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A response to any challenge: it takes time, experience, risk and a sense of what you are capable of

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Fig.1 The only time I ever got down this precipitous drop in one go, falling the fall line, was as a fit and by then experienced skier. Plagne-Bellecote, France.

It took eight years, a badly smashed leg, both thumbs and a rib. It is thirty years since I have been in the flat we used then – this is the view from the window. I have no intentions of getting any closer than this. Instead I will join the Ski Club of Great Britain Guide and in so doing learn from others and remain in one, unbroken piece.

My H818: The Networked Practitioner

Though I completed the Master of Arts: Open and Distance Education (MAODE) last year I didn’t feel like a ‘master’ – further modules as continual professional development have realised this: H809 for research and H818 for applying and sharing in an open and ‘directed’ way. My background is a producer in corporate L&D so the aim has been to support the shift from linear to interactive, to connected and open learning founded on applied knowledge of a number of learning theories.

H818 pulled together or touched on a number of personal interests:

  • Can creativity be taught or managed online?
  • What are the parameters, pitfalls and potential of open learning?
  • Recognition not just of an interface between online and ‘offline’ learning, but the blended mix where lessons from either world can inform the other.

There’s a difference between open (small ‘o’) and Open (large O): the latter, as I have done over 14 years posting content, is akin to ‘exposure’ – putting it all out there; whereas the Open movement to be effective, ironically, requires parameters and goals. From H818 the need to, reasons to and how to ‘ask’ became apparent.

The outcome of H818 is the Quick Response code in a Poppy to support open and connected learning about the First World War. As a creative exercise despite being unable to single out a ‘partner’ the working process has been akin to that in advertising where the creative team is a copywriter and a visualiser, with one if these or both likely to have programming skills – or the creative team becomes three. Openstudio online is like the studio I worked in at the School of Communications Arts where I was a student and now mentor.

The ask component has two parts to it:

I post then share blog posts on the QR Code idea via WordPress and a number of platforms: LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Stumbleupon. This at best makes serendipity a possibility but is small ‘o’ – though the connections directly from this include BBC TV, BBC Radio 4, the national trust, King’s College London and a couple of people with direct, personal connection to the content I have posted – they recognise a face from a 1918 postcard.

The second part is, still early days, putting the idea to individuals and groups directly and asking questions that I take care to recognise where they are forthcoming. Using the above social platforms the request is directed at an individual, or to a specific specialist group. The ‘use of QR codes’ in education has uncovered far greater use and interest than the current papers suggest. Direct questions have gone to niche interest groups such that ‘talks’ on the use of QR codes in this way will be given to schools and to regional history associations. Not all that I approach have responded – this kind of ‘ask’ is a kind of selling or PR. It isn’t simply connectedness, it is networking too that expects a professional offering and response. ‘Consultancy’ is one thing, but the production side of it – seeing content successfully briefed in, financed, designed, scripted and delivered is my aim and so with tentative steps ‘Mindbursts’ is coming to fruition and will build on some 15 years of creating learning content in the corporate sector.

The second outcome of H818 is to try and continue and build on the relationships that were developed. In LinkedIn two groups have been set up: ‘The online masters’ and ‘MAODE’ – early days, but experience from the Open University Business School shows how from tiny beginnings great things can grew. The challenge in the early days will be to keep the kindle alight so that there is just enough ‘vibrancy’ to make it a worthwhile place for current and future members. Similarly, a blog where all members have ‘editor’ rights has been set up.

Returning to the idea of big ‘O’ and little ‘o’ it strikes me that my little ‘o’ behaviour is akin to being loudly in a crowd while big ‘O’ requires directed engagement and responsiveness. Which has me wondering that a journalist writing for a paper with its parameters and audience is more open than hiding behind the obfuscation of the blog. Which in turn, as has occurred throughout H818 has seen me completing a huge loop into an online world of the possible to the offline world of the actual and realising that quicker than I imagined learning is increasingly blended whether you put an ‘e’ or an ‘o’ or an ‘m’ in front of it.

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xMOOC or cMOOC?

The realities of MOOCs

I stumbled upon this succinct article on MOOCs by Ben Betts.

MOOCs are why I returned to the OU having completed the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) at the end of 2012. I followed H817:Openness and Innovation in eLearning, joining the Open but, and have now complete two further modules: H809: Research based practices in Educational Technology (with an eye on research) and the phenomenal H818: The Networked Practitioner (just completed) … this as the field keeps transforming I intend to stay abreast of it. Indeed, I’ll keep on eye on H817 for 2015 as this is a considerable advance on the old H807 I did in 2010 that had its content stuck somewhere between 1999 and 2005.

What is interesting in this article is that the author Ben Betts ponders as a passing thought at the end of the piece on the need to ‘learn how to learn’.

This for me is where too many practitioners go wrong – they have their eye so firmly fixed on the ‘next big thing’ that they forget or ignore the understanding we have gained about how we learn over decades. There needs to be a healthy loop that obliges us to consider the basics: learning theories and to see MOOCs in context – all learning is ‘blended’ – even the purely online learning module is conducted by someone with their feet or bum firmly on the ground or in a chair.

The other mistake that other authors make too often is to sensationalize activities or developments such as the MOOC. Every advance builds on something else, and for all their strengths they have weaknesses too, and whatever affordances they have may be exploited or ignored. Interesting times and delighted to find an expert author and practitioner to follow.

What I needed, and got from H809 was a grounding in learning theory which at last I am starting to master. If a further course is required for me it would be more on the application of learning theory, probably in the broader setting of ‘education’ rather than an e-learning context and probably informed by a role educating on the ground – so practice based and applied. Which rather suggests in business – as indeed I did for the best part of 15 years.

