A-Z of my year – 2018

I first wrote a post like this in 2016.  I didn’t write one last year. Here is one for this year. It has seemed more difficult this year than in 2016, but perhaps that’s just my memory, or perhaps it’s because I am in Kerala, away from home and access to some of my resources.


A – A better year than 2017. Announcing one family wedding for 2019 and one family engagement

BBettyBaymaas Homestay

CCotswolds. Cycling. Caring

DDurham with Lisa

EE-Learning 3.0Existentialism. Ethics. Epistemology

F – Fifty. This year’s number.

GGolden wedding. Garden. Good friends

HHexham. House improvements. Hot summer

IInclusion paper published.  India

J – John, my future son-in-law

KKerala. Kitchen renovation

L Lanzarote. Lisa’s visit 


N No Things. This year’s most intriguing idea.

O – Offers made on two houses, but we are not moving yet

P – Philosophy. Physiotherapy

Q – Questioning the meaning of life and death

RRome. Retirement?

SSedberghScampston Walled Garden. Speke Hall 

TThe Trossachs. Tennis Elbow

U –  Uncertainty

VVatican City 

W –  Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Watering the garden this summer. Weight-training

X –  eXtravagant holidays for a special year


Z – zzz – time to end this year and this post.

A-Z of authors I have learned from this year


To follow my last post – A-Z of my year – I have been thinking about my reading this year.

Unlike the last one, this A-Z is not a complete list. For some letters of the alphabet there is more than one author. For others, there are none. Nearly all these references relate to my work, but a few are related to personal interests. Only one is a novel.

I have read a lot more than this over the year, many more journal papers and novels, not to mention many blogs. Several of the references listed here are not new to me, i.e. I have not read them for the first time this year. I have included references that stand out as having in some way influenced my thinking this year. The references have, in some cases, also been selected because for one reason or another the author has been significant in my learning this year. For many authors I could have selected more than one paper. Unfortunately, I have had to be selective, so the list doesn’t do justice to all who have influenced me, but it has been interesting to compile.

Here is my list.


Ashwin, Paul – Analysing Teaching-Learning Interactions in Higher Education: Accounting for Structure and Agency


Baggaley, Jon – MOOC Postscript

Barnett, Ron – A Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty

Bates, Tony – Teaching in a Digital Age

Bayne, Sian & Ross, Jen – The Pedagogy of the Massive Open Online Course: the UK View

Biesta, Gert – The Beautiful Risk of Education


Cilliers, Paul – Complexity, Deconstruction and Relativism


Downes, Stephen – OLDaily  and Half an Hour 

Dwyer, Sonya & Buckle, Jennifer – The Space Between: On Being an Insider-Outsider in Qualitative Research 


Edwards, Richard – Knowledge Infrastructures and the Inscrutability of Openness in Education

Esposito, Antonella – Research Ethics in Emerging Forms of Online Learning: Issues Arising from a Hypothetical Study on a MOOC


Farrow, Robert – A Framework for the Ethics of Open Education


Gourlay, Lesley – Open Education as a ‘Heterotopia of Desire’ 


Haythornthwaite, Caroline – Rethinking Learning Spaces: Networks, Structures, and Possibilities for Learning in the Twenty-First Century


Knox, Jeremy – Posthumanism and the Massive Open Online Course 


Littlejohn, Allison, et al. – Learning in MOOCs: Motivations and Self-Regulated Learning in MOOCs


Marshall, Stephen – Exploring the Ethical Implications of MOOCs

McGilchrist, Iain – The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Melcher, Matthias – Connectivist Think Tool


Noddings, Nel – Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education


Osberg, Deborah & Biesta, Gert – The Emergent Curriculum: Navigating a Complex Course between Unguided Learning and Planned Enculturation 


Polit, Denise & Beck, Cheryl – Generalization in Quantitative and Qualitative Research: Myths and Strategies


Raffaghelli, Juliana – Methodological Approaches in MOOC Research: Retracing the Myth of Proteus 

Rolfe, Vivien – A Systematic Review of the Socio-Ethical Aspects of Massive Online Open Courses 

Ross, Jen – Speculative Method in Digital Education Research 


Sousanis, Nick – Unflattening

Sharpe, Rhona – 53 Interesting Ways to Support Online Learning

Snowden, David & Boone, Mary – A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making


