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OLDS MOOC – Week Two blog

I would encourage people to think what happens next?

What happens beyond this episode and setting?

How does this experience extend and connect with characters lives further into the future (and how can we as designers support the making of these connections and their sustenance)?

Overly complicating ideas as only academics can do … 

Fig. 1. The interactions and resources of the Zone of Available Assistance ZAA (Luckin, 2010 p92).

“The ZAA describes the variety of resources within a learner’s world that could provide different qualities and quantities of assistance and that may be available to a learner at a particular time”. (Luckin 2010 p 28)

What is the difference between “Ecology of Resources” and Lave and Wenger’s “Situated Learning”?

The Ecology of Resources (EoR) is a design framework that supports us in designing learning experiences that take into account the learner’s context (it provides a method for modelling the learner’s context in terms of people. tools, environment, knowledge and skills to be constructed, and the learner’s knowledge, motivation, etc). The EoR does not specify that we design for learning in authentic contexts (i.e. contexts where the knowledge would be applied – as situated learning discusses). We might be designing a classroom experience. But modelling the learner’s context through the EoR helps us design that classroom experience so that it is not an isolated, abstract one, but an experience that is connected to other resources (people, tools, etc) in the learner’s context. For example, the learner might come across relevant knowledge/skills/learning outside of the classroom, and with careful design we could create connections to those experiences.

Katerina Avramides (OLDS MOOC 2013 18 Jan 2013)

Uncovering the potentially helpful resources learners and designers can draw requires investigation of context.

Cloudworks forces an asynchronous conversation while other platforms permit something that can be close to synchronous. My experience of three years as a post graduate on the OU MAODE … and before that a decade in e-learning, that messaging, and Twitter and any platform where you can express thoughts in your own time, but have a response soon after is far better than emptying the contents of your head onto the bird table and waiting for others to come and pick at it … or not. I found in Cloudworks, using it a year ago, that I might place all kinds of ‘gems’ about the place and get no response. Looking at the views and comments on e-learning gurus such as Grainne Conole I concluded that far from being clouds (wishful thinking) we were in a desert bereft of precipitation.

Give me a jungle, as a metaphor for a learning ecosystem any day.


Luckin, R. (2010) Re-designing Learning Contexts Technology-rich, learner-centred ecologies. Routledge.

How to tell the tragedy of two love stories – the power and construction of memorable narrative

Fig.1.Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria-Hungary – Only son of the Emperor Franz Josef

You are one of the wealthiest and privileged men in the world and likely, by all accounts, to be one of the most powerful men too some day soon, but you are deeply unhappy and married as protocol requires to another European royal.

You are Crown Prince Rudolph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – wanting for nothing and everything. Your are also crushingly unhappy – the privilege a burden.

Then you fall in love and like royals before you the woman becomes your mistress – two years of bliss are doomed when your father the Emperor demands that it ends. Rather than give each other up you commit suicide, shooting first your 17 year old mistress, then turning the gun on yourself.

Love for a girl and hate for the Empire could only be resolved through violence. The year is 1889.

Fig.2. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, wife the Duchess Sophie of Hohenberg and their children  Sophie 13, Max 10 and Ernst 8 c 1914.

Some two decades later your nephew, the heir presumptive since your own death, appears to have it all – a compromise had been found when he refused to give up the woman he wished to marry in 1890. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, stunningly wealthy, happily married to the Countess Sophie Chotek – the woman he loves, with three healthy children, and trained up through his military career to rule would expect to become the next emperor soon – his grandfather the Emperor Franz Josef is now in his 80s.

Then, on the morning of Sunday 28th June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s misplaced ‘love’ for his subjects and his unquestioning love for his wife puts them both in an open top tourer on a formal visit to the Austro-Hungarian provincial capital of Sarajevo.

Hate looms in the form of the 19 year old Gravilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist, desperately poor, principled, prepared and determined. Under instructions and guidance from the leaders of the radical Serbian terrorist group ‘The Black Hand’ he finds himself positioned on the route the Archduke will take back and forth through Sarajevo with six others – armed and eager to kill.

In their different ways both Franz Ferdinand and Gravilo Princip disliked what the Austro-Hungarian Empire represented and how it behaved – both had ideas of how the problem could be fixed – Franz through compromise and accommodation – he tabled a federation of Austro-Hungarian states in 1906 -while both Count Rudolph at one end of the scale and Princip at the other, both felt that two bullets from a revolver were the pill that wold fix everything when others controlled your life in a way that you found intolerable.

