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Reflection on keeping an e-learning blog for 1,000 days

Fig. 1. The Open University’s Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE).

Expressed as a Wordle. A personal collection of key influencers based on those tagged in this blog. Includes my own reading and indulgences.

On Friday, at midday, my ou student blog reached a significant milestone.

I’ve been at it for 33 months. I’ve blogged the best part of FIVE modules now – most of which required or invited some use of the blog platform (or another). It required little encouragement – I used to keep a diary and have found since 1999 that in their digital form they are an extraordinarily versatile way to gather, consider, share and develop ideas.

Modules 

  • H807 – Innovations in e-Learning
  • H808 – Technology Enhanced Learning: Practices and debate
  • H800 – The e-Learning Professional
  • B822 – Creativity, Innovation & Change
  • H810 – Accessibility online learning: supporting disabled students

The investment in time, on average, an hour a day in addition to – though sometimes instead of coursework over 1000+ days.

(This excludes 8 months I spent on the Masters in Open and Distance Learning in 2001)

To mark this event, and as I need to go through this online diary, this e-journal, this ‘web-log’ (as they were also once momentarily called) ahead of some exciting meetings coming up next week I thought a simple task might be to click through the tags to identify who have been the key influencers in my reading and thinking over the last two and a half years.

Fig.2. Another way of looking at it. Betham, Conole and Weller are key MOADE authors from the Open University. John Seely Brown is a vital undercurrent, Engestrom one of several enthusiasms like Vygostky. While Gagne, second hand hardback, needs to be on your desk for frequent reference.

What I thought would take an hour has taken nearly 40 hours.

Clicking on a tag opens a corner of my head, the notes take me back to that day, that week, that assignment or task. It also takes me back to the discussions, resources and papers. And when I find an error the proof-reader in me has to fix. Aptly, as we approach November 5th, and living in Lewes where there are marches and fireworks from late October for a couple of weeks peaking of course all evening on the 5th, my head feels as if someone has accidentally set light to a box of assorted fireworks.

Just as well. Meetings these days are like a viva voce with eager ears and probing questions – they want the content of my mind and whatever else I bring to the subject after thirty years in corporate training and communications.

Fig. 3. Wordle allows you to say how many words you want to include in the mix. To create weight I had to repeat the names I consider most important twice, three or four times in the list. I also removed first names as these would scattered into the mix independently like peppercorns in a pan of vegetable stock.

The Task

  • List all authors who have been part of my learning and thinking over the last couple of years.
  • Include authors that my antennae have picked up that are relevant to my interest in learning, design, the moving image and the english language.
  • Visualise this and draw some conclusions

Fig.4. This even makes the key protagonists look like an advertising agency Gagne, BeethamConole and Weller.

The Outcome

I can never finish. Take this morning. I stumble upon my notes on three case studies on the use of e-portfolios from H807 which I covered from February 2010-September 2010. To begin with I feel compelled to correct the referencing in order to understand the value, pertinence and good manners (let alone the legal duty) to cite things correctly. (Even though this post was locked – a ‘private’ dump of grabs and my thoughts).

Then I add an image or two.

These days I feel a post requires a visual expression of its contents to open and benefits from whatever other diagrams, charts or images you can conjure from your mind or a Google Search – ‘the word’ + images creative commons – is how I play it.

Fig. 5. From David Oglivy’s book ‘Ogilvy on advertising’ – a simple suggestion – a striking image, a pertinent headline and always caption the picture. Then write your body copy.

A background in advertising has something to do with this and the influence of David Ogilvy.

I spend over two hours on the first of three case studies in just one single post. At the time I rubbished e-portfolios. The notes and references are there. Tapped back in I can now make something of it. A second time round the terms, the ideas – even some of the authors are familiar. It makes for an easier and relevant read. What is more, it is current and pertinent. A blog can be a portfolio – indeed this is what I’d recommend.

From time to time I will have to emerge from this tramp through the jungle of my MAODE mind.

Not least to work, to sleep, to cook and play.

Fig. 6. In a word

Along the way this behaviour, these actions, me being me, has found me working at the Open University for a year, and then at Lumesse a global corporate e-learning company. In the last month two international organisations have had me in, in the last week four more have been in touch online including interest from Australia, France and North America. Next week a magical triad may occur when I broker a collaboration between two of them with me holding their respective hands to initiate a project. There could be no better validation for the quality, depth, impact and life-changing consequences of seeing this OU degree through.

On verra (we will see)

USEFUL LINKS

Wordle

Date duration calculator

REFERENCE

Gagne, R.N. (1965) Conditions of Learning : Holt, Rinehart and Winston

Blogging a dead horse – why blogging is like playing a Tuba at a football match and other such analogies

The more I read, the more I research, the more I listen and the more I gush to others about blogging, the more I feel that it is like …‘trying to flog a dead horse to make it pull a load’.

