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1,783,027 words, 1,879 entries over 5,091 pages if printed off. 

This how I left my first blog. Jonathan.Diaryland.com

It barely scratches the surface of the memories a brain can recreate. I tried. I have in there repeated efforts to recall the very first things I could ever feasibly have formed as viable memories: or were they words and images put into my head by my mother much later? I also noticed that in the comments I have two years of conversations with the now published author Catherine Valente and, would that I could verify it, a short exchange with Norman Mailer.

This diary is on ‘Diaryland;’ started in September 1999, finally ended in March 2006.

It feels like landfill: there’s so much stuff in there rotting away. Though it doesn’t, it’s digital. Closed because while I don’t give a monkey’s about writing on everything I have done, thought about or think where people can be identified it could cause embarrassment and offence. It took me a few years to realise that if I was receiving 200+ views an hour some of these people might know me.

No one I knew ever, ever said they were there. Not for a long time.

Perhaps they knew I’d close it down if they let on? I tried to obscure names and locations but that just got very confusing. I held a mirror along the Pennines and set everything that had taken place in Northumberland in Cumbria and vice versa. For people’s names I tried initials, so taking  ‘JV,’ for me is a giveaway, so I ‘cleverly’ decided to change names by one letter in the alphabet, so ‘JV’ became ‘KW’ and I’d go by he name ‘Ken,’ for example. I knew a lot of Sallys who all became ‘Tamsin’ or ‘Tabatha’ which threw my head as it immediately had me constructing different fictional personas for them – just as well? That’s what writing fiction is about, embellishment? ‘Ken and Tabatha’ sounds like the relationship between a Barbie doll and a Sasha doll.

There were a lot of ‘Js’ too for both boys and girls from the 1970s and there is a limited choice of ‘Ks’ to go with.

Only a few years later bumping into old friends from home and school have they said they knew all about ‘X’, and ‘Y’ or looked at the drawings I did of ‘K’ and the photo of ‘T.’ The greatest shock was getting into a conversation with my ‘petite amie’ from my school French Exchange when I was 17 – 33 years after we’d last seen each other (two years ago). I’d posted a teen sketch I did of her and wrote up in detail how we had behaved.

This content is of far greater value to me not ‘cleaned up.’ I keep it closed though I’m drawing upon it constantly as it contains a substantial part of the diary, verbatim, that I kept from the age of 13 to 28 and a great deal of stories that I wrote drawing on some of those experiences. These are finding life once again thanks to the OU’s FutureLearn course ‘Start Writing Fiction’ and, once again, a close writer/editor relationship that has formed. It is, should I ever get published, a sound example of the value of keeping a ‘notebook’ as that diary, even as I conceived it age 13 is a substantial ‘writer’s journal’ that follows life through the eyes of a boy growing into manhood, taking an healthy interest in the opposite sex and after some pain and love, finding and marrying ‘the one’ – and now celebrating 20 years married and soon to celebrate 25 years together.

What I find touching, then and again today, is that supportive friendships form with fellow writers or readers or editors that is enormously encouraging and guiding; people want my words. I feel like a stand up comic who loses his audience from time to time, then gets hit by a soft  ‘carrot’ or a bendy ‘stick’ and subsequently re-adjusts his ‘voice’ to the one they want to hear. 

Marking five years since I started my OU degree and an OU Student blog almost coincided with a logical, deserving step into the legitimate world of e-learning as I completed an ‘in-tray’ exercise ahead of a second interview. As I prepared to mark this ‘Five Years’ (a totemic time period for any David Bowie fan) I thought I could be announcing this literal step onto a ‘platform’.

