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‘And so to bed’. Learn to blog with Samuel Pepys and this wonderful BBC dramatisation of his diaries
This first episode is a wonderful interplay between domestic and civil life, the prospect of joining the ship that will fetch the King from exile, while the ‘wench’ who works for them refuses to kill the turkey they’ve been feeding up because it’s her friend.
On the 1st of January 1660, the 26 year old Samuel Pepys decides to start keeping a diary.
How many of us have begun on the 1st of January never to get beyond the month? Or choose to pick it up again after an absence. Don’t let this be an excuse, start now. What did you have for breakfast? And if that’s too mundane what’s you solution to the debt crisis?
In the first episode Pepys is behind with his rent, he gets drunk and both he and his wife wish for a family. Pepys reflects on the great events of the 17th century but he also tells us what people ate, wore, what they did for fun, the tricks they played on each other, what they expected of marriage, and of love affairs.
In this episode some house guests play a game after dinner called ‘Getting Married’. By all accounts it sounds like a 17th century invitation to do some wife-swapping.
This BBC radio drama is on every day at 10.45 and again in the evening at 19.45. Episode 2 today.
You can follow Samuel Pepys on Twitter. You get regular 140 characters or less updates.
Read his diary, offered on a the basis of ‘on this day 350 years ago.’
Nothing’s changed much, the most important things in our life are loves, family and friends.
Our lives may touch on the politics and events of the time, they may not. Pepys got through the restoration of the King, Plague and the Fire of London.
He so often ends is entry with, ‘and so to bed’.
This reflects the typical keeper of a written diary, you tend to use the evening to catch up. I have to wonder if he had given up the diary he may have produced some children. I stopped keeping a diary on getting engaged after 16 years of writing – I had better things to do in bed than prop myself up on one and scribble secret notes into a hardback book. In any, there is no longer a best time to ‘blog,’ Twitter like you can post an entry whenever you like, as the events unfold or as a thought crosses your mind.
For radio for boring bits have been left out; it therefore reads like a novel.
Not a recommended style for these pages, but great for an external blog in WordPress (HERE), Blogger or LiveJournal. Or my favourite, Diaryland.
Life according to Anais Nin, Samuel Pepys and Henry Miller
Life’s a Game of Pinball
I would have been the witch doctor in a tribe,
The pinball that kicks away from the small black hole,
Disappears, then comes back for more.
I’m the ball which gets flipped and flapped, which dings and dongs.
Can you hear it?
Ding, sling, ping, dong!
Rumble, tumble, ping-ding-ring.
Ping! Ding, sling, ping, dong!
I’ve been fascinated by the relationship between Anais Nin and Henry Miller for two decades and wish, even if it only meant being Richard Osborne to their relationship, that I could have been their watching it unfold and hearing about it from each of them.
Is this what the celebrity tabloid press do fifty, sixty years on? At best there is commentary and interview, at worst the photographs that make it look sordid.
Can they be studied in an elective on American literature? Would it be just American? She was French/ Cuban.
She wrote about D.H.Lawrence, so I will write about her (or Henry) or both.
The relationship fascinates, how couples are the making of their work. As if taking a lover catalyses creativity.
Just pages into her first Journal I am marking down long tracts which I want to record and discuss.
What makes people despair is that they try to find a universal meaning to the whole of life, and then end up saying it is absurd, illogical, empty of meaning. There is not one big, cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person. To give as much meaning to one’s life as possible seems right to me. For example, I am not committed to any of the political movements which I find full of fanaticism and injustice, but in the face of each human being I act democratically and humanely. I give each human being his due. I disregard class and possessions. If it is the value of their spirit, of their human qualities, I pay my respect to, and to their needs as fast as I am able to fulfil them. If all of us acted in unison as I acted individually, there would be no wars and no poverty. I have made myself personally responsible for the fate of every human being who has come my way.’ (Anais Nin, Journals Vol 1)
If we see life as a novel then we deliberately set out to make it worthy of a novel.
If this novel is written on a daily basis as experiences unfold then surely the diarist goes out of their way to ensure that they experience and do things worthy of a novel?
Pepys is about to be serialised on BBC Radio.
The trailer justifies why a young person might keep a diary. Had millions been doing so in the 17th century would we be that interested in Pepys? Possibly, given that those blogs that are published are easily described as nefarious and sordid.
They take lovers, they are unfaithful to other halves, they go to places and do things they would never otherwise have done? Some would.
Is this the would-be artist’s struggle?
Is this what defines a frustrated creative?
The desire to express and share what they make of life and to have actions in their lives worth sharing.
I prefer to be the witch doctor in a tribe, the oddball.
From a diary entry of Saturday 17th October 1992. Thought over 19 years on.
Why keep a diary then put it online?
A diary is many things
‘Maketh up a quote at ye beginning of thy book; it will make people think thou art clever.’
