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Happiness by Design

From E-Learning V

Turn on Radio 4: leave it on and listen from the other side of the kitchen, bedroom, sitting room or bath. Take notes when you hear something interesting. I’m now well through a book on research done into happiness mentioned on Saturday Live and am starting to make ‘Homefront’ a daily fix. Blog about it and discuss: that’s the e in e-learning. That and having the book in eBook form. And quite a bit of Radio 4 is OU anyway: The Bottom Line and that one on statistics come to mind.

Agony in art

Fig. 1. Betthany Hughes – The ideas that make us. BBC Radio 4.

The volume of ‘educational’ content I gather from BBC Radio 4 is remarkable – there is so much of it. Much of it recalled here over the last three years.

Here is a 15 minutes piece that might make you the fiction writer you have always wanted to be.

She derives the word from ancient Greek and its use in Himer’s Illiad then interviews an eloquent Aussie Cricket commentator during the Ashes and the author Kate Mosse at her publisher’s.

Agony helps us to empathise with another’s struggle.

‘Struggle, in the form of philosophy of ideas, is at the heart of a good novel’, says author Kate Mosse, ‘otherwise there is no story to tell’. 

Jeopardy and contest is central to what makes us human.

And when it comes to the effort of writing:

‘Try again, fail again, never mind, fail better’, said Sam Beckett.

Women have ‘Woman’s Hour’ and ‘Loose Talk’, men have ‘Top Gear’?

Woman also have ‘Loose Women’, surely the female version of ‘Top Gear’. But do men have an equivalent of ‘Woman’s Hour’ or are we supposed to get that from GQ or Esquire magazines 🙁

I don’t make a point of listening to Woman’s Hour, but as I’m at home and have done years on and off as househusband it becomes a regular feature of the day. The radio goes on in the kitchen and in the car. I need to be in one or the other.

Is ‘Woman’s Hour’ a party broadcast for the female gender or fascinating issues presented in a radio magazine that mix topicality, with feature and fiction?

Actually it was this late Friday morning I was running out in the car to walk the dog on the South Downs.

Friday 8th March is one you need to download before it comes off air in a few days time.

Fig. 1 Listing on BBC Website – you’ve got 4 days within which to download this.

BBC RADIO 4 WOMAN’s HOUR – PODCASTS

Topics covered:

  • Women Coaches -(worth keeping)
  • Alice Walker – author of the Color Purple (very worthwhile)
  • Vicki Price and the law
  • Women in parliament – could they job share?

The one that had me stop what I was doing …

Loss of a mother

I’m the boy whose favourite place as an infant was on my Mum’s hip and as I gew up on the kitchen counter learning to cook, taking her tuition as an art teacher (MA in Fine Art from University of Durham). Our parents split up when I was eight and she only remarried in her 60th year. She died a few months ago.

Fig. 2 Women’s Hour, Friday 9th March 2013 A 43 minute programme.

On loss of Mothers – if you only have 12 minutes sping through to 00:30:00

What is the impact of losing a mother?
Alice Walker
What is happening here and why?

Paul Mcartney was 14 when his Mum died of a brain tumour. If he had a time machine he would go back and spend time with her.

A speaker Jane Tilly about her mother when she died when she was 17.

At significant transition moments, having no one to share it with.
A role model

The guests:

Maureen Fearon – Therapsit

Lucy Gannon (Playwright, television writer, plays, shortsand ‘Soldier, Soldeir’ and producer)

Lucy Gannon

  • Lucy’s Mum died when she was eight.
  • Know who you are, what diseases you’ve had, so you lose some of your identity.
  • Children need to know that they are at the centre of someone’s world so that they know they are
  • Your life is going on, try to get continuity.
  • You lose your place in the world – she was in care though.
  • Keep that child in the centre of the world they know.

Maureen Fearon

  • Her mum died when she was 29.
  • Look at the grandparents, look at the average, and she’s going to be at least that = 89/90.
  • Deeply tearful because of trigger music.
  • That overwhelming, ‘I want my Mum’.
  • Smells. Going through the tough times in life. Through challenging times that smell comes and floats away. When there is no smoke there. In our minds, or where it is.
  • Took 12 years of real pain, neurolinguistic exercise … did it once and fixed.

