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Identifying veterans of the First World War: Putting names to faces, and faces to names.

 Fig.1. ‘Poster’ constructed using a combination of ‘Brushes’ (to layer several photos in one) and ‘Studio’ a simple graphics app that provided the overlays and text. Images and screen-grabs cropped and saved into Picasa Web Albums. 

Created for the Open University module H818: The Networked Practitioner – towards a poster to illustrate a conference demonstration of an interactive mobile learning platform aimed at sourcing the involvement of many collaborators to enrich our understanding of this period in history.

The QR code should work, the YouTube video does not – it’s a screengrab. The video clip, under 2 minutes, is there.

In fairness to my grandfather I edited around 8 minutes down to 2 minutes, keeping one story about a young woman who came down from London to meet up and otherwise to compress the kind of circuitous conversation you can have with someone in their nineties.

Fig. 2. Jack Wilson (1896-1992) talks briefly about his few weeks military training at RAF Hastings in May/June 1918. Features several of his photographs from these weeks that he sent home to his mother in Consett, County Durham. (As YouTube doesn’t embed on OU platform, link to YouTube)

 Fig.3. The simplest of SimpleMind mind maps to remind me what the poster still requires and is certainly missing. 

And as a reminder to me there is 2500 words to write too.

CALL TO ACTION

If you or your relatives have old photos from the First World War how about sharing them and let’s see of collectively we can bring these characters back to life by researching then telling them story. If you are seeing family over the holiday try to find out what you have in that battered box in the attic: photos, an ID bracelet, his watch? A pay book, or log book? An Webley Revolver!! A gas-mask. A piklehaube helmet.

I’m always very interested to hear from people with a similar interest in the ‘Great War’ especially when it comes to the Machine Gun Corps and the Royal Flying Corps where my grandfather and great uncle served.

The project above relates to RAF, formerly RFC Hastings. Cadets were sent for military training in batches of 30 or so, six weeks at a time. They got military training, fitness, map reading and meteorology. Time off was spent on the beach, on the pier, in the outdoor pool and cinemas, and in a RAF club in Wellington Square. After this they headed for Clifton College, Bristol (Douglas Haig’s old school) for Morse Code, navigation and mechanics (basics) and machine gun training. Then to Uxbridge for bombs and finally off to an aerodrome for flight training. I don’t even know if they all went off together. I do recognise one other face here, a man who shared a room with my grandfather. They had a valet between them. Some change for my grandfather, the son of domestic servants, finding himself in the Officer’s Mess with schoolboy Etonians and all sorts of others.

 

Open Learning is with us

I’ll reflect on and absorb the H818: The Networked Practitioner academic stuff in due course – somewhere in the reading a couple of authors were mentioned so while the pressure is low I’ve been reading Lawrence Lessig ‘Remix’ and re-reading, possibly for the third time, Martin Weller’s ‘The Digital Scholar’.

Whilst more people globally will get a slice of the tertiary education pizza, there will still be those that who are stuck on the edge with the crust while the ‘privileged’ few get the real substance. This applies between ‘first’ and ‘third’ worlds, but also locally in an education catchment area – when it comes to the democratization of education through e-learning some are more equal than others through having the kit, accessibility, inclination, support and opportunity.

Speaking with a school friend I’d not spoken to since we were 10 or 11 we got onto those OU broadcasts in the middle of the night, and then the BBC ‘Trade Test Transmissions’ – how else could we possibly know anything about how the stain glass windows were made for Liverpool Cathedral on how animals were rescued during the flooding of the Zambezi?

Repetition, rich content and a dearth of anything else to watch.

In sharp contrast ‘open’ today, and TV too means everything and anything. How can anything stand out?

Because the search engines offer it, because of branding and association, through word of mouth through your social and other networks i.e. as a consequence of the nature of your ‘connectedness’.

Recollections of postgraduate online learning since 2010

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Fig.1 Screengrab from JISC 2011 that I took part in via Twitter (see top right hand column). From my OU student blog of 14th March via a folder in my vast gallery on picasa.