Though I also had in mind my response to it not happening:

  • no more job applications
  • no more OU courses
  • back to writing with a renewed vengeance and determination. (I feel the Start Writing Fiction course on FutureLearn has refuelled me. I’ve been a petrol engine trying to run on diesel all y life and they fixed that)
  • once again give a substantial body of unpublished work (manuscripts for novels, screenplays, TV series, radio plays) their chance. (I have made and found the time and was for a couple of years indulged by an agent and producers enough to get interviews to discuss treatments and first scenes. On reflection I was a chef who appeared to promise something delicious but kept serving the thing up either cold or over spiced. SWF has been like a short course in Cordon Blue cookery; I may not be there yet, but at least what I’m now producing is edible).
  • and commit to a two month sailing trip later in the year: the Atlantic via the Canaries and Cape Verde to Bermuda.
  • Meanwhile I have picked out one manuscript, something I dated March 2006 when I boxed it away, that runs to around 100,000 words and 42 chapters. I am revisiting, rewriting and posting this in little bits. It’ll take at least six months working 14 hours+ a day.
  • eight hours a week ‘work’ fails to keep the wolf from the door. I could do with at least 20. 

I didn’t get the job.

Life has moved on.

I am writing with fury and loving it. My only regret? The need to sleep. 

Writing fiction at:

http://www.startwritingfiction.wordpress.com = password protected

Diaryland at:

http://www.jonathan.diaryland.com = password protected

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Without tagging this is your blog

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. The contents of your learning journal, or e-portfolio or blog could look like this

As I’m prompted to do so, or is this just a MAC thing? I now tag documents downloaded to my desktop. They can be found wherever I or the operating system has buried them.

I tag religiously here (except, since a month ago, when writing from my iPad as it crashes the page and the iPad ?!).

I tag for a number of reasons:

I jot down ideas and thoughts, facts, even grab, cut and paste stuff that may be of use later so tag it so that I can tickle it out later as the mood or need fancies.

By tagging by module, and by activity you can then regularly go back and add a further tag as you plan a TMA (tutor marked assignment) or EMA (end of module assignment). For example, L120 is my current module. I will (or should) add L120A1 perhaps or L120S1 to identify an activity or session (NOT necessarily shared at all if I am giving away answers potentially or breaching copyright too blatantly by privately ‘curating’ content). Potentially L120TMA1 obviously helps me pull out content pertinent to this. That’s the idea anyhow. The OU used to have an e-portfolio called MyStuff, a bit clunky, but it did this and then allowed you to re-shuffled the deck as it were, to give order to the things you picked. In theory you then have a running order for an assignment.

Tag clouds, number of tags or simply the weight and size of the font, indicates the strength and frequency of certain themes and ideas. When playing with the idea of an ‘A-to-Z of e-learning’ it was easier for me to see, under each letter, what I ought to select … and then immediately have a load of examples, some academic, some anecdotal, all personal to me, at hand.

I come here to find things I’ve lost! Amongst 20,000 saved images I know I have a set from early training as a Games Volunteer for the London Olympics. I searched here, clicked on the image and thus found the album in Picasa Web (now Google Pics). Why can’t I do that in my picture/photo pages? Because I never tagged the stuff. There is no reliable search based on a visual – yet.

No one can or should do this for you.

My blog and e-portfolio is fundamentally and absolutely of greatest value to me alone. So why allow or encourage others to rummage in the cupboards of my brain? Because it tickles and stimulates me to share views, find common or opposing views and to believe that others are getting something from it.

The value to you of keeping a diary or learning journal

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. March 1975 ….

I kept a diary for twenty years: age 13 1/2 to my forties … with a few months off from decade to decade. It is self-indulgent navel gazing to look back at its contents which I do extremely rarely. An indulgent scrapbook thing covering a teen exchange to France is fun; did a Mars Bar really once cost 3p !! And a photo journal of a five month gap year job working my arse off in a hotel in France too. And have a vibrant record of children from birth to walking and talking too.

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. A reading list from 1978

It always amazes me should I stumble upon an old school text book or any of the above as my mind is instantly taken back and I am flooded with boyish ideas.

This blog is something else.

This is a Learning Journal and Portfolio and I’ve kept it since February 2010. Just about all a module’s activities go in here (40% hidden). I know where to find stuff because I’ve tagged it all. Needing to assess how far I have come, and what themes I can see, what I know and can apply from the seven MAODE modules I have completed – five completed the MAODE, the following two could go towards a M.Ed or MSc.

It is fulfilling in itself as an aide memoire to be reminded of how much I have covered, what therefore I should know, how I learn this and in the context of the changing technology how rapidly things are moving. Learning is evolving fast and in due course we’ll look back at what has happened and compare it to how we no buy books online, how we book holidays online, and how we communicate with each other.