The mention of how the mind brings back smells is intriguing.

Maureen Fearon is a therapist, not a neuroscientist. There is a phenomenon where we see people we love who we have just lost, it might be the end of a close relationship or the death of someone close – our mind sees them in other people. I relate to this idea of lucid reconstruction of specific smells.

Fig. 3. From ‘Neuroscience for Dummies’ – not as stupid as it sounds!

I can, give me a moment, smell the mothballs in my late grandmother’s spare bedroom, and while she smoked them the Benson and Hedges cigarettes which surely made her knitting honk? Other smells I can call up include the silt and rotting fish heads of Beadnell Harbour in the 1960s … and a Christmas tree, and Christmas Pudding, marshmallows roasted on an open fire, melting butter on toast with Old English Marmalade … and our pet dog as a child, Morag the black labrador, wet and warm from being out in the rain …

Fig. 4. Sheila Vernon (nee Wilson) 1931-2012 with her son Jonathan c1973/1972 ?

My Mum’s parents where 83 and 96 when they died, so an average might have been 90?

She died a few months ago age 81. She had planned to beat the Queen Mum. We all thought she’d do so. But as my even later grandfather kept saying having reached 90, ‘I don’t mind when I go, I’ve had a good innings’. He was in his 97th year – we thought he’d make it to a hundred, but at trip to the Western Front to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Paschendaele where he had served as a machine gunner had left him ill (and heart broken).

Grimms Fairy Tales – visualization to empower or distort meaning and memory.

‘The power of images is very great and it can be harnessed as many interpreters of fairy tales in pictures and on film have understood’. Marina Warner

Fig.1. David HockneyEtchings for Grimms Fairy Tales

‘What’s the use of a book without illustrations?’ Ask Marina Warner reading from Alice in Wonderland.

A question she goes on to answer.

To mark the bicentenary of the first edition of the Grimm brothers‘ Children’s and Household Tales in 1812 Marina Warner explores the many compelling and often controversial aspects of the tales in this BBC Radio 4 Series.

Fig.2. Marina Warner

These evocative stories have always stirred vivid images in the minds of artists, from the angular drawings of an early David Hockney to Dickens’ Victorian illustrator George Cruikshank. Through these artists’ impressions, we paint a new picture of the tales’ vital contribution to the long tradition of visual storytelling.

  • What do the artists add to our understanding of these stories?
  • What is the value of illustration and art direction in narrative, from books to film?
  • How do we impact on a person’s memory of the story?
  • What role therefore do impactful images have on a learning experience?
  • What remembered images do the conjure up?
  • Why do artists chose and crystallize certain moments?

Filling up your mind scape.


Fig.3. David Hockney – Etchings for Grimms Fairy Tales

‘The pot is winking … brimming with poisonous menace, the banal hold terrible’.

You should attract then hold the attention of your audience – these may be readers, listeners or students, but you have to be sensitive to the craft skills of storytelling. It requires a good deal to keep the mind alert.

Gardeners learn most in a badger

Fig.1. It might have been a bad year for badger‘s but that’s not the point.

Thick with cold and in the car unwillingly I wondered what badgers had to do with the state of the economy.

It is true, that you learn from disaster, from economic downturn, from making ends meet … from a death in the family, from making mistakes. Indeed, in many things you learn a good deal in a bad year.

It was a bad year for gardeners

I had a bad year in 1985. The love of my life and I were parting company. I was young. I let it fester. This has been a bad year – my mum died.

I’ll think of 2012 therefore as the year of the Badger.

At least this’ll put a smile on my face.

Do we really learn from our mistakes?

It rather suggests that our personalities are like plasticine rather than alabaster – that we can and do with ease adjust to the circumstances.

BBC Radio 4’s Bad Year for Gardener’s

We remember ugly fonts much more easily. Does this make them better for learning?

Handwriting

Handwriting (Photo credit: chrischapman)

 

New scientific research revealed (January 2011)  that students learn better when learning is made harder, specifically when using a font that is more challenging to read. Neuroscience blogger Jonah Lehrer discusses his own gut feeling that we remember ugly fonts much more easily.