Christopher Marlowe ‘The Obscure Tragedie’ Act II, Scene ii.
The following comes from a seminal book on diary keeping by Tristine Rainer.
It is as apt if you are writing a blog. Here are some thoughts
Some of this thinking can be brought up to date in the context of keeping a diary online; the essential principles remain the same.
A dairy is many things:
‘Everything and anything goes. You cannot do it wrong. There are no mistakes. At any time you can change your point of view, your style, your book, the pen you write with, the direction you write on the pages, the language in which you write, the subjects you include, or the audience you write to. You can misspell, write ungrammatically, enter incorrect dates, exaggerate, curse, pray, write poetically, eloquently, angrily, lovingly. You can past in photographs, newspaper clippings, cancelled checks, letters, quotes, drawings, doodles, dried flowers, business cards, or labels. You can write on lined paper or blank paper, violet paper or yellow, expensive bond or newsprint.’
Tristine Rainer, ‘The New Diary’ 1976.
‘Flow, spontaneity and intuition are the key words. You don’t have to plan what you are going to do. You discover what you have done once you have set it down.’ Tristine Rainer.
Write quickly so that you don’t know what will come next. How the unexpected can happen. Surprise yourself.
Be open about what you really feel. Few diaries actually lie to themselves in a dairy, but many out of shyness with themselves avoid writing about the most intimate aspects of a situation.
Anais Nin, disappointed with her childhood diaries, developed the practice of sitting quietly for a few minutes before beginning to write. She would close her eyes and allow the most important incident or feeling of the day or of the period of time since she last wrote to surface in her mind. That incident or feeling became her first sentence.
Expressive language is not a science. There are no rules. You are writing for yourself, so self-expression is the key. Test the range of your natural voice – it will develop. Errors are part of the form of the diary, as they are part of life.
Choose your audience
Your best audience is your future self. In ten years time you won’t remember the situation unless you capture all its sensual vitality now.
In time they will develop towards a larger truth; leave them in.
‘Some diarists find when they go several weeks without writing they begin to feel off balance and take it as a signal that they are avoiding the inner self.’
Those of us who keep a diary regularly are stuck with it; whether it appears online, and which bits of appear online is another matter.
‘We taught the diary as an exercise in creative will; as an exercise in synthesis; as a means to create a world according to our wishes, not those of others; as a means of creating the self, of giving birth to ourselves.’
Anais Nin, December 1976.
There’s more to follow from Tristine Rainer on basic diary devices and special techniques.
P.S. The Marlowe quote is John O’Farrel’s invention and appears in ‘I blame the scapegoats.’
How to study
I bought this in 2000 when I was thinking about an OU course. In February 2001 I signed up for the Masters in Open and Distance Education. We used First Class, it was loaded from a disk I think. Using a Mac might have been a problem, I was rarely online to follow the independent, spasmodic asynchronous threads.
Anyway, a decade later I am heading towards the finish line.
2001 wasn’t a good year for many of us … I did the first Tutor Marked Assignment TMAs but was made redundant a couple of months before the TMA would have been due and had by then decided that doing less for a couple of years rather than more would be a good idea.
Anyway … despite having successfully negotiated two modules and six-eight TMAs and a couple of End of Course Assignment ECAs I find myself turning to Chapter 10 of the above.
‘Writing essays and assignments’
I love the way the book is laid out. I reads like is was designed to be web friendly with short sentences and paragraphs and bullet points galore.
We may be floating around in cyberspace 12 years on from the last edition of this book (first edition 1970), but is remains relevant, not just for preparing for an ECA, but for writing at all.
I like lines like this,’ After we’ve read, heard and talked about a topic, our minds are awash with ideas, impressions and chunks of information. But we never really get to grips with this experience until we try to write down our own version of it. Making notes is of some help, of course. But there is nothing like the writing of an essay to make us question our ideas, weigh up our impressions, sort out what information is relevant and what is not – and, above all, come up with a reasoned viewpoint on the topic that we can feel it our own’. (Rowntree. 1999:170)
- I will be probing
- I will develop a critical argument
- I will start tonight and write 500 words a night over six nights, then revist/redraft and pull it all together.
- I will have the evidence
- I will have the references in place
- I will plan, weigh up and select from the work that I have done (and that has been done in my tutor group)
- These will back up whatever themes or viewpoints or arguments I am putting forward
- I WILL write and outline and stick to it
- I will not become blind to better approaches that suggest themselves (which happened for one ECA and had me heading towards a 40 mark)
- And I will ‘write like I talk’ (which is what I’ve always done)
Learning about technology-enhanced learning with the Open University
Activity 5, Blogs and blogging. Reading a paper on how students on another MAODE module used their blogs, and then doing some blogging yourself (about three hours).
A5: Blogs and blogging
Some of the same people who write academic journal papers also blog. This issue was explored some years ago by Mitchell (2006), for example, who wrote a newspaper articlein which she discussed issues about blogs and academic reputation.