Not the act of blogging, but the actions required to convert people.

People (students) don’t see there value; to read a few well written, apposite blogs, fine. A person that in this environment has something to offering pertaining to their course. Or for entertainment. (Stephen Fry’s Tweats form a micro-blog after all), micro only in the sense that you are restricted by character count per entry. If these parameters are like a letter-box then Stephen Fry is posting plenty himself and garnering a gargantuan response).

I have in front of me ‘Exploring students’ understand of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education’. It was a conference item at ALT-C 2007: Beyond Control: Association Technologies Conference, 4-6 September, Nottingham, UK.

One of its Six authors is Grainne Conole, an OU senior academic, a blogging practitioner and evangelical online chatter-box and good-egg. She wants us all to blog, and understands the magic of a comment … she likes to make new friends and understands the reciprocal nature of reading and leaving salient comments. It’s T.L.C. online.

I just clicked away and posted this in her blog:

I’m faced with the dilemma of having to split my professional, student and blogging personas; I recently joined the Open University Business School. This three-way split has me locking down one diary and ‘friends’ gathered over a decade and tripping over the other two selves, starting afresh with contacts and what I blog wearing my professional hat. I am certain such possible conflicts of interest occur for anyone working in online media communications – broadcasting on behalf of your employer; indeed, my contacts in senior PR and Media roles of various organisations have the weakest of online profiles, even though two of them are published authors.

On the other hand just as I really got going in Facebook to connect with my brother and his family in South Africa and organise my mother’s 80th, I find that living away from home during the week I come online to have some sense of what my family are up to – just a shame our dog doesn’t blog, ‘stick chasing across the South Downs’ would do it.

Currently reading your 2007 paper ‘Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education’. Are Learning Designers (and those who work with them) ‘flogging a dead horse?’ The analogy I’m about to use in my OU student blog is that I am starting to feel like a Tuba player at a football match – no one is interested, they’re watching the game. Maybe if I could network with the other instrument players in the crowd we could have a jam-session. As another paper on blogging discovered ‘birds of a feather flock together’, we do this and find kindred spirits. The problem in OU student blogging platforms is that we are overly pigeonholed, not just by course, but by module and tutor group (and sub-groups within these).

I liken the Internet to a digital ocean; currently blogging as an OU student is like blogging in fish tank, in a warehouse full of fish tanks. And every so often someone kindly comes along and divides us up even more, creating barriers, rather than opportunities. Please can we just all be tipped into the same ocean?

I then went off to Facebook, via my external blog My Mind Bursts.

I only sat down to transfer notes from a pad … and am yet to transcribe a single word of it.

I was going to say, anything short of writing directly into ‘the white box’ that you are presented with on your chosen blog platform or platforms snacks of something else: a repository, a writer’s journal, a student’s e-portfolio that they leave open … keep forgetting in the lecture hall, that they photocopy and leave on benches outside the refectory.

Reading ‘Everything is miscellaneous’ David Weinberger I find a like mind a) the idea of miscellany, that each page, each asset, whether ostensibly part of something (like this) is like an autumn leave scattered on the forest floor. These leaves never compost down and those that are tagged stay on the top of the pile, those that people find or are guided too most often, stay on the top of the pile … and did it not long ago reach the stage where the leaves on the forest floor are so deep that they have buried the trees?

I put a slightly inept first draft phrase into Yammer the OU Personnel ‘Twitter-like’ feed about dandelions and pomegranates. I’ve used the dandelion metaphor many times, the pomegranate too, but had never put them together.

My thinking was this, if the seed is this blog entry, or a Tweat or even a message in Facebook i.e. an idea, thought, asset or message, a seed if you were scattered to the wind to find its own fortune then developing social media for an institution, whilst the asset, these words, are still a seed, they are coming from a pomegranate, not a dandelion. The reason being that understandably if you are expressing the views of others, collectively or individually, you cannot just hold you thoughts up to the wind and blow. The opening of the pomegranate is, as it were, the necessary processes and procedures. This analogy falls apart though if you have an image of Jamie Oliver holding a pomegranate half in one hand while smashing it with a wooden rolling pin with the other … the OU are not smashing me on the head to extract words like nasal mucus. Rather, at first at least, I will extract them myself with tweezers.

All this and my 16 pages of notes on blogging handwritten into a Shorthand Pad remain unused.

To overcome my reluctance to write-up what I feel I have already expressed I realise I could just photograph my notepad … in fact, I’ll do this and just see how folk manage with my handwriting.

 

 

(47810)

Can blogs and blogging support students in distance learning?

