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Vibrancy and energy are born of risk


Fig. 1. In Dracula mode

I was up at 3.30am and I’m not even presenting. It brings out the vampire in me.

I use these early hours to write – pulling together ideas before they blow away in the wind of daily life in a household where the number of teenagers has suddenly doubled. We have the older teenager couple, and the young teenager couple … and the parents of two of this lot looking at each other and thinking ‘we’re teenagers too’.

Three hours of short presentations and without exception each has an impact and contribution to my thinking an practice.

This despite the presence of a lorry full of blokes with pneumatic drills who attacked the house an hour ago – cavity wall insulation.

I am sitting here with industrial strength headphones – for a ‘test to destruction’ I’d say that these Klipsch headphones are doing their job admirably. I ‘suffer’ from having acute hearing … I do hear the pins drop a mile away. I need headphones like this whenever I leave the house otherwise travelling is a nightmare.

Is this normal?

The great value of a session like this is to listen to your fellow students – a voice, more than a face, evokes character and conviction. Not that I ever doubted it but everyone is clearly smart, focused and keen to ‘play the game’ when it comes to using online tools.

There isn’t enough of it.

The OU has a habit of designing the life and risk out of a module. Bring it back. Vibrancy and energy are born of risk.


The use and better use of QR codes in learning

Fig.1. Here a ‘Near Field Code’ offers the visitor further information as a rich ‘nugget’ delivered to their smart phone – though not to iPhones. My perfect guide would have been my mother at my side.

An avid visitor to museums, galleries, historic houses and battlefields I have become intrigued by the kinds of guidance offered and the way this has changed with the greater use of IT and in some instances the use of Quick Response or Near Field codes. All of them appear to try to recreate the perfect visitor support – the sympathetic, well informed guide at your shoulder explaining what’s what and tailoring their response to your interests and level of interest. I had this, and my children, nephews and nieces got it too from my late mother on visits to art galleries. An artist who had studied art history too, she had a way of picking out nuggets of information and insight about an artist and their trade.

Fig. 2. Some galleries and museums now offer an audio guide that is at least triggered by your proximity to an exhibit.

Though you are of course still beholden to the words and tone of the expert, even if their words are spoken by a broadcaster. From time to time the quality of the content stands out – in my experience the audio-guide for visitors to Alcatraz in the Bay of San Francisco stands out because it had to my ears the hallmarks of a BBC radio docu-drama – expertly written and crafted with the right mix of interview clips from former inmates, and prison guards.

As learning experience this is still one way – however memorable I am neither constructing my own narrative nor sharing much with others, until of course you take off your headphones and share your feelings and thoughts with other family members.

A QR code offers more than just a switch that triggers a nugget of reading, viewing or listening at a specific spot – it offers the chance to take people to content that you provide and to make connections that lead to conversations and discussion. It is these aspects of the QR code that are of interest to me, students as ‘produsers’ and participants, having responsibility for, even pride in, content that they research, put online, tag and then promote with a QR code and then return to as the curator and moderator of their content, sharing and expanding their views through ‘connected learning’ practice.

Fig. 3. Using Quick Response codes to bring those who served in the First World War to life

In relation to the First World War, to achieve this requires more than simply sticking QR codes to poppies, and leaving poppies at memorials, in the railings outside historic buildings, or in the ground on battlefields – it requires three kinds of champion: institutional support, educator support and these ‘produsers’ – a term coined by the Australian academic John Bruns when writing about the value of blogging.

The institution, by way of example, in the UK, might be the British Legion, Imperial War Museum, Western Front Association or National Trust – as well as smaller, regional and local associations. The ‘educator’ to use its broadest sense is the classroom teacher or university lecturer who once introduced to QR codes sees how their use can be exploited within their own learning programmes.


