TU100 Weekly Newsletter – 22nd October

Well, it’s going to be a short newsletter from me this week because now that the deadline for TMA01 has passed for you… the deadline for getting your assignments marked and returned is ticking away for me!  Well… shortish anyway!

Tutor Group Activity

If you haven’t popped in to our online tutor group forum yet, please do.  There’s an activity running as we speak which you’ll need to take part in for TMA02.  It’s already shaping up to be an interesting discussion – lots of great contributions already, but plenty more to be said on the topic of ‘Facebook – Love it or Hate it’, so head on to our forum (login required) and take part!  The activity itself runs from Thursday 20th October to Thursday 3rd November and the details of what you need to do are here

TMAs – the marking and feedback process

I also thought it might be useful for you to have a quick overview of what’s involved in marking and feedback.  My approach is that I gradually download TMAs from the eTMA system as they come in.  I don’t like to start marking until the deadline has passed.  After that, I get marking which takes a bit of preparation.  I look at the tutor notes we’re given, I read through your assignments, think about the general messages of feedback I need to give then get marking.  When I give marks, I do so after I’ve given feedback – so they’re as thoroughly considered as I can.  I include feedback in two main places.  First on a copy of your TMA which you’ll find included when I return your submission and with the word _MARKED included in its file name and secondly in the PT3 which comes in the form of a web page (also included with your submission).  Both of these give feedback – specific feedback in the marked assignment and more general tips and things to think about in the PT3.  If you have a look at ‘Getting it Back‘ it talks you through some approaches for what to do with your marked TMA and you might find that helpful to have a look through while you’re waiting!

Because I work full-time it can take me up to two weeks to mark and return assignments – but you’ll get an email to let you know that it’s ready, so don’t feel you have to keep checking the system!  It’ll let you know!

This week’s study

The intriguingly named ‘Geography is History’ forms Block 1, Part 4.  From the technical stuff behind the internet to seeing what happens when you go to retrieve data from a website and get to see whether geography matters to other TU100 students.  There’s also a little on the question of whether or not mobile phones are safe… which makes this article from The Guardian very timely!

Right… off to do some more marking!

Have a great week


TU100 Day School 1 – Block 1, Parts 2 and 3

Today was the first of the Day Schools for TU100 and it involved a trip to Derby rather than my normal venue of Nottingham.  I covered materials from Block 1, Parts 2 and 3 and the main areas were a little on the evolution of computers, Moore’s Law, exponential growth, counting in binary, the basics of HTML and finally evaluating web resources.  A whirlwind tour through most of those!

The slides from the morning are here:

… and you’re welcome to download them if you like – just follow the link to the Slideboom website and you can get hold of a copy.

There’s also some more information on the PROMPT criteria – what that means and what you’re looking for available in this document… so again, dowload if you’d like.  We tried out using the PROMPT criteria on a page from ‘The Guardian‘ online and it was a thought-provoking experience as we considered each element against the purpose of why we’d discovered the site in the first place, i.e. what was the purpose of our search and what factors would be of particular importance? 

PROMPT.doc Download this file

The activities we did were mainly discussion-based or used paper (the ‘Retro HTML’ activity where everyone created a paper-based ‘web page’ by rearrange some words and HTML tags which were printed on little pieces of paper).  We also talked about the limits of exponential growth by doing an activity where we tried to keep on folding in half a piece of paper – and found that despite the exponential growth, a physical limit restricted its continuation.  Worth bearing in mind when looking at growth which is rocketing upwards – where are the limits and what might be the limiting factors?

All good fun!

TU100 Weekly Newsletter – 15th October

Week 3 of the module has arrived and with it… the first TMA is rolling around on the 20th. I’ll look ahead slightly to the forthcoming week of study, but we’ll also have a few TMA tips to help build confidence as well.

Oh, and thank you to those who took part in the discussion on your first computers. We had a great range of computers mentioned – and lots of memories stirred! Plenty of highlights… especially seeing the computer that Andrew got out of the loft! Great stuff!

The week ahead
In terms of studying and given that last week included things like exponential growth, Moore’s Law and binary to decimal conversions… this week should be nicely straightforward! It looks at the web, a little on HTML and then touches on RSS. I produced a little video on RSS and how news readers work a few years ago and it’s at  if you want to take a look – it summarises what Google Reader does and might be helpful!

Tutor Group Activity
Activity 16 involves our Tutor Group Wiki. I’ve set up the pages ready for you to have go at this. If you’ve never used a wiki before, then get editing! It’s all about collaboration and contribution… plus the ideas you guys share should be helpful all round!

TMA tips
Right – the first TMA for TU100. I was asked about writing style for this assignment and when you’re asked how *you* manage to organise your notes, talk from the first person, ‘When I take notes I…’ etc. For the second question where it talks about paraphrasing, there is a link to the Developing Good Academic Practice site – and writing in your own words is particularly relevant too. You might also find that http://www.open.ac.uk/skillsforstudy/paraphrasing.php is a useful article on paraphrasing so give that a quick look through as well. 

The TMA itself is half the size of a normal TMA and this is a great opportunity to check how you’re doing and break the ice with the assignments. Use the assignment itself as a checklist – go to the printable version of TMA01 (OU login required), print it out and physically cross off the sections as you do them. Highlight the key words for each part – for example ‘make notes’, ‘the main points’, ‘use bullet points or a spray diagram’ etc – this will help you to stay focused on the question. Also, have a go at all of it – ou won’t get marks for sections that you don’t attempt whereas you might pick up a few if you have a go!

If you are having any problems with the TMA, please give me a shout – you have my email address so do use it. Any extension requests before the cut-off date for the TMA… and make sure you submit your assignment as a .doc or .rtf rather than a .docx file.

