Learning © John MacPherson


I like the #phonar idea. Open access to learning, compelling content, great tutors, and talented guest lecturers who are working experts in their respective fields. All the things I did not experience in college.

There’s a great article on the BBC News site today, by Phil Coomes, exploring the success of online learning and why it matters. And it does matter. At a time when image-makers are almost expected to provide their ‘product’ for free, there’s a delightful irony in the concept of an online photography undergraduate course thats not only free to access, but will teach you that your work is valuable.

Jonathan Worth, one of the #phonar tutors says:

“In a world where everyone with a smartphone is a potential supplier of image content, I had to work out what I did that was different, and it turns out there’s a whole bunch of stuff both as an artisan and as a mediator and publisher.

“On a personal level I also found out that this stuff has applications in other areas too – education being a case in point, where I realised the real thing of value was not the knowledge but the learning experience. The message of that experience is amplified by opening it up – hence the success of the open classes.”

Course participant Larissa Grace’s comments eloquently sum up precisely why this type of learning opportunity matters:

I am dyslexic, and through my time in education it has been a battle. At Coventry University they helped me understand that dyslexia can be a positive attribute in this multimedia world that is being created by us around us.

I learnt that reading and writing weren’t the only way to communicate and that visual language, audio and limited writing can for many people be an even better way of communicating. They taught me how to use images, sounds and video to tell a story.

I might not be able to write a sentence or even read it, but I can communicate powerfully through the visual language. I have used sound, images and videos to document issues of personal interest to me and to help others understand better. My most recent work was to publish a piece of work that gave voice to students in education with dyslexia.

Through my work with #phonar I have learnt the world is filled with lots of different people and we all think and learn differently. Coventry University has shown me it doesn’t matter what disability you have, anything is possible. I truly believe if it was not for the great staff I wouldn’t be standing here today with a degree, they believed in me. I will carry on my storytelling work on issues that are important to me and hopefully make them proud.

The above quote should be printed out and stuck on the classroom door of every educator to remind them: “we all think and learn differently”.

John MacPherson was born and lives in the Scottish Highlands. He trained as a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before completing an apprenticeship as a carpenter, and then qualified as a Social Worker in Disability Services. Along the way he has cooked on canal barges, trained as an Alpine Ski Leader & worked as an Instructor for Skiers with disabilities, been a canoe instructor, and tutor of night classes in carpentry, stained glass design and manufacture, and archery. He has travelled extensively on various continents, undertaking solo trips by bicycle, or motorcycle. He has had narrow escapes from an ambush by terrorists, been hit by lightning, caught in an erupting volcano, trapped in a mobile home by a tornado, kidnapped by a dog's hairdresser, rammed by a basking shark and was once bitten by a wild otter. He has combined all this with professional photography, which he has practised for over 35 years. He teaches photography and acts as a photography guide & tutor in the UK and abroad. His biggest challenge is keeping his 27 year old Land Rover 110 on the road. He loves telling and hearing stories.

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