appropriate to marry neuroscience with astrophysics, like brackets that enclose everything. From a learning point of view then ask as you look at a person or group of people, ‘what is going on?’ specifically, ‘what is going on in there? (the brains) and between them to foster insight, understanding, innovation and advancement.

The best interface for this, a confluence for it all, is the Internet and the connectedness of it all.

What has the impact of the Internet been and based on everything we currently know, where do we presume it is going?

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