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Is neuroscience is going to blow this allow out of the water?

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KEY

Green = Activated

Amber = Engaged

Red = Blocked

What concerns me is the belief that theories of learning, which academics have identified in eduation in the last 90 years, are either key drivers or infleuncers in the design of learning. Surely these are all observations after the event. Like trying to analyse a standup comedy routine using a set of plans and parameters – ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ comes to mind. As, I suppose would ‘Dead Poets Society’ to bring in Robin Williams again. Was the Khan Academy a product of such analysis? No? An investment banker wanted to help his nephews out with their Math so he recorded some videos. Actually, I jsut realised my wife is doing this for a friend’s daughter who is learning French – creating bespoke French language pieces for her to practice on. I can’t even think what either of them are – behaviourist or social-constructive and experiential. I’m afraid, given what the academic ‘gurus of e-learning’ keep coming up with they are probably the least intuitive or inventive because their hands and minds are tied by this kind of thing. Just my opinion.

If I want to develop a platform or school that uses e-learning I’ll go find myself a ‘Robin Williams’ kind of educator – someone has a natural flair for it, who engender a following, who most importantly delivers extraordinary results.

Looking back at school I know that what motivated me was two fold – my own long term goal and the quality of an inspired and informed teacher who had tutoring, moderating and teaching in their blood.

There’s a reason why research and teaching don’t mix. I’ve asked some academics about this and they have told me that they haven’t gone into the commercial sector, nor do they teach … ‘because they hate people’.

Where in these theories is the person?

This relationship, the rapport that can form between tutor and student is what is lacking and it is why, in my opinion, the lifes of the Oxbridge Tutorial, that one to one, or one to two or three hour long session once a week is far, far, far from dead.

Neuroscience is going to blow this allow out of the water.

Already the shift is very much in favour of genetics and the way our unique brains are formed as we develop as a foetus. It is nature, not nuture, so frankly, we can have anything thrown at us in terms of life experience and how we learn and how we respond will remain individual. This is the perspective of my father in law whose secondary education was the being in the Polish resistance during the Second World War, his first university a prisoner of war camp. He had England or the US as choices having decided not to return to Poland. And found himself learning English in Gateshead. The story continues … so what kind of learning was occuring in the POW camp?

He bartered lessons in German for lessons in English.

Social-situated in extremis.

Not that it can be injected into a class, and even less so in online learning, but ‘fear’ doesn’t half help turn a short term memory into one that will stick. Playing Devil’s Advocate, can ‘e-learning’ only ever be ‘cotton wool’ the safest, tamest learning you will ever recieve? Try reading an essay out in a tutor group – there’s fear! Try getting up in a hall of 300 people to make your point in a debating chamber – terrying. An odd conclusion to reach at the end of this reflection on the exercise – but where is the ‘fear’?

And I mean the right kind of fear, not the threat of the cane or other such punishment, but the fear of letting you down, or your side down, or of humiliation … against the public reward if you get something right?

Pinned down in a collapsed cellar in Warsaw my father in law believed he would die. He was the only one alive. Everyone else had been flattened. By some chance he had been standing under a beam that had partially protected him. He made promises he’d keep if he lived. He was found. A smash to the head.

Does learning have more impact when there is something at stake?

Try introducing this element into an e-learning module.

The impossible hypothesis – people learn better and make decisions with firmer convictions, where their life is at stake?

Then again we turn to neuroscience and will conclude that some will, some won’t, that the response of the individual to a shared experience means that you get as many different outcomes as there are people.

Institutions think that grades divide students – that’s only the tiniest fraction of what makes each person in that class different. If the student isn’t suitably self aware to know how to play to their strengths and managed their weaknesses then the observant tutor and others who are part of the institution should be doing this on their behalf – as parents, friends and siblings might do. Even with medical intervention.

The ‘Flipped classroom’ for me is finding ways to work with the individual who happens to be in a class that is probably already sorted by age and culture, if not also social class and gender.

And therefore already inappropriate.

Maybe the classroom has had its time. A short-lived interlude in human development over the last 70,000 years.

Mapping Pedagogy and Tools for Effective Learning Design

This is an activity in week 7 of Open University postgraduate module H809: Practice-bases research in e-learning which forms part of the Masters in Open & Distance Education. Shared here, as in my student blog, in order to invoke discussion. I’ve successfully completed the MAODE so this is something of a ‘bonus track’ (I graduate in April then look onwards). The activity is drawn from the Conole et al paper referenced below. Theories are catergorised and a model produced to help define the learning theories that can be identified.

20130324-234258.jpg

20130324-234309.jpg

20130324-234322.jpg

20130324-234644.jpg

20130324-234330.jpg
KEY

Green = Activated

Amber = Engaged

Red = Blocked

What concerns me is the belief that theories of learning, which academics have identified in education in the last 90 years, are either key drivers or influencers in the design of learning.

