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|From Lewes, East Sussex|
The River Ouse at Southease, The South Downs Way
Walking and taking photos yesterday afternoon after a morning writing – for me that was 4.30 am to 11.30am I resolved a character/plot issue in a novel I am challenging myself to complete in first draft in a month. This is part of an online ‘Write a Novel in a Month’ thing that has been running since 2002: recommended. It has all the joy and connectivity of learning in a supported environment that you could want.
This is an OU course too. A lot is said about keeping a notebook. I have ‘issues’ with this.
During this walk I decided that I had to make the protagonist’s only friend his nemesis and enemy. I also figured out a story that has been on my mind for 25 years about a 9-year-old girl buried in a school garden … however, there was something else knew that I thought I’d remember but had forgotten by the time I got to the car I could have tapped a cryptic message on the phone’s notepad, phoned home and left a message on the answer-phone, recorded a note on the iPhone, or scribbled a note had I pen and paper … the issue I have is that when you develop a habit of jotting down ideas it can bring your life to a grinding halt: you stop to take notes, pull over in a lay-by to write something down, let something burn in the kitchen, don’t answer the phone, wake up in the middle of the night repeatedly … this happened to me. I could not sleep for long without having an idea about something. And then I ended up managing that database, and having more ideas in a crushing spiral of brain pain no gain self-defeating, bean-counting, self-analysis, deconstructive, non-creative nonsense. Be warned
The answer is to work as a tree surgeon. My solution is to fill a reasonable part of my life, paid and as a volunteer, teaching and coaching swimming to kids, adults and disabled people. That keeps my head, hands, feet and soul gainfully occupied.
Learning can be an obsession; look at me. I know that learning with The OU fills such an important space in my life that even when the money has run out I want to keep doing more
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 Mortality of ideas
When someone says something that you find profound it sticks with you for life; I was reminded of an invaluable lesson while studying the ‘Creativity, Innovation & Change‘ elective module of The OU MBA (while actually taking the MA in Open & Distance Education).
At a IPA event at the CBI I attended a lecture given by Winston Fletcher in which he talked about how ideas can be killed off by ‘forces’ in and advertising agency and at the client end. He illustrated this with a poster showing a series of light bulbs slowly going out. There was a refrain also that ended:
‘If the client proves refactory, show a picture of their factory.
And should they put on airs and graces, show a picture of their faces’.
Which sums up regional advertisers showing the proud owner of a widget factory standing outside his widget factory, rather than showing off the benefits of the product.
Once a ‘good idea’ has been hatched, by whatever process, intuitively or through considerable thought and development, the thing can gradually die a death as various departments and stakeholders get their hands on it.
It therefore requires a champion, someone to see it through, who is persuasive and persistent, who can shift from playfulness to power games.
Like Steve Jobs perhaps? (who I have written about extensively in my OU Student Blog).
That or you need someone to do it for you; writers have agents, creatives in advertising have the accounts team.
The mistake risk takers make is to take too few risks
The dot com or e-learning mistake is to have only one ball in the air.
Like Cirque du Soleil they should juggle a dozen items, who even notices if one drops to the ground and breaks, there’s enough going on to amaze.
TV production companies, docs and drama, film companies too, have to have many ideas in development if any are to succeed; when will web producers take the same approach?
28 projects on the go I understand is the figure
I’ve got four ideas, so seven other people with four ideas each and we’re in business as imagicians.
Buzzing in Ga-Ga- Googleand – creativity on the fly
I’m not tired, which is the worry; it’ll catch up with me. When I wake up with a clear, original thought I’ve learnt to run with it. Time was I could have put on a light, scribbled a bit then drifted off again. 17 years of marriage (and 20 years together) I’ve learnt to get up. And once I’m up, then I know it’ll be a while before I can sleep again.
(I’ll sleep on the train into London; at least I can’t overshoot. I once got on the train at Oxford on the way into town and woke up in Cardiff).
I have the thought nailed, or rather sketched out, literally, with a Faber-Castell Artist Pen onto an A5 sheet of cartridge paper in Derwent hardback sketch book. This seems like a waste of good paper (and a good pen), but this doodle, more of a diagram, almost says it all. My vision, my argument, my persuasive thought. My revolution?
Almost enough, because I then show how I’ll animate my expression of this idea by drawing it out in a storyboard. I can do it in seven images (I thought it would take more). I hear myself presenting this without needing to do so, though, believing myself quite capable of forgetting this entire episode I’ll write it out too.
I once though of myself as an innovator, even an entrepreneur. I had some modest success too. Enough to think such ideas could make me. I realise at this moment that such ideas are the product of intense mental stimulation. To say that H808 has been stimulating would be to under value how it has tickled my synapses. The last time I felt I didn’t need to sleep I was an undergraduate; I won’t make that mistake. We bodies have needs. So, to write, then to bed.