Below are links to two blogs from members of the H800 module team – Gráinne Conole and Martin Weller. If you haven’t visited them yet (The Ed Techie was referred to in Activity 2), you may like to do so. Once you get there you may find you are clicking and reading for a long time! We haven’t included this in the activity time allowance, though we’ve given these links as suggestions for further reading at the end of this week. And if you enjoy them, you may want to keep coming back.
Recent postings from all blogs in the Institute of Educational Technology are brought together here.
Varying uses of blogs
Blogs can be used in many ways and for many purposes connected with learning and teaching. They can be used almost as a personal diary, for example, or to communicate with only a small audience. The idea of writing for a large and unknown audience does not appeal to everyone.
The OU’s Lucinda Kerawalla and colleagues, including Gráinne Conole whose blog is linked above, researched the differing purposes for which 15 students used blogs on one of the other MAODE modules. The authors found that:
Many of the students enjoyed blogging and found it to be beneficial from both educational and social perspectives. They used their blogs in several ways, including community building, resource-consolidation, sharing ideas, catharsis and emotional support, or as a personal journal. However, some students found blogging problematic; they were concerned about revealing their personally perceived academic inadequacies to others…
The authors indicate that the students used their blogs for differing individual reasons. For example, some wrote for others in their community of students, while others used their blog more or less as a place to store urls and keep notes for themselves.
About three hours for reading a paper and blogging
- Read the paper from which the quote above was taken. It is ‘Characterising the different blogging behaviours of students on an online distance learning course’. Allow up to an hour to study it and to make notes in response to the following questions, before moving on to the second part of the activity.
- What if anything surprises you about the findings from Kerawalla and her colleagues?
- Of the purposes for blogging identified in the paper, which purpose is most likely to encourage you to blog if you don’t already?And, if you already blog, which of those purposes is most important to you? Or do you do it for some other reason?
- If you work with learners who blog, how do their motivations compare (as far as you can tell) with those of the students in this paper?
- Based on the recommendations in the paper, or your own experience of blogging, how would you design activities to encourage learners to blog and to read and comment on each other’s blogs?When you’re considering this, you may like to think back to the paper from Kennedy et al. that you read in Week 1. There is also an optional paper in Weeks 13–14. In their research of first-year students at three Australian universities, the authors found that relatively few kept a blog, even though there are claims that this generation has an appetite for blogging. The authors argue that:
- there is a real danger that such commentary will create a vague but pervasive feeling among tertiary educators that every student who enters the higher education system is a blogger.(Kennedy et al., 2007, p.522)
In response to the ‘how to get the best out of writing a blog’ question in the Week 16 quiz in previous years, students gave a number of blogging tips for those studying after them. Here are a few:
- ‘Just appropriate the blog for your own needs and do what suits you most’
- ‘Stick to one topic you are genuinely enthusiastic about’
- ‘Try to set aside time each week to reflect on what you have learnt (even if it feels like nothing) as looking back can be quite illuminating’
- ‘Start each blog with a single-sentence paragraph to act as a banner or lead-in to the piece’
- ‘Go with the flow of your own thoughts: there’s no real right or wrong’
- ‘Only write a blog if you feel like it, never because you have to’
- ‘Blogs do not need to be time-consuming: post just enough to get your point across…’
You and blogging
You have probably detected some time ago that our aim is to encourage you to blog if you don’t already. Our hope is that one or more of the purposes and behaviours identified by Kerawalla et al. will spark your interest. We are not here thinking of ‘Anxious, self-conscious blogging to meet perceived course requirements’!
Even if you feel you won’t continue with it, it is important to experience this form of communication for a few weeks as part of your H800 study. You can then compare it as a learning and teaching technology with forums and with Elluminate, and with other media that you may already be using.
Perhaps you already have a blog. If not, you can access your OU blog space from StudentHome: under ‘Tools’ on the left-hand side of StudentHome, click on ‘Access to your personal blog’. You should find that you can choose whether to allow others to comment.
Please now spend some time writing your blog (whether you use the OU VLE or another tool):
- You may like to write about some aspect of H800 that has engaged you, something interesting you have seen on another blog, or a couple of urls you found useful in Activity 4 – your own, or some that others found in your group.
- There’s no single right way to blog, as you saw in the paper from Kerawalla et al. above. You could write about your own reactions as you blog:
- What sort of writing is it for you personally?
- How, if at all, does it help you to reflect on some aspect of H800, or your professional interests?
- You could write about the way you organise your studying.
- How, for example, are you finding time to study H800 with all the other demands on your time?
- Is something else having to make way?
- Read (and, where this is possible, leave comments on) the blogs of the others in your group and the other tutorial groups. Does this feel different from commenting on a forum message and, if so, how?
- If you receive comments on your blog, are your reactions like those of the students reported in the paper by Kerawalla et al?This thinking about the process of blogging and commenting should enable you to compare the two forms of communication.