Two and a half years ago I took part in JISC 2011 ‘at a distance’ – distance, cost and illness were all barriers to attending in person. I’m prompted to recall one of the afternoon conferences as Chris Pegler and Tony Hirst from the Open University were on the platform. As well as questions coming from the floor (some 200 attendees) questions also came from the online participants (some 350). A question I posed was picked out by the chair and discussed. For a dreadful moment I worried that I could be seen sitting in pyjammas and a dressing gown at the kitchen table. By March 2011 I was on my second Master of Arts in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) module. A month or so later I applied to and eventually joined the OU where I worked, living away from home, for a year. This year I graduated and have since also completed what I see as a conversion course ‘H809:Practise-based research in technology-based learning’ with a mind, belatedly in my lifetime, to undertake doctoral research. To ‘keep my hand in’ and to stay up to date I have joined a new MAODE module ‘H818:The networked practioner’. I am yet to feel fluent in the language and practice of e-learning so need this repeated immersion, modules that I did a couple of years ago are being updated and I want to prove to myself and potentially others that I can keep up the scholarly level of participation and assessment that I began to display on the last couple of modules.

The learning lessons here are simple: persistence, repetition and practice.

Ambitions to take me e-learning interests into healthcare were thwarted at my first interviews for doctoral research – I am not a doctor (medicine), nor have I conducted a clinical trial before … let alone the ambitions for my proposal that would require departmental participation and funding. Basically, I’d bitten off far too much.

With this in mind I am falling back on a subject on which I can claim some insight and expertise – the First World War. Knowing that expressing an interest, linking to a blog or unproduced TV scripts won’t open academic doors I’ve decided to take an MA in History … the subject I set out to study some decades ago before getting the collywobbles and transferring to Geography. So, alongside a 12-15 hour a week commitment to another OU module on e-learning I will, over the next two years, be spending as much time on an MA in British First World War studies with the University of Birmingham. The additional insight I will get from this is comparing abd contrasting a series of modules that rely on an intensive day every month of lectures and tutorials rather than the dense, minute by minute closely supported and networked virtual learning environment (VLE) of the Open University.

Meanwhile, as in March 2011, I am recovering from a stinking cold. Not totally incapacitated – I have read several books, nodding off between chapters and so plagued by dreams about the causes of war in 1914. Power politics and corporate takeovers where the soldier is the worker while the owners, investment bankers and hedge fund managers risk all for their own gain.

H818 – The Networked Practitioner – New for Autumn 2013

Fig. 1. The Digital Scholar

Martin Weller’s Digital Scholar becomes the basis for H818 – The Networked Practitioner

This new e-learning module from the Open University uses Martin Weller’s book The Digital Scholar is part of a wide range of open access material used for the module and Martin is one of the authors of the module content.

Chapter 1 – Read it here on the Bloomsbury website

Over the last couple of years I have said how much I would like to ‘return’ to the traditional approach to graduate and postgraduate learning – you read a book from cover to cover and share your thinking on this with fellow students and your tutor – perhaps also a subject related student society.

Why know it if it works?

Fig. 2. The backbone of H810 Accessible Online Learning is Jane Seale’s 2006 Book.

Where the author has a voice and authority, writes well and in a narrative form, it makes for an easier learning journey – having read the Digital Scholar participants will find this is the case.

As in the creation of a TV series or movie a successful publication has been tested and shows that there is an audience.

The research and aggregation has been done – though I wonder if online exploiting a curated resource would be a better model? That e-learning lends itself to drawing upon multiple nuggets rather than a single gold bar.

There are a couple of caveats related to this tactic:

  1. Keeping the content refreshed and uptodate. Too often I find myself reading about redundant technologies – the solution is to Google the cited author and see if they have written something more current – often, not surprisingly from an academic, you find they have elaborated or drilled into a topic they have made their own in the last 18 months.
  2. Lack of variety. Variety is required in learning not simply to avoid the predictable – read this, comment on this, write an assignment based on this … but this single voice may not be to everyone’s liking. Can you get onto their wave length? If not, who and where are the alternative voices?
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