Active learning and teaching in online spaces - blog post from the University of Northampton learning technology team. "There are some tips that can help you think about how to ... make online learning a rewarding experience for you and your students. (1) Transparent pedagogy and clear expectations. Recent research with our students highlighted that they don’t always feel prepared for independent study, and often come to university expecting to ‘be taught’ rather than to have to work things out for themselves (the full report can be downloaded here). ... So how do you avoid students feeling like they’ve been ‘palmed off’ with online activities, when national level research tells us that many applicants expect to get more class time than they had at school? It’s worth setting time aside early on to have frank conversations about how learning works at university level, and about how the module will work, but also about why those choices have been made. ... (2) Building relationships. A key element of success in any learning environment is trust. This doesn’t just mean students trusting in you as the subject expert, and trusting that the work you’re asking them to do is purposeful and worthwhile (see above). It also means trusting that your classroom (whether physical or online) is a safe space to ask questions, and that feedback from peers as well as from you will be constructive and respectful. ... (3) Clarity, guidance, instructions, modelling. Last but by no means least, with online learning it helps to remember that students need to learn the method as well as the matter. A well-organised NILE site, clear instructions and links to further help will go a long way, but nothing beats modelling. Setting aside time in your face to face sessions to walk through online activities and address questions will save you lots of time in the long run....
Managing the complexity of branching scenarios - blog post by Christy Tucker. "One of the issues with branching scenarios is that you can get exponential growth. If each choice has 3 options, you end up with 9 slides after just 2 choices, and 27 after 3 choices. This is 40 pages total with only 3 decisions per path. For most projects, that’s more complexity than you want or need. So how do you manage this complexity? (1) Use Twine.... Twine makes it very easy to draft scenarios and check how all the connections flow together.... Cathy Moore has an example of a scenario she built in Twine. This scenario has 57 total decision points, but it only took her 8 hours to create. (2) Planning a scenario. ... I usually have an idea of how long the ideal or perfect path will be. If you have a multi-step process, that’s your ideal path. If there’s going to be 4 decision points on the shortest path, I know what those are before I start writing. I also usually know at least some of the decision points based on errors or mistakes I need to address. (3) Allow opportunities to fix mistakes. One trick for managing the potentially exponential growth is by giving learners a chance to get back on the right path if they make a minor error. If they make 2 or 3 errors in a row, they get to an ending and have to restart the whole thing.... (4) Make some paths shorter.... (5) Gook, OK and bad. In branching scenarios, not everything is as black and white as a clear-cut right or wrong answer. You can have good, OK, and bad choices and endings...."
Salman Rushdie: ‘A lot of what Trump unleashed was there anyway’ - interview by Emma Brockes in The Guardian. "Did he get the impression these positions [such as climate change denial] were held partly as a way to punish condescending liberals? 'Well, I do think there’s some of that; this idea that the elite is now the educated class, rather than the wealthy class, so you’ve got a government with more billionaires in it than ever in history, but we’re the elite – journalists and college professors and novelists, not the ones with private planes and beach front properties in the Bahamas. It’s a weird time.' "
I’m like a happy four-year-old with a picture - article by Coralie Bickford-Smith in The Guardian, in the series 'My Writing Day'. "I was making The Worm and The Bird, and had taken a sabbatical from Penguin for three months to finish what I had started.... But all I dreamed about was finishing, and my time was evaporating into nothing. I had lost all my joy from the process of creating. The child in me was constantly asking 'are we there yet?' I became anxious. My sister Abigail called to quell my rising panic; she had read an article about Seneca and I recalled a biography of his for which I’d recently designed a cover. Something clicked. The error of my ways became obvious. I was not in the moment, far away from the present. ... I found the joy of creating again and I forgot about the finish line. It became apparent that I was making the same mistakes in living my daily life as I was in the process of creating a book. I made a choice to be more present in the moment, not just at work but in my life as a whole."
