Several people here at Making Connections are taking photographs of slides in presentations using their digital cameras. Don't mind that at all. But there's a certain irony in the fact that these cameras make artificial noises - beep, beep, clickety click, beep, beep, clickety click, beep, beep, clickety click, which disturbs people around them. This to me comes under the heading of politeness as I have blogged elsewhere - do please take photos, but do please switch the sound off. It's your toy, you ought to know how to use it. I twittered this and was told by somebody else that they thought the sound could not in fact be switched off on some cameras, and in fact it was illegal, they thought, in some jurisdictions to take photos silently because of privacy issues. I'd like to know if that's true, but if that is the case then the owners of those cameras should not be using them in a situation where they disturb other people.
Early in the nineteenth century some more enlightened business owners started funding teaching for their workers. They realised that workers were more productive if they understood what they were doing. This was the beginning of things like the Mechanics' Institutes, and the knowledge that men learned there - maths, physics, engineering - was called "useful knowledge". It had to be "useful" of course or there was no reason to pay for it.
Later in the nineteenth century the workers began to demand a different kind of learning. They wanted to know about why it was that businesses worked the way they did. They wanted to know about their place in the world. They wanted to know about their relations to other peoples and about the human condition. They wanted politics, economics, philosophy. This was the birthplace of organisations like the Workers' Educational Association, which still carries on that philosophy today, both nationally and internationally. And ultimately they were ancestors of the Open University and its open admissions policy.
To distinguish this knowledge from the knowledge they learned on their bosses' behalf, they called it "really useful knowledge".
They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. They are completely wrong. We all have only a little knowledge. The dangerous thing is being satisfied with that.
I am now retired after teaching online with the OU since 2000. I now have more time for useful things like sorting my stamp collection. I do bits and pieces of work for the Liberal Democrats. I still mourn the loss of Lewes's best ever MP, Norman Baker. I am usually online for about ten hours a day, living in my airing cupboard much of the time. Despite this I have a healthy skin colour and do not lack for company.