An exploration of the MOOC
|From E-Learning V|
Fig.1. My mash-up of a correct answer to a quiz in the FutureLearn course from the University of Nottingham ‘How to read a mind’ that ties in directly to The OU course on the same platform ‘Start Writing Fiction’.
As these MOOCs complete I have a few weeks over Christmas to reflect on a busy year of Moocing about and to catch up with regular coursework on L120, assisted with a necessary business visit to France.
My MOOCing is enjoyed all the more while reading Martin Weller’s new book that covers MOOCs, ‘The Battle for Open’. These are interesting times indeed.
With friends yesterday I evangelised about MOOCs on FutureLearn and found that what worked was to describe a MOOC in layman’s terms as the equivalent of a hefty, hardback, coffee-table book you buy because you have an interest in a thing. Let’s say it is architecture. The book is written by an expert with engaging photographs, charts and maps. From time to time you indulge yourself. A good MOOC is similar, different and better. Online you have an expert who leads the course. The introduce themselves, the course and perhaps the team. And then over the weeks they drop in to say something with a pre-recorded video piece or text. They may even appear from time to time to contribute to the discussion: though you may miss them if the thread is running into the hundreds.
I explained how threaded discussions work: that there can be thousands of comments, but you know everyone is talking about the same thing. That if you don’t get a point you can ask and someone offers a response. You may still not get it. So you ask again. Once again, there is a response. You may do this a few times. Even come back to it a day or so later, but you are likely, eventually to see something that says it for you – your fellow students have fulfilled the role of the tutor that a tutor could never manage: they only have one voice and they can’t give up the huge number of hours – there is one thread in ‘Start Writing Fiction’ that runs to 7400 posts.
These are filtered in three useful ways: activity, following and your comments. In this way you either look only at the lates posts, the posts of those you are following: say 10 out of 23,000 or, of course, you look back at your comments.
As for my graphic? Does obscuring the writing assist with anything? By making an effort to read the question are you any more likely to remember it?
From time to time I am faced with finding the most obscure of articles
|From First World War|
Fig.1 Motorbike Ambulance of the First World War
I came across something about the Ambulance Service using motorbikes during the First World War. I then saw a photograph of a motorbike with a sidecar with a set of platforms that would carry two stretchers. The arguments for the use of a motorcycle are made: lighter, quicker, tighter turning circle, use less fuel …
A article is cited. The British Medical Journal, January 1915. A few minutes later via the Open University Online Library I locate and download the article.
It is the speed at which quality research can be fulfilled that thrills me. This article is satisfying in its own right, but glancing at the dozen or more articles on medical practices and lessons from the Front Line are remarkable. We are constantly saved from the detail of that conflict, the stories and issues regurgitated and revisited as historians read what previous historians said without going back to the original source.
This is how a new generation can come up with a fresh perspective on the First World War – instead of a handful of specialist academics burrowing in the paper archives now thousands, even tens of thousands can drill right down to the most pertinent, untampered with content.
|From First World War|
The value of using a 3D timeline in writing
Constructing a length piece of writing – over 50,000 words and need to stick to the chronology of events, at least in the first draft, I have found using the timeline creation tool Tiki-Toki invaluable. You can create one of these for FREE.
Over the last few months I’ve been adding ‘episodes’ to a timeline that stretches between 1914 and 1919. You get various views, including the traditional timeline of events stretched along an unfurling panorama. However, if you want to work with two screen side by side the 3D view allows you to scroll back and forth through the timeline within the modest confines of its window.
When in Rome
Watching a drama series has become like reading a book – in the case of ‘Rome’ it is something of an epic. Though produced in 2005 it has the qualities that make a series for the era of Netflix. It is a lesson too from HBO and the BBC. A cracking pace, without becoming vulgar or repetitive (though there is always violence and sex, and sex with violence), the ‘upstairs/downstairs’ balance has two complementary and intertwinned strands. The conflict and jeopardy is relentless. At times the casting is a touch weak – Cleopatra is no Elizabeth Taylor but the strands wrap around eachother in a way that is Shakespearan – as is some of the language. And the last words of the series leave you with a smile on your face – a clever twist that must have been planned early on so that the two stories effectively roll into one – the son of Ceasar and Cleopatra actually that of a bull of a soldier.
