Typewriter by Heavenly Cabins http://www.flickr.com/photos/31693711@N08/I had a job interview the other day. Well, one has to eat 😉

The HR team asked me to write a minimum of 250 words about ‘How I would embed equality and diversity in my […] role’ and they gave me 30 minutes to do that. A free writing exercise in fact.

Well, straight away I found myself at a great disadvantage and unequal to the task.  Whilst I understand the ‘theory’ behind free writing exercises, I’m not over enamoured with the tools provided.

Why, in this day and age should anyone think it is appropriate to use a ballpoint pen to express myself than – say (for example), a computer?  Why?  After all, I was later asked to describe my competence and confidence with ICT.

I’m sure that I’ve written about this before somewhere, and if I haven’t, I should have – but I have never EVER been good at handwriting. As soon as I could afford, probably in my mid twenties, I bought myself a second hand typewriter (with all of its faults and all of its idiosyncrasies) and was then able to more easily put my thoughts and aspirations on paper.  At last! I used my typewriter and its subsequent replacements for many years until I was introduced to word-processing during my Certificate in Education Course. Here, I was given access to Wordstar (on Amstrad PCs) and following the course, AmiPro rang my bell for many years before my employer installed Word ’97 across the college. Then onwards and upwards (?) with various versions of Word … (I’m currently using Word 2010 and Word for Mac 2008) as my main means of communication.

My complete hate of handwriting had begun at a very early age when the junior school I attended moved us away from pencils (I’d been doing ok with pencils) and on to nibbed pens and that shitty black ink schools used.

Sadly (in this case), I’m left handed and all of the pens were crafted for right-handed folks, so my writing looked like nothing more than scratchy marks on paper. As a punishment (it certainly wasn’t a reward, although I remember it being couched as such) I was the one who had to stay in at break time to remove all the broken nibs and replace them with new ones. Bearing in mind that I’d already been traumatised by teachers trying to make me use my right hand (forcibly) to write as well as to eat food with a fork in the ‘correct’ hand (that ‘force’ worked, the former didn’t) – I was extremely unhappy with the nib and shitty ink caper!

To this day, I still write more legibly with a pencil but to make my thoughts known, to order the ‘stuff’ I want (have) to say – I need a word processor of some kind. I’ve used word processors to write my Masters (MSc.) level assignments and dissertation; I’ve written successful six figure bids using word processors and I blog regularly – all without the use of ballpoint pens.

Equal opportunity? Pah.

Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31693711@N08/3029785927/

Food labelling

I’m not sure how far I can trust “Food manufacturers, supermarkets and health experts” [http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18034074] to come up with something better than we have now.

They don’t have a great track record.

See here and here.

The system where each food’s nutritional content is listed as a proportion of 100g is fine – it works for me, leave it alone!

European regulations insist on such a system ‘or’ one that provides details per portion. Proportions of 100g tell me the percentage (%) of each nutrient contained and that’s enough for me. 12g of fat per 100g is 12% fat content and I know whether to avoid that product or not. However, 12g of fat per portion tells me nothing!

Portion size is subjective and as far as manufacturers are concerned totally arbitrary. Please do not settle on portion size, pack size, proportion of contents or food shape because they simply do not work.

Let us please have more clarity, don’t allow manufacturers and supermarkets to cloud the issue.


IDS – Remploy

I experienced an element of disbelief when I read the headline in last week’s Sunday Express:


That was partly because headlines that big don’t always mean anything important and partly because, if true, I wasn’t surprised.

Iain Duncan Smith, ‘The failed former Tory leader’ [Express political editor], is reputed to have told Remploy staff “You don’t produce very much at all.” The article discussed various other things IDS is reputed to have said – all of it Tory war cries and dogma.

We all know cuts have to be made, we all know (I think we all know) why the cuts have to be made and we all know who is to blame for getting us into the financial mess we are in. But why do the most vulnerable in society have to bear the brunt of those cuts? I’m sure I’ve said this before on one of my blogs – I just don’t get the lay-them-off-and-pay-them-benefits theory of Government.

What IDS is missing when he makes the statement above is the amount of self-respect produced, the amount of raised confidence produced and the amount of benefits saved. I realise that Remploy probably costs more to run than the benefits to be paid, but in the longer term that little extra cost must also save on NHS and health care costs for those no longer ‘occupied’ in all of the wider senses of the word.

And I’m not just talking about the disabled workforce that are soon to be made redundant; it’s their family and carers who will share the burden and whose lives will now have to change. Some will  have to give up their own job to help occupy and care for their brother, sister, mother, father, son, daughter etc.

Finally – when IDS suggests that he is determined to get ‘… people into proper jobs.’ Which jobs are those then?

8.3% Unemployed

Innovative Programmes

I was recently asked a question about innovation. .. what are some characteristics of truly innovative programs (sic) using technology ..”

I had to say that I no longer have any confidence in programmes.

Like ‘project’, the word programme conjures up something that has a defined beginning and end, and which can be put away when finished. I’m sorry to say that this is my jaundiced view of many such programmes that have taken place over the past ten years or so; there seems to be a nod in the direction of sustainability but no more.

MoleNET for example, was at its outset a truly innovative and far reaching programme. As time progressed (it lasted three years until funding stopped) its value became more widely understood and it became a catalyst for understanding the potential for pedagogical use of technology per se and not just for mobile technologies. Mobile became interactive web and then cloud; each development being incorporated into projects and disseminated via the team of MoLeNET Mentors. It was just beginning to work when the financial rug was pulled. Despite the £millions pumped into MoLeNET and its requirement for sustainability the hosting websites have disappeared from view – they don’t even show up on Google anymore. In fact the Programme administrators, LSN are no more!

I’ve been asked lots of times what innovation is and I’m not sure that I know. Not for certain. I’m sure that it means new things, useful things, exciting things? But what is the purpose of innovation? Is it simply to exhibit new, useful and shiny things or is it to see these through to mainstream acceptance and understanding? I suspect that the latter is right but that innovators get bored once mainstream gets ahold and they move on. In that case I’m not really an innovator. I see the point and given the opportunity will try to mainstream that point.

With MoleNET we were able to see a widespread acceptance for the use of mobile tools and technologies throughout Further Education but I’m not certain that this innovation transferred to schools or universities. Schools are still running scared of mobile tools (unnecessarily in my opinion) and H.E. simply doesn’t get it. e.g. I delivered a workshop at an ALT conference some time ago, showing the then innovative use of PDAs (this was just before the iPhone) to those attending. Afterwards, someone from a university came up to me and asked if I really thought that PDAs would replace PCs because if that was so it would save the university £1,000s. First of all – I’d never said that anything mobile would ‘replace’, only ‘supplement’ and ‘add value’, and secondly, all this person could see was a way of saving money for her Chancellor.

I know that this isn’t the place to say it but … hey ho … the programme we most need is one that doesn’t finish: one where all those of us involved in education constantly seek effective ways of reaching our learners, we use what we can (whether it be a new method or technology or an old one) and move on from what doesn’t work.

Also see: