March 19, 2007

British Empire History

The British Empire: Pomp, Power and Post Colonialism or The Nexus of Mars and Mammon

I have just published this book, a (hopefully) thought-provoking work which seeks to break the tyranny of the text book but still the outline of the narrative, debate and controversies for all those new or experienced in the subject.

It’s just £3.50 from here.

April 25, 2006


Writing about Peaking of global oil production from Nicks blog

thoughts on oil

April 24, 2006

Pakistan Army and Quake

Writing about The Enemy Within: The Pakistani Army and the Kashmir Earthquake from Aruni's Blog

This is another article by Aruni (on Saag)

April 18, 2006

Spying for Empire, The Great Game

spying for empire

*Spying for Empire

The Great Game in Central and South Asia, 1757–1947 *

Robert Johnson

‘A superb, compelling tale of intrigue, espionage and deadly manipulation’
Mark Urban, Diplomatic Editor, BBC Newsnight

The Story of the struggle for imperial influence in central Asia

  • Fascinating insight into how the British intelligence networks functioned
  • An engrossing study of individual agents and the politics that governed them

‘The Great Game’ was the struggle between Russia and Britain for imperial influence over southern and central Asia, immortalised by Rudyard Kipling in his novel Kim. For the British, the threat to India’s frontiers compelled them to dispatch diplomats, or more clandestine agents, to survey, map and monitor the approaches to the Indian subcontinent. Anxieties about Russian ambitions in central Asia were magnified by the discovery of military plans and the arrival of ‘shooting parties’ and ‘scientific explorers’ on the mountains adjacent to India’s northern border. The British faced major problems compounded by the unresolved status of Afghanistan, the interception of agents, and the division of opinion in British military and political circles about the real or imagined nature of the Russian threat to India. The situation was further complicated by the instability of the Indian border area, a region through which British and Indian troops would need to operate in wartime, but which was inhabited by bellicose tribesmen who fought the imposition of British rule every step of the way. Spying for Empire gives a fascinating insight into how the British intelligence network worked in the period 1757–1947. It also examines how the intractability of Afghanistan plagued imperial defence planners, and how the threat of conflict with Russia coloured Britain’s dealings with the peoples of south–west Asia.
ISBN: 1–85367–670–5 Publisher: Greenhill Books
Binding: Hardback Pages: 304 Illustrations: 16 pp. of illus.; 4 maps Publication Date: 1/3/2006
Price: £19.99

July 28, 2005

Counter–Terrorism Hotline

In case you need it, the counter-terrorism freephone number is 0800 789 321

Write it into your diary, carry it in your wallet, tell other people.

May 10, 2005

Quick Tips for Revision

Revision is dull, right? So how do you do it faster and more effectively?

Here's some top tips for Humanities and Soc Sci types (hey! what about you scientists?)

1. Don't start with 'content'/data or your file of notes (too depressing)

2. Revisit the key questions of the course and use a mind map to sketch out the questions and their implications (this is fun, lets your brain working on what matters and you can colour it in afterwards – ie procrastination that's useful)

3. Don't revise – review. Spend 10 minute bursts scanning the text. Don't read it slowly, read it fast.

4. Take a break every 50 minutes from these bursts. Sketch out a mind map at the end of each session. The break should be 15 minutes. This will allow your brain to chew it over.

5. When you get back to your desk – do a mind map of the stuff you just did without looking. Add anything new you just thought of.
6. Take a long break every 2 hours and do something like swimming, go for a walk, etc.

7. Reward yourself at the end of the day (eg, big fat cream cake)

8. Reformulate notes under new headings: the approach taken by other scholars/schools of thought; the main debates/points of contention (these offer more chance to argue the case rather than gettibng bogged down with content around issues) and issue outcomes.

9. Be clear on the top three to five arguments on each issue and be able to say these out loud to a friend. If you haven't got a friend, you can buy one at Costcutters (I think?)

10. Keep a record of what you have covered – and congratulate yourself on how much you have done regularly through the day.

so, be happy
: )
Your neighbourhood PDP Co–ordinator

April 25, 2005

Learning Designs and reflective thinking

Writing about Journal writing with confidence reflection from Learning Design

See this for further work

April 21, 2005

Leonardo da Vinci: He would have blogged

Leonardo: Renaissance polymath

Leonardo da Vinci (b. 1452, at Vinci, Republic of Florence d. May 2, 1519, Cloux, Fr.), was perhaps one of the world's greatest. He was an accomplished painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect, and engineer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. His Last Supper _(1495-97) and _Mona Lisa (1503–06) are among the most widely popular and influential paintings of the Renaissance. But it is his notebooks that reveal a spirit of scientific inquiry and a mechanical inventiveness that were centuries ahead of their time, and which continue to fascinate.

There has never been an artist (in the widest sense of the word) who was more fittingly, and without qualification, described as a genius. Like Shakespeare, Leonardo came from an insignificant background and rose to universal acclaim and it was this background that influenced his later development and industry.

Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a local lawyer in the small town of Vinci in the Tuscan region. His father acknowledged his artistic talents and paid for his training, but we may speculate that the strangely self-sufficient tone of Leonardo's mind was not perhaps affected by his early ambiguity of status. He seemed to acquire the industry of the lawyer, but the free thinking and expression of the artist, and this combination appears to have produced an explosion of interests and talents.

The definitive polymath, he had almost too many gifts, including superlative male beauty, a splendid singing voice, magnificent physique, mathematical excellence, scientific daring… the list is apparently endless. This overabundance of talents caused him to treat his artistry lightly, seldom finishing a picture, and sometimes making rash technical experiments. The Last Supper, in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, for example, has almost vanished, so inadequate were his innovations in fresco preparation. But it seems unfair to criticise his innovations.

As far as his qualities are concerned, he had a keen eye and quick mind that led him to make important scientific discoveries, yet he never published his ideas beyond his journals and manuscripts.

He was a gentle vegetarian who loved animals and despised war, yet he worked as a military engineer to invent advanced and deadly weapons, mainly through the need to work. These duties took him away from other experiments that he preferred to work on, especially flight and those areas connected with the heavens.

He was one of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance, yet he left only a handful of completed paintings. In many ways his 'cartoons' (sketches) seem more worthy of their experimentation and observation (they are a testament to enquiry) than to their final execution. His technical expertise has been overshadowed by self-advertising, but bruilliant men like Michelangelo.

But it is the notebooks, above all, which fascinate me. Here, Leonardo poured out his ideas and desiogns. He wrote and revisted, reworked and reformulated. He returned to his observations better informed by these notes and produced some inventions that were so ahead of their time.

It is the epitome of Personal Development Planning – bringing together observation/experience – reflective thought – recording – reviewing – revisiting – reformulating – planning and execution

Annotated Bibliography
MacCurdy, Edward, translator & editor, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Volumes I and II, Reynal & Hitchcock, New York, 1958.
An out-of-print English translation of some of the notebooks of Leonardo, including some high quality reprints of his illustrations. Selections are organized according to topic.
Richter, Jean Paul, editor, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1970.
This is a two-volume translation of some of Leonardo's notebooks. While the content of this translation overlaps somewhat with the MacCurdy volumes, the arrangement and a substantial portion of the text are different. This edition provides Italian transcripts adjacent to the English translations, as well as numerous reprinted drawings and sketches from Leonardo's notebooks. These illustrations are free of copyrighted restrictions.

A Philosophy for one self to plan by: PDP in action!

You scored as Existentialism. Your life is guided by the concept of Existentialism: You choose the meaning and purpose of your life.

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”

“It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”

—Jean-Paul Sartre

“It is man's natural sickness to believe that he possesses the Truth.”

—Blaise Pascal

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...





Justice (Fairness)






Divine Command


Strong Egoism






What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with

April 20, 2005

Design Patterns in learning: Could these ideas be re–purposed?

Design Patterns for Learning and Personal Development Planning

Areas that lead to effective learning (Not exhaustive!)

  • Practical tasks that require thinking about
  • Collecting groups ideas
  • Rehearsal of tasks
  • ‘One to one support’ (diagnostic and prognostic)
  • Deadline-driven tasks or ones that place the learner in a position of responsibility or attention (i.e. presentation, leadership)
  • Re-purposing objects and ideas for one’s own understanding
  • A variety of tasks, linked together or built up in a progression
  • Autonomy in learning style
  • Reflection on
    past practice with an action plan of how to improve it
  • The human voice and audio (with enthusiasm or evident interest)
  • * …and Visuals (A picture paints a thousand words…)

    Areas that students frequently find more problematic

    • Applying concepts
    • Writing extended essays/reports, especially those with technical or conceptual demands which are unfamiliar
    • Remembering a vast content detail but extracting relevant selections
    • Analysis of documentary material and an awareness, in the response, of multiple and differing perspectives
    • Thinking through the options, possibilities and alternatives in problem-solving
    • Exercising some of the ‘skills’ identified in the QAA core specifications document

    Learning Design Pattern/Example of its use

    Text entered around an electronic image/text of a concept by students, then prioritised, leading to discussion. Ind/GW

    Example: Threats to the UK? A satellite image of the UK in 2005 was surrounded by students’ text highlighting economic, terrorist, environmental and other categories of ‘threat’. Lively debate followed. Students reflect on their approach and record it.

