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On rewriting fiction – again

Fig.1. One box from the garage: Five/Six project to work on here 🙁

Thank you SWF Fall 14. [Start Writing Fiction. An Open University ‘Massive Open Online Course’ or MOOC that run from October to December 2014 on the FutureLearn platform]

A MOOC on writing fiction has rekindled my desire to be a published writer for the eighth or ninth time in four decades.

Writing in 1991/2 with a further burst of activity from 1996/8 and another from 2001/2006 and abandoned since 2008 I am glad, though daunted to be looking at drafts of novels and of screenplays that I just dug out of a lock up garage over 10 miles away. There’d be more if I could read floppy disks and ZIP drives.

These piles are stacked carefully enough, though some were tipped out of arch-level files when I started my OU MA in Open and Distance Education in February 2010. Here I am back again, as if these last five years have been something squeezed from me like the last teaspoon of paste from a tube of tomato purée.

I am thrilled to see a TV play called ‘Sardines’ – a farce in which some eight characters all end up hidden in the cupboards or under the bed of the same man in a penthouse flat in central London. I am gobsmacked to find variations something called ‘Form Photo’ which charts the relationships of one man from the age of 17 to 57 … mostly teens, with some first loves in his early teens. This is, I think, the one I am now turning to.

Also in front of me is the manuscript I may have given 18 months to – a typical time span, 18 months and 300 pages and 100,000 words. Working title ‘Journey To Work’ because the premise in 1996 was that a character wanted a car that would drive him to work … i.e. a self-driving car. It is not about the motor industry (although I was doing a lot of work for Land Rover at the time). It also has the title ‘Fifteen Roads to Nowhere’ about this guy who sets out on this mad quests: the car thing, a relationship with such enthusiasm … eventually he takes a bet to drive, or be driven by this homemade car across 100 miles of English rural and urban landscape. So there’s that one.

What else?!

‘The Contents of My Mind’ was an effort to explore how a person’s mind is stored digitally after their death and in this instance is put into the brain of someone who had been in a coma. You end up with a hybrid horror of a person trapped in a body that isn’t theirs that also enforces a new way of thinking and doing on them. Toss! It went to the BBC, was read and returned. 2004 or so?

Hardly a novice writer then?

Always a novice writer. Even should I have the good fortune to be published eventually I will doubt what it is that I do or have done. My sincere hope, as I return to a commitment to writing fiction after a long break is that I now have a better idea of what it is I do, what makes this ‘chef’ how it is that I toss the ingredients down and pull out a meal that is enjoyable. A short film broadcast on Channel 4 that I wrote, directed and produced is my only broadcast credit; I have not been published outside a school magazine.

Editing that destroys what I write isn’t the way to write – it becomes like writing by numbers. I have plenty of examples of that too, where I have tried to write as I believe I am required to write. I did this with a 12 part historical TV series that I read today and it is about as thrilling as a telephone directory – there is nothing of me in it. ‘The Little Duke’ could be retuned wearing my new head.

Far better the outrageous, Tom Sharpe meets Henry Miller, of things like ‘Sardines,’ even ‘Exchange with a Frenchmen’ … the treatment of which I have seen kicking around somewhere. I cut and pasted hundreds of strips of papers into a long scroll. I think, as I am now doing with other work, that I am starting to know how to construct that prose.

I also found the proposal, in French, for a series of false news stories.

I was on the team writing, directing and producing these things for Antenne 2 in 1991. Outrageous. One story even ended up on the news. We told some lie about the French Prime Minister owning a Honda even though she claimed to be wedded to supporting output from French car manufacturers Renault and Peugot. At this time I also spent six weeks on the road documenting the lives of those in the HLMs outside major towns and cities where immigrants had been put. And I wrote a story about an Algerian boy who when stressed turned into sand … All this and I was translating from French to English a kids cartoon series called ‘Chip and Charlie’ from France Animation.

