By David, editor at Surviving the OU

The first TMA is handed in and David proceeds with the course

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts then find them here: Entry 1, Entry 2 and Entry 3.

The course is flowing nicely now and I’m still feeling motivated. Week 7 was labelled ‘Reviewing areas of interest’ and, perhaps unsurprisingly given the title, offered a chance to look back over the previous six weeks of study and pick out points of interest. This was split into three major sections, imaginatively title 7a, 7b and 7c respectively.

Activity one was a multiple choice quiz which seemed a bit weird but actually turned out to be quite fun. I even nailed 100 per cent! We were then directed back to our tutor group forums to discuss what we would change and redesign about the recently-completed TMA01. The next activity allowed us to revisit Anna Sfard’s paper from four weeks ago on Participation and Acquisition Metaphors, which I wrote about in a previous entry. We were invited to go back and work out whether our thoughts and perceptions around this paper had changed in the weeks since we first read it.

After this, the block author, John Pettit, asked us to watch a video of a short staff presentation he had put together in 2008 discussing OU Forums and Elluminate (which preceded OU Live) just when they were coming in to university use. This more or less ended section 7a of the week’s block before we moved on to 7b and the second set of activities. This was a lot more fun as we were introduced to Robert X. Cringely (a pseudonym no less) who wrote about technology for magazines in the 90s and had produced a documentary off the back of a book he’d written. This documentary entitled ‘Triumph of the Nerds’ (split into three parts on YouTube, see first link below) saw Cringely interview the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and a whole host of other billionaire ‘nerds’ back in 1996 and even thought it is now tremendously dated it was a fascinating programme and I would thoroughly recommend you watch it if you have time.

Week 7c centred around ‘Handling multiple perspectives’ and we were introduced to something called the Interpersonal action-learning cycle. The idea of this theory, which I shan’t flesh out here in full, is to promote inclusive, collaborative discussion.

Consider, in particular, your knowledge of the interpersonal action-learning cycle itself:

    1. Have you constructed your knowledge from your own perceptions?
    2. Have you acquired your knowledge from what’s been said here?
    3. Have you participated in it by trying out the cycle?
    4. What has been your experience here?

The next block was slightly different in that it incorporated weeks 8-9 as one unit. I was a little perturbed at first whenever I first saw the block as there was an awful lot involved but then I noticed it was split over two weeks then I realised it was a lot more manageable. Over the coming fortnight we will be looking at Learning Design, both from the perspectives of teachers and learners and in conjunction with the technological tools both use.

It may be useful to draw distinctions at this point by pasting the introductory spiel:

“Before we proceed, we should distinguish between Learning Design (capitals) as a field of study, and learning design (lower case) as an approach to educational practice. ‘Learning Design’ is the term most commonly used to describe the research and development activities associated with a better understanding of the process involved in designing learning activities, and which support educators’ and trainers’ design practices.

“Learning design refers to the range of activities associated with creating a learning activity and crucially provides a means of describing learning activities. Internationally, a number of research groups are actively working in the area of Learning Design. They are trying to find ways to help teachers create better learning experiences for students, which are pedagogically grounded and make innovative use of new technologies.” ~ Conole, Mor, Clarke, Gaved.

Grainne Conole OU

Grainne Conole – former Professor of eLearning at the Institute of Educational Technology in the Open University

As week 9 is amalgamated with week 8 I’m splitting the work up which means this post will be split between weeks. For the first part the Designing for Learning theme continued and we were introduced to the Learning Design Grid and Design Narratives which took us over to Cloudworks. Cloudworks is a site for finding, sharing and discussing learning and teaching ideas, experiences and issues. You can find out more about it on their Vision Statement page. Some of the content is a little outdated and comments go right back to 2010. Apparently the entire H800 module is due to be updated after this run has finished and Cloudworks strikes me as something that was fairly innovative when they started but has nearly run its course now as other platforms take over. Regardless, I created some clouds and cloudscapes, posted them into the forums and moved on swiftly.

Next we were presented with Activity 2 (parts A and B) where we downloaded a paper on healthy eating and filled in a table of representations. Activities 3 and 4 then moved us towards a new piece of software called CompendiumLD. First for Activity 3 we read a transcript of a conversation between Open University lecturer and course creator John Pettit with visiting academic Yannis Dimitriadis where the pair examined fundamental questions around learning design.

Then for Activity 4 we looked at CompendiumLD itself. I bet you’re wondering what this is? Well I was too:

CompendiumLD is a software tool for designing learning activities using a flexible visual interface. It is being developed as a tool to support lecturers, teachers and others involved in education to help them articulate their ideas and map out the design or learning sequence. Feedback from users suggests the process of visualising design makes their design ideas more explicit and highlights issues that they may not have noticed otherwise.

This was software that we had to download first. Then we tackled questions in our forum group around its strengths and weaknesses and whether we were likely to use it in the future. Rather than sit and describe it you can watch the brief video below which was made by the OU’s Andrew Brasher.

I suppose that will do for another blog entry. Hope you’re finding these useful, even if you have no interest in the actual subject matter it will hopefully give you a reasonable idea about the sorts of things you need to learn at MA study level. I’m learning a lot already, which is kind of the point!

Thanks for reading and speak to you all in two weeks time 🙂

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