Surely these are all observations after the event.

Like trying to analyse a stand-up comedy routine using a set of plans and parameters – ‘Good Morning, Vietnam‘ comes to mind. As, I suppose would ‘Dead Poets Society‘ to bring in Robin Williams again. Was the Khan Academy a product of such analysis? No? An investment banker wanted to help his nephews out with their Math so he recorded some videos. Actually, I just realised my wife is doing this for a friend’s daughter who is learning French – creating bespoke French language pieces for her to practice on. I can’t even think what either of them are – behaviourist or social-constructive and experiential. I’m afraid, given what the academic ‘gurus of e-learning’ keep coming up with they are probably the least intuitive or inventive because their hands and minds are tied by this kind of thing.

Just my forming and fluid opinion.

If I want to develop a platform or school that uses e-learning I’ll go find myself a ‘Robin Williams’ kind of educator – someone has a natural flair for it, who engender a following, who most importantly delivers extraordinary results.

Looking back at school I know that what motivated me was two fold – my own long term goal and the quality of an inspired and informed teacher who had tutoring, moderating and teaching in their blood.

There’s a reason why research and teaching don’t mix. I’ve asked some academics about this and they have told me that they haven’t gone into the commercial sector, nor do they teach … ‘because they hate people’.

Where in these theories is the person?

This relationship, the rapport that can form between tutor and student is what is lacking and it is why, in my opinion, the likes of the Oxbridge Tutorial, that one to one, or one to two or three hour long session once a week is far, far, far from dead.

Neuroscience is going to blow this allow out of the water.

Already the shift is very much in favour of genetics and the way our unique brains are formed as we develop as a foetus. It is nature, not nurture, so frankly, we can have anything thrown at us in terms of life experience and how we learn and how we respond will remain individual. This is the perspective of my father in law whose secondary education was the being in the Polish resistance during the Second World War, his first university a prisoner of war camp. He had England or the US as choices having decided not to return to Poland. And found himself learning English in Gateshead. The story continues … so what kind of learning was occurring in the POW camp?

He bartered lessons in German for lessons in English.

Social-situated in extremis.

Not that it can be injected into a class, and even less so in online learning, but ‘fear’ doesn’t half help turn a short term memory into one that will stick. Playing Devil’s Advocate, can ‘e-learning’ only ever be ‘cotton wool’ the safest, tamest learning you will ever receive? Try reading an essay out in a tutor group – there’s fear! Try getting up in a hall of 300 people to make your point in a debating chamber – terrifying.

An odd conclusion to reach at the end of this reflection on the exercise – but where is the ‘fear’?

And I mean the right kind of fear, not the threat of the cane or other such punishment, but the fear of letting you down, or your side down, or of humiliation … against the public reward if you get something right?

Pinned down in a collapsed cellar in Warsaw my father in law believed he would die. He was the only one alive. Everyone else had been flattened. By some chance he had been standing under a beam that had partially protected him. He made promises he’d keep if he lived. He was found. A smash to the head.

  • Does learning have more impact when there is something at stake?
  • Try introducing this element into an e-learning module.
  • The impossible hypothesis – people learn better and make decisions with firmer convictions, where their life is at stake?

Then again we turn to neuroscience and will conclude that some will, some won’t, that the response of the individual to a shared experience means that you get as many different outcomes as there are people.

Institutions think that grades divide students – that’s only the tiniest fraction of what makes each person in that class different. If the student isn’t suitably self aware to know how to play to their strengths and managed their weaknesses then the observant tutor and others who are part of the institution should be doing this on their behalf – as parents, friends and siblings might do.

Even with medical intervention.

The ‘Flipped classroom‘ for me is finding ways to work with the individual who happens to be in a class that is probably already sorted by age and culture, if not also social class and gender.

And therefore already inappropriate.

Maybe the classroom has had its time. A short-lived interlude in human development over the last 70,000 years.

REFERENCE

Conole, G, Dyke, M, Oliver, M, & Seale, J (2004), ‘Mapping Pedagogy and Tools for Effective Learning Design’, Computers And Education, 43, 1-2, pp. 17-33, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 25 March 2013.

 

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.

The Distant Summer – Sarah Patterson (1976)

Fig.1. Sarah Patterson – her first novel with the promise of many more to come – 1976

The poignant story of a girl who loves two WWII flyers, written by the daughter of suspense writer Jack Higgins when she was just 17. Trying to write myself I was inspired. Over three decades later I have written plenty, though only one piece of fiction has thus far been broadcast – short film ‘Listening In’.

The folder contains ‘The Gypsy’s Curse’ a short story about a girl who is cursed to ‘die of water’ by a gypsy as an infant and much later nearly dies of an asthma attack. My kid sister was grabbed from the house as a three or four year old by a Gypsy and the curse is true – she is asthmatic, but I hope nothing else of it is true.