The funniest read is something I typed up in the Christmas Holidays when I was 13 1/2 I now look at it’s nonsense and think ‘Blue Lagoon … only in space’ 🙂

Still in the garage there is the manuscript for a kid’s adventure story called ‘The Time Telescope’, a kids TV series about a time shift device called after the main characters, brother and sister ‘CC and Susie’ and some kids’ stories written when my own children were six and four. ‘Hapless Harry’ comes to mind … a small boy who ‘transmogrified’ into everyday objects whenever he did something naughty. He turned into his dad’s brief case and got taken to the office in one adventure, I remember.

On verra

 

My thoughts on a FutureLearn MOOC on the Treaty of Versailles that tried to conclude the First World War

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. World War One: Paris 1991. A New World ...

The content here, how produced, presented and managed by FutureLearn is the perfect catalyst for a diversity of contributors. As interested in the strengths and weaknesses of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) as a platform, this from FutureLearn is showing the value of many connected minds coming together and feeding of each other. It strikes me that as people group around a line of thought, with the educators and contributors, the kernel of a tutorial forms: ideas are offered, shared, adjusted, politely corrected, fed, developed and consolidated.

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. The clean design style of Dorling-Kindersley

It intrigues me to understand what the formula for success is here: the simplicity and intuitive nature of the FutureLearn platform; a clarity that in multi-media terms reminds me of those Dorling-Kindersley books; the quality of the ideas professionally, creatively and unpretentiously presented … and a topic that has caught the Zeitgeist of the centenary commemorations of the First World War and its consequences rather than the chronology of the battles and the minutiae of military tactics.

For someone who has studied seven of the eight or nine Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education (MA ODE) modules my continued interest in e-learning is diverse; it includes however not the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) per se, but rather ways to escape the technology in order to recreate or enable the qualities that come from the ‘Oxbridge Tutorial’.

Fig.3. An Oxbridge Tutorial (1960s)

I am specific here because these tutorials are not seminars, webinars or lectures, an ‘Oxbridge Tutorial’ is typically either one-to-one, the ‘great mind’, the ‘subject matter expert’ and his or her student or ‘acolyte’ or one to two or three. The standard pattern of these is for the students deliver a short essay, around 2000 words, on a single topic from a reading list. In theory all the participants write an essay but only one reads his or her essay out that everyone then discusses. The tutorial lasts an hour. You have one a week … per topic. Some tutors, the natural and committed educators extend these tutorials into informal settings, picking up the conversation at meals and in other settings.

From E-Learning V

Fig.4. Learning from others: an exchange of ideas

You cannot simply transpose this kind of ‘tutorial’ to the Internet in the commercial sense as the educator hasn’t the time to give, repeatedly, an hour of time to just one, or two or three students. This is not the model that can support the educational desires of the 5 million in the world who crave a university place. Certainly, these students need peace, a roof over their heads, food and political stability and of course the infrastructure and means to own and operate a device that can get them online … a tall enough order, but smart phones could be as cheap as £10 within ten years … but then, it will be through the kind of connectedness between students, moderated and catalysed by the experts that this ‘tutor-like’ learning experience can be created.

I see it in this MOOC. I have seen it with a variety of activities in OU modules.

From E-Learning V

Fig.5. My takes on ‘Connectivism’ as a burgeoning theory of learning 

‘Connectedness’ is a learning theory developed and espoused by George Siemens.

Rethinking online education in MOOCs

Rethinking online education in MOOCs

This is fascinating and important. It was brought to my attention by a fellow student on H818:The Networked Practitioner. The differences between how a person spends their time when learning is spent whether online, say on a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), ‘traditionally’ and in blended forms. 

Having ways to present data in an informative and engaging way is vital. Here at a glance you can see how behaviours differ. I’m eager to read further papers on this to see how the research was undertaken and how therefore I might apply it as ‘how we learn now’ is of particular interest to me. The Educause article this came from offers ample further reading.

I thought these were DNA patterns. I’d like to see these charts as animations annotating and illustrating examples so that we can see and are therefore be reminded of the context. Simply put blended learning increases the time a student spends on a subject – that’s as good as it needs to be from my point of view as with more and varied ways of engagement comes a developing interest, improved motivation and lasting learning formation. I rather think we blend learning anyway – once it comes off the screen ‘it’ interacts with the contents if your brain and is invariably shared in some form or another too.

What happens when connected as ‘like-minds’ six or seven such individuals ‘collaborate’ to perform some atrocity?

Fig.1. Dr. No.

Society online is a society on speed and at speed – it might reflect society but in the Alice in Wonderland World Wide Web everything is faster, connectable and so warped in a way that transcends human scales of time, distance and decency. One sick, warped, isolated individual seeking out the pollution of the web to feed their fantasy and make it real, like Anders Behring Breivik in Norway in 2011 was, if you profile the population, 1 in 10 million.

What happens when connected as ‘like-minds’ six or seven such individuals ‘collaborate’ to perform some atrocity?

What indeed does the web afford ‘networked’ terrorist idealists such as AL Qaeda? Attending a seminar on cyber crime at the Oxford Internet Institute last year it was revealing and shocking to learn of the ‘game of catch-up’ played between the criminals hacking bank accounts and the banks trying to keep them secure. The head of internet security from Barclays painted a picture that would make the scriptwriters of a James Bond movie go googled-eyed in amazement. Then, far from society creating the Web, the web world infects us ‘on the other side’ with paranoia and so CHANGES behaviour, gets AHEAD of society.

It has happened to me more than once – in the early days of blogging back in 2002 I was ‘flamed’ viciously (malicious hate in comments and a breach into my blog that had this person editing my content and filling it with bile). I had this stopped and attempts were made to trace the character but for a period I was convinced that any vehicle pulling up along our street outside our house was ‘him’ … and then this summer I put webcams around the house when we went away from a few weeks and only after the first week did I relax when I noticed that a brick hadn’t come through the window and we hadn’t been burgled or the house burned down.

(I write this while reflecting on the words of Professor Susan Halford in the Week 3 introductory video on cyber crime that forms part of the University of Southampton‘s Future Learn offering ‘Web Science‘). 

‘The Web is part of society and is shaped by society. And until the web is a crime-free zone, the Web won’t be a crime-free zone’.   (Halford, S 2013. Page 1 of the transcript. University of Southampton)

REFERENCE

The Silk Road

Webber, C. and Yip, M. (2012), ‘Drifting on and off-line: Humanising the cyber criminal’, in S. Winlow and R. Atkinson (Eds.), New Directions in Deviancy: Proceedings from the York Deviancy Conference, London: Routledge, pp. 191-205

Web Sciences – faster, rich, responsive, shared …

Life happened at the opening of the MOOC on Web Sciences from the University of Southampton (SOTON)  – the imminent arrival of a great-grand child is announced while two in their late 80s make their departures, one with little warning, the other with a reluctant move to hospital.

Born in 1928 or to be born in 2014 …

Keen as I am on ancestry I try to reflect on what has and is changing.

How great in truth is or will be the impact on how we live, love and die? Of course the frenetic, massive Web impacts on the neuronal activity in individual brains feeding us with knowledge, news, information and misinformation like never before, but how much does it change the intimacy of a family, of childhood and education, of working and falling in love, of starting a family of your own (or not) and beyond?

The Web, like a strange digital mist now surrounds us – but in the Darwinian sense does it change anything at all?

Words of a distraught young woman from the Philippines coming out of the recent typhoon smack you in your digital face when she starts with ‘no Internet, not smart phone, no food, no water, no roof on our heads, no medicine … ‘ We will surely reflect on that fact that for all the opportunities the Web it is exclusive and fickle.

Yet it is the speed and ease by which this information is disseminated that changes things. I remember the Japanese Typhoon that I watched on multiple TV channels calling to my son who was watching the same online directly from people’s smart phones.

The new arrival mentioned above was posted on Facebook, the ‘departure’ was a call to a mobile phone. Both will feature online to welcome to the world or to reflect on a long life and commiserate.

MOOCs are a relatively new phenomenon. There’s been a lot of hype about them. What does the research say? 

A ‘MOOC’ is a ‘Massive Open Online Course’, perhaps better called on ‘Free Online Course’.

The ‘Massive’ comes from online video games where there can be huge numbers of participants. An early online module on engineering from Stanford had some 10,000 initial participants. A couple of years later and niche, less popular courses from far less prestigious establishments may have only a few hundred participants which takes the ‘massive’ out of the MOOC, and can in turn diminish the learning experience as only a fraction of students participate and only a fraction stay to the end. Well meaning MOOCs I have done, one for example on e-learning design for MOOCs, could well have been down to a dozen active participants by the end as the drop-out rate was so high, largely, in my view, in that instance, because the demands on and expectations of participating students was far too high.