Two world wars later, nearly 50 million dead and conflict only recently resolved in the Balkans and if there is a one word lesson to take from the 20th century it is ‘Diplomacy’.

(Born Aug 24, 1855, died Feb 12, 1944)

My goal is to find a way into this story – my quest might be over.

I’m doing this as an exercise

I’m taking known facts rather than fiction and using the 1939 book ‘Story Writing’ by Edith Ronald Mirrieless as my guide. Narrative is a powerful tool, but compare a factual account, say of the sinking of the Titanic, with the move. Compare too some botched attempts at the telling of the 1914 Sarajevo assassinations where students recall above all else that Gravilo Princip apparently went into a cafe to buy a sandwich when he say the Archduke’s car outside. There is invention and accuracy, but also responsibility to ensure that the facts that matter and can be corroborated are in the story.

The story I tell will be told by the Infant Marie Theresa of Portugal who married Archduke Karl Ludwig a month before her 18th birthday at Kleinheubach on 23 July 1873.

She would have been 32 when Crown Prince Count Rudolph killed himself. Maria Theresa then stood in for the Empress who retired from court life after her son’s death. She carried out honours at the Hofburg Imperial Palace with the Emperor until 1896 and was instrumental in helping her step-son Franz Ferdinand  fulfill his desire to marry the Countess Sophie Chotek which he achieved in July 1990.

The following details I sourced from various places and will verify and alter in due course. 

It was then Marie Theresa who broke the news of the couple’s death to their children Sophie, Maximilian and Ernst. She also managed to ensure the children’s financial security after telling the Emperor that if he did not grant them a yearly income, she would resign the allowance which she drew as a widow in their favour. (The majority of Franz Ferdinand’s property went to his nephew the Archduke Charles)

When the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed following its defeat in the First World War. After his abdication, Maria Theresa accompanied Karl and his wife Zita into exile in Madeira, but eventually returned to Vienna where she spent the rest of her life.

In 1929, following a decline in her finances, Maria Theresa engaged two agents to sell the Napoleon Diamond Necklace, a piece inherited from her husband, in the United States.

After a series of botched sales attempts, the pair finally sold the necklace for $60,000 with the aid of the grand-nephew of Maria Theresa, the Archduke Leopold of Austria, but he claimed nearly 90% of the sale price as “expenses”. Maria Theresa appealed to the United States courts, ultimately resulting in the recovery of the necklace, the imprisonment of her grand-nephew, and the absconding of the two agents.

Maria Theresa died in Vienna during World War II.

Taken … the comedy version

Fig. 1. Liam Neeson takes revenge in ‘Taken’

Of course our 14 year old son shouldn’t have been watching the moview ‘Taken’, but for the benefit of his 16 year old sister on the long drive home this evening he set about detailing the action.

I found it hand not to laugh all the way through as somehow I had in my mind’s eye the film that I have seen three times as he offered his esoteric description – All Liam Neson did apparently was talk in gutural noises and wave his hands about. Dialogue didn’t feature, nor characterisation – just the action. What more does it need. (What was it Hitchcock said about dialogue, that is was a sound effect?)

At the end of this our 16 year old daughter perked up and said, ‘Granny said I mustn’t see this film and then proceeded to describe it in gory detail’. The image of my late mother drawing attention to the nastiest moments in the film brings a smile to my face, ‘there’s a bit when xxxx’ and you mustn’t see the bit when yyyy’. Oddly enough the threat of ‘white slavery’ as a line used with teenage girls wanting to go out late in the 1970s. There was someone ready to snatch my teenage sisters away around every corner of late night Newcastle upon Tyne.

Listenign to Philip Pullman talking about a new anthology of Fairy Tales we are reminded of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ and of ‘Hansel and Gretal’. The contemporary monsters being the likes of Jimmy Saville and Gary Glitter.

The problem is – words can be even more vivid as you create something in your mind’s eye that can be far worse, closer to home and therefore possible.

Narrative is a powerful thing, as is humour and violence if done correctly.

(Reading this back, this last line suddenly sounds like something that would be said by a Bond Villain)

How Storytelling in business (and politics) can turn ugly


Fig.1 Beware the ‘unhappy valley’ of storytelling

I was introduced to this concept at the Open University Business School Residential for ‘Creativity, Innovation & Change’. The thought is that in business – and I believe this applies to politics too – you can apply narrative but only take it so far. Case studies work, anecdotes and short stories too but take care about how far you apply it before you. call on professional input.