Fig.2. Sarah Patterson – Young Observer 1976

Scrapbooks, like this one, are ‘mind bursts’ – moments that inspired. In fact this is pasted to a folder that contains typed up teenage efforts. She was 17 and writing about what it was like to be a 17 year old in 1943. I was 15 and writing about what it might be like to be a 15 year old in 2943.

Can inspiration bog you down?

When are distractions are good thing and when bad?

Where does motivation come from and what happens if it is only sometimes realised?

Forties era romance reviewed.

Marching on Bonfire Night, Lewes, East Sussex

Procession of the martyrs crosses, as part of ...

Procession of the martyrs crosses, as part of Lewes’ Bonfire Night celebrations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Moving to Lewes with young children in 2000 we were immediately invited to join one of the Bonfire Marching Societies.

We’d join other families, all of us – in this instance – dressed up as Confederate Soldiers.

On November 5th in Lewes the schools close early. Parking enforcement warnings have been up for weeks – most of the roads must be clear of parked cars by 2.00pm.

At this time the first visitors arrive and gather in the pubs while families get ready. Across town people pull out lovingly made costumes: buccaneers, Confederate Soldiers, Native North Americas, Zulu Warriors, Monks … there is a dress code and dress rules. In Southover we dress as buccaneers (think Johnny Depp in pirates of the Caribbean) Everyone MUST wear a Tricorn hat or they get removed from the march … or sent to the back.

At the back, no shame in that. you dress as a ‘Smuggler’ black shoes, white trousers a jumpers with horizontal stripes of black and yellow or red and white and a red woollen cap.

We’ve done them all. Indeed getting rather too enthusiastic we joined a second society so can spend a few hours as Confederate Soldiers and a few more hours as buccaneers. Across towns all the pubs are of course open. Across town there are stalls selling food.

I tell people ‘we march’ and they must think this is a circuit around town then over. Not at all.

The timetable runs thus.

5,10pm Children’s Procession

5.45pm Procession of Remembrance (We congregate at the War Memorial for the fallen of the First and Second World Wars)

6.45pm Third Procession

8.00pm United Procession (all six societies converge, merge, then split up)

9.30pm Grand Procession … and we head for the firesite. A bonfire of wood which went up over the weekend.

11.00pm Sixth Procession

11.30pm Final Procession

So here are some of my photos from last year.

Just Google ‘Lewes Bonfire‘ and between YouTube, Flickr and Blogs you’ll get the picture. Want to join in? Not easy. The roads close. The buses stop. And the train service deliberately sticks to its timetable – no extra services. Time it and you can drive back and forth along the Lewes bypass (A27)

And what has this got to do with learning or e-learning?

If you live in Lewes, a great deal. These are marches that tie us directly into the following:

The 16 Protestant Martyrs burnt alive at the stake in the centre of town,

The foiling of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament – as relevant today as four centuries ago,

Tom Paine (Declaration of Independence, he lived and spoke here first, his meeting rooms are on the High Street.

And modern history – each of the six marching societies build a massive float that goes onto the bonfire marking some feature that has irritated the towns folk this last year – we can be micro or macro, so may burn an effigy of a person or thing. So the Ayotalla and Tony Blair, the Chief of Police and even George W Bush got the treatment. The Pope gets it in the neck too – but representing the powers that martyred Protestants and religious intolerance.

There are at least SIX marches during the year, typically midday or early afternoon – traffic is banned, banners and floats come out for ‘The Moving on Parade’ for example – celebrating kids completing their PRIMARY SCHOOL education.

MORE HERE: Lewes Bonfires

 

George Wannop was killed the next time he went in

Ypres Sept 1917 Plank Track

Fig. 1. Passchendale was a quagmire

Not like trenches. There was no communication. And you could only walk about in the dark.

(Ypres is at sea level. As the landscape is flat farming is only possible with extensive drainage. The Belgians let it flood when the Germans invaded, then with all the shelling, the place was just a morass of mud. The surrounding ridges are nearly all under 50ft high – but it was dry and gave a view of the area. That was what all the fighting was about).

“You had to watch the gun that it didn’t freeze; it was water cooled”.

We’d cover the barrel with bits of sandbag and an oil sheet – anything you could find.

You couldn’t help but get a bit of dirt on it. The conditions were absolutely serious, almost unbearable. We used to wrap out legs with sandbags right up to the knees. There were no rubber boots or anything then; it was boots and puttees.

This Lance-Corporal George Wannop was in charge of the gun.

He was only 19, another one who’d joined up under age.

It would appear that during the night when they’d given the gun a try, given it a few bursts to see that it wasn’t frozen; it jammed.

You had to do that intermittently, just to give it a burst to reassure yourself that it would work.