Where to search

In addition to investigating ISI Web of Knowledge and Google Scholar, see also the bibliographic databases ERIC and PsycINFO and the full-text databases SwetsWise and ScienceDirect.

My OU Student Blog has 55 entries on MOOCs, this begins with very early forays, lurking, in the 2010/2011 before committing as a participant twice this year, in the Open University’s Online Learning Design MOOC (OLDS MOOC) and the OU’s Martin Weller chaired H817 Open MOOC. I was able to give five then three weeks full-time to each before EMAs and life made me reduce the time I could give to them.

Particularly the OLDS MOOC that I would describe as a standard OU Module with as many, if not more activities and even more potentially to read … as well as the now obligatory interaction in a Google Hang-out and forums which, unlike in a standard OU Module, had the active participation of some of the heavy hitters of online learning.  A blind alley though, other than a reminder of what it is like to take part in a MOOC.

Questions to ask

  • Is anything known about the educational impact of MOOCs, as distinct from their news impact?

  • What research methods were used?

  • What could be known about MOOCs?

  • Are research methods being developed ‘new’?

Warnings

  • You may go up many blind alleys, but persist.

  • You might not find a huge number of high quality research studies. As mentioned above good research often takes time to set up, analyse and write up; and the most highly rated journals typically have detailed peer review and editing processes, followed by long lead times for publication.

  • You may well find yourself in the so-called ‘grey literature’ – conference papers, technical reports, reports to funders, web pages, blogs, and so on. Such grey literature was once more difficult to search than journals, but now dominates online search results. It has traditionally had a lower academic status than peer-reviewed journals. However, this situation might change because of the growth of web-based publishing and the need for studies about fast-changing technologies to be published quickly.

As previously, keep notes on what you find, and on your reflections.

H809 is like a very large Gouda

If H809 is a very large Gouda Cheese – the size of a climbing frame, then I have consumed, wholesale everything from week 1 to 6.

We are now in week 9.

Ever since the TMA at the end of week 6 I have been back in this Cheesy Climbing frame – what remains of it – with another 11 weeks to go.

Far from meticulously deconstructing externally week by week, activity by activity and constructing internally in an equally measured way, I find I am juggling, cartoon mouse-like, three pieces of cheese:

  • Week 7 – 7 Activities: done 3/7
  • Week 8 – 7 Activities: done 4/7
  • Week 9 – 5 Activities: done 0/5

Glad I did that.

Bang goes H817open which will have to postpone. Forget the ABC Gestion de Project. And only the impulsive would sign up for a MOOC on the Human/Computer interface.

All must now wait.

I’d be on top of this had I not put a couple of weeks into H817open.

(though OER is highly relevant to H809 too)

I’ve got six days to get on top of all of this, write the TMA then go on holiday for ten days.

I’ll put the above into a table and tick each off.

I reckon, at a glance, that this around 28 hours = jeepers.

And writing the TMA will require = X?!

Crack on, crack on …

The TMA can ‘progress’ in the background while I get through the above.

 

I keep getting this crazy panic that I can’t know enough soon enough to ‘make a difference’

Fig. 1. Testing ahead of an MBA Webinar

I keep getting this crazy panic that I can’t know enough soon enough to ‘make a difference’ – the learning bug has set off a tempest in my brain

Just as well that neuroscience is next on my list of conquests … or should that be psychology?

Or courtesy of e-learning and blended learning an MA in both simultaneously part-time over two years.

The mind boggles, but this is what the Internet permits like never before – degrees like A’ levels, even like GCSEs, why ever give up a subject you loved – like History … and … Music and … and Fine Art … and Sports Science … then who employs you? A tutor of multiple subjects to the super-rich? Oh, and an MBA.

If only I could be 28 forever.

The University of Oxford offers a combined MA from the Said Business School and Oxford Internet Institute – that’s two MAs taken simultaneously over two years. They’ve already had postgraduates through.