Producing narrative drama for training I will plan a treatment then take this to a professional writer – people with credits for drama series or serials. Anything less can sink you into this ‘unhappy valley’. This also applies to casting actors and using a director with a track record in drama. What you want is something creditable.

Several of my own productions are @JJ27VV on YouTube

How long should a video be? A bit like saying should a book have one page or a thousand?

Fig. 1. Fighting for his life – part of a corporate training series aimed at the emergency services and utility companies to create greater understanding of the need to report incidents as they occur.

Some times 10 seconds is too long for a video – while ten hours doesn’t even start to do justice to the speaker or theme.

I wouldn’t give extreme views the time of day, on the other hand, I would listen to everything Mandela had to say for hours. Horses for courses.

Stats lie – they certainly require interpretation.

Is a minute or ten minutes of video too much or too little? When do people turn off or tune in to a piece of AV, whether a movie, TV show, video or slide show mocked-up in PowerPoint? ‘Death by PowerPoint start for me in this first second.

Research from the Open University shows that people decide whether to continue watching a piece of video in under 35 seconds. This is not the same as a 45 minute lecture from an expert that is required as part of a formal course – though there should always be a transcript. Personally I work between the two and replay if there is something important.

Who needs the research? You can tell intuitively if what you are about to see is of interest or not?

My 35 seconds video? A party balloon is blown up by someone with breathing difficulties. The words on the balloon gradually appear – ‘The Cost of Asthma’ – the professionally composed and performed music tugs at the heart strings and a professional broadcaster says some pithy words.

My 35 hour video?

Interviews with some if the greatest thinkers alive in the planet today. Vitally, especially online, as producers we offer what is a smorgasbord – the viewer decides what to put in their plate and whether to eat it – and whether to stuff it down or take it in bite-sized pieces.

You had might was well ask ‘how many pages should there be in a book?’ or ‘how many posts in a blog?’ It depends on many things: context, budget, goal, resources, subject matter, audience, platform, shelf-life …

Do movies such as ‘Girl with a pearl earring’ inspire the desire to paint or study art history?

Fig.1. Images of the portrait ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Vermeer and stills from the film of the same name directed by Peter Webber

E–learning supposes that it is online and interactive, this doesn’t prevent the use of narrative.

If I watch the film, Girl with a pearl earring’ then a BBC 4 Documentary in Johannes Vermeer and I go online to interact with fellow viewers, undertake research and write a blog entry or two – this is interaction; it engages me.

Not that any learning institution has the funding to produce a movie that cost many millions. I wonder though how an executive producer might exploit the assets in this movie, certain scenes or still images.

Fig. 2. Girl with a pearl earring by Johannes Vermeer (1665-1667)

I like to paint and draw so the way the film demonstrates the skills of painting fascinates me, in this film, shot with the eye of a Dutch Master we get some key moments because of the way the  director shot the film, from first inspiration, to the first presentation, the first layers and the art of mixing paints.

On this score which films do I rate as showing the artist’s craft and which do not?

Titanic. Kate Winslet – Drawn by the director James Cameron. What do you make of it?

La Belle Noisseuse. Emmannuelle Beart – Brilliant

Stealing Beauty. Liv Tyler – OK? Or exploitative

There are many, many others. I’ll add to this list and fix any inaccuracies as I go along.

Please do offer your suggestions.

Back to the use of narrative, a story well told, that is memorable, relevant and inspirational. This takes craft skills that producers (production managers) and clients (sponsors) need to be reminded cost a good deal to get right. It matters that the words spoken ring true, that characters are cast with imagination, that the direction is subtle and professional. Even with a photostory scripting requires care if it is to appear authentic, and we must remember, as shown in ‘Girl with a pearl earring’ that we communicate a great deal through facial expression and body language rather than by what we say.

Narrative, dreams and early morning semi-consciousness to solve problems and develop ideas

On Desert Island Discs Julian Fellows said how he had written 20 screenplays before he got his break; it helped that he was in the arena as an actor.

I have 8 screenplays and a couple of TV series.

Like Julian Fellowes I have been involved in Children’s TV too, though with much frustration I repeatedly found myself behind a closed door at the very final stage of either directing various children’s dramas or having a script commissioned and produced. Like ideas in the past the ‘next script’ has made it from my head to the page. I woke this morning with the scene that brings the story to a close, a good place to be.

I glanced through the Technique Library for B822, ‘Creativity, Innovation and Change’.

