Goodbye FE

Harold Wilson

For the last two or three years I have been involved in the mainstream (Further -FE) education sector as a part-time Hospitality Assessor.

But no more.

I left the college that employed me last week and I have no desire to return to the sector as it continues to eat itself up from the inside.

I know that I must sound like an old curmudgeon, but I have spent a good part of my working life in FE, and loved every minute of it – until recently, when the learners/students/apprentices (call them what you like) started to be seen as monetary outcomes, rather than souls to be nurtured, taught and encouraged.

This was just one of the reasons I had for handing in my notice, there were many more, but all were based around the fact that middle managers are squeezed so tight that they really have no time to manage their team, their time or their learners’ academic outcomes.

For the last four months my charges, all level 2 food preparation apprentices, were seen as outcomes to be achieved by half term, when their funded time is up. Their practical (and often pastoral) needs were ignored: well, not ignored exactly, but no one cared whether they were being taught the skills they needed – just that they came into college and that that TICK was put on the register. The permanent staff treated apprentices like vermin.

With that sort of attitude, unchecked by a management more interested in securing and receiving funding I had to leave.

So, goodbye FE, thanks for all the fish.

Yos A mite

Yosemite Sam

Yesterday, I girded my loins and updated the operating system on my Mac Book Pro.

My Mac is a late 2008 model; when I bought it in May 2009 I hadn’t been informed of that fact, nor of the fact that a new model would be released that summer. It came with Leopard (OSX 10.5) installed, but I updated this to Snow Leopard (OSX 10.6) fairly soon afterwards as I was, at the time, surrounded by folks who could support me should things go awry. It was a smooth process and until yesterday I ran with Snow Leopard successfully and without issues. Also see: http://www.computerworld.com/article/2476004/mac-os-x/why-mac-users-still-use-os-x-snow-leopard.html

Over the last five years I’d avoided the transition to Lion, then to Mountain Lion and then to Mavericks, fearing:
A) my own competence in undertaking the task and
B)more importantly – that my Mac was too old to take a bigger, fatter OS. Both fears have been (apparently) unfounded and I am now proudly running Yosemite* (OSX 10.10). Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_OS_X

My brother in law had been using Mavericks on his reconditioned MacBook Air and told me that it was quicker and didn’t drain the battery as much than whatever his machine had when he took it over. Then, last weekend I noticed that he had upgraded again to Yosemite. At the time, I was getting messages from Gmail telling me that my version of Safari was out-of-date and no longer supported, all of which was making me think that my machine was ‘getting on a bit’. So – as I had to stay in the house yesterday – I set too!

First of all (Yorkshiremen note …) the upgrade is free – costs not a jot. The download is about 5.5gig – so it takes some time. I think mine took about an hour to download. But I was working on the machine at the same time so I’m not really sure. Then the time came to INSTALL. I drew my breath and clicked ok.

The installation took quite a while. Once again, I didn’t check the time too closely but I went out for lunch and when I got back it was done all bar the fiddly bits – which are what really took the time.

First of all Safari wanted some TLC. I think because I don’t use Safari as my main browser (I use Firefox and Chrome too)  it was sulking a bit and I had to work out what it was it wanted, before telling it how much I loved it but – no I didn’t want it as my main browser. It took all my bookmarks from Firefox without really asking if I wanted to do that and I had clicked ‘ok’ before I really knew what it was up to. As a result of that I still have a lot of work to do with Safari to make it feel like mine again.

Firefox then threw a sulk and I eventually had to update that too. Which is a good thing. I now feel more in control of my main browser. It settled into Yosemite easily and without changing too much of my interface. I’ve yet to tackle Chrome.

Anything else that needed updating then shouted at me and were easily dealt with, except a couple of Apple things, (3) iLife (products) and iPhoto. The iLife stuff: Keynote, Numbers and Pages are still shouting at me to be updated but when I try they say they are not registered to me (which is untrue – I paid good money for iLife 2009!) – so that’s an ongoing saga. iPhoto on the other hand is simply too old for Yosemite, so i had to go to the App Store and download a new version. Because I have almost 11,000 photos on iPhoto the process of new-version taking over old-version DID take a while, almost two hours. However, when it came out the other side, it did look cleaner, faster and more adjustable.

There are still lots of Yosemite tricks and facilities I have to explore, but I’m happy to have got this far. It promises ‘stuff’ that I can only imagine as I have not yet got a iOS8 phone but I’ll play with the iPad later and see how that goes.

A message fro all this?  Don’t be afraid. Just do it :-)

*That’s Yos em it ee b.t.w. like the park, not Yos A Mite :-)

Digital Students Humble Teacher

Mobile phones – in learning environments

It’s been a while since I posted anything here and for that I’m sorry.

I do have a ‘looking back on 2013′ post drafted ready for posting, but haven’t felt able to send it up, given that it had been hard to get the year into any sort of real perspective. Hey ho …

My life has changed greatly over the last six months or so. Partly due to circumstances and partly due to a resolution to make every day count. Besides being a City and Guilds marker, I am now employed two days a week (15 hours) by the local college to assess second year, level two, Hospitality and Catering apprentices. I’m also employed to deliver Technical Certificate training to year one apprentices – two hours a week on a Tuesday.