Tschofen, Carmen – first novel completed


University of Edinburgh – 2016 Manifesto for Teaching Online


Veletsianos, George & Shepherdson, Peter – A Systematic Analysis and Synthesis of the Empirical MOOC Literature Published in 2013-2015 


Weller, Martin – The Art of Guerrilla Research  

Wenger, Etienne – Learning, Technology and Community. A Journey of the Self

Williams, Roy – The Resonance Project

A-Z of my year


At this time of year my cousin sends me an A-Z of her year on a long slip of bright yellow paper inserted in a Christmas card. It is lovely to receive and in just a minute or so I have a very good idea of what her year has entailed and what her numerous interests are. This is a very good way of quickly reflecting on the year, what has been done, what has been achieved and more importantly what has been valued. It surprises me that I have done more than I would have realised had I not gone through this process.

Here is an A-Z of my 2016

A Anglesey in April

B Bosch (Hieronymus) in The Prado, Madrid

C Cross Bay Walk, Collaborators, Choir

D David Hockney at the Royal Academy, Dulwich Art Gallery

E Exercise

F Friends, Family

G Glass Cutting,  Grids Gestures

H House hunting, Holy Island

I Imposter syndrome

J Jutta visits

K Kielder Water

L Lisa in Durham, Life Drawing

M Madrid, McGilchrist, Materiality of Nothing

N Networked Learning Conference, Northumberland

O Open vs closed

P Pendle Hill, Publishing

Q Questions, more than answers

R Raby Castle, Research

S Seventy – this year’s number, Sheep fold by Andy Goldsworthy

T Tate Modern, Triathlon 

U Universities 

V Volkswagen Transporter

W Westminster Abbey, Writing, Waiting

X  X-rays

Y Year – a good one

Z Zest – for life

ALTC2013 Blogging connections

One of the pleasures of ALT-C 2013 for me was that I discovered/met two readers of this blog who I was not aware of.  These contacts were very meaningful for me and from them I was reminded of two reasons why blogging works for me.

1. Blogging for me is about personal reflection. One of these two readers told me that for him his blogging days had dried up two years ago. I can easily relate to that because I go through phases when I feel that I have nothing to say/write about, which always brings to mind a comment that I once heard Stephen Downes make (or it might have been write) – that if you have nothing to write about then you can’t be a very interesting person. I remember feeling completely demoralized by this – but on reflection I don’t think it’s true. Writing/blogging is not for everyone. There are many ways of expressing oneself and reflecting on practice, and many of these ways will not be in the public eye.

I’m not sure why I persevere with blogging, but at ALT-C I did say to the person who was kind enough to comment that he enjoyed reading my blog, that I use my blog as a place for recording my thinking and reflection. I often feel uncomfortable about it, but for now the benefits seem to outweigh the tensions I feel between privacy and exposure.

And when I’m really on a roll, for me Jackson Pollock’s sentence –  “When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing” could equally apply to blogging.

“When I am in my blogging, I’m not aware of what I’m doing”

2. Blogging props up my appalling memory. The other person I met who reads my blog, reminded me of a post which I myself didn’t remember. I have long been aware that I have a very poor memory and blogging is a way of making sure my thinking is recorded – a sort of memory bank. I think Lisa Lane once described blogging as a tool for compensating a failing memory – or words to that effect. I rarely read back through my blog, but I am sometimes surprised in the stats by the posts that people are reading and so go back to remind myself about what I was thinking at the time.

I have recently realized that perhaps I should make more effort to organise my blog in such a way that it would be easier to remember what I have written. This was sparked off by Matthias Melcher’s new blog – where he has a wonderfully organized Contents page.

Since Matthias recently moved his blog to this WordPress site and set up this contents page, we have been discussing how tagging might be able to help me and others find and remember what I have on my blog. I have been aware for some time that my tags are a mess, which is why I don’t have a tag cloud in the side-bar, but I have not yet sorted out a way forward out of this mess.

In the meantime, it has been great to make two new connections through this blog.

#fslt12 MOOC Week 1 starts today, 21-05-12

The MOOC is off to a really good start. We have around 120 people registered on the WordPress and Moodle sites and about 16 interested in being assessed. And there are likely quite a few more following the course without registering.