This is a Filofax like folder of 200 ideas, one per card, in alphabetical order. My immediate idea would be to have it all in a relational database tool like FileMaker Pro. Indeed, in the early 1990s there was a CD called ‘Ideafisher’ which achieved some of this. It could be an App, though I imagine there are a myriad of copyright issues.

‘Alternative Scenarios’

This strikes me as less of a process as something we do automatically. I woke to this, dwelling on things that may or may not work in relation to a business problem. A narrative, with its alternatives scenes, is a way to think something through and even share your thinking.

I then realise there had been a dream too. This happens when you reposition yourself in bed and find yourself lying the way you were when you had the dream; try it. I attended a meeting where I felt neither my experience, nor my ideas were heard and rather than hang around as I knew the thing would ramble on with many opinions being expressed, no decision taken and the idea from the highest ranking person would trumping all others.

I can run through a list of 20+ questions that help analyse this further, I won’t (certainly not in public), however I will offer this.

I could have taken myself back into the dream, in a semi-conscious state and behaved differently. Indeed, I may try it tonight. I can see the set up, the meeting place as a train carriage or a marquee (don#t ask!) I know the protagonists. I know why I was thinking about the issue.

This time what do I do differently?

Lobby everyone before hand? Ensure that I have an ally? Invite in a new comer to mix it all up? Change the venue. Aim to be the last to leave rather than the first?

Decades ago, when I first got into this, on a family holiday where my older sister introduced me to the concept of interpreting dreams, I got used to sitting up and jotting down the ideas. You can’t do this for long. You realise you may dream four or five times a night. By becoming conscious of them you wake up of course. And the very act of consciously thinking about the dream changes what it was, or embeds the scenario. I’ve analysed a few in this blog.

Martin Weller is the ‘Digital Scholar’ (Chapter 13) Skimming and skipping about instead of deep reading.

Skimming and skipping about instead of deep reading

Easily distracted, or persuasively detracted.

But the overall tenure will be rearing to you hear the narrative.

British Library Google Generation study (Rowlands et al. 2008)

• Has the need to learn by rote diminished?

Outsourcing mundane memory to Google.

• Skittish bouncing behaviour Wijekumar et al. (2006)

• Web 2.0 and the ‘mass democratisation of expression’.

To Think About

‘Low quality individual items because of their obvious ease of production, can be seen as an invitation to participate’. Weller (2011)

‘If the intention is to encourage engagement then low-quality routes may be more fruitful than seeking to produce professional broadcast material’. Weller (2011)

‘Amateurs’ often create content which addresses subjects that academics may nit and also in a manner which differs from traditional teaching’, Weller (2011)

A facial truism.. Any time you learn anything your brain is ‘rewired’ at a synaptic level. VS. The pronouncements of the likes of Carr and Greenfield.

Vague and ill-founded arguments.

Plasticity is as true of playing a computer game, or from my experience, coaching swimmers. Adaptation is desirable, ditto for touch-typing, drawing, sight reading when playing a musical instrument even driving a car.

… Based on supposition and anecdote.

‘The Internet hasn’t changed the way we think any more than the microwave oven has changed the way we digest food’. Joshua Greene.

Also see Gerschenfeld (2010)

… VS pseudo-scientific explanations to back up prejudices will not help us address the issues. Weller

CF Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Mayer-Schonberger (2009)

Idea of giving internet content a shelf-life. I disagree. Once rain water flows from a river into the ocean it is there, for potentially consigned to the depths, for ever.

Bug successes, something going viral, is not the norm.

For success, choice of tools and their perceived relevance to the main area of study are crucial elements. See Cann and Badge (2010).

VS. Creepy tree house syndrome (Stein 2008)

VS an LMS that is ‘organisationally controlled, bland and singular in focus’.

NB How to do it? ‘By making mistakes’ with each iteration generating an improvement (Hilbert space et al. 2000/2001)

Experience is required to understand what approaches are suitable.

It also requires a reasonable mass of contributions to work, a motivation for those contributions and an easy means to contribute.

Just as with the initial dot.com.  bubble

The fact that there is hype doesn’t mean the overall direction isn’t correct. A technology may not completely change the world in the next 18 months, but it may significantly change practice in the next decade’.  Weller (2001)

Roy Amara: we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.  Weller (2011)

It will never go back to the way it was.

The people best placed to understand it and adapt to it will be those who have immersed themselves in the current technological climate.

A willingness to experiment with new approaches and to explore the tensions between new possibilities and established practice is essential. Weller (2011)


From Open University MAODE


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