The more I read, the more I research, the more I listen and the more I gush to others about blogging, the more I feel that it is like …‘trying to flog a dead horse to make it pull a load’.

Not the act of blogging, but the actions required to convert people.

People (students) don’t see there value; to read a few well written, apposite blogs, fine. A person that in this environment has something to offering pertaining to their course. Or for entertainment. (Stephen Fry’s Tweats form a micro-blog after all), micro only in the sense that you are restricted by character count per entry. If these parameters are like a letter-box then Stephen Fry is posting plenty himself and garnering a gargantuan response).

I have infront of me ‘Exploring students’ understand of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education’. It was a conference item at ALT-C 2007: Beyond Control: Association Technologies Conference, 4-6 September, Nottingham, UK.

One of its Six authors is Grainne Conole, an OU senior academic, a blogging practioner and evangelical online chatter-box and good-egg. She wants us all to blog, and understands the magic of a comment … she likes to make new friends and understands the reciprocal nature of reading and leaving salient comments. It’s T.L.C. online.

I just clicked away and posted this in her blog:

I’m faced with the dilemma of having to split my professional, student and personal approaches to blogging. This three way split has me locking down one diary and ‘friends’ gathered over a decade and tripping over the other two selves, starting afresh with contacts and what I blog wearing my professional hat. I am certain such possible conflicts of interest occur for anyone working in online media communications – broadcasting on behalf of your employer; indeed, my contacts in senior PR and Media roles of various organisations have the weakest of online profiles, even though two of them are published authors.

On the other hand just as I really got going in Facebook to connect with my brother and his family in South Africa and organise my mother’s 80th, I find that living away from home during the week I come online to have some sense of what my own family are up to – just a shame our dog doesn’t blog, ‘stick chasing across the South Downs’ would do it.

Currently reading your 2007 paper ‘Exploring students’ understanding of how blogs and blogging can support distance learning in Higher Education’. Are Learning Designers (and those who work with them) ‘flogging a dead horse?’ The analogy I’m about to use in my OU student blog is that I am starting to feel like a Tuba player at a football match – no one is interested, they’re watching the game. Maybe if I could network with the other instrument players in the crowd we could have a jam-session. As another paper on blogging discovered ‘birds of a feather flock together’, we do this and find kindred spirits. The problem in OU student blogging platforms is that we are overly pigoen-holed, not just by course, but by module and tutor group (and sub-groups within these).

I liken the Internet to a digital ocean; currently blogging as an OU student is like blogging in fish tank, in a warehouse full of fish tanks. And every so often someone kindly comes along and divides us up even more, creating barriers, rather than opportunities. Please can we just all be tipped into the same ocean?

I then went off to Facebook, via my external blog My Mind Bursts.

I only sat down to transfer notes from a pad … and am yet to transcribe a single word of it.

I was going to say, anything short of writing directly into ‘the white box’ that you are presented with on your chosen blog platform or platforms snacks of something else: a repository, a writer’s journal, a student’s e-portfolio that they leave open … keep forgetting in the lecture hall, that they photocopy and leave on benches outside the refrecatory.

Reading ‘Everything is miscellaneous’ David Weinberger I find a like mind a) the idea of miscellany, that each page, each asset, whether ostensibly part of something (like this) is like an autumn leave scattered on the forest floor. These leaves never compost down and those that are tagged stay on the top of the pile, those that people find or are guided too most often, stay on the top of the pile … and did it not long ago reach the stage where the leaves on the forest floor are so deep that they have buried the trees?

I put a slightly inept first draft phrase into Yammer the OU Personnel ‘Twitter-like’ feed about dandelions and pomegranates. I’ve used the dandelion metaphor many times, the pomegranate too, but had never put them together.

My thinking was this, if the seed is this blog entry, or a Tweat or even a message in Facebook i.e. an idea, thought, asset or message, a seed if you were scattered to the wind to find its own fortune then developing social media for an institution, whilst the asset, these words, are still a seed, they are coming from a pomegranate, not a dandelion. The reason being that understandably if you are expressing the views of others, collectively or individually, you cannot just hold you thoughts up to the wind and blow. The opening of the pomegranate is, as it were, the necessary processes and procedures. This analogy falls apart though if you have an image of Jamie Oliver holding a pomegranate half in one hand while smashing it with a wooden rolling pin with the other … the OU are not smashing me on the head to extract words like nasla mucus. Rather, at first at least, they will be extracted by me using tweezers.

All this and my 16 pages of notes on blogging handwritten into a Shorthand Pad remain unused.

To overcome my reluctance to write up what I feel I have already expressed I realise I could just photograph my notepad … in fact, I’ll do this and just see how folk manage with my handwriting.

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