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Not so much a learning environment so much as a learning tool kit

FIG.1. Projected onto the sitting room wall

The migration between kit and now the use of multiple devices tells its own story – that and my enhanced levels of digital literacies.

And dependency on my Open University blog???

I am too used to starting there then cutting and pasting the HTML results into WordPress (here). This platform works because it is kept simple. OK, you have to get your head around a few basics (which are good for any blogging platform), but the thing is stable and robust – it hasn’t changed much in three years and it is always there.

Either I’ll wean myself off it or I’ll plugin to another module of course and be here for another decade.

You get used to a thing – especially when it works. Calls to other institutions regarding their VLE have left me cold – some still old school box of books and turn up for an all day Saturday face-to-face once a month as your only tutor and peer group contact.

From a clapped out Mac Book that died and a Psion I moved on to a borrowed PC laptop … and scrounging computer access around the home. Only recently I got a Mac Mini – for the previous 18 months I’ve been fine on an iPad with moments on my wife’s PC to view and print off DOCX.

The Mac Mini gets what ever screen my teenage son leaves me with – he tends to snaffle away any new screen I get, just swaps them over. I may take me days to realise something is afoot.

And then there is the above – projected onto a wall with me working on a wifi keyboard and touchpad. It changes things. Next to this screen there is a large whiteboard. I get up and doodle.

As for the sitting room? Long gone.

Cries for a TV to bring the family together fall on deaf ears. Why would any of us gather to watch ONE version of an event when we can each take or leave our news, or films, or anything else as we please on a bigger or smaller screen in various other rooms and cubby-holes around the house?

An iPad mini will replicate when I had a decade ago with a Psion, something handheld, light and discrete that I can tap on whenever I wish and wherever I am.

 

 

‘The Private Life of the Brain’ Susan Greenfield is my current highly recommended read. It is certain to take you off on a tangent from whatever you are studying, but if offers a layperson’s view of the inner workings of the brain.

 

Someone who correctly sensed what was coming in 2004 might be a person to ask what is due in 2013/1014

In this paper from Grainne Conole she says (writing in 2003, published 2004) that wireless, smart and wifi will have a huge impact … prescient. Can you remember how little of what we now take for granted was around in 2004? I was probably using a Psion and a bog-standard phone. 

‘Technologies do have great potential to offer education, however this is a complex multifaceted area; we need rigorous research if we are going to unpick the hype and gain a genuine understanding of how technologies can be used effectively’. (Conole. p.2 2004)

  • Pedagogical
  • Technical
  • Organisational

‘Academics working in this area need to demonstrate that the research is methodologically rigorous, building appropriately on existing knowledge and theories from feeder disciplines and feeding into policy and practice’. (Conole, 2004)

  • effective models for implementation
  • mechanism for embedding the understanding gained from learning theory into design
  • guidelines and good practice
  • literacy needs of tutors and students
  • the nature and development of online communities
  • different forms of communications and collaboration
  • the impact of gaming
  • cultural differences in the use of online courses

‘much of the current research is criticised for being too anecdotal, lacking theoretical underpinning’ (Mitchell, 2000)

This is what you find in the press, newspapers and magazine always go for the anecdotal and sensationalist view of what technology may do. Has technology yet brought the world to an end? I guess the atomic bomb has always, legitimately, been more scary than other technologies although I dare so there are those who say Google will bring about the end of the world.

‘A more detailed critique of the methodological issues of e-learning research and its epistemological underpinnings are discussed elsewhere’. (Olive and Conle, 2004)

  • A better understanding of the benefits and limitations of different methods.
  • More triangulation of results.

What people are looking for:

  • potential efficiency gains and cost effectiveness
  • evidence-based practice with comparison of the benefits of new technologies over existing teaching and learning methods
  • How technologies can be used to improve the student learning experience.

No surprises that in business use of e-learning is benchmarked with cost and outcomes closely followed – are we improving and saving at the same time? Typically travel and accommodation costs are saved where people don’t have to be away from work and learning times can be cut without loss of information retention on the compliance like stuff – health and safety, data protection, equity in the workplace and basic induction (or as American companies call it ‘on boarding’ which sounds to me like something you do with guests on a cruise liner – or is them embarking)

How do we capture experience in a way that we build it back into design and implementation. (Point 8 of 12 p.8 Conole 2004)

What are the inherent affordances of different technologies? (Conole. p. 8 2004)

‘Only time will tell’. (Conole. p. 17, 2004)

Or as I would say, ‘on verra’.

