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So EduVel’s WordPress page may not be published quite as often in the future as in the past.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?

Arbeitslos

Arbeitslos 2013I have found this post quite difficult to compose. The subject matter is completely alien to me and I had to think long and hard about whether or not I should write it. I am doing so in the hope that it’s personally cathartic, as I don’t really expect any of the circumstances to change any time soon.

For the first time in over thirty years I find myself without work.

The last time this happened was in 1982 when, following several hard years of self employment a previous recession forced me to close the business I was then running. At that time we sold our delightful semi-detached home and moved into a fish and chip shop. This was good accommodation, but living ‘over’ the shop isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A fish and chip business wasn’t the most lucrative to have at that time either as all of the local businesses and mills were also closing – but we were able to keep a roof over our heads and to feed the kids.

It was following this experience that I moved into Education, starting as a part-time chef-lecturer at Dewsbury College.

I became self-employed once again; seventeen years later in 2005, when my ‘e-Learning Manager’ post at Dewsbury was made redundant. Since then, until the middle of 2011 it was ‘rock and roll’ – I was as busy as anyone else in this business and, I like to think, just as equally respected. Since the summer of 2011, things have slackened off remarkably. Without work given to me by the redoubtable Lilian Soon (at Leeds College of Music) and by LSIS (directly and via various routes), I would have struggled much earlier. I have had other work – not to mention that provided by TechDis (for whom I do still have some residual bits of work) and one of the RSCs, but now that LSIS are no more and the JISC are also tightening their belts, there is nothing on the horizon at all.

I know that I’m not the only one as I’ve seen several status updates on Facebook and on Twitter from respected, often eminent e-Learning gurus – saying the same thing: where is the work?

It would seem to me that at this time; when colleges are being forced to re-think the way they operate due to massively reduced funding streams, that the creative, thoughtful and effective use of e-Learning would be most necessary – but there’s no evidence of that.

I spent a full week in a college last month delivering ‘basic Moodle training’ (17 x 90-minute sessions) to as many of the staff (teaching and non-teaching) as could make those sessions – almost the entire staff body. And, that’s a good thing – but there is no cross-college, management inspired plan to back up the basics with anything more advanced. Yet, with just a little more guidance, some input on ‘other tools’ and a modicum of ‘this-is-how-to-make-online-work’ – next year’s intake mightn’t be faced with meaningless lists of files – or the scroll of video death*.

Cartoon image, courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearmancartoons/Yet another college will soon move into a new build. As far as I’m aware, there will be no (or much reduced) physical file storage there and everyone will ‘hot-desk’. But I’m not aware of any training being delivered to help staff to cope with the necessity of storing online or of the benefits and challenges that this will bring.

After talking with other ‘e’ friends, some of whom are in a similar situation to me, I feel that much of the ‘e’ progress we have seen (and been party to) over the last 10-12 years is in danger of being lost – or at the very least stalled. Which is a real shame, because learners still need to be well taught – but nowadays in less time and with less face to face guidance.

So, although I’m fairly sanguine about my personal future – I do feel for those ‘e’ colleagues who have families to support. I just need to sell my house (it’s been for sale on and off for over two years already) and any immediate pressure will be off – but the reason for it not selling is much the same as the reasons for reduced funding across Education – and I don’t want to fall out with anyone by going into THAT!

🙂

*Now that I’ve shown teachers how to ‘embed’ videos in ‘labels’ (also in ‘Book’ – but that’s a step extra) I expect there to be a repeat of the days when teachers first saw PowerPoint and immediately adopted that – for everything, for ever! Leading to the original ‘death by …’.

Credits:

Cartoon image, courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearmancartoons/
Main image original courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/evaekeblad/ [links to original]

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.

Looking back on 2012

Tray of brussels sproutsOnce again, it’s time to round up the year’s events: to clear away the past to prepare for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

It’s been a strange year work-wise with little in the way of continuity. Without work from LSIS, JISC TechDis and the JISC RSC-SE, the year would have been very bleak indeed.

I started the blogging year with a rant about Michael Gove’s well-publicised wish to turn all school children into computer programmers.  However, in the speech he used to announce his programming initiative he also said: “As online materials grow and flourish, we all need to think about how we can guide students through the wealth of information and techniques freely available and accessible online.” … a statement that I heartily agree with and something that is still sadly lacking in everyday teaching and learning environments.

Learners need to check the validity and veracity of the information they find on the Internet and to evaluate its worth for their purpose.

Quite a number of teachers spent their own ‘learning’ years, studying worthy tomes without any thought of the way that contradictory, conflicting and simply inaccurate information might ‘one day’ be easily found ‘online’. They were not brought up to undertake research in the manner that today’s information sources demand; the ways that their charges need to employ.

Moodle training has been a great feature of my work this year and will hopefully continue to be something that draws interest from customers. My first Moodle training event was in January at Pontefract Sixth Form College, arranged by the Yorkshire and Humberside RSC. The most recent was for Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) in December. I spent a week at the college, close to Maidenhead, towards the end of November, delivering training to Moodle Champions in VLE use and then again just last week, I delivered a short online course to the same team – about features of Moodle Admin.

Ambassador logo

During the summer months, I was employed by TechDis to be their RSC-Conference Trolly Dolly.  In this role, I promoted the newly launched ‘TechDis Voices’ and ‘TechDis Toolbox’; two of the most significant and exciting initiatives of the year.

I continue to work with TechDis over the winter 2012/13 as part of the Ambassador programme. I’ve already travelled widely in the south east of England as part of this face-to-face TechDis Accredited Trainer role, visiting Lingfield, Weybridge, Margate and Aylesbury.

During December, I decided to deliver a series of #Advent #SugSnips#SugSnips. This revived a very successful delivery of #SugSnips during 2011.

I’m not convinced that this current short series of posts, delivered in a completely different way to before and copied to Facebook, has been quite as successful. Time will tell (I haven’t checked the individual logs yet). However, re-tweets and shares have been non-existent. Maybe it’s time to re-think the #SugSnips idea?

Finally, back in August 2011 I asked why does Flickr not have a belting App? Well, it does now – having released a new (and absolutely ‘belting’ App) during the latter months of 2012.  Well done Flickr. Here it is.

Anyway, if you’re still reading this, may I wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year?

Happy New Year.

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.