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From E-Learning V

Delightfully explained here. 

Offered as an Open Education Resource (OER) easily shared through Twitter and Facebook. Come on, let’s speak French like the French  and not Ted Heath 🙂

And some wonderfully expressed and illustrated that we’ve made it into a party game at home. My wife is word-perfect having gone to a French-speaking school for a year age 13 in Canada. She always picks me up on the ‘r’ – maybe I can finally crack this.

Not easy.

I had elocution lessons as a boy age 7 as I couldn’t manage my ‘Rs’ in English, let alone the greatest challenge.

Brilliant. Wonderfully put and comprehensive.

Pilates for the British tongue. I still can’t quite manage ‘Bruno’ though – something about the mouth position for the ‘B’ to the ‘R’ – currently the equivalent of trying to do a standing backflip.

Thank you. L120 Team smile

P.S. Also the most charming way to learn how to say ‘tongue’ with a French accent smile

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Pronunciations around the globe

Learning French with The OU I am finding the toughest task is to kill my British accent. I’ve been using Rosetta Stone too. There are certain words with combinations of letters that fox the English tongue.

You know you’re mastering French, for example, when you can differentiate between the subtleties of ‘de’ and ‘deux’. Do you want some croissants or two? You think you are saying you want two, they think you are saying some, they ask you how many, you repeat ‘some’ and you resolve the problem by holding up your fingers. ‘Trois’ and ‘quatre’ may flumox your British tongue too, so you perhaps go in wanting two of a thing, and end up asking for five, as ‘cinq’ is far easier on the English tongue. You then hide or eat the spare three croissants on the way back to the campsite?

As I’m working with the written and the spoken word and I’m used to Googling everything I was delighted to come across a website that purports to help you correctly pronounce anything.

I was toying with words such as ‘Victoire’ and who wouldn’t get their tongue tied with ‘Hesdigneul.’ This has to do with the FutureLearn Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) ‘Start Writing Fiction’ that I’m using to galvanise my writing once and for all … the trend is good, in ‘Write a novel in a month’ I’m on course to complete at the end of November. 

The ‘grin from ear to ear’ fun came when I looked up ‘Bruno’. 

I had a French friend in my teens called ‘Bruno’ and I could not, for the life of me get his name right. It always sounded like Bruno, as in ‘Frank Bruno’, the name you’d give to a bloodhound as it is so droopy. In French ‘Bruno’ is perky like a sharp dig in the ribs.

What this site does is it gives you sixty versions of how ‘Bruno’ is pronounced all over the world. Click on the UK, then somewhere in France and you’ll see what I mean.

I laughed even more when I put my own name in, to hear ‘Jonathan’ said in a Swedish, Taiwanese, American, French and German accent.

Go on, give it a go! smile

Writers have the details at their fingertips

From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Moon phases in May 1917

Studying with the OU for the last four years it soon become natural to conduct online niche searches for books and papers related to course work. You learn also how to tag, store and gather the information and ideas that you find: this is one answer to that, a blog that serves several purposes, not least as a learning journal and e-portfolio.

Searching for the obscure, that essential detail that forms such a vital part of the sensory palette used by the writer, is as easy to find and just as necessary. This morning I stepped out one May evening in 1917 and wanted some hint of what I’d see, hear and feel: a few searches and I can see a waxing moon at 10.00pm on a cooling evening as the temperature dips below 12 degree C, and the noise, in this instance of thousands of men in Nissen huts around a camp soon giving way to a robin trilling and burbling in the trees and the sound of the sea washing against the Channel Coast.

These details are far more than accessories that overlay character and plot; they are what gives it credibility. Writing on and as the Great War rages requires significant care. The wrong detail will throw a reader, worse I’ll end up in a conversation about my claims. Posting a piece of fiction some years ago an irate reader told me what I’d said was rot and went on to correct me – I had been writing fiction. I’d said that a character called Gustav Hemmel changed his name to George Hepple and fakes his own death – the reality is that he went missing over the English Channel in his plane.

THREE HOURS working on writing fiction, five days a week, is the goal . The OU will have me for TWO hours a day (averaged with longer stints at the weekend). That’s the plan.

Bereavement

‘The apples were black, the table top like tar, the  carpet a mass of grey patterns, even the flames in the grate were black and when he caught himself in the mirror above the fireplace it was a silhouette. There was no colour in his face, no colour in his arms and through the window every spring plant looked stiff and cold. He held himself so still, so steady that he began to rock, just a gentle swaying back and forth. He heard his heart beat. How it thumped and thundered and would not stop. Bang it went! Bang. Bang. And the clock joined in. Bang it went. And Bang again. ‘Your time is up’, it said. Bang. Bang. Bang. This time yesterday she’d been alive’. He thought.

Week Two with Writer’s South East at the Writer’s Place, Brighton yesterday evening.

I’m enjoying how these sessions work. Sixteen or so of us. A little talk, a bit of doing, then sharing in pairs or small groups doing what we’re here to learn to do, or to find the confidence to do. ‘Bereavement’ was the second word of the second exercise. In our group of four we each took it in turns to read out what we had spent six or seven minutes writing.

I’d thought I’d struggled with the previous word. These we took from a bowl (I have them all to work on today as a series of exercises).

Whatever I do is for characters and events that are long-established in my head; I have the story, just in need of a way to tell it.

What was my word here?

‘If she could wash his skin without disturbing a hair’

‘She washed the young soldier’s body as if she were painting a picture in smoke’.

‘It was like picking eggshell out of a froth of meringue’.