The contrast with other series I have tried to watch is telling: V and Battlestar Gallactica are like badly written trash mags in comparison – after a few episodes it not only becomes repetitive, the same events and dilemmas repeating themselves as if on a loop, but the internal dynamic constantly trips itself up with the original need for commercial breaks every seven minutes or so.
My own efforts at the TV Series include ‘Escape from Alien Zoo’, ‘The Little Duke’ and ‘CC and Susie’. The first got me through the door at the BBC to develop the scripts, the second secured me an agent, third was too kid’s TV. Tessa Ross saw me about a TV film version ‘Rewind’. I will work on the paper version of ‘The Little Duke’ as it concerns the Normans in France in the 10th century and has enough violence and power struggles in it to think of it as a cross between ‘The Vikings’ and ‘Rome’.
Liquid Inspiration from cider flavoured with ginger
Fig.1. Liquid Inspiration – I visit Middle Farm for the cider
I’ve used the history of orchards in Sussex to offer a model for how higher education might change and adapt – grubbing out the old and offering something ‘customers’ want is a good message. Location too, this on the A25 – universities today needing to be on the Internet Super Highway.
I’ve used the metaphor of orchards in e-learning too – the nurturing of the crop, the varieties grown and how these are promoted and sold.
Fig.2. “Side-R” Medium Cider with Ginger
‘Flavoured from our Cider with natural Ginger concentrate, this Cider has a mellow Ginger side to it without over-powering the delicate “apple” flavour of the Cider’.
Fig.3. Middle Farm sells a bewildering number of varieties.
Side-R takes you to a somewhat bizarre website that reveals itself to be odder still when you Google translate from the Japanese.
Fig.4. Taste some then buy.
- Heirloom apples: comeback in a cider bottle (sfgate.com)
- Holiday Cocktails – Hot Spiced Cider (kylydia.com)
- Hot Apple Cider for Grown Ups! (3citygirlsnyc.wordpress.com)
- Writers Inspiring Writers (themotherofnine9.wordpress.com)
Sometimes you have to stop the car and listen
Fig.1 Golshifteh Farahan – evocative of the role of Sofia
The Loving Ballad of Captain Bateman
Captain Stewart Bateman is badly wounded in Afghanistan. Sofia gives him shelter in her home and you know they will fall in love … but with the British Captain in their home Sofia and her father face retributions from the Taliban for harbouring him or from the British army for keeping him prisoner. Wounded in the face, Captain Bateman removes his bandages and struggles to see the young woman who has been caring for him with whom of course he falls in love.
Sofia’s father is about to hand ‘Bateman’ over to the Taliban when …
Well, that’s when I stopped the car and the dog had to wait for her walk. Gorgeous music beautifully played. A fairy tale given a modern setting. Characters in love and in jeopardy.
You’ve got 6 DAYS LEFT TO LISTEN from today Friday 14th December
Then what happens? Is it archived? Do you download a podcast … or wait for the movie or TV series.
First broadcast: Thursday 13 December 2012
- Captain Bateman – Nicholas Murchie
- Sofia – Zarghuna Kargar
- Holly – Sarah Thom
- Director – Julian May
- Writer: Joseph Wilde
- Music: Tim van Eyken
The Distant Summer – Sarah Patterson (1976)
Fig.1. Sarah Patterson – her first novel with the promise of many more to come – 1976
The poignant story of a girl who loves two WWII flyers, written by the daughter of suspense writer Jack Higgins when she was just 17. Trying to write myself I was inspired. Over three decades later I have written plenty, though only one piece of fiction has thus far been broadcast – short film ‘Listening In’.
The folder contains ‘The Gypsy’s Curse’ a short story about a girl who is cursed to ‘die of water’ by a gypsy as an infant and much later nearly dies of an asthma attack. My kid sister was grabbed from the house as a three or four year old by a Gypsy and the curse is true – she is asthmatic, but I hope nothing else of it is true.
Fig.2. Sarah Patterson – Young Observer 1976
Scrapbooks, like this one, are ‘mind bursts’ – moments that inspired. In fact this is pasted to a folder that contains typed up teenage efforts. She was 17 and writing about what it was like to be a 17 year old in 1943. I was 15 and writing about what it might be like to be a 15 year old in 2943.
Can inspiration bog you down?
When are distractions are good thing and when bad?
Where does motivation come from and what happens if it is only sometimes realised?
Happy as Larry
Here’s your 2013 reading list – one a week for the year.