The Contents of My Brain (TCMB)
Fig.1. Glass Skull by Rudat
The current generation will be able to begin to achieve a fraction of this if they please; all I have to go on are diaries I stared in March 1975 and efforts since then to recall all the events, feelings and dreams of my life to that point.
This alongside photoalbums, scrapbooks and sketch books, with lists of books read and films seen, maps of places visited and a complete extended family tree ought to offer a perspective of who or what I am.
Does any of it impact on how I think and behave?
Without my mind is it not simply a repository of typical memories and learning experiences of a boy growing up in the North East of England?
Blogging since 1999 there are like minds out there, though none have come back with an approximation of the same experiences (its been an odd, if not in some people’s eyes, bizarre, even extraordinary roller-coaster of a ride).
It’s value? To me, or others?
I could analyse it ’til the day I die. My goal is no longer to understand me, but to understand human kind. And to better understand the value of exercises such as this, not simply hoarding everything, but of consciously chosing to keep or record certain things.
For now I will exploit the tools that are offered. In theory anything already digitised on computers going back to the 1980s could now be put online and potentially shared. Can I extract material from a Floppy-disc, from an Amstrad Disc, from a zip-drive? Should I add super8mm cine-flim already digistised on betacam masters? And the books Iv’e read, beyond listing them do I add links even re-read some of them? And a handful of school exercise books (geography and maths) A’Level folders on Modern History. I kept nothing from three years of university, yet this is where the learning experience ought to have been the most intense. But I had no plans to take that forward had I?
My university learning was spent on the stage or behind a video camera.
Should I undertake such an exercise without a purpose in mind?
Do I draw on it to write fiction?
There is a TV screenplay ‘The Contents of My Mind’ that could be stripped down and re-written, even shared.
And all the fiction, the millions of words.
Will this have a life if put online?
Is it not the storyteller’s sole desire to be heard? To have an attentive audience?
Who do you present to the world when you’re online?
In the first moments of a conversation with Dr B Price Kerfoot on Skype did he not think what I was thinking? That the public images we had of each other were probably a decade old?
I didn’t take a screen grab, but the 30 something doctor in collar, tie and white coat taken in the sunshine, perhaps on the day of a promotion could have been his younger brother, when, if he can excuse me describing him thus, I saw the same person, a thick head of greying hair, a face, like mine, like the bark of a mature tree rather than a sapling.
As I write below, his spirit, like mine (I hope) remains that of an enthusiastic twenty-something.
The same occurred with the Elluminate session we had in H800 the other day … Shaun on the webcam (initially in a scratchy black and white image) is not the person who goes by in the General Forum. Are we all guilty of this. men included? We go with something in our late thirties or early to mid-forties?
What image should we use to portray ourselves?
Is their such as thing as best practice? Ought it to be like joining a gym, we have a snapshot taken on a webcam and this current image, no matter how it comes out, becomes who we are?
There’d be a riot of complaints.
Do so few of use dislike or distrust what we see when we look at our faces in the mirror each morning?
It has been the subject of research, role play in online education; I’d like to do some of my own.
I began a year ago with this. I liked the picture, felt it was healthy, robust and confidenct and reasonably confident. I should have looked at the date on it. August 2004. Happy and sunny days. You age under stress and from the mid-40s it doesn’t take much to add ten years -all that sun in the past, being unwell.
I then went with this.
An image I long ago used in my eleven year old blog. I wanted something that was indicative of the content and would last. I’m still inclined to run with this. It is indicative of what I think blogging is all about – the contents of your mind, what you think i.e. you ‘mind bursts’ as I call them on numerous blogs.
In my three Facebook personas I am in turn:
While on Skype I use a image taken with the webcam on the day of an online interview – this is a month ago, so as contemporary as it gets.
I have this image fronting Tumblr taken 21 years ago, in moments of euphoria having just successfully negotiated a 15m pond of slush on a pair of skis in front of a crowd of early May skiers below the Tignes Glacier, France. The day I proposed to my wife. We’d be ‘going out together’ for three days … we’ve now been together, well 21 years.
In my original diary we could create banner adds to publicise what we had to say to fellow writers. One of these has a spread as long as the contents of my diaries and blog: they run from a 13 year old Head Chorister in cassock and ruffs, though gap, undergrad, to ad exec, video director, with four woman I didn’t marry.
My first professional ‘portrait’ for the Worth Media corporate website was this:
Increasingly, I am thinking of using a self-portrait, that this attempt to capture myself through my minds eye is more telling that a photograph.
I could use the drawing I did of a 14 year old .. with sketched in variations of what I imagined I’d look like with a beard or moustache. What amuses me most here is how I superimpose these attachments as if I were in a school play, the beard is clearly on the soft face of a pre-pubescent boy – I should have looked at my grandfather for the face I’d get, with the more bulbous nose and pronounced chin.
