Gloucestershire

Yesterday I delivered workshops to 22 people over three sessions.

I’d set out to show how the ‘m’ in m-learning could also mean ‘modern’ and not just mobile. Like others I think that the ‘m’ and the ‘e’ before learning needs to disappear – but not just yet. There is still a lot of work to do before we can truly say that ‘learning’ is all encompassing and includes the use of tools and resources appropriate to that learner (those learners) at that time (24/7) and in (or out of) that place.

We did a little texting early on to show how we could engage learners and then tied this activity to Bloom’s Taxonomy. I notice sometimes, when I introduce this, that shoulders sag and wry smiles are glanced at each other. But no matter – I like to think that I deliver it in a palatable way – I was a chef after all. Having fixed Bloom’s in the minds of my groups, I moved on to show how technology need not be a barrier to the delivery of higher order thinking skills. I did this by means of two simple odd-one-out exercises. The first had an easy answer but the second needed thought and discussion before coming to a conclusion. This works well as it allows the groups to become animated, talking to each other and working out (often wrong) answers. They all see/saw the point I’d tried to make and was able, once more, to tie-in the result into Blooms. (For those who’ve seen this: I’ve replaced Bush with Barak!)

We then went back to texting and to an exercise that required the group to evaluate a piece of Shakespeare (the two morning groups had to do the same with a newspaper article). The activity engaged the group at the higher levels of Blooms and I like to think that they understood that once again, the technology was by no means a barrier to the learning that took place. Hopefully they will realise that THEY are the experts in their teaching rooms and that as such it is their job (their skill) to make the learning as valuable and inclusive as possible. Simple thought and preparation are often enough on the one hand, but on the other, an understanding of the available tools is just as essential.

We addressed the current plethora of tools next by looking at various Web 2.0 facilities. The discussion around Web 2.0 (what it is and what it isn’t and what it might do and what it might not) was valuable and I think that each person took a better understanding of blogs/wikis; Web/Web2.0 away with them. They explored the various sites for around 20 minutes. Videojug and MoleTV were favourites of most vocational tutors with builders and hairdressers becoming quite animated at what they found on these sites. MoleTV was a big winner with the practical trades. Others found online Mind Mapping software useful. No one really looked at Flickr or YouTube, although one or two did investigate Delicious.

During two of the three sessions we were able to discuss how these web sites could be made to address our Blooms pyramid and on the third we looked at individual tool types (video camera, MP3 player etc,) and addressed these in the same way. I’m a big believer in going where the learner needs to go at that time and provided it fits my aims to roll with it. The time exploring Web 2.0 sites was very much an example of this. I’d planned a 15-minute session with 10-minute feedback and identification of pedagogical opportunities but the group were so animated and engaged I allowed them the full 25 minutes to explore. They were discussing use across the room anyway!

I thought that the day was a really useful one, with engaged learners throughout. I had prepared too much (as always) and struggled to fit everything in – in fact on two sessions I stopped well short and on the third, we adjusted the session to fit the room. Sadly, the room did not engender group work, which is what I’d planned. But that’s always a difficulty in colleges: computer rooms are for computering and non-computer rooms are designed for ‘stand and deliver’. We need to make more rooms (spaces?) available that offer the opportunity to blend learning activities. Two or three to a computer is not always a bad thing especially if the activity is well planned.

My room was also very very warm – so to the teacher I met at MoLeNET training last year but whose name I have forgotten :-() who loaned me his fan – I must say a hearty ‘thank you’. It was a real life saver. Thank you Gloucestershire College.

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