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A response to any challenge: it takes time, experience, risk and a sense of what you are capable of

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Fig.1 The only time I ever got down this precipitous drop in one go, falling the fall line, was as a fit and by then experienced skier. Plagne-Bellecote, France.

It took eight years, a badly smashed leg, both thumbs and a rib. It is thirty years since I have been in the flat we used then – this is the view from the window. I have no intentions of getting any closer than this. Instead I will join the Ski Club of Great Britain Guide and in so doing learn from others and remain in one, unbroken piece.

My H818: The Networked Practitioner

Though I completed the Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education (MAODE) last year I didn’t feel like a ‘master’ – further modules as continual professional development have realised this: H809 for research and H818 for applying and sharing in an open and ‘directed’ way. My background is a producer in corporate L&D so the aim has been to support the shift from linear to interactive, to connected and open learning founded on applied knowledge of a number of learning theories.

H818 pulled together or touched on a number of personal interests:

  • Can creativity be taught or managed online?
  • What are the parameters, pitfalls and potential of open learning?
  • Recognition not just of an interface between online and ‘offline’ learning, but the blended mix where lessons from either world can inform the other.

There’s a difference between open (small ‘o’) and Open (large O): the latter, as I have done over 14 years posting content, is akin to ‘exposure’ – putting it all out there; whereas the Open movement to be effective, ironically, requires parameters and goals. From H818 the need to, reasons to and how to ‘ask’ became apparent.

The outcome of H818 is the Quick Response code in a Poppy to support open and connected learning about the First World War. As a creative exercise despite being unable to single out a ‘partner’ the working process has been akin to that in advertising where the creative team is a copywriter and a visualiser, with one if these or both likely to have programming skills – or the creative team becomes three. Openstudio online is like the studio I worked in at the School of Communications Arts where I was a student and now mentor.

The ask component has two parts to it:

I post then share blog posts on the QR Code idea via WordPress and a number of platforms: LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Stumbleupon. This at best makes serendipity a possibility but is small ‘o’ – though the connections directly from this include BBC TV, BBC Radio 4, the national trust, King’s College London and a couple of people with direct, personal connection to the content I have posted – they recognise a face from a 1918 postcard.

The second part is, still early days, putting the idea to individuals and groups directly and asking questions that I take care to recognise where they are forthcoming. Using the above social platforms the request is directed at an individual, or to a specific specialist group. The ‘use of QR codes’ in education has uncovered far greater use and interest than the current papers suggest. Direct questions have gone to niche interest groups such that ‘talks’ on the use of QR codes in this way will be given to schools and to regional history associations. Not all that I approach have responded – this kind of ‘ask’ is a kind of selling or PR. It isn’t simply connectedness, it is networking too that expects a professional offering and response. ‘Consultancy’ is one thing, but the production side of it – seeing content successfully briefed in, financed, designed, scripted and delivered is my aim and so with tentative steps ‘Mindbursts’ is coming to fruition and will build on some 15 years of creating learning content in the corporate sector.

The second outcome of H818 is to try and continue and build on the relationships that were developed. In LinkedIn two groups have been set up: ‘The online masters’ and ‘MAODE’ – early days, but experience from the Open University Business School shows how from tiny beginnings great things can grew. The challenge in the early days will be to keep the kindle alight so that there is just enough ‘vibrancy’ to make it a worthwhile place for current and future members. Similarly, a blog where all members have ‘editor’ rights has been set up.

Returning to the idea of big ‘O’ and little ‘o’ it strikes me that my little ‘o’ behaviour is akin to being loudly in a crowd while big ‘O’ requires directed engagement and responsiveness. Which has me wondering that a journalist writing for a paper with its parameters and audience is more open than hiding behind the obfuscation of the blog. Which in turn, as has occurred throughout H818 has seen me completing a huge loop into an online world of the possible to the offline world of the actual and realising that quicker than I imagined learning is increasingly blended whether you put an ‘e’ or an ‘o’ or an ‘m’ in front of it.

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How I assembled a presentation as an exercise for the Open University Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education module H818: The Networked Practitioner

From the start of the Open University postgraduate master’s module H818: The Networked Practitioner I’ve aggregated screen grabs and photos into a dedicated album in Google+ ‘Picasa Web Gallery’. This, as a resource and aid memoir, also received copies of images from other albums, including the another two albums on elearning that contain some 3000 images from the six MAODE modules that I have done over the last four years and from other albums on the First World War and specific museum visits, including: the Museum of London, the Great North Museum, the Design Museum, the ‘In Flanders Fields’ and ‘Talbot House’ in Belgium, as well as inspiration and insights from the Picaso and Miro Museums in Barcelona and Alcatraz in the Bay of St.Francisco.