I am doing the classic ‘expand and contract’ of problem solving – the problem is finding an area of research I can believe in and sustain for four years. Though for H809 all I need is a title of a research paper. I still would prefer to be narrowing down the areas that interest me:

  • memory
  • virtual worlds
  • blogging
  • spaced education (see memory)
  • lifelogging / sensecam (see memory)
  • Artificial Intelligence (learning companion … see memory?)

Whilst the research question ought to come first, I hope that Activity Theory will have a role to play too.

REFERENCE

Conole, G (2004) E-learning the hype and the reality

Oliver, M. and Conole, G. (2004) Methodology and e-learning. ELRC research paper. No. 4

 

 

24 reasons to blog – which are yours?

ON BLOGGING

Sources of inspiration and getting it down.

Get this for a start: Use of Blogs (2006) Axel Bruns and Joanna Jacobs.

It persuades you why to blog. Each chapter is written like an academic paper – an essay at least. Chapter 5 I found I was copying out verbatim (which I can’t do here). Go see ‘Can Blogging Unspin PR’ Trevor Cook.

Your starting off point can be anything at all, once you start (for me at least) it is like opening a vein.

Who cares if it is a note to yourself. If it’s work or course work remember that you can compose then recraft as often as you like; what is more, you can turn access on or off as you please too – even allow comments as you please – with other blog platforms the list of linking choices is as broad as the destination board at Heathrow – you can ‘blog’ to a person, a group, people in different groups and so on (though this is a level of complication may turn the novice off).

If you are at all stuck for content ideas then my suggestions are:

  • 1) Write about the deep past (everything you write is of course in the past) – what this might means is thinking of your earliest experiences of whatever your blog may be about – if it is about education then try these:
  • 2) Your best friend at nursery school
  • 3) Your first day at school
  • 4) The funniest thing that your witnessed or did at school
  • 5) The first thing you learnt and how
  • 6) Add a caption to an old photograph then expand these thoughts into the era.
  • 7) A birthday party
  • 8) A Christmas
  • 9) A first book

All of these are possible jumping off points; once you’re in flight you’ll be surprised how easy it is to steer back to where you had planned to be – who cares about the journey you took to get there – you can leave it in or edit out the first paragraph / chapter.

If you kept a diary at any time in your life – milk it! Put it up, selectively, verbatim and / or relived – you can even retrofit the date.

Getting it down

There is a beauty and simplicity to pen/pencil onto paper. Personally I find typing it up afterwards tedious and will find myself inevitably expanding beyond the way the thing was initially written. The mistake here is that you can/do with ease turn a natural, conversational flow of thoughts into something else – verbose at best, disjoined at worst. You then get into editing and saving sections/chunks for future entries.

Ideally, whether you have notes, an essay plan or mind map to guide you, I’d recommend typing directly into the Blank Box. The QWERTY keyboard is a piano keyboard and you’re playing a ditty or having a jam.

Most blog platforms have ample editing tools, the only warning is to save regularly in some if you are prone to distraction.

Even back up onto a clipboard or Word, though personally I’m not a fan of overworking a piece in Word first.

Have a notepad, record a thought on paper or into a digital recorder, have a device that you can readily use on the go – my most fruitful blogging years were when I had a Psion – I could type this spec-case sized device and draw it into my Mac to upload.

I’ll discover in due course an iPad can offer this facility – I believe it will (and some).

A final thought for now – if you can touch-type and write stream of consciousness then how many words can you get down in so many minutes?

Let’s say you think at FIVE words a second, talk at THREE words a second and type at 40-60 words a minute. In theory in five minutes you can blog between 200 and 300 words. Perfect length. Have a plan, three or so points to make and fire away.

Want to blog? Sources of inspiration and getting it down.

ON BLOGGING

Sources of inspiration and getting it down.

Get this for a start: Use of Blogs (2006) Axel Bruns and Joanna Jacobs.

It persuades you why to blog. Each chapter is written like an academic paper – an essay at least. Chapter 5 I found I was copying out verbatim (which I can’t do here). Go see ‘Can Blogging Unspin PR’ Trevor Cook.

Your starting off point can be anything at all, once you start (for me at least) it is like opening a vein.