Talking of which, I find it both intriguing and damming that I am the spitting image of my grandfather, that my own children see images of him age 20 and think it has to be me. All that changes as he ages into a 40 and 50 year old is he goes bald, whereas I am thus far limited to a thinning of the crown.
This I’m afraid, if the age of my children in the rest of the picture is something to go by, is some seven years ago 😦
My only reason for picking it is that I haven’t renewed my contact lenses and am inclined, after twenty years wearing them to give up. Maybe laser surgery when I have the cash?
This is contemporary. It doesn’t say who I am, just ‘what’ I am. Wearing a child’s hat (he’s a dad), the head-set to record notes onto a digital recorder (for a podcast), a coat he bought for honeymooning in the Alps (we went skiing) 18 years ago …
I have of course. not changed much since 1979:
The Dracular Spectacula, People’s Theatre, Newcastle. The teeth were made from dentine and fitted by an orthodontist.I rather foolishly sharpened the fangs and bit through my own lip on the last night. I had to sing while gargling my own blood. The joy of memories.
Which rather takes me back to the original point – who are we? how do we representative ourselves online in a single image when we are all a sum of a complex of parts?
Is it any wonder that we present multiple selves online, the more so the longer we’ve lived?
I don’t remember my father being around to take this picture. though clearly he did. I do remember the great-big wellies though and the joy of water spilling over the top if I could find a puddle or pond deep enough. And the jumpers knitted by my granny (sleeves always too long). And the trees in the garden I climbed behind. And my sister and brother …
How set in were the learning process by then?
My behaviour and responses? What learning experiences would count? At home or school … had I even started, or was I climbing up the curtains at the nursery school at the end of Pollwarth Drive?
Eating three kinds of humble pie regarding reading lists, dated reports and participation online (and the use of cliched corporate expressions)
Eating humble pie
At various times over the last 12 months I have knocked the MAODE because of the amount of reading required, particularly in H808 ‘Innovations in e-learning’, where it rankled to read reports that felt out of date or books of the last century, and across the modules for the lack of examples of ‘innovations in e-learning,’, as if the MAODE should exploit the students by sending through the online hoops the equivalent of a performance in a Cirque du Soleil show.
I take it back:
I eat humble pie for and offer three reasons:
1. Reading works
2. The earliest investigations on things we now consider common place and highly revealing
3. Bells and whistles may have no tune Reading works, though it is unnecessary to have the books in your hand, or to print of the reports.
I’ve done both, starting the MAODE or ODL as it was called in 2001, I had a box of books delivered to the door (I have many of these still).
Picking it up again in 2010 with H807 ‘Innovations in e-learning’ for want of an e-reader or adequate computer I found myself printing everything off – it unnecessarily fills eight large arch-level files (where if kept for a decade, they may remain).
There is value in printing things off
Whilst some links and too many follow up references from books and reports read in H807 were broken, I have the links and reports I downloaded and printed off in 2001.
One of these, exactly the kind of document I would have rejected in 2010 as dated, was written in 1992.
What is more, this paper addresses something that one would imagine would need a modern perspective to be of interest, the subject is the value of networking – what we’d call online collaboration or participation today.
The earliest investigations reveal the inspiration at a time when there were few options.
One the one hand I can go to the OU Library and type in ‘participation’ and ‘e-learning’ and be invited to read as PDFs a number of reports published in the last few months, on the other, I can go and see some of the earliest efforts to understand the possibilities and overcome the technical issues in order to try and recreate for distance learners what campus based students had all the time – the opportunity to meet and share ideas, the tutor group online, as it were.
Computer Networking for Development of Distance Education Courses (1).
In my teens and helping out on video-based corporate training films I recall some advice from the Training Director of FIH PLC, Ron Ellis. It’s one of those irritating corporate communications acronyms:
(as it was, though as some now prefer)
‘Keep it short and simple’.
It’s a fascinating story and remarkably for Wikipedia were entries are often anything but, it is short and straightforward.
The points I am making are straight forward too.
2. Research and References
An e-reader is simple
The process is enhanced and highly tailored once the content you need to consume is in a device that is slimmer than a slim novella. The affordances of the e-reader mean you can do away with pen and paper (though not a power or USB cable).
My passion for reading, where the ‘Content is King’, which perhaps unnecessarily brings me back to Wikipedia.
What you read, and the fact that you read, matters more than its being in paper form, whether chained to a shelf in the Duke Humphrey’s Library, Oxford (Bodleian), or bubble-wrapped from Amazon, let alone printed off on reams of 80sgm from WHSmith, holes punched and the thing filed for delayed consumption.
Reading too, I realise, is the purest form of self-directed learning
Vygostky would approve.
You are offered a list of suggested titles and off you go.
It is too easy to read the irrelevant if your only guide is Google and it is just as easy to purchase or download a book that has the title, but whose author could at best be described as ‘popular’.