It’s the second group that take me right back to my teaching roots. What a wonderful group they are.

I took over the teaching of this group in January; they had had someone else teach them during their first term and that teacher had done a wonderful job of helping them understand the basics of catering theory. With no scheme in place and about one more year left for them to complete underpinning knowledge tests and technical certificate tests I decided to start with commodity theory.

This involves me delivering subjects such as ‘Vegetables’, ‘Meat’, ‘Poultry’ and ‘Fish’ – the classification, preparation, storage, cooking, menu usage, health issues etc. for each commodity up until Easter and then the more in depth issues behind work in the hospitality trades. Week four, this week, saw me delivering the first of their lessons on meat. Trying to practice what I’ve preached for all these years, I’ve tried to involve the group in ‘how’ they learn and we have settled into a relaxed Delivery+Q&A, followed by formative testing, followed by re-cap, followed by Delivery+Q&A and so on mode. They seem responsive to this method and given that we have no access to PCs, other modes are limited.

We actually use the IWB installed in the room. I’m a ‘Smart Board’ man, but the one installed here is ‘Promethean’ – so although I can prepare and use Active Studio – it isn’t as off-the-cuff as it would be with Smart Notepad. However – when I wanted to use it ad hoc last week (to record some student thoughts) but couldn’t immediately remember how to open the notebook facility, the students came up and showed me. There was no problem, no embarrassment, two of them just came up to the board (and the machine), switched Active Studio on, then went back and sat down. I laughed out loud – shows what I know!

Which brings me to this week.

The formative test I’d given them (after a 20 minute introduction to meat PPT, with lots of back and forth chat) asked them (at one point) to name a boned and rolled meat dish. Some of the answers were good, some slightly off kilter and one I had a good snort at! A boned and rolled ox-tail. Really?

Again, I laughed out loud and asked if they had ever seen an ox-tail that hadn’t been cut into chunks? There were some uncertain yes’s and some emphatic no’s – and I had to suggest that ‘boning’ and ‘rolling’ such a joint would be nigh on impossible.

But Dave – we’ve seen Michel Roux Jnr do it on T.V.” 

Again, I said that it was very unlikely and at that point it was like the Gunfight at the Okay Corral – out came about a dozen iPhones and assorted Samsungs and off they went to find the clip on You Tube.

I was humbled. And wrong.

And both feelings were turned to my advantage as teaching points, as the subject matter fitted in well with the lesson, and I was able to point out that when we accept that we are wrong it allows us to learn – no matter what age or position in life we are at.

This wasn’t the first time they had used their phones to add substance to our lessons, individuals frequently trawl the ‘net via their mobile, to find the answers to questions I’ve asked. It’s always a boon when two differing responses are found – allowing me to explore and expand their evaluative skills.

I will now add the Michel Roux clip to my resource bank and offer thanks to the group for opening my eyes. Once again.

CC – All

I have been using email for about a thousand years now, or so it seems.  My early days started in the late nineties with Pegasus Mail at work and goodness knows what at home with Dircon and the like.

It wasn’t rocket science, although at time it felt like it because any problems you usually had to sort out for yourself – we were all learning together. I soon put Pegasus to work (in college) by advertising our student restaurant and shop produce via ‘All Staff‘. And it worked – until some folks got fed up of the emails (“I don’t want them in my inbox – they clutter it up”) and I was asked to put the updates on the newly developed Intranet.

The interest in what was on the restaurant menu and what we had for sale in the shop dropped off immediately because the marketing service had changed from ‘here-it-is‘ to ‘go-and-fetch‘ – very few actually went onto the Intranet and fetched.

So to appease the few who didn’t know where the ‘delete mail‘ button was our ad hoc lunch and shop trade dropped off.

And so it goes on – about fifteen years later, people do still not know where the ‘delete mail‘ button is.

I received an email this week that someone, (someone with no idea how to use BCC or to create an email ‘list’ or ‘group’) sent to everyone they thought was concerned with a particular organisation. The email was sent to about three people (named recipients) and ‘copied’ (cc) to about fifty others (it may have been more, I didn’t count them all – but they scrolled and scrolled). I immediately saw the email for what it was: the named recipients would either ‘reply-all‘ and I’d know the outcome anyway or, (preferably) the named recipients would reply ONLY to the original author – in which case it wouldn’t matter. So I deleted it.

Others though, either not thinking or (more likely) with no clear idea of how email works clicked their ‘reply all‘ button to say “I so agree with you”, or “please remove me from this list”. So not happy with receiving unwanted emails themselves they decided to add to everyone else’s unwanted emails by clicking the ‘reply all‘ button.

Don’t do that!! Simply delete the message.

Once such an email has been sent it is impossible to stop it bouncing around the ether. Please use a group list or if necessary bcc.