    Concept broken down into components and animated using IT. Explanations given by voice at each stage. Students had to confirm and extend the original idea. Ind/GW

    Example: Political ideas
    The core of the concept animated as a series of statements that linked into a wheel. Students asked to extend the diagram in their own heads and explain. The visual elements provided a handrail to understanding.

    Problem solving with a databank of case studies
    A problem/hypothesis set, and students introduced to a databank of case studies. Students asked to select the case studies and comment on their suitability for solving the problem. Ind and PP.
    As a group, students have to cascade the arguments and prioritise their validity. GW
    Students then had to develop their own approach. Ind
    Discuss and record. GW and Ind

    Example: Information in The First World War
    Problem was assessing the effectiveness of wartime propaganda. Databank of images and newspaper extracts. Students analysed the sources and tried to assess their impact. They then tried to extend the research by examining other sources and discussed the correct methodology for this research. The task ended with an extended essay bedecked with embedded images and sources. Could add video clips. Could extend the methodology aspect. Students reflect on their approach and record it.

    Collaboration and Opinion
    A problem is introduced (as a text/image/concept/diagram) and groups are asked to use a message board to solve, redesign or modify the original. Then the groups convene F2F to prioritise and compare with other groups.

    Lecture Voting
    To stimulate participation, students are asked to vote on a range of theses in a lecture (cards issued a la Olympics). The results are calculated by an assistant and posted. Follow up in a seminar.

    Fieldwork simulation
    Students are asked to keep a digital photo diary of the progress of a project/fieldwork or experiment.
    Students then design their own data response questions to accompany their work.
    Students carry out peer review of the work and keep a reflective journal of the project development and their evaluation of it. Ind and GW.

    Comment zone
    Issue a thesis in text form, and ask students to append a ‘comment’ in word (or a blog comments in blogs) at prompted points. Ind.

    Reflection and Plan
    Ask students to reflect upon their approach to a particular research problem. Record these findings. Repeat the process in the next module and compare results in small groups. Ind and GW.

    Real Life Scenario
    Ask students to reflect and discuss their responses to a real life (but artificially generated) scenario. Create a plan or solution as groups or as individuals. Peer review this solution. Consider hosting this On-line

    Newspaper/Journal deadline
    Ask students to present their findings to a problem or situation as a newspaper, journal or e-journal to a strict deadline. Groups can be stratified into a hierarchy that reflects that of a publisher.
    Students reflect on their approach to the problem and their handling of the pressure at the end.

    Prosecution and Defence
    Students are divided into two groups which articulate and defend two opposing theses or designs. Students reflect on the approach of the opposition and offer advice on how their approach be improved. These findings are then discussed.

    Mind mapping
    Students are asked to show relationships between two theses/designs using mind mapping. They are then asked to structure lines of argument.

    Seeding the Seminar
    Students are seeded prior to a seminar with three sets of data/resources which are contrasting and asked to express their opinion on-line, once, prior to a seminar discussion. The quality of that opinion can be assessed, peer reviewed and then written up in an on-line format. LL, Ind and GW.

    Web case study
    Students are presented with a thesis or problem (with clear criteria) and asked to locate a case study solution from a web search. These are then evaluated for their applicability by presentation, peer review and discussion.

    Students are presented with an outline of a thesis or problem. They are asked to formulate improvements to that thesis as an individual which can be presented. The students then reconvene to compare their suggestions and, in light of the discussion, reformulate their own solution. The students then reflect on their method and record it. LL and GW

    Design Challenge
    Students are set a problem and a deadline and asked to create a simulator/game/educational tool for their peers to use.
    LL, Ind and GW

    On-line Formative Assessment tools
    Students are encouraged to engage in on-line formative assessment tools that are available 24/7. These assist students to set their own goals and targets which they share with peers and lecturer. Lecturer uses these to set research challenges appropriate to each student and in line with their development needs.

    Ind – Individual task
    GW – Group work setting
    LL – Led by the lecturer
    F2F – Face to face
    Asst – Assessment
    Cfmn – Confirmation
    PP – Practical planning

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