It may fell archaic and arcane to be presented with a reading list, but I recognise their value, if only as the maelstrom of digital information spins across your eyes you can focus.
It may require effort to skim read the abstracts and contents of 33 books and papers in order to extract three or four to read over a two week period (as required to do in May 2001 on the then ODL), but the method works:you get an overview of the topic, a sense of who the authors and institutions your ‘school’ considers of interest, and then motivated by making some choices yourself, you read.
This in itself is one reason to avoid Wikipedia
if everyone reads the same content, everyone is likely to draw the same conclusions.
In any case, my issue with Wikipedia is three-fold, entries are either too short, or too long and there is no sense of the reader, the audience, for whom they are written; at times it is childish, at others like reading a doctoral thesis.
Or am I missing the point?
it isn’t a book, not a set of encyclopedias, but a library, communal built, an organic thing where those motivated to contribute and who believe they have something to say, do so; though all the corporate PR pap should be firewalled out.
Either way, my ambition is for WikiTVia, in which the entire content of Wikipedia is put in front of the camera and shot as chunkable video clips.
Anyone fancy giving it a go?
I digress, which is apt.
If you have a reading list you are less likely to get lost
What is more, you will have something to say in common with your fellow pupils when you’re online.
It matters for a niche conversation to be ‘singing from the same hymn’ sheet which is NOT the same as singing the same tune.
(Aren’t I the one full of cliché and aphorisms this morning).
Which brings us to point three, and a theme for Week 2 of H800 ‘Technology-enhanced learning: practice and debates.’
A title I have just typed out for the first time and I initially read as ‘Technology-enhanced debates’ which could be the right way to think of it given an initial taste of Elluminate.
It doesn’t work and there seems to be little desire or interest to fix it.
Google take over please.
I’d liken my first Elluminate session to my first attempt (indeed all my attempts) to learn to row.
Think of the Isis, early November morning, eight Balliol Men kicked out of bed by 3rd year student Miss Cressida Dick to cycle down to the boathouse.
We varied in shape and size like the cast of a James Bond movie:
Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton, Jaws and Odd-Job, Scaramanger and Ros Klebb, Goldfinger and Dr. No.
Despite our coach Dick’s best intentions everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
Later that term on in our only race we were promptly ‘bumped’ and were out.
I wonder if the joint experience of Elluminate will find us bumping along discontentedly for the next few months?
My suggestion would to disembark to something simple, that works (as we did in H808)
Elluminate to Skype with Sync.in or Google.docs is the difference between crossing the English Channel on Pedalos, or sharing a compartment on the Eurostar.
Had this been a business meeting I may have said let’s email then pick up the phone and do a conference call that way.
If it had mattered and the journey was a matter of hours I may have said, hold it, let’s meet in a couple of hours.
What matters is achieving the outcome rather than trying to clamber on board a beach-side round-about on which the bells and whistles are falling off.
Reading, referencing and simplicity brings me to a paper we were expected to read in 2001.
Computer Networking for Development of Distance Education Courses (1) Tony Kaye.
Institute of Educational Technology
Downloaded 15/05/2001 http://www.icdl.open.ac.uk/mindewave/kaye.html
(Link broken and my searches thus far have not located a copy of this paper)
It was written in 1992.
(Until this week I baulked at reading anything pre Google, Facebook or Twitter. What, frankly is the point if none of these highly versatile, immediate forms of collaboration and communication online are not covered?)
This report is as relevant to synchronous and asynchronous collaborative online learning in 2011 as the earliest books coaching rowing.
The basic issues remain the same: the problem to solve, the goal and outcomes.
It’s relevance is like starting any conversation about the Internet with Tim Berners-Lee and CEARN.
In the paper, expert discuss the potential for computer support through local and wide-area networks for ‘work groups engaged in collaborative authoring tasks.’
You see, this, to keep it simple, is all we were trying to achieve on Elluminate, a ‘work group engaged in collaborative authoring tasks.’
Today we can hear and see each other, though the voice will do – and despite being so anachronistic, we can, presumable, all type on a QWERTY keyboard.
Courtesy of Cloud computing any other shared tool, from word, to spreadsheets, presentations, art pads and photo manipulation, we could choose to use from a plethora of readily available free choices.
‘it takes as a basic premise the need for a progressive co-evolution of roles, organisational structures, and technologies (Englebart and Lehtman, 1988), if technology is to be successfully used for group work.’
‘A summary of some of the main findings from studies of traditional (i.e. non technology-supported) course team activities is presented’.
This I consider important as it re-roots us in the very process we are trying to recreate online, a meeting between people, like or not-alike minds, with a common theme and goal.
This report was written for and about teams planning and writing distance teaching materials, however, as it points out,
‘many of the issues raised are relevant to other group collaboration and authoring tasks, such as planning and writing reports, research studies and books.’ Kaye (1992:01)
It makes fascinating reading, not least the comprehensive list of items that would have to be co-ordinate to create a distance learning ‘package,’ resplendent with diskette and C90 audio cassettes, 16 hours of TV and a 300 page course Reader.