Also working on: http://99euroyears.wordpress.com/

Update

 

Gargoyles

I’ve finally made a start on the historical research I mention in the last post – it’s not a huge piece of work, but it’s a start.

http://99euroyears.wordpress.com/about/

I’ve only drafted the ‘About’ page for now as I’m still considering the first post. This will hopefully set out where I hope to begin my research, where I hope to it will take me and why I want to know.


There’s nothing much to report on the work front.

I’m still waiting for something concrete to be arranged on the chance of part-time work at a local college and there is still a chance of working up some online webinar work with a friend, but most of summer has been work-free, apart from some online Functional Skills marking, which has been a godsend (and a delight).

Back to my research.

Keeping up

Three old foggies in BlackpoolI’ve been quite guilty of not keeping up to this blog page for quite a while now. For that I must apologise.

However, I’ve had so few opportunities to work over the last few months that I’ve had little or nothing to reflect upon (or pontificate about). And things are no better now.

I’ve decided to cut my losses and to stop doing face to face work nationally or regionally. I have a couple of half-promises for part time salaried work next (academic) year and the possibility of some online work too – so that will have to do. If the promises and the possibility come off, it will keep me out of mischief.

I’ve always enjoyed my face to face work and it’s what I feel I’m best at – but there is no longer any demand for my services. None of the national agencies that survive have the money to create opportunities and none of the colleges I’ve worked for can afford to buy-in e-Learning expertise. I know that others like me are struggling but they are younger and need to keep looking for work and for work opportunities. I’m coming to the end of my working life and I have no intention of leading myself into an early grave worrying about where the next job is coming from.

So EduVel’s WordPress page may not be published quite as often in the future as in the past. I still have an interest in education and educational technologies – but the current state of education and the institutions that deliver it fill me with rage – so I’m better off backing off (a little)

I intend to spend the spare time I might have learning Spanish and improving my French, and, as a means of keeping the grey matter up to speed, I intend to start researching an important aspect of European history – one that seems to have been neglected in schools (certainly, no one has taught me or my kids about it).

Watch this space.

Many thanks to everyone for contributing to this blog over the years. Your comments have always been welcome. Please feel free to contact me again through the blog comment area, or through one of my email/twitter/facebook contact addresses. I’m not going anywhere – I’m just working on e-Learning stuff a bit less ;-)

Happy Summer.

Book Creator

picture of dilapidated phone box

Phone box, a dying icon

Today I’ve been playing with Book Creator on my iPad.

The App; designed for iPad, can be accessed on the iTunes store at http://bit.ly/10JrgV0

“The simple way to create your own beautiful iBooks, right on the iPad.
Read them in iBooks, send them to your friends, or submit them to the iBookstore. Ideal for children’s picture books, photo books, art books, cook books, manuals, textbooks, and the list goes on. ” [From page]

I became aware of the App during an iPad Academy session I attended last week.  This was presented by Lilian Soon at the University of York, to PGCE students.

I am one of the iPad Academy’s newest registered trainers (working across West Yorkshire, and East Lancashire) and had attended to get a feel for what is expected of a session. We explored a number of Apps (which I may deal with in a later post), but Book Creator was shown to me by someone else attending the session. I immediately saw the potential for this £2.99 App.

So today, after trying it out a few times – simply to get a feel for the menus etc, I set to, to make a book and to see how versatile the App was.  Book Creator allows you to assemble a variety of media and to present these in e-Book (.ePub) format for consumption on the iPad.

First of all Text:

Text is inserted in blocks, in much the same way you might insert text-blocks in older desktop publishing (DTP) software.  A sliding bar allows you to control the font size and a drop-down menu allows choice of font. The usual [B], [I] and [U] are available, along with [colour] and the chance to alter the background colour of the text-block. You are unable to edit less than the full text-block.

book-creatorNext Visual Media:

Inserting images and videos from your iPad library is swift and easy, as is the option to use the iPad camera to record a new image of video clip. Once inserted, the media can be re-shaped and sized with ease.

Next Sound:

You have two options for sound: record it there and then (useful for reading back what you’ve typed into the text-blocks, for accessibility purposes) or, apply a soundtrack to either the first page or all pages. Beware that this can be irritating if you do record an audio version of the text-blocks.

I’d hoped it could be fully accessed via any ePub reader, but it only seems to work in iBooks on the iPad. I’ve tried using an ePub reader on my MacBook Pro and it does show the pictures and allow me to read the text – but the video didn’t appear. So provided you can distribute the book efficiently, it should be a good way of consuming own-made books on the iPad.

Try mine if you like: http://bit.ly/10RIL23

You will probably need to download the file directly onto your iPad, unless you know how to get an ePub file onto it from your computer (another post, another day perhaps: but for now – http://www.apple.com/itunes/inside-itunes/2010/04/using-itunes-to-add-epub-files-to-ibooks.html).

My effort isn’t not much and it is messy, but it shows what can easily be done using this powerful App. Perhaps you could get your learners to CREATE something on their iPads?

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