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.

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.

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?

Rewarding

This is a longish post – please bear with it 🙂

Picture of Chirk aquaductHow many of us ever know what becomes of our students once we’ve finished teaching them? How many of us ever care?

I still see many of my ex-catering students on Facebook: they ‘friended’ me years after I finished teaching them, which was years before Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were ever thought of. They are all getting on with their lives, working, bringing up families and doing all the normal stuff I probably did myself when younger.

But not all of my ex-learners are able to function quite like that.

I’ve known Larry since he was born; his father and I went to school together.

I’ve known Larry professionally since he was 16 when his class came into college on a Friday morning for a 2-hour cookery class. Larry has some minor disabilities and a moderate learning difficulty, but these didn’t prevent him from taking part in the class – in fact his SLDD school classmates were often unable to take part at all without someone to one help them one to one. Larry was more able.

When he left the SLDD school at 19 he came into the college ‘foundation studies’ department and eventually, when that particular funding stream ceased, he came to me in Catering:  We had created an NVQ level 1 catering course especially for learners similar to Larry. The cookery part of the qualification wasn’t beyond them; the ‘realistic working environment (RWE)’ wasn’t impossible and we could go to town with the life-skills aspects – something my team believed in passionately.  We squeezed two years out of that funding stream and taught them basic maths, basic English, work skills and IT – all of these were coordinated and where a learner was weak in one subject, but strong in another, we paired them up and they helped each other. It was a brilliant course which I was happy to hand over to the talented, tenacious, energetic and inspired Sarah Mowet when we created a level 2 course for them to roll onto.

Snow up Golcar 2013

We knew that the learners would not be quite as successful at this higher level because the cookery requirements were just too complex, but we could still help them to improve their life chances by continuing the basic skills tuition and food service skills until funding once more (finally) kicked them out. For level 2 we needed them to have work placement experience and it was Sarah who found Larry his position at the local Pizza Hut. She fought for him to get the placement and Larry fought to keep it – twelve years on he’s still there. Thank you Sarah. Thank you Larry.

Larry has kept his job at Pizza Hut – two days a week – despite the ever changing managers and other Pizza Hut personnel. He has kept it by sheer force of personality, hard work and the ability to adapt (even if slowly, over time) to changing job roles. He has never worked front of house and has always had to carry out some of the more mundane tasks in the kitchen: making up the pizza boxes, washing up etc. But he has never ceased to learn.

Through all of this time, Larry has lived with his parents. He’s in his mid-30s now and last week he moved into his own ‘pad’. It’s not quite sheltered housing, but there is someone on site (a complex with around twenty other similar pads) in case there’s any real difficulty. Larry’s pad has a shower/wet room, a bedroom, a living room and a small kitchen; all of which he will look after on his own. He is responsible for his own cooking and cleaning; he even has a washing machine.

He’s been greatly excited as his new home, which he will share with others in similar positions to him, was being made ready. Because of his slight visual impairment, he has a large T.V. and when we moved him in, we made sure that this would function as a monitor for his laptop – it did, wonderfully. He had a remote keyboard and mouse and can control his computer from the settee, along with his music. We also fixed up his Wii – so he can continue to exercise.

Prior to him moving, mum and dad had been working with Larry to consider what he would eat, when and how best to prepare it. The majority would be frozen meals that he’d either bought or that he or parents had cooked ready for him to use. They agreed between them, a five-week menu that meant Larry had a varied diet and which would help him to plan what he would take out of the freezer before going off about his daily business.

And here’s the crux of my post.

More snow up GolcarI spoke to Larry after his first week there and he said it had been ok (in his Yorkshire bred, understated way) and then I went walking with his dad on Saturday.

Dad told me that they’d been wondering how he was going on (and I think they’d been missing him too) and popped around for a cup of tea on Wednesday. They found him sat on the settee; he’d re-connected the laptop to the T.V. and was working on a document (it could have been either Excel or Word – I don’t know) that looked really complex. When asked, he said it was an inventory of his freezer’s contents. The table contained all of the food types to be found in his freezer and the two end columns were titled: Yes – No.

Dad asked him what it was for he said he’d made it himself so that when he went out shopping he could see from his stocktaking which things he would need to buy to replace things in the No column.

I loved that story – which is why I’ve written so much background (because without context it might not mean much). Larry was always good with IT and could always follow careful instructions but creating an inventory and then stocktaking are two things we’ve never taught him. He’s taught himself that.

And that’s rewarding for everyone concerned.

Larry isn’t his real name.

More audio

One of the Antony Gormley figures (Another Place) being leaned on by me!I have just completed a day-long session working with the supported learning team at Brooklands College in Weybridge.

It was GREAT.  The section staff, led by Lorraine Crossland, had asked for some advanced input on audio creation and usage techniques – the goal being to better support the learners and to populate their VLE.

I’d visited Brooklands once previously as part of the TechDis Ambassador project and during that first visit had shown them a variety of audio tools, tips and techniques – nothing too advanced but enough to whet their appetite. This second visit was supported by the JISC RSC-SE.

So – why GREAT?