Laugh a minute: six short plays by Michael Frayn - from his Pocket Playhouse. "Hymns Ancient and Modern. From the Morning Post, 23 November 1893. Cable and telegraph offices were overwhelmed last night by the flood of tributes pouring in from fans all over the world to the Reverend Francis Giffard Smith, the legendary creator of some of the best loved and most groundbreaking hymns of the 19th century, who died yesterday aged 57 after a long battle with depression and incense addiction. His 1861 hit 'God’s Gas' was the first Church of England hymn to sell a million copies worldwide. Its words – 'Lord, fill us with Thy heaven’ly gas, / Like street-lights in the dark, / Then like the lamp-lighter supply / The municipal spark!' – spoke to people of all classes and none."
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud: innocence and loss - review by Ursula K. Le Guin in The Guardian. "Messud captures young adolescence vividly and unjudgmentally, as it was in 2013 for middle-class white kids of the electronic age in America. The shining goals are wealth and success, but the jobs offered to the young are nanny, barista, waitress, janitor. Work is seldom presented to them as something to be done for its own sake; purpose doesn’t mean much. These kids are likely to see their lives not as a continuity of being with an imaginable past and an imaginable future, but as a rapid succession of unrelated events without history and without promise. And therefore without hope.... Painful as it may be, this is a hard book to stop reading. Messud is a story teller: the ability to compel and hold the reader’s interest may not be the crown and summit of the art of novel-writing, but it’s the beginning and the end of it.... When I was about 15, an excellent teacher put in my hands Le Grand Meaulnes, Alain-Fournier’s lyrical novel of doomed adolescence. At that age of course I swallowed all the romanticism of Meaulnes’ mysterious domain and wanted only more. More than 70 years later, I hopefully followed these two girls seeking their own mysterious domain in an abandoned mental hospital, even if I knew only too well that all the romance was imagined, and that any attempt to return to it would end in tragedy."
How do we get out of this mess? - article by George Moniot in The Guardian, based on his book Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. "Although the stories told by social democracy and neoliberalism are starkly opposed to each other, they have the same narrative structure. ... You cannot take away someone’s story without giving them a new one. It is not enough to challenge an old narrative, however outdated and discredited it may be. Change happens only when you replace one story with another."
Useful abbreviations for the time-pressed online reader - cartoon by Tom Gauld in The Guardian, Review, 9 September 2017, p 12. "TL:DR - Too long: didn't read. VS: SDR - Very short: still didn't read. SR:PW - Should read: probably won't. RB:GB - Read a bit: got bored. SR:MP - Skim-read: missed point. RH:PAC - Read headline - posted angry comments."
Bread for All: how Britain is regressing to the early 19th century - review by Stefan Collinin in The Guardian. "The story of Beveridge and his report and Aneurin Bevan and his National Health Service is by now a familiar and impressive one, and Renwick retells it well. There is, however, a deeper level that can be excavated, which is to explore how the practical concern to alleviate or prevent the sufferings of the poor came to be bound up with – and, intellectually, to depend on – two conceptual breakthroughs that are among the salient achievements of the age. The first hugely consequential intellectual advance was the development of macro-economics and the idea that the state was in some sense responsible for managing the economy as a whole.... The second crucial conceptual achievement was the working out of the rationale for progressive taxation. This, too, was essentially a New Liberal not a socialist idea. Socialism was focused on achieving social justice through nationalisation of the means of production and the redistribution, or even confiscation, of large concentrations of wealth. The argument about progressive taxation, by contrast, rested on the insight that the achievements of individuals, including their financial rewards, were always dependent on the collective operation of society and social experience, whether in the form of infrastructure, public order and the legal system, or shared knowledge, cultural resources and moral attitudes.... One enormously valuable effect of the New Liberal argument was to cast doubt on the absoluteness of the everyday distinction between public and private money. We now get in a great lather when individuals are paid sums of “'public money', while we tacitly accept the vastly greater rewards of executives and financiers because that is 'private money'. But it’s not. All such wealth is in part socially created, and there is no intellectually reputable defence for the astronomical 'rents' that figures in the corporate and banking worlds extract from their advantageous positions."