Back to work

(I’m posting this via Posterous because WordPress is playing up today. I’ll re-arrange the pictures when I can)

Returning to work this week has not quite gone as planned. The snow that came just before Christmas didn’t really go and then at the beginning of this week it returned with a vengeance.

This time however, it came in waves and eventually covered the whole country.

Sitting behind my desk and watching Twitter reports come in from all over has been an interesting experience. Some local councils have taken to announcing school closures on Twitter which for many has been a real boon. Some still use phone/text ‘trees’ to inform staff and students of closure and others the local radio. The more enlightened use all methods.

There has been some debate about how soon schools (etc) closed “too soon” say some, “not early enough” say others – so what is the right answer?

Well, I wonder if there isn’t just the one answer but certainly, just because the school closes – learning doesn’t need to stop. How many institutions are set up and prepared for closures like this? Not as many as there should be, I’ll bet. Last year, when snow brought the country to a stop (albeit not for so long as this year) we discussed the possibilities on James Clay’s e-Learning Stuff podcast [Linkfull URL at bottom of page] and noted that there are many options open to teachers and learners alike. Ideally, the institution would have prepared contingency measures for staff and learners (with the collaboration of staff and learners) to follow. This issue was also raised by Col Hawksworth this week on his MindMug blog.

But how many institutions actually have the foresight to prepare in this way?

With no contingency in place, my wife sent texts to her learners and told them that ideas for work would be posted on the Moodle and that she would be there – on chat – during the class time. But no one came. There is no culture amongst the learners (in Sharon’s case full time nursery workers/managers who were probably too busy with extra children anyway) to visit online learning activities at times like these.

So, how do we change that culture? How do we prepare our colleagues AND our learners for ‘snow time’?

I believe that we have to get them all thinking about the use of audio and video for instruction and assessment as a matter of course and to use online collaboration tools as part of their day-to-day college, school (whatever) life. We need to wear the technologies and associated techniques like comfortable coats!

There are plenty of choices out there – either paid for or free, and it only takes a little imagination to use them.

[the list is taken and adapted from Jame’s podcast notes – with thanks]

· which can be used to send the same message to various micro-blogging and picture services.

· Spinvox a service which converts audio into text. Allows you to phone into your blog, convert voicemail to SMS, and much more.

· Audioboo and iPadio are both simple tools to make podcasts, by just using a telephone.

· Dim Dim is a free to use online conference and presentation tool.

· Elluminate another online presentation tool

· Instant Presenter as used for the MoLeNET and NIACE online conferences and activities.

· Oovoo which is an alternative to Skype and can be used for four way video conferencing.

· Ustream is a online video broadcasting service.

Also see James Clay’s ‘Top Ten Tools of 2009‘ for more useful tools.

Last year’s e-Learning Stuff podcast.