 

Comically ugly fonts are the best.

 

So perhaps I should blog like this?

 

 

Try these:

 

 

And what about handwriting?

 

 

‘It’s a really interesting way to convey information’, says Jonah Lehrer, ‘as it can take a lot of work to decipher handwriting’.

 

How about these for examples if you’ve forgotten what handwriting looks like?

 

 

or this?

 

 

Let’s get back to handwriting.

 

Or find a way to handwrite here. With a stylus and tablet?

 

The handwritten note, letter, or journal entry tells you something about the writer’ mood, gender, age, level of education (or intoxication), even their occupation.

 

I’ve collected hand-written letters between 1969 and 1993 from family members and friends, including my grandfather whose 1918 RAF Log Book I feature above. If ever published, these artefacts will be best read in their original form rather than transcribed.

 

 

What’s going on in there? A look at the brain and thoughts on the mind

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Fig. 1 Intracranial recording for epilepsy.

Robert Ludlow, UCL Institute of Neurology

First the Royal Academy, meeting with the author of ‘Exploring the World of Social Learning’ Julian Stodd having made the connection on Linkedin a couple of weeks ago, so – read the book, met the author and now we pick over each other’s brains – how we learn is a mutual fascination.

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Fig. 2. A doodle of Medusa‘s severed head in the hand of Perseus

A second viewing of ‘Bronzes’, this time with a drawing pen and pad of cartridge paper – photography not permitted. I wanted to see if my hand was ‘in’ or ‘off’. Most of my time was spent circling the decapitated body of Medusa.

Fig. 3. Icarus – far smaller than I imagined (see below for the publicity shot)

On then to the Wellcome Foundation. In this instance I’d taken one snap on the iPad and was approached and politely advised that photography was not allowed.

A guide book for £1 will serve as a suitable aide memoire.

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Fig 4. Aleks Krotoski

Only yesterday I was listening to and enthusing about Aleks Krotoski on ‘The Digital Brain’ on BBC Radio 4 and blogged about the series so it was with considerable surprise when I overheard her familiar voice and found her at my shoulder about interview the exhibition’s curator. I guess therefore that I listened in on part of the content for a future broadcast.

Upstairs I watched an operation to remove a cancerous growth recorded in real-time from the surgeon’s point of view, then Project 22 in which a woman photographs everything that she eats as she eats it for one year and one day – age 22.

Once again fascinating.

A selective record of a year. Can a record of an entire be undertaken with some degree of necessary selection? Or could a software algorithm sort it all out for you if a memory enhancing device records everything that you do and experience.

Other than the £1 guide, unusually, I have not come away with bags of books though I would recommend the Blackwell’s bookstore at the Wellcome Foundation for bizarre stocking fillers – I Liked the ‘blood bath’ – blood-like bath salts offered in a surgical drip bag, or highlighter pens as syringes.

 

Some ways to improve the e-learning experience

Fig.1. Jeremy Hardy

1. Teaching is a performance Jeremy Hardy, The News Quiz, Episode 78, Series 3.

He’s got a point, teaching (and coaching) is a performance – we should plan for performance too, but can I quote him? In a discussion, but not in an assignment – though I have little doubt there are those who I can cite from education and sport who say the same thing or something similar. Not only does Jeremy Hardy quip about teaching as ‘performance’ but he suggests that teachers who were ‘characters’ provided a benefit too – that and the Grammar School Experience.

Where do we get characters in e–learning?

Where indeed do we get humour or spectacle? Both are ways to create memories and so embed learning, even to motivate students and create a following. How can a tutor do this in e-learning, and if they did a Robin Williams ala Dead Poet’s Society would they be sacked? I can think of a tutor who ran a forum who was the heart and soul of the module – probably cost him 15 hours input for the 5 he was paid for. however, if he decided to run a module on basket weaving in the Congo Rainforest I might do it – for the fun of it. Education can be entertainment.

