Monday, July 27, 2009

Still transforming after all these years

Robin Kinross recently published The Transformer, an essay by Marie Neurath supplemented by his own writings on the subject. It is a beautifully produced and timely contribution - timely given the growing interest in the work of the Isotype Institute. But make sure you ask for 'The Transformer: principles of making Isotype charts', and not 'Transformers - all hail Megatron' or 'Transformers - revenge of the fallen'.

Many years ago when I worked for the Open University, we took the Isotype concept of the transformer role, and applied it in the new community education courses being developed. They were on topics such as parenting, health, and retirement. To help the specialist academics write in an accessible way, we set up processes that encouraged them to write in page units - each topic had to be a single page or a double-page spread. They had to write a series of linked stories, which had to be within a recommended word limit, and accompanied by a sketched layout of how they anticipated them appearing on the page. The idea was to stop academics from simply expounding on their topic, and to help them imagine a reader with a busy life who needed to support from the visible structure of text to help them read strategically and actively. So the transformer role was partly accomplished by people, and partly by processes.

Pam Shakespeare (now Professor of Practice Based Open Learning) gave her inaugural lecture at the OU last week, and I went over to hear her. I hadn't previously realised that the transformer idea had made any kind of lasting impact, but it seems to have. A video of her lecture is online at (it starts about 6 minutes into the video).

Sunday, July 05, 2009

No fun

More notices

I suppose 'deep' is a relative term.

I think if there really are quicksands here, we need a greater sense of alarm in this notice. Both signs seen along the Thames Path in Gloucestershire last week.