From E-Learning III

My interest in museums is lifelong and something emanating from them or to support them had been an intended topic for my last MAODE module H809. My interest in the First World War is also lifelong, fed by my late grandfather, a veteran of that conflict who lived into his 97th year – long enough to attend various events to mark the 75th anniversaries of the Battle of Passchendaele where he served as a machine gun corporal and the formation of the Royal Air Force as he had transferred to the Royal Flying Corps at the very end of 1917. Given the approaching centenary of the 1914-18 War I took the decision to enhance and formalise my understanding of the conflict with an MA in British First World War studies at the University of Birmingham. I further justify this by valuing the insight of doing a ‘traditional’ though part-time MA that requires attendance at lectures, and a substantial amount of reading – even from books, some of these a century old and getting a taste for another institution’s online offering. Here are my mashed up notes from a lecture on reviewing a text.

First ideas were around the use of QStream, a platform with its origins in supporting junior doctors in North America to pass tough written tests of their knowledge. Simply shoehorning in an idea rather than seeing what needs exist, or problems there are, say with museum or battlefield visits isn’t to be recommended. It was necessary therefore to try out for myself some of the mobile guides, for example City Walks.

I knew from experience the year before that QR codes had been used in the Digital Crystal exhibition at the Design Museum – efforts failed here as the promised free wi-fi didn’t work. A visit to the Museum of London was more satisfactory though throughout my visit I never saw anyone use them – spoilt for a wealth of activities and options, including touch screen interactive and computer consoles alongside many tactile and engaging ways to enjoy the exhibits perhaps rendered them redundant.

Most treasured visits to museums include the Royal Academy of Arts where my mother took my daughter, then 12/13 under her wing. I was also impressed by the quality of the audio guide at Alcatraz that featured the voices of inmates and prison officers.

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Reading I do always includes some kind of note taking; how I achieve this using digital tools varies. A significant, if not most of my learning is done via an iPad. Experimentation and habit has me use Kindle tools to highlight, tab and add notes that I later review and grab, while with papers I typically do a number of things: cut and paste a Harvard reference into my OU Student Blog which I use as an ePortfolio, as well as saving into RefWorks, while downloading the paper to a dedicated module folder. Rather than take notes, which I may do in front of a computer or very rarely these days onto paper, I will, as here, highlight and grab then later annotate and potentially post with notes and tags into a blog.

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My established habit is to deconstruct a task into its component parts – in this case an early step towards a ‘multi-media artefact’ using SimpleMinds, a favourite App that I have on the iPad and Mac-Mini.

This detailed mindmap was an early step in assembling a ten minute presentation I gave on OULive on Monday on the potential and pitfalls of using Quick Response codes in education. Its next iteration was as a Prezi. It was ultimately delivered as a PowerPoint consisting of eight or nine slides.

Here I took some of my grandfather’s photographs and mashed them up using the apps ‘Studio’ – a graphics/sharing app and ‘Brushes’ – the iPad ‘painting’ app favoured by David Hockney. Together these allowed me to assemble layers of photographs, text and graphics so that I could express an idea visually.

At some stage I had the idea of putting a Quick Response in a Royal British Legion Poppy – as much for the promotional grab of the image as the practicalities of doing so.

In a module titled ‘The Networked Practitioner’ that is part of the Open University’s ‘Masters of Arts in Open and Distance Education’ the prompt to use, indeed the necessity to at least try a variety of sharing platforms is inevitable. Within the ‘walled garden’ there were module, student and tutor forums, OpenStudio, and wikis, while managed exposure beyond these walls included use of Cloudworks and the Open University student blogging platform. My own extensive use of external platforms includes blogging since 1999, and has developed to include: Linkedin, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, YouTube, Stumbleupon, Pinterest and others. Flickr and blogging has brought me to the attention of the BBC and National Trust, as well as individuals able to support my specific interest here on the First World War: a blogger in Belgium, the grandson of a veteran, a local historian in Hastings, a post doctoral researcher at King’s College, London, an author writing on the First World War for the National Trust, the Western Front Association who have published my grandfather’s story and a researcher and subsequently the BBC to feature in a story in their ‘People and Places’ series.

