Sunday, July 3, 2016

What a distance travelled: reminiscing about H800

Hi everyone

If you are reading this, you may have found it as a prospective or existing student of H800. It feels emotional reflecting on our distance travelled as a family since I completed this course. We have been back home in England for 5 years now. Our lovely determined son has just sat his GCSE exams (16+ exams in the UK), and I have finally embarked on my Masters in Research Skills and PhD, in the Institute of Educational Technology at the OU.

I was thinking back to my H800 learner experience in 2009.  Of course some of the technology has changed now. Elluminate video-conferencing has been replaced by OU Live, and the discussion forums used to run in something called 'First Class'. But here is the mind map of my learning experience that I did at the time; I think it pretty much sums it up. Hard work; wondering sometimes how I would ever keep up and fit it in with the rest of life; having a few 'critical moments' and eventually prevailing and reaching the final goal posts. Seven years later, I look back and see what a turning point it was.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The best Christmas present

Just been watching the classic Snowman on DVD, and pleased to be returning to my old friend, my blog. I've missed you. Today our H800 ECA results came out, a few days earlier than expected. I'm really pleased with my result, especially since I ended up doing the whole thing inside two weeks. The best Christmas present ever though, is that we have climbed the highest mountain, flown in the clouds and still not back down to earth; my intelligent 10 year old son is for the first time able to read out from a book fluently, without stumbling and hesitating; finding it so difficult without either of us knowing why. Since early September I have finally got everyone on our side to realise that intelligence, 'coping' in the classroom and trying so very hard can mask a learning difficulty in a child. As a result of the Cellfield intervention from Australia, my son's specific difficulties have been vastly eased. I have learned such a lot about about the mechanics of reading and how we need to have the correct neurological pathways in place before we can read successfully. We are not out of the woods yet; but certainly in a much more hopeful space for the future. It's like him suddenly being able to swim beautiful front crawl after doggy paddle had to do.

So we feel deserving of our holidays, and looking forward to the new year with renewed optimism and hope. We have decided to stay in South Africa for the time being, and I am going to try and progress my research studies somehow with the OU from afar, maybe by next tackling H809 Practice Based Research in Educational Technology. I have a few weeks to decide.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Making connections

Three of us had a great time at the weekend making collaborative connections on Twitter to arrange an impromptu Elluminate session. Alan in Leeds, UK; Philip in Adelaide, Australia, and myself in Joburg, SA. We all came together within a couple of hours and had a good session, even with Alan's mike problems. (Technical glitches can be very frustrating in Elluminate).

I've been reading a paper for my ECA which talks about mechanisms for reducing the 'distance' in distance learning and boy, did we do it then. I've written about this before; I find student-led Elluminate sessions really rewarding and there is actually no distance between us as we grapple with the ECA and share our different approaches. For me it was indispensable as I really needed that connection to get the adrenaline running again. I'm now in Base Camp 2, which feels a bit easier. I will be working for two weeks flat out now, as much as I can.

The other wonderful connection I made yesterday was with a lady in the OU Library, who helped me with access for a paper and signed it 'from a fellow South African'. We have struck up email contact and it's fabulous to talk to someone who knows MK and South Africa as well. We can share the joys and challenges of each country. We love SA, it's spacey, and as she said has sun and big blue skies, lots of them. We as a family are considering moving back to England and to MK, for me to apply to do a PhD at the OU. But what to do for the best? There are three of us in the family, and each has their own opinion. It's like having two cakes, each with nice things and not-so-nice things on top. Of course one wants one cake with all the nice things, and it's just not possible. It's very rewarding to make a connection with someone who understands both.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Back in circulation

I'm back from my travels to the UK. We had a whirlwind trip and I can't believe how much we managed to fit in. We had such a great start - we were upgraded to London as the plane was overbooked. Once you've sat in way bigger seats with TWO footrests and acres more space (the only thing extra we could have wanted is to lie down which wasn't a problem on a day flight) - then you never want to go back to cattle class again.... well I can wish, can't I.

So after a whirlwind of family, friends, Edinburgh wedding, British weather, British traffic, British prices, and....British food, we are actually really incredibly glad to be back in sunny South Africa. It's Spring. The sun is shining, and the crickets are humming at night. I love it here.

Etienne Wenger of Communities of Practice fame says he's not sure he belongs anywhere any more - being split between Switzerland and the US. Which is it, not belonging anywhere, or belonging in both and somehow synthesising a new and composite identity?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hi to my new community

Helloooooo everyone out there, my ClustrMap tells me that I've had 14 visits in the last 24 hours. Frauke from Lesley's group in H800 has just left me a comment on my last post. I'm trying to write (in isolation) about ownership for TMA04 and about how all the new Web 2.0 tools can provide an enhanced sense of ownership, responsibility, engagement and pride in one’s work. Writing so much in isolation is a struggle! I've just had a burst of energy and engagement by looking at my blog and interacting, even just a little with a fellow course member. Thanks, Frauke, we have reciprocated in our help for one another.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bit more on consolidation and review

Just a little more on why I find consolidating and reviewing so satisfying. It's because it's a higher order thinking skill. I like this representation of Bloom's taxonomy from It relates to my earlier post on ownership and learning and teaching approach, where I included two graphs from the infoDev website, also depicting the taxonomy. When we are reading papers, we are at the first level of being presented with information. We then have to understand it and apply it, which we do individually and in the forums. Reading is (for me) a passive activity, and it is only when we get to the higher levels that I am able to move beyond the 'control' of the course and inhabit my own space as it were. Higher order thinking skills represent a deeper approach and a greater sense of ownership in my work. My blog is a great tool for assisting me with this more creative, more free, activity.

Consolidation and dung beetles

Photo: The rare flightless Dung beetle rolling away its ball of dung - Photograph by Mike Gerhard

I've spent most of my time this week consolidating and reviewing. There's been such a pressure of not having enough time to do that, and arrange things in my head into some kind of satisfying mental map. I am reminded of a dung beetle just like this one that we saw crossing the road in the Kruger Park one day - I wanted to get my ball just like his but H800 kept shovelling more you-know-what for me to roll up!! My ball was getting too big to control - hence my "no more!" moment. Now it feels better as I've spent the last several days going through files, identifying quotes, making mind maps and at the end feeling a much better sense of ownership and pride in what I have done, and we have done together. Just got to finish getting it all on paper now for the final TMA....