Archive for November, 2010

Celebrating Lee’s birthday

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Approaching 50 current and former staff and students gathered in the Library yesterday to discuss elements of the Open University’s history. Opening Up The Open University generated a lively debate on issues such as  how successful the University has been in being ‘open’, the relationship between technology and pedagogy, and the impact the OU has had on the world of higher education more broadly.

Those attending also took the opportunity to celebrate Jennie Lee’s 106th birthday, with a cake featuring her photograph. In true OU multimedia style, the day was peppered with audio and visual clips, including from the recently concluded Oral History Project. See other blog posts for more details.

Instruction or construction?

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Perhaps in response to criticisms such as implied in these cartoons (ie that students were isolated and that the television was a badly-used fad) from early on many OU materials sought to minimalise the overt input of the lecturer and encourage learners to construct their own understandings. 

One cartoon features a couple eating breakfast and has the caption ‘it’s the Open University – we’re having a sit-in’ and the other one shows a woman with a fake television holding up a card stating, ‘The cat sat on the mat’. The caption refers to a conversation between the two men in the background: ‘She reckons with this teaching method she has the problem of illiteracy licked’.

In 1972 the intention of a psychology course film of children talking and teachers at work in schools was for the student to hear ‘not the analysis of a lecturer but the actual voices of teachers, children and parents… the filter of the lecturer’s personality has been effectively removed’. A sociology film made in the same year used a hidden camera in a hostel for ‘mental sub normals’. There was little editing as the aim was that students could form their own opinions and use it as a starting point for discussion. In 1976 Arthur Marwick (Professor of History at the OU) argued that his aim was ‘to leave each piece of film to speak for itself without being overlaid by an intrusive commentary’.

Happy Birthday Jennie Lee

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Today is Jennie Lee’s birthday.

Jennie was the Minister in Harold Wilson’s government responsible for setting up The Open University. It would be hard to argue that the OU would exist in its current form without her influence. For more information about her see here.

To celebrate we are hosting a workshop – Opening Up The Open University. For more information see here. There will be a full report of the workshop posted here over the next few weeks.