Wannop couldn’t get it going; it wasn’t frozen.

So in the dark he changed the lock.

You wouldn’t dare show the slightest light.

We’d been trained to change parts wearing a blindfold in Grantham.

There’s a spare lock in the case. It’s a square piece of metal with a striking pin in it and its worked by a crank inside. You lift the cover on the gun, ease it back, pull the crankshaft back, the leaver is here, ease the gun out and lift the lock out.

(75 years on Jack goes through the precise actions with his hands. His thumbs are like spoon, pressed flat from being pressed against the dual firing buttons of a Vickers Machine-gun)

Wannop did that, all in the dark, and put in a new lock. He tried the gun.

“DakDakDakDak DakDakDakDakDakDak DakDakDakDakDakDak DakDak”

OK and covered it up.

There’s a heavy fog the next morning when it starts to break daylight.

This officer, he could have only weighed nine stone and one or two officers came prowling around. He was a little worm of a man, not more than nine stone, with a great heavy coat on. You’d never get officers coming round on a clear day; this one was a complete stranger to us. They had a chat with the corporal.

“Let me have a look at your spares,” asked the skinny one.

Wannop got the case out which held the spares and low and behold there’s mud and dirt on the lock they’d been fiddling on with in the middle of the night.

He was reprimanded for a dirty lock.

Not only was he reprimanded, but so was I because I was responsible for the two guns. I had my papers going through for transfer so the last thing I wanted was this kind of bother.

“When it broke daylight we were going to examine the gun,” I said to the man. “To see what the fault was, fix it and clean it.”

He’d hear nothing of it. Another “B” that wouldn’t listen … and it was him alright, Montgomery.

He was just a weed of a man … skinny legs there, but no doubt it he was clever with the Eighth Army.

Captain Williams was damn well annoyed about it.

We all resented these men coming to the Front Line. They hadn’t the first idea what it was like. They’d be seven or eight miles back billeted in some French châteaux while our lads were being knocked to pieces. We didn’t lose any pay. Williams reassured me that my papers would still go through.

This Lance Corporal says.

“Jack, they can keep the dog’s leg and put it where the monkey puts its nuts!”

Wannop was a great tall lanky lad. He was disgusted. And I had my papers going through. I was worried it would be on my record and effect my application. Wannop was a quarter mile away from me.

George Wannop was killed the next time he went in. He was killed on the 29th of October.

It was a spot in Houthulst Forest.

He said to me he was a farmer’s son, actually his father was a dock labourer from Silloth, Cumbria – but never mind that. You didn’t get many saying their father or mother were in domestic service either.

(George had six brothers and sisters: Isabelle, Thomas, twins Margaret & Joseph, Dinah J who was my age and a younger sister Sarah).

Years after the Second World War, Norman Taylor, my brother-in-law, who lived at Ryton, bought an autobiography of Montgomery

There was a picture of this skinny little fellow.

Fig. 2 Montgomery on the right here.

Montgomery was in Ypres at the same time as me. He was a serving staff officer in the 2nd Army under Sir Herbert Plumer. (47th (2nd London Division)  Montgomery had been moved from Boesinghe on the 7th June after the mines blew under Messines Ridge. He then went on towards Pilckem Ridge, Langemark, Poelcapelle and Houthulst Forrest in October 1917.

I’m sure Montgomery was our brigade machine gun officer or director of guns.

GSO2 in Plumer’s IX Corps from June 1917 onwards. (Powell, 1990)

Fig.3. Lieutenant-Major Montgomery – Front Row. Sitting. Five from the left.

 

RIP Lance Corporal George Wannop.

Service No. 13210, 104 Company.

Died 29th October 1917. Born 1897.

From Bletterlees, Cumberland

Parents: Robert and Dinah Wannop, of Clement House, Blitterlees, Silloth, Cumberland.

 

Burial:
Poelcapelle British Cemetery
Langemark-Poelkapelle
West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen), Belgium
Plot: VIII. D. 6.

 

 

Shot for cowardice – May 1916

There were notices up about these fellows who were executed for desertion.

They were cruel you know

They ran away, poor devils. We had one on one of our guns but luckily our C.O. didn’t report it. He would have been shot. He was an old sweat. I can see the bloke, Harry Peake.

Anyone could see he wasn’t fit to fight.

It was gas shells or something. He got terrified and ran away during a bombardment. He was found miles behind the lines with the transport. He should have been shot. If anyone else had done that. But never mind.

Gerald Woods told me about that.

That was the punishment for desertion. Somebody was shot.

A couple of years later he was found behind the lines again; he’d survived two more years of it. This time he was shot for cowardice on 29th April 1918. They said he was a persistent waster and an example had to be made.

The Germans were massing for a big push, so they didn’t want anyone leaving the line.

 

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