Moving, engaging, important.
“You are going to have a horrible time,” the doctor said, “a really horrible time.”
I had turned up for what I thought was a routine appointment with the consultant. He looked at his notes, then at me, before leaning over his desk and telling me that the test had come back positive.
I did not feel any physical pain, but a numbing sense of shock. His words were well meant, but not reassuring as I found myself going into battle with cancer.
After the diagnosis, I had a million questions, ranging from – can I be cured, how are you going to treat me and – the most pertinent question of all – how long have I got? Like millions of others, I suffered an agony of uncertainty and anxiety.
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This covers meals for a five day though missing the porridge oats. Breakfast is either porridge with soya milk, grated cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup or spinach and cherry tomatoes on toast. Lunch is often an Asian soup based on coconut and yeast flakes in a vegetable stock with garlic, ginger, and any combination of veggies: carrots, cauliflower, brocoli, mini corn. Evening veggie burgers made in a variety of ‘flavours’ with chutnies made from dates, or sun dried tomatoes, or pasta and pesto. Pesto typically basil based, but often might include avocado. Parmesan replaced successfully after much trial and error with a mix of roast pine nuts, pistachio and cashew nuts put through a spice grinder with yeast flakes.
Experimenting with recipes from a number of books – some more challenging than others.
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.
Gone is the computer. Here is a fountain pen and paper. It is easier to spread out, easier to gather up ideas in bundles … better for brain? This has the makings of a dissertation.
Familiarity and mastery
Your head gets into a place it never wants to leave. You take command of a subject and want to build on it.
Or should do. I resist mastery in favour of novelty.
So I have to find ways to keep everything fresh. To seek out the challenge.
According to Coursera, the 'learning facilitator', a new role that they are developing and will wear several different hats: managerial, technical, social, and pedagogical.
Coursera goes on to say that "effective facilitators must know how to guide learners in their learning journey, provide formative feedback, offer technical guidance, foster community, and communicate in a way that encourages learners to construct knowledge together".
This 'facilitator' role is somewhat more demanding than the current Coursera 'moderator' who is there simply to nudge things along. This Facilitator role sounds more like the Open University 'Associate Lecturer' (AL) – a practitioner, a graduate of the course they support, and typically someone at PhD or PhD candidate levels. The Coursera moderator is merely someone who recently took the course on which they plan to moderate and gained a score of over 82% and have done the Coursera E-Moderator MOOC.
The development of the Coursera Facilitator is in line with their move increasingly towards developing undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses.
Where Coursera will struggle is expecting facilitators to have enough technical knowledge to do much more than answer the most basic technical questions: they need to know where they can turn. Also those who have invested so much to gain this greater academic knowledge required to be a facilitator will expect to be paid. Coursera will be charging, as they do increasingly as they move away from the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
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.