Fig 2. Contemporary Theories of learning

2. There are ‘Multiple approaches to understanding’

Howard Gardner (1999) – reading this in ‘Contemporary Theories of Education‘. Join me on Twitter @JJ27VV as I share. I have highlighted 60% of the content, there are several bookmarks too and it is only a few pages long. Some key thoughts:

Students do not arrive as blank slates:

  • Biological and cultural backgrounds
  • Personal histories.
  • Idiosyncratic histories
  • Nor can they be ‘aligned unidimensionally along a single line of intellectual development’.

So I wonder if there is a reason why at school children are taught in year group cohorts – it matches with a developmental stage.

It may not cater for cognitive ability or drive. A mix of learning abilities and backgrounds affects the learning experience and quality though, it always struck me that, for example a young musician studying in a driven, step by step fashion, largely on a 1 to 1 basis, can progress fast. Far greater tailoring of a range of lessons, combined with the cohort, paced to challenge the style as the Khan Academy does, has to be an improvement.

Fig.3. Sebastian Coe’s parting words at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

3. There are multiple reasons why the Paralympics and Olympics are mot merged – there are benefits of such segregation for learning too – not exclusively, but to focus and scale up expertise and support for specific types of impairment.

The needs of the plethora of disability groups are better catered for separately. Or are they?

When the Games end they must re–integrate with a world where access is far less certain, accommodating or even a shared experience. Is this relevant to access to e–learning? One size does not fit all – creating content that is clear and easier to read, or follow is a reasonable adjustment – however, is it not the case that once along a certain spectrum of impairment, say legally blind rather than sight impaired, or deaf, rather than hearing impaired, or an arm amputee rather than having some mobility impairment that both in sport and in learning – though not all of the time or exclusively – that these people should learn together, as occurs for example through the RNIB or the RAD.

Whilst clearly provision of an audio version of a book, or video with captions and a transcript should be common practice, when it comes to some approaches to e–learning, say gamification, and certainly any social, or synchronous forms of learning then, like the Paralympics, they would benefit from coming together – indeed, if distance and travel is a barrier, and getting a number of sight impaired students together to study, for example, English Literature, was the desire then distance learning as e–learning may be beneficial.

Fig.4. Our guinea-pigs – reversioning nature’s way!

4. Might the approach to responsive e–learning where using HTML5 allows the same content to be used on multiple devices be applied to creating version for devices that are pre–programmed or the hardware is different, to suit a variety of disabled people?

As we live in a multi-device world we increasingly want the same content reversioned for each device – personally I expect to move seamlessly between iPad (my primary device), iPhone and Laptop (secondary devices) and a desktop. I don’t expect a Kindle to do more than it does.  I wonder if a piece of hardware suited to the sight impaired might do a better job of tackling such versions? Ditto for the hearing impaired, as well as for people with physical impairments who require different ways to navigate or respond to content.

Fig.5. New keyboard App

Or Apps that do the same job?

And the module that has set me thinking about the above:

H810 Accessible online learning: supporting disabled learning

With a final thought – we are all equally able and disabled in some way. We share our humanity … and too short lives.

REFERENCES

Gardner, H (1999) Multiple Approaches to Understanding. Second part of a chapter first published by C.M Reigleuth (ed) Instructional Design Theories and Models: A new paradigm of instructional theory, volume 2. 69–89pp.

Hardy, J. (2012) The News Quiz, BBC Radio 4, Sat 23rd September. Episode 78, Series 3.

Marcotte, E (2010) Responsive Web Design (Last access 23:45 21 September 2012) http://www.alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design/

A fabulous radio drama – in a series of 15 minute episodes: The Diary of Sam Pepys

A fabulous, not to be missed, BBC Radio Drama

The Diaries of Samuel Pepys

Listen this morning and only for a week – the wonderfully evocative, visual radio drama – so good you can smell The Plague in the air.

Laugh out loud.

Unforgettable.

Brilliant

Soon to be a movie?

But nothing will beat the radio version (ditto ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

10.45am BBC Radio 4

Then on iPlayer for a week

Kris Marshall

Work Smarter? call it e-working or e-training?

Work Smarter. My modus operandi for the next decade. Not just what I do, but the experience and skills as a producer of intelligent, memorable and effective interactive video-based learning materials. Any Questions. 19th May 2012

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