I’m thinking this way having recently wrapped my second degree, the MA in Open and Distance Education with The OU. Though on another ‘traditional’ e-learning module with The OU currently – Practice-based research in e-learning (H809), it is the second MOOC of the year that has my head spinning. We were introduced to various depositories of Open Educational Resources. The MIT offering was the clincher as I came across first undergraduate and then graduate content on Neuroscience.

This, currently, makes more sense to me than psychology.

To see and understand what happens when thoughts are formed or our senses perceive the world. Its like going behind the desk of a Magician to see how they do it (I did that at a friend’s birthday party age 6 or 7 … I can feel the carpet beneath my toes, see the little table and the drop down slat with the bag attached to it … ) I’ve created ‘tricks’ in camera and in post production when making videos. It isn’t hard to trick the brain. We want to see what isn’t there. This is possible because of how our brains connect – the chaos couldn’t be designed. Gun polish takes me back to another boyhood moment. Another the very first time we had marshmallows roasted in the fireplace.

 

‘If you’re not lost and confused in a MOOC you are probably doing something wrong’


Photo credit: Robin Good

 

‘MOOCs indicate that we are seeing a complexification of wishes and needs’ – so we need a multispectrum view of what universities do in society. George Siemens, (18:51 25th March 2013).

 

A terrific webinar hosted by Martin Weller with George Siemens speaking. Link to the recorded event and my notes to follow.

I took away some key reasons why OER has a future:

 

  1. Hype between terrifying and absurd.
  2. State reduction in funding will see a private sector rise.
  3. Increase in rest of world’s desire for HE OER
  4. Certificates growing.
  5. The Gap
  6. Accelerating time to completion
  7. Credit and recognition for students who go to the trouble to gain the competencies.
  8. Granular learning competencies and the gradual learning and badging to stitch together competencies.

 

And a final thought from the host:

‘If you’re not lost and confused in a MOOC  you are probably doing something wrong’.  Martin Weller (18:45 25th March 2013)

Which rather means I may be doing something wrong!

I posted to Linkedin, I am neither confused, nor lost. Indeed I have a great sense of where I am and what is going on, have met old online friends and am making new contacts and enjoy using two of my favourite platforms: Google+ and WordPress.  (All the fun’s at H817open)

 

A selection of papers are proving enlightening too:

 

1) John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health OpenCourseWare (2009) Kanchanaraksa, Gooding, Klass and Yager.

 

2) The role of CSCL pedagogical patterns as mediating artefacts for repurposing Open Educational Resources (2010) Conole, McAndrew & Dimitriadis

 

3) A review of the open educational resources (OER) movement: Achievements, challenges, and new opportunities. Report to The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

 

I’ll post a 500 word review of the above shortly as per H817open Activity 7.

The value is both expanding the reasons for OER as well as having a handful of objections, negatives and concerns. Like all things regarding e-learning, they is no panacea for putting in the time and effort.

And a couple of others that look interesting:

 

Disruptive Pedagogies and Technologies in Universities (2012)  Anderson and McGreal

 

Open education resources: education for the world? (2012) Richter and McPherson

 

OLDS MOOC NARRATIVES

OLDS MOOC 1

OLDS MOOC 1 (Photo credit: penbentley)

 

Summary

 

I am use to problem solving techniques having used them in corporate communications and training for some 25 years. The contrast between higher education and learning and development always fascinates me – they are so different. Simply put the L&D drive is usually to deliver more for less and to measure and justify the spend. It has to work and shown to work, saving money and improving results on previous approaches, so typically reducing and eliminating the cost of travel, overnights and being away from work. There will be a budget, schedule and brief. There will be a team of participants, a key player at the client end with their colleagues, support and their own line manager/director. The agency team will in all likelihood involve six or more people: project manager, learning design, subject matter expert, writer, designer, programme and an assortment of graphics designers, visualizers and testers. This seems to be in sharp contrast where those in education have no budget, no time and little support and in the old model of the lone teacher and their class have to come up with everything on their own, plan and create in their own time and often have systems and kit foistered on them.