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 

Open Learning with the Open University – a modus operandi in the 21st century?

Fig.1 Posing for a scamp at the School of Communication Arts, 1987

H818 Activity 2.1

I will only publish in open access journals.

I’m not a professional academic. Should I publish then I imagine the calibre of the journal will count for something. As a professional writer (copy, scripts, speeches), with exception of blogging I am used to being paid for my words.

I will share all learning material that I create and own openly online.

From the moment I started to blog I have been part of self-help groups ‘publishing’ openly on everything from blogging to creative writing, swimming teaching and coaching, social media, the First World War and e-learning. My goal over the next year or so is to produce under a Creative Commons module a series of 30 to 1500+ micro- OERs, one minute pieces with Q&A attached, as what Chris Pegler terms ‘Lego Techno Bricks’.

I maintain an online social media identity as a core part of my professional identity.

It lacks professionalism as I don’t edit it or write to a definable audience but I have a substantial e-learning blog that largely, though not exclusively, draws on my MA ODE experiences (in fact I started on the MA ODL in 2001 and blogged on that too). I use Google+, Linkedin and Twitter haphazardly by pushing blog content to actual and potential commentators, participants and followers.

I take a pragmatic approach and release some resources openly if it’s not too much extra work.

I come from corporate communications where created content is closed to employees.

I have concerns about intellectual property and releasing my content openly.

Actual words of fiction I write is my copyright, Factual I care less about. Whilst a blog is largely like a recorded conversation, a formal paper would need to be recognised in the appropriate way.

I will share all material that I create and own openly online, as soon as I create it.

No. I cannot hope to earn a living or sustain my interests if I cannot both charge for my time and my output.

On access to uncensored, openly authored information

Fig.1 Open Education and learning online – is it the flight path to intellectual emancipation?

We’re considering the nature of ‘openness’ in education as part of this new Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) module. This is increasingly about ease of access to information, all of it, uncensored.

Often for ease of access and to gain a qualification with a marketable value, information that is packaged in books, journals and lectures, though increasingly in ‘sexier’ interactive and multimedia forms with the related ‘scaffolding’ that comes with learning design and planning. The natural tendency is to consider the hectic last decade of the Internet at the expense of the history of openness in access to information and an education over the last century.

A hundred years ago all but the most privileged were in the dark: leaving school after an elementary education, with reliance on biased newspapers, magazines and part works.

Libraries, BBC radio and affordable paperbacks, secondary then tertiary education, cinema and TV have each had a role to play, as has the Open University.

Does enlightenment come with access?

What does it say of power of information and ideas where access is controlled, as in China? Does connectedness within openness lead to even greater coalescing of likeminds in cliques, reinforcing stereotypical biases rather than exposing them to valid alternative views? Nothing is straightforward when it comes to people – heterogeneous by design, homogenous by inclination.

How can the gallery or museum visit be personalised and augmented to make first impressions last?

Fig.1. Miro – Barcelona

A lifelong love in art galleries yet I still feel unmoved (most of the time) by galleries and museums, possibly because I expect the gentle, guiding voice of my late mother at my shoulder (artist, art historian, Mum).

What could be a more personalised visit than to have someone who knows you so well point things out, guide you to things that will interest or irritate, then offer an insight – invariably linked to ‘what do you do next?’ i.e. look, learn then apply.

I take heart from the exceptions, only two visits I can think of though:

‘In Flanders Fields’ – you need a day to yourself to take this in. The most shocking moment entering a funnel like fixture, looking around then twisting your head up to see sets of photographs of mutilated combatants. It put your physically in a demanding postion to view them. Then the multi-media displays, not just actors giving accounts, but the ultimate before and after shots of places using satelitte images and old aerial photos.

‘Alcatraz’ – on many levels the visit irritated me, partly the Disneyfication and advance booking, then the many layers of the islands as bird sanctuary, prison and Native American conquest. What impressed though was the brilliant audio guide – BBC at its very best might be the way to describe it. Very carefully and sensitively juxtapositioning of interviews with former inmates, guards, and family members of guards/governor which between them created a sense or atmosphere of the place like some kind of hideous monastic retreat.

So how do we ‘recreate’ battlefields” We have the 750th of the Battle of Lewes here in East Sussex next year, as well as us all having five or more years of the run up to, the war and aftermath of 1914-1918.

The opportunity exists to use smart devices to give visitors and pilgrims an enhanced, personalised and lasting memory of these places – but how?

What is digital ‘academic’ scholarship? Should 19th and 20th century definitions even apply?

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Martin Weller published ‘The Digital Scholar’ in 2011 on a Creative Commons Licence. You can download it for free, or purchase the book or eBook, and then do as you will with it. When I read it I share short excerpts on Twitter. I’ve blogged it from end to end and am now having fun with a simple tool for ‘mashing up’ designs called ‘Studio’. It’s a photo editing tool that allows you to add multiple layers of stuff. I rather see it as a revision tool – it makes you spend more time with the excerpts you pick out.

You cannot be so open that you become an empty vessel … you have to create stuff, get your thoughts out there in one way or another so that others can knock ’em down and make more of them. Ideas need legs. In all this ‘play’ though have I burried my head in its contents and with effort read it deeply? Do we invoke shallow learning and distraction with openness? If we each read the book and met for a tutorial is that not, educationally, a more focused and constructive form of ‘oppenness’?

In relation to scholarship shoulf the old rules, the ‘measures’ of academic prowess count? In the connected world of the 21st century ‘scholarship’ is able to emerge in unconventional ways, freed of the school-to-university conveyor belt.

REFERENCE

Weller, M (2011) The Digital scholar

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