Battling the inner student
As one reads an OU text, one is supposed to make one's own notes. This is a very effective way to comprehend and absorb information.
But I just can't do it. I am haunted by an inner student with a siren voice, who:
- Is ok with education in theory, but
- forbids starting homework until the last possible moment, and
- absolutely will not countenance the making of notes from printed text. "What's the point of that? You know you will never read them back, even in revision. I mean, it's not like the textbook is going to go away, is it?" she says.
I suspect I am not the only one thus afflicted by this daemon of laziness. But there are ways around.
Write quizzes not notes.
Super Memo is an excellent memorising program that allows you to test yourself daily, playing back questions at special intervals calculated to allow the maximum amount of information be absorbed for the minimum effort. Questions that you flunk come around more often, until they are mastered.
Instead of taking notes, as I read each chapter I condensed it into the form of a quiz using these rules. Then I uploaded the questions to my old Palm Treo smartish phone, ready for use anywhere, anytime.
This technique was acceptable to the inner student, because she has to admit that by creating a quiz that runs on my phone, we were making something new and distinct, and not "wasting time" producing an inferior version of an existing resource. And although she hated the work involved, even she admitted it is worth it to avoid going into the exam underprepared.
Next page: The exam
CASE STUDY: GCSE Physics
Nuffield may have been all about films of falling apples etc but it wasn't as bad as what I'm seeing in my sons GCSE physics papers (admittedly he's only done modules 1,2,3 so far which would also be done by "single science" pupils and I'm assured later modules are more "physicsy"). In GCSE it would more more along the lines of:
Helen has just seen a film about gravity causing apples to fall from trees. Helen also knows an apple counts as one of her "five-a-day" target.
Q1: Helen wonders if gravity causes all "five-a-day" items to fall out of trees - give examples of one that dont
Q2: Helen thinks it might be dangerous if gravity causes an apple to fall from a tree onto her head. Give examples of two ways in which she could keep safe.
Q1 award a mark for any root vegetable or for a fruit such as rasperberry if accompanied by explanation that they normally need to be picked and don't fall off. Also award a mark for Tomato Ketchup if accompanied by explanation that Tomato Ketchup counts as a vegetable and doesn't grow on trees.
Q2 award 1 mark for each of "avoiding sitting under apple trees" and "wearing a protective helmet". Do not award marks for "cutting down all the apple trees" as this would increase greenhouse gases.
Might be of an exaggeration but I think not by much!
We'll miss it when its gone...
8K for a post grad course is a bargain and will be looked at with nostalgia compared to the future costs of a getting higher education.
Anyway what's the alternatives for someone who has already a career in IT with family and mortgage. Go to a university full time? Assuming you can find a place, what are you and your going to live on for the 4 years? Company sponsorship, maybe but difficult to arrange when companies are more likely to looking to lay off than support your educational ambitions.
Exams - A necessary evil and at least it does force you to learn the stuff. Compare that to other "professional" courses where the only requirement is that you look half awake for a few days before being given a certificate that is not worth the paper its written on.
The courses. Yes the update rate could be quicker, buts its costs a lot to print those books you like putting your post its on and even more to rewrite them. I found most useful the "soft" humanity-oriented topics because it was a gap in my IT education and these areas do not change as much as some of the others.Maybe in a few years time when we will be given a complimentary iPad to read our material on it will be better, however until then....
My only real criticism of the courses is that the OU is becoming a Java monoculture. I know the OU is not the only university to suffer this, but it would be nice if there was at least a nod to some of the fringes of computer science such as functional programming languages, etc
Anyway I'm glad like me, Verity enjoyed the experience. The OU is one of those British institutions that shouldn't work but does. It is a greater then the sum of its parts. That's of course until the this government gets its hands on it and sends it to the education market forces grave yard.
>Yup, these are definitely the boys to go to if you want to learn how to make great software.
I find that you can pick that up as you go along. I fully expect to know everything and be perfect the day after I retire :)