From E-Learning V

Fig.3. The wonders of FutureLearn

At the minute e-learning is like a firework that has just exploded; we are watching it in awe. At some moment a thousand fireballs will light up the clouds and we’ll take in the whole picture and conclude that things have changed forever.

Writers’ Retreat. Sheepwash, Devon

Fig. 1 Retreats for You, Sheepwash, Devon

Day One.

An hour with my tutor yesterday evening. Buzzed, but fell asleep soon after. It was a four hour drive yesterday afternoon/evening and I’d been up since 4.00 am or something. Which is when I woke this morning and rattled off 1 1/2 following guidelines on how to ‘set the scene’.

Armed with a pot of coffee I plan to get another hour in before breakfast.

The goal is to write four completed scenes, each of around 2,500 words this week. I may, a new experience for me, write each of these scenes several times as I try out the approaches I’ve been given.

The premise for my novel got the thumbs up as did my ‘voice’: not so hot were the gaping holes in my scene setting – I leave far too much untold.

On verra. 

By the end of the week I will decide either to give up once and for all, or that there’s a future in it and the boxes of manuscripts, scripts, zip drives, discs and flopping discs, hard drives, notebooks and diaries have served a purpose or should go to the skip.

And I’ll rejoin the family for my birthday.

Dear, dear diary, let me tell you a secret …

I posted my first content to an ‘online journal’ – no one called them blogs way back then, on the 24th September 1999. I’ve been at it ever since – every day for at least the first four years then I reviewed my practice, split into a number of parts and specialised. I also took an MA in the next best thing ‘Open and Distance Education’ (MAODE). So, yes, blogging fascinates me. Twitter as a ‘microblog’ is not – it is chatting. And many so called blogs are actually something else too – corporate marketing brochures, magazines, radio shows, TV channels, photo dumps and galleries. For me, and those of us writing in ‘Diaryland’ over a decade ago a blog, like a diary, is something you kept up every day, reflected your daily life and was largely secret: you wrote amongst friends rather than to an audience. This meant that they remained authentic, deep, even ‘in confidence’. Has all of that been lost? I wonder.

As a direct result of just completing H818: The Networked Practitioner  (EMA away last night). I plan to review, refine and redirect my blogging behaviour.  Currently, here at ‘My Mind Bursts’ will go into the fledgling ‘Mind Bursts’ which will go live once I’ve got 100 of my choicest posts in there. 

The blog I stopped posting to on swimming teaching and coaching (I did for ten years as a direct consequence of taking my kids down to the pool eleven years ago) gets more views per day than any of my other blogs – go figure! It is useful. I answer direct daily questions. The biggest ‘seller’ is the 45 minute lesson plan for teaching or coaching swimming – I have all strokes, all stages and all problems addressed. That should tell me something. More at the catchily named ‘Coaching and Teaching Swimming’.

The other blog, ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’, which requires and deserves tidying up started out as the memoir of my late grandfather, a machine gunner in the First World War – the only one who survived it would appear. Actually, in 1992 there was a 75th anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Ypres) and there were four of them: one was an ammunition carrier. The other two were machine gunners, you could tell from their thumbs – like the beak of a spoonbill, squished flat from periods of anxiety pressed against the triggers of a Vicker’s MKII Machine Gun. Like the swimming thing I need to hone this down to a resource of value – just his story, his words (over three hours of interviews) and photographs with references which would do the historian in me proud.

There will be a lot of ‘ditching of babies’ – there will be a good deal of painful unknitting of layouts and extraction.

Are these blogs? Actually no. I ought to think of them as books and give them the professional focus that is required before you can go to print.

And finally, a blog on the use of Quick Response codes in education. This as a consequence of H818 Online Conference we I gave a ten minute presentations on the use of Quick Response codes to galvanise interest in people featured on war memorial rolls of honour.

Blogging as an acdemic and scholarly acitivty

What’s going on in there? How do bloggers react, respond and coalesce?

Anjewierden, A. (2006) Understanding Weblog Communities Through Digital Traces: A Framework, a Tool and an Example.