Have things moved on?
Where’s our TV in MAODE?
I actually believed in 2001 I’d be getting up in the middle of the night to view lectures.
We don’t have lectures in the MAODE, why not?
It should not be a dying form.
The detail of designing, developing and producing a distance education package, though interesting in itself, is not what I’m looking for in this report, so much as how the teams used the then available technology in order to work together collaboratively online.
They had a task to undertake, a goal.
There were clear, agreed stages.
The emphasis on this report (or book chapter as it is sometimes referred to) are the ‘human factors’.
A wry smile crosses my face as I read about some of the problems that can arise (it sounds familiar):
- Lack of consensus
- Differing expectations Nature of roles and tasks ‘differences in the perceived trustworthiness of different colleagues’ [sic]
- Different working patterns “Varying preferences in use of technology (which in this case include academics who use word-processors and who ‘draft in manuscript prior to word-processing by secretary” [sic]
Then some apt quotes regarding the process from this disparate group of individuals:
‘working by mutual adjustment rather than unitary consensus, bending and battering the system until it more or less fits’ (Martin, 1979)
‘If some course teams work smoothly, some collapse completely; if some deliver the goods on time, some are hopelessly late. Course teams can be likened to families/ Happy families do exist, but others fall apart when rebellious children leave home or when parents separate; most survive, but not without varying elements of antagonism and resentment.’ (Crick, 1980)
There is more
In microcosm it’s just the same on the MAODE.
I come to this conclusion after four or five ‘collaborative’ efforts with fellow students.
We work together best of all face-to-face, with a real task, tight deadlines and defined roles, preferably after a meal together, and by way of example, putting on a university play would be an example of this.
Recreating much or any of this online, with a collections of heterogeneous strangers, with highly varied lives not just beyond the ’campus’ but possibly on the other side of the planet, is not unexpectedly therefore primed to fail.
This said, in H808, one collaborative experience I was involved with, between six, with one in New Zealand, was a text book success.
As I put it then, ‘we kept the ball rolling,’ in this case the time zones may have helped (and my own insomnia that suggests I am based in Hong Kong not Lewes, East Sussex).
It also helped to have a Training Manager from the Navy, and a Training Manager (or two) from Medicine.
There was professional discipline that students and academics seem to lack.
Indeed, as academics often say themselves, they don’t have proper jobs.
Isn’t it about time that they behaved like the professional world, indeed, took lessons from corporate communications instead of getting things wrong all the time?
I read this from the 1992 report and wonder if when it comes to the people involved much has changed inside academic institutions.
‘There is evidence to suggest that course team processes can become pathological if the factors listed by Riley(1983) (particularly, it could be argued, the ‘private’ factors) are not properly addressed.’ Kaye, (1992:08).
‘One experienced course team chairman (Drake, 1979) goes so far as to say that …
“the course team is a menace to the academic output and reputation of the Open University,” [sic/ibid]
‘because it provides a framework for protracted (and exciting) academic discussions about possible options for course content and structure, but that when the real deadlines are imminent, many academic are unable to come to define decisions and produce satisfactory material.’
If academics at the OU can’t (or couldn’t) work together what hope to do mature postgraduates have?
Our maturity and NOT being academics probably
‘problems can arise in the relationship between academic staff and radio or television producers’ Nicodemus (1984) points out that the resultant anxieties can cause “ … a lot of flight behaviour which simply delays and dramatises the eventual confrontations.’
I have an idea for a soap-opera set on the campus of the OU; this report provides the material
I’m not going to quote it all, but there is some social science behind it. Hopefully this paper or chapter is traceable.
Brooks (1982) has observed that when complex tasks are shared amongst individuals or small working groups, the extra burdens of coordination and communication often counteract the productivity gains expected from division of labour.
Problems arise from social psychological processes:
for example, pressures to confirm in a group might cause people to behave less effectively than if they were working alone, and diffusion of responsibility and lack of ownership of a group product can lead to group members contributing less effort to a group task tan they would to a personal, individual, project.
However, we are left on a positive note by this report
“ … the cycle of integration-disintegration is, after all, also known to be important in creativity.” (Nicodemus, 1984)
In the case of distributed course teams (eg those working on interdisciplinary, or co-produced courses) where, a priori, a strong case might be made for networked computer support for collaboration, it would seem important to pay even more attention to the underlying dynamics within a team.
Enough, enough, enough … I am only half way through this report.
Let’s skip to a conclusion, which is as pertinent today as it was in 1992.
‘The social, psychological, and institutional factors influencing the processes and outcomes of academic teamwork were stressed in the first part of this chapter (see above, this is as far as I got), because these factors are probably of greater overall importance in determining successes than is the nature of any technology support which might be made available to a course team’. Kaye (1992:17)
Brooks, F 91982) The mythical man-month: Essays on software engineering. Reading. MA.: Addison-Wesley.