‘It was like … ‘

‘She remembered how she’d once … ‘

‘It was like removing hair from someone’s eye, then having to do so over and over again and again. Each time she’d clam her breathing, steady her hand, then reach over the wound in the soldier’s chest to remove another piece of shrapnel’.

‘Her caress was warm, like a halo’.

This week the theme was ‘Show and Tell’

Before we got started some ideas were shared on how to build a profile for your character – last week was on plot and character … or that plot is character. Ideas were shared on answering the what, where, why, how and when questions, on writing a diary in character (or blogging it perhaps?). This is necessary to know how your character is going to respond.

When it comes to ‘showing not telling’ my immediate thoughts went to Alfred Hitchcock – he notably said that talk on camera was no different, nor more important than music. I thought of how scripts are written putting onus on the visual and just the other day John Hegarty (he of Bartle Bogle Hegarty) saying that words got in the way of communication. From this, I conclude that text should aim to compensate for the visual, to allow the reader to create an image in their mind’s eye. Novels were the early movies.

‘Showing’ matters to create empathy, to increase reader participation.

It should be:

  • Sensory
  • Descriptive
  • Revealing
  • Significant
  • Specific

and use

  • Actions
  • Body Language
  • Objects
  • Dialogue
  • Gesture
  • Possessions
  • Tone
  • Complexity
  • Detail

 

We were asked to imagine what a character might have in their pocket. I came up with:

  1. A ticket to an airshow in June 1911 featuring the aeronaut Gustav Hamel
  2. An elastic band attached to a short wire hook
  3. A pair of elegant/expensive delicate (I should have said female) kid gloves
  4. A penknife with a bradawl and hard carved handle. The blade well used and sharp, the bradawl as sharp as a knitting needle.
  5. And a handful of pennies, farthings and thrupenny pieces sticky and smelling of beer.
  6. And a policeman’s whistle.

 

This failed to reveal that ‘Ettie’ is a young woman. What in her pocket would reveal that she was female? Well, the pocket would have been in a smock or skirt. Research required. What did young girls have in their pockets in 1911!!!

 

Positive and negative feedback, especially if constructive, sends a shiver through my bones.

Just ten minutes. A live online presentation. Why for me should it be such a big deal?

I said to my wife that I have not problems delivering other people’s words (acting) and I have no trouble writing words for others to speak (speech writer, script writer), but what I loathe and struggle with is delivering my own words on any kind of platform.

Big fails on this count, emotionally at least would include:

  • My grandfather’s funeral
  • My groom’s wedding speech (I was pants at proposing too)
  • My father’s funeral
  • My mother’s funeral

Because it matters to me far too much when, and only when, the words that I give seem to emanate from my soul.

Let me blog, let me write letters, let me smoulder from my ears into the atmosphere with no expectation of feedback.

Both positive and negative feedback, especially if constructive, sends a shiver through my bones. Why is it that I crave confrontation, that I want to be mentally smacked around the head, then kicked up the arse and sent back into the fray to deliver some amazing show of ability?

We are all so, so, so very different, yet how we are taught, or expected to learn seems so very contrived, so set by context and numerous parameters.

I would prefer to be stuck in a cabin for a couple of weeks with an educator who hasn’t a clue about the subject, but is a natural educator, than someone who has ticked a collection of boxes in order to obtain their position. The natural educator can teach anything. The subject matter expert thinks they know everything.

eLearning can be the subject matter expect – ‘IT’ (literally) thinks it knows it all.

So, connect me, and for me connect students and educators – worry only about the desire and ability to teach or transmit and mange those hungry to gain knowledge, and for students concentrate almost entirely on motivation. If they want to learn pores will open up in their skull so that you can pour in the information and they’ll never be satiated.

Book or eBook? A case of apples vs. oranges or analogue vs. digital?

Fig. 1. Learning in the digital age. J F Vernon (2013)

You’re missing a trick if you’re ignoring eBooks.

My experience studying at postgraduate level over the last four years, first with the Open University and now with the University of Birmingham as well is that we need to consider and experience the affordances of both.

Fig. 2. EBook vs. the Book. It’s largely down to context – do you read on the go, or in a library? Have you got shelf space?

I will own the book and the eBook in some circumstances as they offer a different experience and options.

If you are studying a subject in a social context online it helps to be able to share what you find and think as you read. I did this with Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ and found he was reading along through Twitter and my blog. I find where I have the printed book that I take photos of pages, mash these up and then share online – or resort to pen, paper and note taking in the traditional, lonely way. Then there are the huge tomes, some of the history books I am getting through right now that run to 900 pages – it is so much easier to carry around on the iPad. Using an eBook I highlight by themes of my choosing, add notes, Tweet short passages, seek out threads on single characters, link directly to references and post mash-ups from screen-grabs rather than photos straight into a e-portfolio so that the idea or issues are tagged and ready for later use.

Non-fiction books will become like some LPs of the past – do you want all the tracks or just your choice?

If I can buy 12 chapters of a book for £8.99 on Kindle, when will I be able to buy for 99p that one chapter I need? Speaking to a senior engineer from Amazon over the summer (old friends who moved to Silicon Valley twenty years ago) he wondered if the ‘transformative’ period for books was about to occur, just as it has occurred with music.

There will be a better, personalised hybrid form in due course, several of which I have tried. So far they have been marred by only one thing – poor content, the clickable, multimedia, well linked experience is apt for the 21st century.

Fig. 3. Mash-up from Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ using the App ‘Studio’ to add text and icons to a cropped grab of a page.

Nothing replaces scholarship though , it’s just going to take a while to make the transition.

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.

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