My own interest was sparked by an article in the Washington Post on Ellen Levy who had spent 1998 keeping a journal and putting it online.

Druckerman, P (1999) Ellen Levy Has Got The Write Project For the Internet Age — It’s a Year of Scribbling Down Almost Everything; Ah, Yes, It Was a Raisin Bagel

This ‘user generated content’ has value to its author and the community that reads it. This is a key outcome of open, collaborative and connected learning, where the blogger is a ‘produser’.

Efimova, Lilia (2008) Bloggers and ‘produsers’

Having blogged consistently since this period it is interesting to understand that as it encroached upon student and academic practice, as it was impinging on journalism, that it was considered disruptive.

Fiedler, S. (2004) Introducing disruptive technologies for learning: Personal Webpublishing and Weblogs, Part I

While my passion felt like a niche practice it has been of value to see blogging recognised.

Kaiser, S. (2007) Weblog-technology as a trigger to elicit passion for knowledge 

Why MAODE students blog (Kerewella et al, 2009) depends on their perceptions of, and for:

  • an audience
  • community
  • the utility of and need for comments
  • presentational style of the blog content
  • overarching factors related to the technological context
  • the pedagogical context of the course 

Kerawalla, L, Minocha, S, Kirkup, G, & Conole, G  (2009) An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education

Knowing the practice to be of value personally as part of a number of specialist groups made research on blogs as wikis, Sauer (2005) or as e-portfolios of interest.

Sauer, Igor M. (2005) “ Blogs” and“ Wikis” Are Valuable Software Tools for Communication Within Research Groups

As Smolkin (2007) points out it is about creating or finding and then sharing your niche – in this case the niche being personal stories of participants, witnesses and combatants in the First World War.

Smolkin, Rachel (2007) Finding a Niche. (cover story)

This is a key outcome of open, collaborative and connected learning, where the blogger is a ‘produser’. Efimova (2008) It has taken over a decade, but blogging is now considered to be a valid, scholarly activity. Weller (2012).

Weller, Martin (2012) The virtues of blogging as scholarly activity

 Bishop, D. (2013) ‘Blogging as post-publication peer review: reasonable or unfair?’ LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog. 21 March.

Available at:http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/

impactofsocialsciences/ 2013/ 04/ 15/ blogging-as-post-publication-peer-review-reasonable-or-unfair/

 

Collaboration amongst strangers is a tricky one. I’ve seen it work and I’ve seen it fail.

Fig. 1. Performing in an amateur production of the Caucasian Chalk Circle. The ultimate collaborative exercise?

1) It requires scaffolding in the form of rules, or guidelines, mentor or leaders, and incentives in the form of punishments and rewards i.e. the risk of failure as well as recognition and some kind of reward (which might be a qualification, a monetary award, or part of a completed artefact, or pleasure of participation).

2) It requires people with an obsessive common interest; I don’t believe having a common interest is enough. There needs to be an obsession, which means that the level of expertise can be mixed, indeed, thinking of the John Seely Brown concept of ‘learning from the periphery’ this might be best as invariably the natural human response IS to support those on the edge. The classic example is the young and eager student or junior employee keen to learn from his or her elders.

My concern with the role of collaboration in a module on e-learning is that the above don’t fully apply. We are not GCSE or A’Level students. Most are MA ODE students who need this towards their MA, but I’ll stick my head out and say the pass mark is, in my opinion, too low. I believe that it matters to be paying for it out of your own pocket or to have a commercial sponsor expecting results. I know that some working for the OU do these modules almost on a whim because they are free and they do the minimum to pass – I’ve seen this on various courses,  seen it myself and have had it corroborated by other students. Anyone who is along for the ride in a module that relies on collaboration is a weak link – of course plenty of OU people do take seriously, but some don’t and no line manager is looking over their shoulder. At Carnegie Melon they ran an MA course where students gave each other, on a rolling basis, a mark for collaboration – those with the lowest mark risked failing that module. In fairness some people are not born collaborators, whereas others go out of their way to be a participant, potentially at the expensive of other parts of their studies.