 

At the beginning of the week I looked at the time allocated to the OLDS MOOC by the OLDS MOOC team and quickly learnt to DOUBLE the time that would be required. And in the two most busy weeks I had working on Personas and Design I spent 12-16 hours on the reading, the activities themselves and maintaining contact with a fledgling group. This kind of commitment became unsustainable as I needed increasingly to commit this time to other projects.

 

I wonder if young people should start work part time at 14 as they did 100 years ago, and do so with a close, online support. They will increasingly benefit from sophisticated learning systems and catalogues and be able to apply what they learn.

 

Context

 

What were the conditions and constraints in which your design experiment was situated?

 

Online, for me this mean STANDING at the dining room table. This is my office. After some Horizon programme on health I now stand all day. Works for me, in fact I find I am more alert and have had no back or no strain since … though the ball of my left foot doesn’t like it and I’ve worn through the slippers my daughter bought me for my birthday. This is context for me. The dog watches me all day expecting to me taken for a work. The ‘footfall’ is such morning and later afternoon that I am disturbed by family members at meal time. Come to think of it, I prepare these meals so that’s another period of disruption to me day. 4 x 3 hours across the day is how I try to operate. That is before breakfast, after breakfast, after lunch and after dinner.

 

I don’t recommend it. In the past I have walked up the road or driven a few miles to an office. In future I would hope at least to have an office ‘down the garden’.

 

This context has the potential to be highly disrupted as the ebb and flow of family life runs through the house – teenage children at, or not at school and my wife who also works from home even more stressed when she has no work than when she does. When she has work lucky her enters her study and is only ever seen at meal times … and perhaps if either she wakes me late at night, or I wake her early in the morning.

 

This is the context. I could relate this to years in various production and agency offices working on linear then, as we quaintly called it ‘non-linear’ interactive training. More recently experience of the 9 to 5 has been blissful as a team of 8 on a project in an office of 50 or so hunker down collectively to the task in hand. In this context an e-learning project, like producing TV and video (and film) where I have experience, runs almost like clockwork. I say almost because occasionally there is an overnighter or weekend panic.  I have a dream context it would be the new Google-plex, especially with the opportunity to camp out on the roof if you’ve got a deadline and would prefer to hang out around the office.

 

Material

 

What are the spatial characteristics of the settings? What tools and resources are available to protagonists?

 

See above. Kit is one desktop, two laptops and an iPad.

 

A scanner and digital camera.

 

Art materials. A print on the wall is taken down in the morning and replaced with a white board. I resist the guitar, TV and piano.

 

Though there is a game of chess in permanent suspended animation between my son and I. The greater distractions are the ability and desire to read niche books and download papers before I add a fullstop to the end of a sentence

 

This is my office. I don’t know what others tools and constraints others have.

 

Cloudscape is the VLE, it the blog, is our social network and ought to be our singular means of communication. We are all used to and happy with other platforms. To be this comfortable online we have learnt to make our favourite tools sing. I feel as if I have spent over a decade learning the flute, guitar and piano to play in an orchestra and have been told to drop these to play an accordion in a brass band.

 

Social

 

Who are the protagonists, what are the relationships between them, and what are the social and institutional configurations in which they operate?

 

I am used to working online. In 1999 I was in touch with a writers group through my blog that ran ‘til 2004. Our office was a cloud somewhere above the North Atlantic that shifted as other members moved in turn to Japan, then South America, Scotland … then back to North America. Even in an office I work online, typically using a wiki like collaborative e-learning design/build platform. This is genius. Each project may have between 5 minimum and 8 people on it – more where assistance is required or the deadline gets close – which are also points where around the office people start to gather to meet and those working from home come in. I’ve done this too as a postgrad student – I forget which MAODE module but six of eight gelled on a two work collaborative project between New Zealand, Thailand, Germany and the UK. In the OLD MOOC one, then two then occasionally, perhaps three of us worked on the same project. It was touch and go and after five weeks it fizzled because the ‘team leader’ as it were who had been instrumental in galvinising a couple of us to join in felt they could no longer do it. Perhaps she’d got the answers she needed. I do rather think that a couple of meetings and a solution was in place … find the right person to ask how? and you take their response on faith and you are done without having to plan the construction of the Empire State Building. Designing a one hour e-learning intro to multimedia is vastly different to designing a 60 credit MBA module on creative problem solving. I don’t even think they compare if we were to use the metaphor of architecture (Christopher Alexander, 1970). One was a few bricks to make an outdoor BBQ, while the other is a self-build six bedroom house. (with indoor swimming pool).