(This undergraduate thing though, or graduate as I now am … however mature. There has to be something about the culture and context of studying that tips certain people into this mode).
You may get the full, animated, voice over podcast of the thing later in the week. I’ll create the animation myself using a magic drawing tool called ArtPad and do so using a stylus onto a Wacom board.
(Never before, using a plastic stylus on an a plastic ice-rink of a tablet have I had the sensation that I am using a drawing or painting tool using real ink or paint. I can’t wait ’til I can afford an A3 sized Wacom board … drawing comes from the shoulder, not the wrist and certainly not the finger tips. You need scale. Which reminds me, where is the book I have on Quentin Blake?)
Now where’s a Venture Capitalist when you need one at 04.07am. That and a plumber, the contents of the upstairs bathroom (loo, bath and sink) are flooding out underneath the downstairs loo. Pleasant. A venture capitalist who is a plumber. Now there’s something I doubt that can even be found if you search in Ga-Ga Googleland.
New media, old thinking …
Courtesy of Google and on the hunt for a quote that goes something along the lines of ‘analogies taught the world to think,’ I stumbled across the Quote Garden.
What strikes me is my feeling that the time engaged with the medium of the Internet is not a boast that it is wise to make, that it is counter-intuitive, that the best ideas are more likely to come from someone who got access to a computer with a broadband connection for the first time a few months ago and is bouncing out ideas like a sparkling Catherine-wheel that’s come un-nailed.
Wherein lies the dilemma for every creative working in this field – or pond, or my favourite analogy … in this ‘digital ocean.’
If the likes of Google and Facebook have gone from minnows to sharks, to leviathans worthy of the era of the dinosaurs, when does something new come along like a water-born virus and kill them off?
Or are Google, Facebook, Amazon an eBay vast shoals, even a branded variety of species now that are less vulnerable to such attack?
Faced with three deadlines over the next ten days what do I do? Something else.
I like something else, these sparks.
Where was I?
Working on a piece about wikis. I wish this were a wiki. I like them. They suit me. I will be an engaged participant, a catalyst, a stirrer-upper … though not necessarily an initiator or completer, because serendipity engages me and distraction takes me off again.
What does that make me in this digital ocean?
One of these?
Who are you?
Go fishing and post your fishy-self image in the comment box!
On Reading, Taking Notes, Thinking and reflecting. OU style 1990
On reading, taking notes and managing your feelings i.e how to study
There are notes, nothing more, which makes me wonder why I share them with the world. In this instance I am sharing notes on ‘hot to study.’ (I liked the typo so left it in.’
This 1990 OU’s guide came into my possession by the most circuitous of routes. My father-in-law, a long retired Oxford Don, sent it to his 12 year old grand-daughter on seeing her end of term report 😦
Problem is, not that she has read the book at all, if it appealed in any way then she might shun what her immediate future offers: GCSEs then A’ Levels which requires a lot of learning, but not a great deal of thinking. (Or does it?)
Here are some notes for Chapter Two ‘Reading and Note Taking’
In relation to 900 words or so we were asked to read as an activity:
This takes, we are advised to:
- Skim read – 9 minutes
- Read – 15 minutes
- Read with care (and taking notes) – 27 minutes.
I read it in 3 mins.
Did I speed read? Did I take anything in?
I managed to make notes afterwards, indeed having been asked to answer some questions even more information came to mind. Perhaps this is how I should do it … perhaps the important stuff is more likely to come to mind if I give it some thought rather than note taking at the same time. I may not have a photographic memory … do I skate over things? Would it help if I slowed it down? I’d have to read more strategically though, to trust the choices made for me.
An OU IDEA ‘Concept Cards’
To jot down concepts and ideas that you DON’T understand so that you can look them up at later, i.e. don’t only makes notes on the things that make sense.
Historically (last decade) I’ve used FileMaker Pro.
Whatever its short coming I am using the OU e-portfolio, expecting to be able to transfer/migrate the 500 pages of contents over to an off-the-shelf e-portfolio or anything new the OU comes up with in due course.
Taking the hint that notes should be taken of ideas of interest, and value, rather than taking notes on everything I picked out this:
Creating interest where there is none – when your enthusiasm for a topic wanes think how others think who have found something if interest.
Like a child, too often if a topic or activities doesn’t appeal I make excuses and do something else, rather than finding a way to engage.
Questions make reading interesting.
You need to read with a couple of questions in the back of your mind so that you engage with the information.
My questions on the OU 1990 Study Guide?
- What’s changed in 20 years?
- How much is just the same?