Who cares if it is a note to yourself. If it’s work or course work remember that you can compose then recraft as often as you like; what is more, you can turn access on or off as you please too – even allow comments as you please – with other blog platforms the list of linking choices is as broad as the destination board at Heathrow – you can ‘blog’ to a person, a group, people in different groups and so on (though this is a level of complication may turn the novice off).

If you are at all stuck for content ideas then my suggestions are:

1)Write about the deep past (everything you write is of course in the past) – what this might means is thinking of your earliest experiences of whatever your blog may be about – if it is about education then try these:

2)Your best friend at nursery school

3)Your first day at school

4)The funniest thing that your witnessed or did at school

5)The first thing you learnt and how

6)Add a caption to an old photograph then expand these thoughts into the era.

7)A birthday party

8)A Christmas

9)A first book

All of these are possible jumping off points; once you’re in flight you’ll be surprised how easy it is to steer back to where you had planned to be – who cares about the journey you took to get there – you can leave it in or edit out the first paragraph / chapter.

If you kept a diary at any time in your life – milk it! Put it up, selectively, verbatim and / or relived – you can even retrofit the date.

Getting it down

There is a beauty and simplicity to pen/pencil onto paper. Personally I find typing it up afterwards tedious and will find myself inevitably expanding beyond the way the thing was initially written. The mistake here is that you can/do with ease turn a natural, conversational flow of thoughts into something else – verbose at best, disjoined at worst. You then get into editing and saving sections/chunks for future entries.

Ideally, whether you have notes, an essay plan or mind map to guide you, I’d recommend typing directly into the Blank Box. The QWERTY keyboard is a piano keyboard and you’re playing a ditty or having a jam.

Most blog platforms have ample editing tools, the only warning is to save regularly in some if you are prone to distraction.

Even back up onto a clipboard or Word, though personally I’m not a fan of overworking a piece in Word first.

Have a notepad, record a thought on paper or into a digital recorder, have a device that you can readily use on the go – my most fruitful blogging years were when I had a Psion – I could type this spec-case sized device and draw it into my Mac to upload.

I’ll discover in due course an iPad can offer this facility – I believe it will (and some).

A final thought for now – if you can touch-type and write stream of consciousness then how many words can you get down in so many minutes?

Let’s say you think at FIVE words a second, talk at THREE words a second and type at 40-60 words a minute. In theory in five minutes you can blog between 200 and 300 words. Perfect length. Have a plan, three or so points to make and fire away.

 

My mind has burst its banks and Diaryland will suffer

Titled ‘My mind bursts’ and first posted on 23/02/2002 in my Diaryland blog (which I started in September 1999)

A piece of writing has been well received and I’m locked into getting that to a publisher.

New ideas that could take six months each to fill and rushing in through the study door.

I just saw something at ‘nakedthought’ that wants me to drop everything and write a screenplay. (After five years abstinence).

All this:

All this and I may turn a piece into a one man play for the Edinburgh Fringe.

All this and I’ve started to do that ‘writer-ish’ thing of sticking scraps of paper up all over the room. (For lack of space they hang from beneath the shelves that run floor to ceiling on two sides of the room. The third wall is a fitted noticeboard – no space left. The fourth is a window. If I sit up I can keep an eye on the Netherlands Dwarf Rabbits ‘Midnight’ and ‘Foggy’ – kittens. And the extremely elderly guinea-pigs ‘Particle’ and ‘Harriet’).

All this and I’m on day two, week one of the ‘Artist’s Way’ (Am I allowed to tell you that?). What I can’t do is post up the 1,000 to 2,000 words I write each morning. Huh! Said enough yet?

Have to, have to, have to find £3,000 a month from somewhere. And heh! I don’t want to. My desire is to sell the house and move out of reach of London to somewhere far cheaper so I don’t feel I must climb into the ‘Hamster Wheel’ ever, ever, ever again. I fancy Cyprus, the north coast of Majorca, or the far South West of France. Cornwall would do. I suspect my darling other half will convince me that trying to buy a rabbit hutch in one of the most expensive, though lovely, towns in Britain, is what we should be doing. I’ve started to write about the county town of Lewes here the other day. Check out Southover Grange. Our eldest went to nursery in this 16th mansion. I digress.

Where was I? Another first

I’m writing directly into ‘Andrew’s Box’ (If I can put it that way). Do you do that? I hate the thought of all those typos, poor punctuation. Lack of spacing. Maybe I should keep this up. Or, eeeek! Abandon the thing for a few weeks.