 

I have written screenplays and TV … no more credits than a short on Channel 4. I hear ‘protagonist’ and I need the antagonist and an entire family of other characters. Narrative is driven by conflict. This is where the metaphor or structure is weak – there should be no conflict where there is collaboration.

 

If there were to be an ‘antagonist’ then it would be Cloudworks. It has a character of its own which I’m afraid I would described as doomed – rather like the Titanic. There was conflict in this narrative and it was always with the platform. Importantly the other characters, the players were the extraordinary array of character actors, the big name e-learning academics who have been schedule in for a star turn each week. They are players in this performance … as they led each week, and happily shared thoughts with us directly. Indeed, contact with the glitterati of e-learning who for an MAODE student have been largely noticeable by their absence during the last three years – figure heads while moderator/facilitator tutors with very varied interest guide the students through … but I’m wandering onto a different stage.

 

As players, these e-learning top guns, perhaps with a vested and professional and academic interest in how the MOOC plays out have been exception – all educators who, escaping the restrictions of distance and online learning, would surely enjoy and gain from ‘teaching’ by giving lectures from time to time, but more importantly sitting down with students in tutorials too. I think the loop into cyberspace with e-learning is coming home and that the desire by students and tutors alike will be to have more face to face, online and in person. I cannot help but KNOW that had those of us in our MOOC group who could have said, let’s all meet in person in such and such a place that that meeting would have bound us as a team to the end of the MOOC. This is why meetings still happen.

 

The constraints are (negative drivers):

 

  • Working online
  • Working with strangers
  • Working without pay
  • Working without the likelihood of the project being realised
  • The unlikeliness of meeting face-to-face
  • Cloudworks – Why send us to Mars when there are familiar landscapes where we could work?
  • Time (each participant runs to a different schedule and agenda).

 

Positive drivers:

 

  • When meet someone with a common goal
  • Leadership from a project that others wish to follow
  • Using a variety of tools with which we are familiar to communicate
  • The comprehensive nature of the OLDS MOOC
  • The liveliness and commitment of the OLDS MOOC team
  • Time (it is my own, but other commitments jostle for attention)

 

Intentional

 

What are the protagonists beliefs, desires and intentions, which shape the problem space?

 

This ‘space’ does exist where there is a fixed landscape, even one that is online via a blog, a common social group or website. This ‘problem space’ where the protagonists meet has to have a sense of space and place. In Cloudworks, and this is my second effort to work in it, the reflection of real-life hubs and nodes simply do no exist. I still find it impossible to log directly into my own cloud, let alone find those of the groups I took an interest in or get back to the base camp. In our group we rapidly debunked to email and Google docs. I’ve done this on other platforms too – in a student group where Elluminate had failed twice, or the tutor was clueless at how to operate that construction from the mind of Professor Brainstorm, we debunked successful and repeatedly to Google Hangouts – the ultimate bond being a ‘pyjamma party’ which reminded me that none of us wanted to do any of ‘this’ unless it was fun. .

 

Force Map

 

 

This may pre-empted the MOOC by a week but expresses three things in relation to team work

 

  1. top down hierarchical
  2. democratic
  3. everyone pitches in

 

For me this might illustrate working on a programme of work or curriculum for a school ten years ago, working on a creative project in the last five years where everyone has direct contact with each other and finally, online collaboration where not only can you be inside each other’s heads and beds (see Google Hangout above), but there can be, for good or bad, other interlopers and powers getting involved.

 

This could also be drawn up in a series of Activity Theory plans … not just from first to third generation, but in the final episode in which an activity system, like icicles in spring, melts.

 

Challenge

 

In advertising and corporate communications we might create a campaign to launch a new beer in a country, launch a new range of cars, or run a Government health awareness campaign over three years and it is reduce to A SINGLE PAGE OF A4.

 

The most important question is:

 

  • What is the problem?