- How can I apply this in relation to e-learning in 2010?
- What advice would others find useful that may be second nature to me? (That I take for granted).
I liken my approach to studying to the way I wandered across the South Downs for five hours yesterday.
I hadn’t even been sure if I’d walk a stretch of the South Downs Way from Newhaven when I dropped the car off for a service, but I had walking boots on and waterproofs in a rucksack. I had no map, but have walked half the route out of Newhaven towards Lewes, and half the route out of Lewes South. Having followed the River Ouse to Southease I then followed signs for the South Downs Way which took me way off any direct track to Lewes in a couple of huge loops. The mile along the road from Southease to Rodmell would have saved a three mile deviation up onto the Downs. But did I want to risk either the dog or me being run over?
I have a tendency to follow my nose (like the dog, her nose took her into a fresh cow pat). She rolled in it.
My reading takes me through a series of cascades as I pick first one reference to chase, then another in this article or essay and so on. Its as if, despite being given the road map through a Maize Maze I insist on looking down every avenue myself, so that I can find out for myself.
If I study in exactly the same way as my fellow students, reading strategically, only reading the course references as there isn’t apparently time to do much more … won’t we all come out the same? A goal for my studying is to have my own perspective eventually, not to project the opinions of another.
Elaborately Cautious Language
’In every day life we cheerfully use language as a blunt instrument for cudgelling our way through the cut and thrust of events around us. However, in academic writing language is meant to be used more like a scalpel, cutting precisely between closely related arguments, so that they can be prized apart and analysed in detail.’ Northridge (1990:29)
An academic text is not a narrative – it is an argument.
An academic text aims to be unemotional, detached and logical.
Whilst I can understand applying this to a TMA or ECA, this is surely not the required or desired approach in what is called a Blog? And for writing in a forum, should we reference everything? It doesn’t half interrupt the flow of ideas. If talking over coffee or a glass of wine would we cite references we knowingly made? The lines distinguishing the spoken word to text or TXT or blogging and messaging are blurred if not broken.
Manage Feelings 2.6 Northridge (1990:31)
Find ways of:
- building upon your enthusiasms
- avoiding sinking into despair
- making the topic interesting
- accepting specialist language
- accepting academic text styles
- constructing valid criticisms
My preferred approach to reaching:
- while travelling (trains, planes, ferries and yachts)
Though surely not
- in bed
- on the kitchen table in the middle of the night
- in the pub
- on holiday
(though this can be exactly what I do/have done)
- a room of my own
(married life, children and a modest home have left me with a cluttered shed or lock-up garage packed with the contents of our last house – we moved three years ago).
Skim paragraph ahead, then read more slowly using the ‘mile stones’ to guide you.
Skimming – about the text
Reading – follow the argument
Lighting skim – very fast.
I typically ‘light skim’ the last chapters of a Stephen King novel, as the plot becomes ludicrous yet I feel an obligation to have glanced across the page in case at some stage sanity returns (it never does). Though the story will reach a resolution.
Intensive Study – very slow
Something new, something I don’t understand. Something I need to understand or want to understand. But never the small print of a bank overdraft facility. Probably the diaries of Anais Nin and the novels of Henry Miller. Probably the history of WWI, as I need to glean info from it for my own writing. And of course the books and papers I read for H807 (Innovations in E-Learning) and will read for H808 (The eLearning Professional).
Is it making me think?
Am I getting a better grasp of the subject?
‘The underlying purpose of reading is to develop your thoughts; to weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have and to give new angles to your thinking.’ Northridge, (1990:34)
My reading speed, 300 wpm? i.e. far to quick, but is a page a minute that fast? it does depend of course on the writing style and my familiarity or otherwise with the concepts.
The purpose of reading = ‘rethinking’ Northridge, (1990:34)
I like that ‘re-thinking.’ So building on what you now already, whether or not you think you know much at all … or know a great deal.
- To develop your thoughts
- To weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have
- To give new angles to your thinking
The point of reading:
‘The point of reading is to be able to understand what you read and to be able to get back the ideas at some future point when you need them again.’ Northridge, (1990:38)
The point of taking notes:
‘Taking notes forces you to think; to ‘grapple’ with the ideas in the text as you read them, because you have to decide what to write down and how to say it.’ Northridge, (1990:44)
I don’t grapple at the note taking stage, I find it more mundane than that, I do desire a tussle at some stage, which is why I can find the manner in which we engage asynchronously (its nature) somewhat tame. I don’t recommend debating online either, or getting into an argument (or even a heavy discussion) … when in Elluminate, messaging or anything else.
This is why the face-to-face tutorial at least, fellow students over a beer in the MCR or in a formal debating chamber ideas gain a voice, that becomes your Word, and your Voice.