Crick, M (1980) ‘Course teams: myth and actuality’, Distance Education engineering, Reading, MA.: Addison-Wesley.
Drake, M. (1979) ‘The curse of the course team’, Teaching at a distance, 16, 50-53.
Kaye, A.R. (1992) ‘Computer Conferencing and Mass Distance Education’, in Waggoner, M (ed) Empowering Networks: Computer Conferencing in Education, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Educational Technology Publications.
Martin, J. (1979) ‘Out of this world – is this the real OU?” Open Line, 21, 8.
Nicodemus, R (1984) ‘Lessons from a course team’, Teaching at a distance, 25, pp 33-39
Riley, J (1983) The Preparation of Teaching in Higher Education: a study of the preparation of teaching materials at the Open University, PhD Thesis, University of Sussex.
In the course of writing this I discovered (courtesy of Wikipedia) that Leonardo da Vinci may have coined the phrase, or a version of ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ and also invented the pedalo. The mind boggles, or is Leonardo still alive and contributing ? (his fans certainly are).
The best form of ‘cognitive housekeeping’ is to sleep on it.
So I blogged three months ago when considering the merits and demerits of keeping a learning journal and reflective writing.
It transpires that sleep really does sort the ‘memory wheat from the chaff’ according to a report in the Journal of Neuroscience, DOI, 10,1,1523.jneuorsci.3575-10.2011) referred to in the current New Scientist. This Week. 5 FEB 2011.
‘It turns out that during sleep the brain specifically preserves nuggets of thought it previously tagged as important.’ Ferris Jabr says.
I have always used sleep to reflect on ideas.
If I expect or wish to actively dwell on something I will go to sleep with the final thought on my mind, a pen and pad of paper by my side. Cat naps are good for this too. I will position myself with pillows and a book, or article and drift off as I finish. Waking up ten or twenty minutes later I glance straight back at the page and will feel a greater connection with it.
I wonder if there is commercial value in working from home and doing so up ’til the point you need to fall asleep? It’s how my wife works when she is compiling a hefty report. It’s how I work when I have an assignment, or a script to deliver … or a production to complete. The work never stops and it doesn’t stop me sleeping.
Going back to tagging.
How does the mind do this? In curious ways. We all know how a memory can be tagged with a smell or a sound. For me how mothballs remind me of my Granny’s cupboard (an image of it immediately in my mind). A Kenwood blender will always remind me of my mother ginger biscuits to put on the base of a cheesecake. And a sherbert dip the Caravan Shop, Beadnell, Northumberland. Often when a random recollection enters my consciousness I try to think what has triggered it: the way the light falls on a tree, the exhaust from a car or even a slight discomfort in my stomach. It is random. Indeed, is a random thought not impossible?
There has to be a trigger, surely?
Can any of these be used?
Perhaps I could categorise content here, or in an eportfolio by taste. So chocolate digestive biscuits might be used to recall anecdotes. Toothpaste might be used to recall statistics. Varieties of Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts might be associated with people I have got to know (a bit) during the MAODE.
The mind boggles; or at least mine does.
Colour and images (Still or moving) is as much as we can do so far.
I’m intrigued by memory games. I like the journey around a familiar setting where you place objects you need to remember in familiar places so that you can recall a list of things. Here the tag is somewhere familiar juxtaposed with the fresh information.
Are there better ways to tag?
Look at my ridiculously long list of tags here. Am I being obtuse? When I think of a tag do I come up with a word I’ve not yet used? How conducive is that to recalling this entry, or grouping similar entries to do the job?
I like the way some blogs (WordPress/EduBlogs) prompt you to use a tag you’ve applied before; it offers some order to it all. I long ago lost track of the 17000 entries in my blog. Would I want to categorise them all anyhow? I think I managed 37. I prefer the ‘enter@random’ button I installed.
Going back to this idea of tagging by taste/smell, might a word (the category) be given division by taste/smell, texture and colour? How though would such categories work in a digital form? Am all I doing here recreating a person’s shed, stuff shoved under their bed or stacked in a garage, or put in a trunk or tuck box in the attic?
In the test reported in the Neuroscientist those who went to bed in the knowledge that they would be tested on the information they had looked at that day had a 12% better recall.
It doesn’t happen in MAODE, if at all. When are we put on the spot? When are we expected ever to playback a definition under ‘duress’?
‘There is an active memory process during sleep that selects certain memories and puts them in long-term storage.’
Like an e-portfolio?
Is the amount of sleep I’ve had, the 350 or so nights since I started the MAODE … part of the learning environment required?
Sleep Selectively Enhances Memory Expected to Be of Future Relevance
Wilhelm et al. J. Neurosci..2011; 31: 1563-1569