Signing off now with a final good luck for TMA01! Midday on the 20th of October and your first assignment will be done. What a nice feeling that’ll be!

What is the first computer that you remember using…

Block 1, Part 2, Activity 1 (link requires Open University authentication) asks the following:


What is the first computer that you remember using? It could be anything from the personal computer (PC) you are using to study TU100 to one you used at work or owned/shared/borrowed in the past. If possible, you should identify the make of the computer, describe it and, if you can, say when you first used it. Can you add anything about your experience – for example, how easy and intuitive to use it was?


Thinking back over my own experience the first computer I remember using was a BBC Micro.

BBC Micro

I guess it must have been in about 1984 / 85 and I have a vague recollection of it being when I was at Primary School.  I don’t think we were using it for anything complex – though I do remember typing stuff into it for the ‘Doomsday Project‘ about my village (Uley in Gloucestershire).  If you look at that website, you can see how basic the typing and content was.  Plain text and that was that!  After the BBC Micro, I don’t think I used a computer at school… even into Secondary School* and only started using them when I went to University.



* this is not strictly true.  I managed to do a 6 week course on word processing when I was about 15 and spent 3 weeks of that unable to do anything at all because my computer was ‘broken’ and wouldn’t do anything when I pressed the buttons on the keyboard.  

On week 4, the teacher turned the computer on for me.  big grin


TU100 Weekly Newsletter – 8th October

… and on to week 2 of TU100!

This week’s studying

A range of things are covered in this week’s materials.  From note-taking to the first computers and beyond.  We’ve also got a bit of maths tucked away in there too and if you haven’t heard of binary before or have wondered what the idea behind counting in 1’s and 0’s is – this week you’re find out.  If nothing else, by the end of the week you’ll understand this joke…  “There are 10 types of people in the world… those who understand binary and those who don’t”!  Or at least roll your eyes appropriately!

TMA01 and iCMA51

We’ve got just over a week until TMA01 is due in and the module materials suggest that you attempt iCMA51 in the week before the due date… so… head on to http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/resourcepage/view.php?id=560429 and have a look at what you need to be doing.  It explains how the iCMAs work, what they count for and how many attempts you can have.  Though you need to do all iCMAs to pass the course, they’re what are known as ‘formative’ assignments.  They’re there to help you learn, to check your understanding and it’s a fairly pressure-free way to see how you’re doing generally!  With TMA01, again, keep an eye on it.  The note taking work you’ll do at the beginning of Block 1, Part 2 will help enormously here.  If you have any problems at all with it though, give me a shout either in our tutor group forum or via email.  

Tutor Group Forum

So, just about everyone has popped in to say hello in our tutor group forum, which is excellent.  If you haven’t yet managed to do so, then please stop by as it would be great to see you.  In this week’s materials Block 1, Part 2, Activity 1 asks you the following:

What is the first computer that you remember using? It could be anything from the personal computer (PC) you are using to study TU100 to one you used at work or owned/shared/borrowed in the past. If possible, you should identify the make of the computer, describe it and, if you can, say when you first used it. Can you add anything about your experience – for example, how easy and intuitive to use it was?

… and then asks you to share your response to the activity in our tutor group.  I’m going to kick us off with it – so just reply to my message.  I’ll be interested to see what everyone’s ‘first’ was!

Other tech news

Well, you can’t have failed to see in the news that Steve Jobs has died.  No matter what you think of Apple and its computers, the impact they’ve made on the way we view technology has been enormous.  There are the ’10 best tributes’ available from The Guardian online at http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/oct/06/steve-jobs-the-best-tributes and it’s worth a look – technology is full of innovators who found a way to make the mundane make a difference.  Steve Jobs falls very definitely into that category.  Plenty of food for thought there.

Day Schools

Oh, and finally… a little push for the Day School next weekend – 15th October.  There are a range of Day School locations to choose from – Nottingham to Leicester, Lincoln to Derby.  They’ll cover TMA01, iCMA51 and Block 1 Parts 2 and 3.   I’ll be covering the afternoon portion of the Derby Day School and you’re welcome to come if you’d like, however, the Nottingham one is probably going to be more convenient for you (or Lincoln if you’re further East) – so if I don’t see you next weekend, I’m sure you’ll still be getting plenty of benefit from as least one of the Day schools!

Have a great TU100-shaped week!

TMA00 – The ‘Dummy’ TMA

We’re a couple of weeks away from TMA01 (the first of the module’s assignments) and in preparation for that, if you’d like to submit the Dummy TMA – TMA00 – then please do.  The idea is that it’s there for you to test getting an assignment through the system, and for you to see what the marking process is like.  If you have any problems, then this is a nice safe way to see what’s what and sort them out before the first ‘real’ TMA in a couple of weeks’ time.  Just submit a .doc file and if you’d like to tell me what you’re looking forward to in the module and what you’re concerned about – please do – otherwise write anything you fancy and that’s fine too!

What I would say is that if you do decide to submit the Dummy TMA, that you drop me a quick email to let me know you’ve done so.  Unlike the other TMAs the system doesn’t notify me that you’ve submitted anything, and without that, I don’t always notice that they’re there very quickly!

All those who’ve submitted TMA00, I’ve picked them up, ‘marked’ them and returned them.  Anyone else – drop me an email when you’re done, and I’ll whizz them back to you as soon as I can!

BBC News – HTC ‘investigating’ security flaw uncovered by blogger

HTC is investigating claims that a security flaw in several of its mobile phones means personal information is being exposed.

The Android Police blog says a file containing a user’s GPS location and email addresses can be easily accessed once internet permissions are granted.

Several models are said to be affected, including EVO 3D, EVO 4G, Thunderbolt and potentially the Sensation range.

Mobile security and personal information – will be interesting to see how quickly this is resolved