Fig.4. My visualization and conception of those who are most active at generating content. After Jakob Nielsen (1999)

While the ‘produser’ is that rare 1% in an online population, like those who generate content for wikipedia, keep a blog or post video content to YouTube, who can be encouraged, within the context of the First World War to use QR codes in imaginative and innovative ways, probably drawing viewers to content or adapted content, that they have already created and in doing so indicating to others how straightforward it can be to upload a photograph and some text, or if they are moved to do so, to write a poem, compose a song, paint a picture, make a sculpture, complete some research or tell a story – and then to share it, especially at times and in places that are most appropriate.


Bruns, A. (2005) ‘Anyone can edit’: understanding the produser. Retrieved from http;//snurb.info/index. php?q=node/s86

Nielsen, J (1999) Web Usability

Leveraging mobile technologies and Web 2.0 tools to engage those with an interest in the centenary of the First World War in the stories of the people of the era

A conference presentation for H818: The Networked Practitioner

In relation to the First World War, during its centenary commemoration, there are many places, such as war memorials, cemeteries, historic houses and battlefields that are bereft of quality, supporting information. With consideration for the needs and interests of visitors to such sites rich, multimedia information, such as audio guides and photographs, links to databases and to others with a similar interest can be provided through the use of Quick Response (QR) codes. Of interest here is to personalise commemorisation through the use of a self-generated QR code and content with the code put onto a British Legion Poppy.

This opens up the possibility of providing information at war memorials, large and small, even down to the single name, as well as at sites, buildings and on battlefields, for example informing walkers and cyclists that the old airfield was once a training area for the Royal Flying Corps showing them photographs of what it looked like or that that council building that was a convalescence home or that part of the Downs that had trenches dug in it for training or the concrete pill-box on the former Western Front where it is known an officer and two of his men died.

QR codes, orginally the creation of a supplier to Toyota, have grown in popular use in Japan and China in the 1990s, then the US, Canada and Germany. They are now used at point of sale for marketing purposes, and increasingly in libraries and museums were research is indicating how they can best be used. Implementation issues relate to the percentage of the population that do not have smart devices, the possible cost of 2G and 3G away from free Wi-Fi and adequate support for the use of QR codes which are not yet ubiquitous in the UK.

The purpose of this paper is to pull together current experiences of the use of QR codes in order to consider ways they could add to the our collective understanding of the events of the First World War. QR codes offer multiple potentials, not simply providing rich mobile multimedia content, but letting people create their own content and QR codes, to share, form hubs of like-minds and respond in their own way whether by contributing to the historical debate, offering their own family stories or being inspired or angered by the events as described and wanting to express their views in prose, poetry, painting or performance.

Using SimpleMinds multi-media mindmap as a concept board for a Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA) on the Open University module ‘The Networked Practitioner’

From E-Learning III
From E-Learning III
From E-Learning III

Fig.1. SimpleMinds+ concept board/mind map for H818 TMA 01

Sometimes it is too much fun. Actually writing the assignment is such an anticlimax. Sometimes the tool offers too much. SimpleMinds (Free) does the job more the adequately. Here I got mesmerized by the ability to add pictures … which might be a visual aide memoir but are unnecessary and unlikely to make it into the assignment. Though I do believe in illustrating the thing if I can. However, given the module I’ll have to be very sure indeed where I stand on the creative commons for any images used.

There’s a mash-up here from a publicity piece on the Museum of London using an application called Studio – I ought to attribute both.

There’s a photo I took in the Design Museum.

To confuse the visitor some parts of this show permitted photography, some didn’t – this did, but I don’t know on what basis. In the centre there is a complex SimpleMind of my own on 13 learning theories (there are possibly only five or six, but I stretched the thinking a bit) I ought to have a creative commons licence on it of some kind so that a) I receive attribution b) there is no commercial use c) there is no chopping it about. ie. CC attribution, no commercial, share alike?

Formats and themes: towards an online conference artefact


Fig. 1 Mashup using Studio to indicate, at this stage, my choice of theme and format for the OULive conference in January 2014 

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