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Picking a Creative Commons copyright attribution only came after slides had been submitted to the presentation coordinator. Even once having reduced the number of slides proposed and having greatly simplified the images to be shown the need would then ideally to have added the CC as yet another layer onto these images – all the more reason to leave this task to the end once I had reduced some 32 images down to 8. Further simplification would be to restrict my use of images to my own photographs, charts and drawings. An attribution I may have circumvented is to acknowledge or link to Apps such as ‘Studio’ and ‘Brushes’ while I find it all too easy to lose track of where an image was sourced given how many screen grabs I do and photographs I take every day.

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Future plans would be to expand the thinking expressed in the OULive presentation to include a platform such as QStream that feeds by email spaced repetitions on a subject. I imagine a teacher, rather than the secondary school student, assembling a ‘cheat sheet’ of key facts as a revision sheet that is then offered back to them on their phone until, literally, they ‘have it in their heads’. This I base not only on the idea that managing our inclination to forget is a necessary part of formal learning but that only once you have aggregated enough ‘stuff’ on a topic in the brain can it be expected to make its contribution by enabling you to answer exam questions, but also by offering and allowing you to formulate your own ideas.

H818 Conference Day One

I was up at 3.30am and I’m not even presenting. I use these early hours to write – pulling together ideas before they blow away in the wind of daily life in a household where the number of teenagers has suddenly doubled. We have the older teenager couple, and the young teenager couple … and the parents of two of this lot looking at each other and thinking ‘we’re teenagers too’.

Three hours of short presentations and without exception each has an impact and contribution to my thinking an practice.

This despite the presence of a lorry full of blokes with pneumatic drills who attacked the house an hour ago – cavity wall insulation.

I am sitting here with industrial strength headphones – for a ‘test to destruction’ I’d say that these Klipsch headphones are doing their job admirably. I ‘suffer’ from having acute hearing … I do hear the pins drop a mile away. I need headphones like this whenever I leave the house otherwise travelling is a nightmare.

Is this normal?

The great value of a session like this is to listen to your fellow students – a voice, more than a face, evokes character and conviction. Not that I ever doubted it but everyone is clearly smart, focused and keen to ‘play the game’ when it comes to using online tools.

There isn’t enough of it.

The OU has a habit of designing the life and risk out of a module. Bring it back. Vibrancy and energy are born of risk.

eBooks vs. Textbooks

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Ones to  watch:

  • Amazon
  • Pearson
  • Academic publishers
  • Writers
  • Educators
  • University Faculties
  • Schools
  • Research in and of faculties.
  • Initiatives to give eReaders preloaded with course books to students.
  • Proactive use of eReaders by learners, say junior doctors.
  • Research in schools. Related research on mobile learning.
  • Drivers include cost savings.

The purchase of books and their distribution is expensive compared to digital versions that are easily uploaded and include a multitude of affordances:

  • highlighting,
  • book marking,
  • annotating,
  • sharing,
  • searching …

Whilst digital versions of millions of books, journals and papers increase access and scope of reading, developers are producing new interactive, multimedia formats even blending eBooks into the learning process with assessment and student analysis through quizzes and games.

A student can find rapidly from vast sources the material they need to see, though distraction is an issue. They can fast track through ‘reading’, branch out or study something else in parallel.

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Has this been cornered by Martin Weller?

The Institute of Educational

Technology at the OU is a leader.

Ones to watch:

  • Paul Anderson
  • Graine Conole
  • Tim O’Reilly
  • Eileen Scanlon
  • John Seely Brown
  • George Siemens
  • Clay Shirky
  • Rhona Sharpe
  • Lave
  • Wenger
  • M Wesch
  • Victor
  • Mayer-Schonberg
  • Adam Greenfield
  • Brian Kelly
  • Stephen Heppel

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Ones to follow:

  • Martin Weller
  • Helen Beetham
  • Rhona Sharpe
  • Allison Littlejohn
  • Chris Pegler
  • Sara De Frietas

Open Access: Guardian Higher Education Network

What is digital ‘academic’ scholarship? Should 19th and 20th century definitions even apply?

