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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.
‘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.
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.
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.
- The University of Southampton’s Web Science Institute (amandabobel.wordpress.com)
- UK unis prepare to launch ‘moocs’ this autumn (ool.co.uk)
- MOOC. Study Anywhere Anytime and for Free (johnijagbemi.wordpress.com)
- Amazing announcement!! Mooc makes Oxford online dictionary (opentopictest.wordpress.com)
- In Times Higher Education, on MOOCs (bryanalexander.org)
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’?
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.