Activity in the Moodle forums last week, particularly in response to the question ‘What is learning for you?’ indicates a real interest in the issues surrounding learning. Discussion has covered aspects of the process and product of learning, transformative learning and threshold concepts – worth reading if you haven’t already visited the Moodle site (you do have to enrol in the Moodle site though, if you want to add to discussion). See http://openbrookes.net/firststeps12/moodle/

This week the focus is on Reflective Practice. Some people have already set up their blogs and started this activity which is:

We suggest that in this first week you reflect on your overall experience to date as a teacher; what kinds of students have you taught, what have you discovered from the experience, and what have you most enjoyed in your teaching?

We have also suggested that Stephen Brookfield’s lenses might be a good place to start when thinking about reflecting on learning and teaching – beginning perhaps with the autobiographical lens. There are some resources on this in Week 1 of the Moodle site – http://vle.openbrookes.net/mod/page/view.php?id=67

For those who have chosen to be assessed the activity is linked to UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in Higher Education 2011 http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/ukpsf/ukpsf.pdf  All the details are on the Moodle site

Also this week we have our first live session. We have allowed 2 hours for each of these sessions. The idea is that our Speakers (this week George Roberts and Rhona Sharpe, from Oxford Brookes University) will give us a presentation during the first hour and then we can use the second hour to discuss course issues, particularly those concerning assessment.

Looking forward to following the discussion in various locations.

#PLENK2010 Reflective Learning

Reflective learning came up in the weekly round up Elluminate session today and Stephen asked Rita to expand on her understanding of reflective learning. It was one of those situations, where I was so busy trying to find my own response to Stephen’s question, that  I completely dropped out of Elluminate into my own thoughts – so apologies if this post crosses or repeats what has been said.

Every year I work, as a tutor on an online distance learning reflective learning course ( a short course – only 4 weeks), run by Oxford Brookes University,  which is based on the work of Jenny Moon and on which Jenny Moon is a tutor. The course is usually fairly small, numbers below 20, which is ideal for the subject, but we get participants from around the world, and it is always highly thought provoking and stimulating. People who attend the course already have a deep interest in the reflective learning process, and I love the course because I learn so much from them.

Today Stephen asked Rita to explain what she meant by reflective learning. This is a question that we ask our course participants, and which I have thought about deeply, since as a tutor on the course, I also share my own definition. My definition has developed a bit over the years, according to the reading I have done and also in response to participants on the course who have sometimes challenged my definition – but currently this is my thinking:

‘My own understanding (I hesitate to use the word ‘definition’) of reflection/reflective learning is that it is the process of thinking about my own thinking, actions or learning, with a view to gaining a deeper understanding of them and improving them, so that I can see the evidence in changed behaviour. This thinking will also involve examining my emotional response and how my feelings have influenced my thinking, actions and learning. To make this reflection significant, I need to mark it in some way, by talking about it or better still recording it in written form. Finally, I need to revisit the marked events at some later stage and note whether my learning has improved/moved on.’

This definition is based on the work of Jenny Moon and also on the work of John Mason, who have influenced my thinking and to whom I am grateful for their insights.

  • Moon J (2006) Learning Journals. Routledge Falmer
  • Moon J (2005) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning. Routledge Falmer

Every year, I keep a blog in conjunction with the course  – Reflective Learning with Reflective Learners. The next course will run March 2nd to April 2nd 2011. Although it is only short, it is intensive and I always learn a lot from the course participants, which helps to keep my thinking about reflective learning alive and prevent me from forgetting its relevance to teaching and learning in general.

Reasons for blogging

I was interested in Mike’s  ten minute blog post about why he blogs. I can relate to a lot of what he has written. In particular I find these paragraphs describe exactly how I feel:

I blog because it helps me explore, self-assess,  reflect and document my current intellectual state.  This includes concepts I’m grappling with, ideas that I’m exploring, research I’m conducting, or support I’m attempting to lend to others.

As wierd as it sounds, when time passes and I’m not able to do this I start to grow out of touch with my own intellectual state.  Ideas start to fade, continuity becomes disrupted, concepts to explore rise and then disappear unresolved.  The end result is I feel less on the ball, more reactionary, and more cognitively disquiet.