Eeek!

And stop keeping a daily record in the Psion to post later? Huh! If you saw my entry for last Saturday you’ll see wherein the problem lies. 6,000 words for one day? Correction. That was Five hours! I took the Newhaven-Dieppe Ferry to France. I skated over who I met, what we did, where I went, what I bought. In passing I’ll point you to the soundtrack of the film ‘Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie’. The music by Yann Tiersen is both derivative and original. He pays homage (if not royalties) to Michael Nyman and Eric Satie. If you need a lift, listen to this. If you want to push your typing speed beyond 40 wpm, listen to this, there’s a haunting, driven, lilt to the thing.

Enough

I’m a dad. I have kids 3 and 5 in front of the TV upstairs. We have eggy-bread on Saturday mornings. I make intricate eggy-bread faces with the pieces. Think edible Quentin Blake! Later we will swim. Perhaps go to a zoo and wild life park on the South Downs called ‘Drusilla’s’.

Me?

There is a powerful south westerly gale beating its way up from the Bay of Biscay. The sun is out, low, sharp. Gulls occasionally interrupt the huff and puff of the wind. It is too early for them to be cracking the sky with their piercing calls. In the distance waves tumble onto the pebbles around the bay. Powerful waves, angry, subway rumbling waves. That’s where I’d like to be. Wrapped up for a ski trip in gloves, hat and goggles. Psion at my fingertips. Writing. Just writing. Losing myself in this invented adventure or that.

Life calls

Hungry people grumble. My tummy does too. And my dearest darling is feeling poorly. So I’ll make her a hot drink and take her breakfast in bed. Those rabbits and guinea-pigs need cleaning out. The aquarium needs some attention. The hamster needs some T.L.C. too ……….

O.H.I.O

I got this from the A.D.D. person’s guide to survival, ‘Driven to Distraction’ by Hallowell and Ratey. It is tip sixteen on my list of senty seven. ‘Only Handle It Once’. It is supposed to unblock the inclination to stack tasks and post in great piles the better to never deal with them. Diaryland bangs on the door every day as I wake; klong before. Sense it is becomign a problem?

My thinking was/is to apply this to Diaryland. I type it straight in, straight up. None of this notebook, Psion, into the PC, spell-check, edit, paste it into Filemaker Pro, change locations and names thing. Just stick in there. Give ‘Andrew’s Little Box’ all you have. (That’s what I did. Did, as in what you are now reading was copied from Diaryland, pasted into Word and is being reformatted and embellished0.

The weblog is bugging me. The order of events is screwy and I hate not having a html tag that means something. So what. Life isn’t perfect, neither is Diaryland.

We will not be swimming this morning. Swollen tonsils in a three year old

RE: My desire to live elsewhere (see above) my Darlingest describes a vivid dream.

I know the score. Listen, like a psychologist, let the story run, let her expose its detail and meaning.

We are in a large house. We invite 16 people over, 30 or more come. We are in the States. Huh! (So North America beckons once more). It is midday. A house warming party, we have friends from home too, with their kids. (Sounds fine to me). Then it turns into something else. A crying child who feels they only get their mothers attention if they cry.

I take her coffee and ‘pain au chocolat’. ‘I don’t eat chocolate in the morning’ comes the complaint. (Same rule applies with the kids, yet she bought the things and they are eaten for breakfast). She gets eggy bread too. Though she doesn’t get the ‘Eggy Bread Face’ treatment.

They weren’t Quentin Blake. Must be the ‘Artist’s Way’ catalyst. They get faces that are graphic.

I catch sight of the sea from the kids’ bedroom. The tide must he in. Foam and fluff from the top of broken waves wisps and curls up from the bank of pebbles 350 yards away like fiery plumes from a volcano with a grumbly tummy. I’ll go and fetch the binoculars, take a lingering look. I’ve been warned that guests bringing small children are due at 10.00.