To my tutor group I’ve posted too long a piece on a collaborative exercise I have been doing on and off for the best part of twenty years – I’m researching and writing my grandfather’s memoir from the First World War. The Internet has exposed me (in a good way) to several sleuths.

I can however give an example of the learning design MOOC earlier this year that whilst having a good deal of scaffolding and human support relied on strangers each coming up with project ideas then joining forces to complete one. In a rush of activity, with some big name e-learning folk and too much formal theorizing, reading and activities to groups formed. I had no takers and joined a group of three that became five, but very quickly this became two of us … we gamefully pressed on but at some stage felt we were missing out on the real action so eventually pulled out as active participants.

Then there is a two week exercise in a subgroup of an MA ODE module where circumstances brought a magic bunch of strangers together – this has proved to be the exception rather than the rule.

Amateur dramatics, even volunteer cricket, to take a couple of examples, work because the show is the collective reward. We have bonfire societies here in Lewes that rely on volunteers too – though the complaint will be that it is always the same handful of people who do everything. In a work or academic setting should everyone be rewarded and recognised in the same way? It depends very much on a group dynamic or bond, a common sentiment that comes from working together in the flesh.

I believe that the First World War, now that I am an active member of a society and studying it on a formal course, is largely of the type 2 participant. We are ‘trainsporters’ in that nerdy, glazed eye way – with specialists who know everything about uniforms, or tunnelling, or submarines, or dental decay on the Western Front, or a particular general, or like me – a grandfather, or great-grandfather who was a combatant.

My worry about e-learning as a collaborative arena is that it is the process, so we are a cookery or gardening club. However, there is significant variation in each of these – vegetarian cooks, cupcake bake off specialists and Heston Blumenthal wannabes – amongst the gardens there are PhD research students growing dwarf barley and weekenders who’ve keep an allotment. Whilst we have interest and the module to sustain us, only in a conort of 1000 or more would for some, there be enough likeminds to form a team.

I’m off to the School of Communication Arts in London. It operates from a workshop like open studio. Students are put into pairs to work. There is collaboration here between an art director (visualizer) and copywriter (words). Whether students are forever looking each other’s shoulders when they are working on a competitive brief is another matter. I’ve noticed how one creative brief given to the whole studio has now become three. What is more, the ‘collaboration’ as such, comes from a couple of full time tutors, principal and then a ‘mentors’ who go in as a sounding board cum catalyst cum different voice or perspective. What these people are doing is ‘creative problem solving’.

Why, historically, does one band stay together while another falls apart? Collaboration is a tricky business – and maybe only in a business setting between employer and employee, or between contractor and client can it be sustained?

Why blog?

Fig. 1. This is the cover page of Lawrence Lessig’s book ‘Remix: making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy’ (2008)

I cannot currently show it as the HTLM functionality of this blog platform cannot be used from an iPad any more.

The value of blogs is not that I’m likely to find a comment that surpasses the very best of the New York Times. I’m not. But that’s not the point. Blogs are valuable becuase they give millions the opportunity to express their ideas in writing. And with a practice of writing comes a certain important integrity. A culture filled with bloggers thinks differently about politics or public affairs, if only because more have been forced through the discipline of showing in writing why A leads to B’. Lawrence Lessig (2008:92-93)

There are multiple reasons to blog, and several of these don’t require you to post ‘to the world’. Posting for yourself as a record is good, and posting to a tight group OF YOUR OWN MAKING works too – i.e. those to whom you feel a natural affinity rather than the forced, coralled group of students in a tutor group.

I’ll revist the mindmap on blogging that I produced a while ago and refresh it.

I, naturally, recommend it. Though keeping your reflections in a notebook might be less distracting and less liable to cause offense of embarrassment.

The value of blogging according to Lawrence Lessig

20131002-064326.jpgThe value of blogs is not that I’m likely to find a comment that surpasses the very best of the New York Times. I’m not. But that’s not the point. Blogs are valuable becuase they give millions the opportunity to express their ideas in writing. And with a practice of writing comes a certain important integrity. A culture filled with bloggers thinks differently about politics or public affairs, if only because more have been forced through the discipline of showing in writing why A leads to B’. LL (2008:92-93)

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