Well, mainly because learners were in attendance all day and I was asked (at fairly short notice) to deliver the afternoon session. All of which was brilliant. The Entry Level 2/3 learners were keen to learn enough about audio but we also told them that they needed to remember these new techniques so that they could support their teachers in the future 🙂

Having already bitten the audio bullet, Lorraine’s staff had planned the day around the sort of things they might encourage learners to do and had begun to work with the learners in preparation for my visit. The morning group were introduced specifically to Audacity and to Balabolka. During  my previous visit, the IT Technicians had been shown how both tools could support learners and had made a sterling effort since to ensure that MyStudyBar and Audacity were available in this room. The power of MyStudyBar had really impressed one of the IT guys – he had some nice ideas for deployment.

606368564My afternoon group, Entry Level 2, had been making PowerPoint files and wanted to add audio to the slides. No problem! It was as if the intervening twelve years hadn’t passed – bang, I was in front of an engaged group with moderate learning difficulties. For ‘engaged’ read: enthusiastic, motivated, keen to learn, enquiring and fun to be with! They loved it!

We started with introductions and I picked up that their favourite lesson (and teacher?) was sport – so I demonstrated the use of audio on their PPTs by using a sport theme. I showed them Audacity and simply inserted the audio file we created. I may well have used Vocaroo but the techies are in discussion with the site because the college firewall won’t let it (Vocaroo) though!  They all shouted “cool” when the audio played – yet when I showed them how to attach the same file to an animation (the sporty image we’d chosen) – so that the description of the image (which is what we’d recorded) they shouted “cool’ even louder.

We set them off to do the same themselves then. Towards the end I called the group back and showed them Balabolka. They ‘got’ this immediately and once the college have grasped how to deploy the TechDis voices across their network – the learners will use it big-time.

As i said at the top – GREAT.

Plenary

Last week, I was asked to write some script for a learning package; part of one chapter was about ‘plenaries’.

Definition of plenary

adjective

  • The meaning of plenary - Google search return

    1 unqualified; absolute:crusaders were offered a plenary indulgence by the Pope

  • 2 (of a meeting) to be attended by all participants at a conference or assembly, who otherwise meet in smaller groups:a plenary session of the European Parliament

noun

  • a meeting or session attended by all participants at a conference or assembly: working parties would report back to the plenary with recommendations

Origin:

late Middle English: from late Latin plenarius ‘complete’, from plenus ‘full’

From Oxford Dictionaries – link.

I’d never understood the word plenary to mean anything other than that hinted at by adjective 2 and noun above. I suspect that many of my readers have a similar understanding? I certainly had no inkling of the Pope’s indulgences.

It concerned me therefore to think that I could write part of a lesson planning chapter titled ‘episodes’, which included ‘plenaries’ in the outline brief. Sadly, it made little sense to me.

Plenaries were often the least active part of lessons. Teachers tended merely to sum up what happened during the main phase and pupils did not have the opportunity to articulate what they had learned*.

So I had to research the subject and although none of the literature I found suggested that plenaries were anything other than a bringing together (usually at the end), I found that in educational circles they don’t just happen at the end of a given session, especially if you are using ‘episodes’ of learning activity. It would seem that plenaries occur after and throughout each activity – who knew!

We always called this reviewing and it happened at the end of a lesson and at the beginning of the next. Words eh?


References:
http://www.teach-ict.com/teacher/plenary/plenaries.htm

http://francisfarrell.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/good-lessons-4-plenary.html

*Source:

http://bit.ly/WYuy4X

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Extracts from this document may be reproduced for noncommercial
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Brooklands

This post is an extended version of that published by me on the TechDis Ambassadors Posterous Space


picture of a well-sprutted potato

Mr. Potato

I recently visited Brooklands College in deepest Surrey.

The supported learning team there is working on one of the JISC TechDis Ambassador programmes and my role for the day was to observe, report and deliver a little training.

The department action plan’s main aim is for the team to make better and more effective use of the (Blackboard) VLE and our prime objective for the afternoon training was to explore uses and tools for creating and editing audio. No problem.

Except:

Except I’d forgotten to ask if they had any microphones. I often carry my own 15 sets of ‘Pound Shop’ Headphone/Mics with me, but on overnight stays like this (I was elsewhere the day before) my suitcase and my backpack are so crammed full that I’m unable to fit my Mics in. Hey ho.

The college had very kindly downloaded Audacity for us, so I knew we would all be able edit audio – but the trainer-machine was as useless to me for traditional audio creation as all the other machines (no Mics remember?).  My own PC laptop’s Mic is currently playing silly beggars too so I demonstrated www.vocaroo.com via my MacBook Pro. I showed the interface on the trainer-machine (connected to the projector) and then went through the (very easy) audio creation motions on the Mac. Ditto, editing with Audacity. Despite being a bit Heath Robinson, this all seemed to work.

During this part of the session we explored:

As ways of creating audio files.

Then I introduced MyStudyBar as a means of creating audio by using Text-to-Speech (TTS) and BANG – they were blown away.

Everything on MyStudyBar (nearly) was taken up, played with, discussed and copied for immediate use by staff and learners. Wow, it was amazing just how our colleagues took to this and how they came up with creative ideas for use.

We ended up with discussing ways that the learners could create their own audio using any of the tools we’ve discussed and submitting it via – any of various ways. Also of showing learners pieces of text in PowerPoint and the having the text read to them (insert audio).

Phew.