adieu

On the Writers Group

I have buzzed and been angry since it left. Had the writer’s been Henry Miller, Jeffrey Archer, Salmun Rushdie, Michael Crichton, J K Rowling and Barbara Cartlan would I be so rattled now? Perhaps, perhaps not. You can learn more in a self-help group. Take what you want from it. I won’t be told. The frustration was in feeling gagged. There was a lot of awful writing presented. But what do you do? What do you say? Most offered bland white-wash approval. I thought, we aren’t here to pat each other on the back. I want to make money from writing. I fear some of them are just coming in out of the cold, one guy is certainly out to make ‘new friendships’ you could tell where his priorities were during the tea-break – he sidled over to the ‘new girl’, gave me the cold shoulder and concentrated his efforts on her. Not on her writing, but on her. Made me cringe. Made me angrier still. The group is run be a pro, a wonderful women, a performer, a former opera singer, playwright with work in the West End. Mum of two. She has the warmest of smiles. The kind that makes you feel loved and understood. I can see why she fell in love with her husband on site. They share the same calm warmth and expressive faces. He’s an actor. He was the year above me at school, the year above me at university. We had similar careers ‘til then. That’s when I started to ‘shadow’ my creative ambitions. Oxford Graduates are attracted by fat pay checks into all kinds of things. I had promised myself U.C.L.A to direct, promised myself R.A.D.A. to act. Promised to pursue ‘creative happiness’ only to turn my back on the BBC and wash up on the shores of a London advertising agency – that I loathed on touch.

Twisting the dial from jolly to sad to bonkers …

I’ve switched the jollity of Amelie for the dour drama and tragedy of Samuel Barber’s ‘adagio for string’. I guess I’m feeling tragic, like a tragic failure. I must make money from something soon. Even if it means taking the guitar into Brighton and busking in the Lanes. This cash will make no dent in the gargantuan debts I’ve built up, what I want is … I don’t even want the cash. Little notes popped in my guitar case saying ‘nice songs, nice voice’ would do. Smiles of appreciation. A small group taking a break from the shops to enjoy ballads I composed in my teens.

There’s something I just cannot do anymore

I can ‘get my hand in’ if I draw for a few hours, but I have not been able to click into a songwriting pattern at all. I play some chords, get the beginning of something but seem unable to marry the words to the music. Is it lack of passion? Do good songs only come from youth?

I digress, I digress. We slip into something that isn’t Adagio For Strings. Time for an anarchic pick me up. On goes …

Bjork: ‘Human Behaviour’

‘If you ever get close to a human

and a human behaviour

be ready to get confused

There’s definitely no logic

To human behaviour

But yet so irresistible

There’s no map

To human behaviour’

Did I know this is what I wanted? I might have taken one of several Bjork discs or remixes from the shelf behind me. This is what I got. This is what I’ll be for now.

Caffeine Buzz

I’m breaking a rule. I may be about to commit to ‘The Artist’s Way’ and do it by the book, but my New Year Dettox is being screwed ragged. I am sipping from a mug of espresso. The entire pot is mine. This is going into a body that that taken a month to come off a chemical mix of high dose paracetomol, caffeine and alcohol.

Someone just poured lighter fuel into the box of fireworks and lit the match

Wrong place, wrong time background music drives me insane with distraction. That was then, when I was bubbly over with caffeine. Now I need the music in order to concentrate – something has to suck away part of my concentration otherwise I would. I would. Not be able to sit here for more then ten minutes without being distracted.

Life bursts in over my shoulder

Something about something I said or didn’t say, explained or didn’t explain. Is the house a mess or not? I’d described it as ‘relative’, we have guests on our doorstep. They wouldn’t care too hoots. It is ‘relative’ – relatively tidy for a house where both parents work from home, where there are two small children and it is four hours into the morning of the weekend …

This must stop

It doesn’t. It was about to., I was about to. But Bjork will go on. Will come out with:

‘There’s More to Life Than This’

‘Come on girl

Let’s sneak out of this party

It’s getting boring

There’s more to life than this’.

If it is possible to be caffeine drunk that is me right now.

The Yoga Lady too

She’s a mum and she’s my ‘Yoga Lady’ from the Southover Grange piece. Her husband is here. I’m not embarrassed. I aske her to do something. To get down on the floor. Cor! Oops! Head flat, bum raised, arms out. I do a sketch. We get into a debate about where bits of Lewes would, could or should be placed on her torso. Hubby doesn’t like the idea that everyone drives into Lewes on her bum (butt).

And I need to get milk, and we are out of coffee … and I haven’t this or that ot ….

Oh Feck!!!

(As they say in ‘Father Ted’ Ace Brit Comedy)

Feck!! Feck!! Feck!!

 

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