I have always seen blogs as a tool for reflection and I define reflection and reflective learning as ….

…the process of thinking about my own thinking, actions or learning, with a view to gaining a deeper understanding of them and improving them, so that I can see the evidence in changed behaviour. To make this reflection significant, I need to mark it in some way, by talking about it or better still recording it in written form. Finally, I need to revisit the marked events at some later stage and note whether my learning has improved/moved on.

But in a public blog the reflective process can be compromised by writing for an audience. This thought has a arisen because today I met my brother in-law for lunch, who for some reason had Googled me and of course, as you will know, he came up with pages of my blog posts. I find this a really embarrassing aspect of public blogging. My brother-in-law thought that anyone who needed to blog, must also have a need to be noticed! This line of thinking was a bit of a shock to me. Is it true and even if it is, does it matter?

I do find the whole ‘exposure’ aspect of blogging difficult to deal with. In this post, for example, are my concerns about blogging and the related exposure of interest to anyone else but me? I don’t think I ever make a post without wondering whether it is too trivial, or will it be of interest to anyone, or whether I should just keep my thoughts to myself. And when I think about these things too much I get writer’s block and can’t write anything.

But I do enjoy blogging. Actually, it not so much the blogging, it’s the reflective process that I enjoy. And having tried blogging both ways, privately and publicly, public blogging does have its rewards in the connections you can make to others and the discussions that you can engage in. It’s difficult in private blogging to move your thinking on, when there is no-one to challenge you or promote further thinking.

So, for now, I’ll keep marking these random thoughts, in the hope that from time to time they will amount to something!

How fast should the connections be firing?

George’s weekly blog summary has just come through on my email (his elearnspaces one – elearnspace’s) and there’s a great paragraph on slow blogging, which I’m going to reproduce here for future reference.

Everyone should subscribe to Chris Lott’s blog. As I’ve stated before, he’s one of the most thoughtful bloggers I follow. In a recent post, he extols the virtues of slow blogging: “And I like that slow blogging is an explicit antidote to the subtle, pervasive technological determinism that lurks beneath the surface of many geeky conversations focusing on speed, ease, shortening of attention and shrinking of content. I don’t doubt the reality of these points… I just want to make sure we don’t forget that these characteristics are driven by our behavior, not the tools we use, which remain inert whether we sleepwalk through their use or not.” The value of thinking about and understanding a topic deeply is a by product of time. Writing articles for journals can be easily dismissed as “it takes too long” (and it does – the review process is comical in many journals), but there is value in the pace and depth of writing articles. It’s not only the readers that benefit from well-considered articles. The writer is the first benefactor. For a related talk, here’s a short video I recorded while in Australia a few years ago where Geetha Narayanan talks about slow learning.

This idea of ‘slowing down’ crops up over and over again in relation to working online. Looking back through my private reflective blogs (this is the first blog I have ever made public) I realise that I have posts with similar titles such as ‘Slow learning’, ‘The tortoise and the hare’ and so on, in all my blogs.

It also crops up in my work with online learners, who often find the pace too fast and ask for more time to reflect, make sense of and digest new learning. Online learners on my courses have also said that they need more time to ‘nurture’ connections.

But here’s the dilemma. I have found in my online work that there is a fine balance between allowing enough time for learning and reflection and everything that learners have said that they want, and keeping the momentum of the course going. But I work on time-limited courses that I would regard more as groups than networks as they have smaller numbers of participants than on this course and recognisable boundaries.

I hadn’t thought before about whether a network needs a certain momentum to keep it going and how fast the connections need to be ‘firing’. So if I don’t blog on a fairly regular basis, will my connections break?

The writers that George references in his post suggest that blog posts should be about quality rather than quantity, but as they say, quality takes more time to ensure. And remember that George himself has equated the number of connections with intelligence – the more connected you are, the more intelligent, which implies that we also need quantity to be intelligent. (I commented on this in a previous blog post)

I suspect that all networks will have bursts of high speed activity and then have more reflective, slower periods – whereas courses can be fast and intense for the duration of the course, if the course is fairly short.

I am still thinking about this. There seem to be tensions between action and reflection in most learning environments and networks are probably no exception.

PS I am a slow blogger even if its doesn’t lead to quality 😉    Slow Blogging Manifesto