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Martin Weller published ‘The Digital Scholar’ in 2011 on a Creative Commons Licence. You can download it for free, or purchase the book or eBook, and then do as you will with it. When I read it I share short excerpts on Twitter. I’ve blogged it from end to end and am now having fun with a simple tool for ‘mashing up’ designs called ‘Studio’. It’s a photo editing tool that allows you to add multiple layers of stuff. I rather see it as a revision tool – it makes you spend more time with the excerpts you pick out.

You cannot be so open that you become an empty vessel … you have to create stuff, get your thoughts out there in one way or another so that others can knock ’em down and make more of them. Ideas need legs. In all this ‘play’ though have I burried my head in its contents and with effort read it deeply? Do we invoke shallow learning and distraction with openness? If we each read the book and met for a tutorial is that not, educationally, a more focused and constructive form of ‘oppenness’?

In relation to scholarship shoulf the old rules, the ‘measures’ of academic prowess count? In the connected world of the 21st century ‘scholarship’ is able to emerge in unconventional ways, freed of the school-to-university conveyor belt.

REFERENCE

Weller, M (2011) The Digital scholar

Recollections of postgraduate online learning since 2010

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Fig.1 Screengrab from JISC 2011 that I took part in via Twitter (see top right hand column). From my OU student blog of 14th March via a folder in my vast gallery on picasa.

Two and a half years ago I took part in JISC 2011 ‘at a distance’ – distance, cost and illness were all barriers to attending in person. I’m prompted to recall one of the afternoon conferences as Chris Pegler and Tony Hirst from the Open University were on the platform. As well as questions coming from the floor (some 200 attendees) questions also came from the online participants (some 350). A question I posed was picked out by the chair and discussed. For a dreadful moment I worried that I could be seen sitting in pyjammas and a dressing gown at the kitchen table. By March 2011 I was on my second Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) module. A month or so later I applied to and eventually joined the OU where I worked, living away from home, for a year. This year I graduated and have since also completed what I see as a conversion course ‘H809:Practise-based research in technology-based learning’ with a mind, belatedly in my lifetime, to undertake doctoral research. To ‘keep my hand in’ and to stay up to date I have joined a new MAODE module ‘H818:The networked practioner’. I am yet to feel fluent in the language and practice of e-learning so need this repeated immersion, modules that I did a couple of years ago are being updated and I want to prove to myself and potentially others that I can keep up the scholarly level of participation and assessment that I began to display on the last couple of modules.

The learning lessons here are simple: persistence, repetition and practice.

Ambitions to take me e-learning interests into healthcare were thwarted at my first interviews for doctoral research – I am not a doctor (medicine), nor have I conducted a clinical trial before … let alone the ambitions for my proposal that would require departmental participation and funding. Basically, I’d bitten off far too much.

With this in mind I am falling back on a subject on which I can claim some insight and expertise – the First World War. Knowing that expressing an interest, linking to a blog or unproduced TV scripts won’t open academic doors I’ve decided to take an MA in History … the subject I set out to study some decades ago before getting the collywobbles and transferring to Geography. So, alongside a 12-15 hour a week commitment to another OU module on e-learning I will, over the next two years, be spending as much time on an MA in British First World War studies with the University of Birmingham. The additional insight I will get from this is comparing abd contrasting a series of modules that rely on an intensive day every month of lectures and tutorials rather than the dense, minute by minute closely supported and networked virtual learning environment (VLE) of the Open University.

Meanwhile, as in March 2011, I am recovering from a stinking cold. Not totally incapacitated – I have read several books, nodding off between chapters and so plagued by dreams about the causes of war in 1914. Power politics and corporate takeovers where the soldier is the worker while the owners, investment bankers and hedge fund managers risk all for their own gain.

JISC 2011

I might be 275 miles away from JISC 2011 but when I heard my ‘jj27vv’ Twitter ‘handle’ used I felt as if I’d been transported to Liverpool. I certainly had to remind myself that I wasn’t there …

The question/s were to do with the use of Open Content, that there never was a blank sheet and that in something like a wiki a history of authorship is tracked.

The resonses came from:

Amber Thomas, Programme Manager, JISC

Chris Pegler, Senior Lecturer, Open Univeristy;(Our Course Chair in H808 for a while)

Stephen Stapleton, Open Learning Support Officer, University of Nottingham

Vivien Sieber, Head of Learning and Research Services, University of Surrey

Tony Hirst, Lecturer, Open University.

This session and the others are available as podcasts.

Of most use will be the top tips for use of Open Educational Resources by each of the panelists.

 

 

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