 

If there isn’t a problem there can be no answer, no advert, no campaign. The same applies to academic research – the proper research question has to be to address a problem. If there isn’t a problem then the enterprise is already a shopping trolley with a missing wheel. This applies to EVERY training video, every interactive DVD, or web-based learning project I have been involved with. It there isn’t a problem to fix then the learning is unnecessary. If you cannot express it as a problem, then stop.

 

The advertising brief continues:

 

  • Who are you speaking to?
  • What do you want to say?
  • How do you want them to respond to this message?
  • Is there anything else we need to know.

 

And all of this must be researched and worked on until it can be kept to a SINGLE SHEET OF A4. i.e. a sentence or two in response to each of these questions.

 

I apply this to running a 12 week series of classes in Primary School, a day long workshop on revision techniques, a 9 month squad swimming programme, an hour long e-learning module, an 8 minute short film, a poster campaign for the local sailing club, teaching 3,000+ swimming teachers how to fix breaststroke …

 

Theoretical / Pedagogical Framework

 

See above.

 

Actions

 

I proposed a ‘design’ that has worked dozens of times before – a weekend workshop with no need to do anything online. Indeed, having been made to think it through that was the conclusion.

 

I keep an OLDS Mooc journal.

 

Obstacles

 

Two, maybe three … or was it four complete strangers, all busy full time elsewhere, most of us new to this game, trying to commit to something were increasingly we felt lost. From beginning to end I had no idea whether there were 10 people, maybe 25 people or just 3 doing the MOOC. If there were a 1000 then I never had any sense of this, not a stream of tweets and messages, not long lists of names. None of it. In sharp contrast the last two MOOCs I have taken an interest in I felt as if from day one there were 10,000 people sharing the same Ferry energizing in and out by transporter

 

Results

 

To work online is to complement meeting face-to-face. Projects I join or initiate in the real world might begin online, become a conversation and relationship but then develop and embed by meeting. If it is a speculative, even an unpaid project (I’ve done a number of these), then people get the measure of each other and are far, far more likely to commit to the end.

 

  • Roles are established
  • Motives are understood
  • Diaries are compared
  • Problems identified and resolved

 

This can be done online but needs at least a Skype or Google hangout level of interaction. There is a reason and value to seeing a person’s face. There is a reason why the face is so expressive – it is a vital form of comprehension, communication and connection.

 

A three person team became two, then none.

 

Despite expressing interest in four other projects NOT ONE of these people came back in any shape or form to express an interest in my contributing to their effort. I pitched in some ideas, was ignored … so in turn ignored them.

 

Reflections

 

I keep a learning journal. No longer a person diary, but a record of everything I do that relates to work and personal development – which for me is learning, with a significant nod to learning online and e-learning / e-coaching.

 

These posts happen to be in my Open University Student blog as the OLDS MOOC complements the postgraduate courses I have done over the last three years to complete the Masters in Open & Distance Education.

 

I was able to being the OLDS MOOC with a clear diary – this became busier after week 5 and as the only group that I had joined that showed traction faded away it became less easier to justify staying onboard. I do however follow the activity, read through the weekly activities and dip into some knowing that in my own time, or should the course be repeated, that I will re-join in order to do the subsequent weeks.

 

As a ‘narrative’ I would prefer to write three or four short stories. There is a narrative to specific busy weeks, particularly my/our love hate relationship with Cloudworks,  ‘Personas’ where I was able to consolidate knowledge of the extensive use and development of Personas at the Open University Business School, extending my interest in design based research, bringing my knowledge and understanding and practical application of Activity Theory into focus, using Activity Cards, which was the highlight of the my time on the OLDS MOOC, bringing a pack of cards into the real world, to shuffle, pick through and then lay out on the kitchen table and share – this would be an invaluable activity to use with colleagues in  workshop. And formulation of my own conception of Learning Activities, which I reduced to THREE, from Grainne Conole’s Seven and named them ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’.  Working in corporate Learning & Development e-learning modules run for 45 minutes to an hour, they don’t require the kind of thinking that is required and justified by a 30 or 60 point module in tertiary education where the OLDS MOOC is squarely aimed..

 

 

 

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