True Grit

Well, the snow finally looks like it might be leaving us. Maybe only for a while, but it will be nice to see what’s underneath again.

I’m not sure exactly when it started to snow, but I had to postpone my visit to Sheffield on 18th December because the slight snow fall had turned to ice and I couldn’t get out of the village. I could, just, but it took and age and the journey wasn’t worth the risk.

The snow was deep and crisp and even throughout Christmas and then it came again. We had about nine inches each time (not exaggerated – I measured it with my trusty – now rusty – blue metal ruler) and then this week we had a final daylong fall of very fine stuff that caused the most problems. Our road by this time was not gritted. This caused me to postpone this week’s trip to Newcastle, partly because the trains to that city were intermittent at best – cancelled at worst.

However, this isn’t a whinging note: I think that Kirklees Council have done a sterling job with the gritting – given that we’ve had a month of what appears to have been the worst winter snow in thirty years. I heard somewhere (maybe I read it) that Kirklees had bought in extra stocks of salt/grit this year and it showed, as the roads were kept pretty clear for the best part of this extended period of bad weather. Of course the side roads were not kept too clear – but then they never were!

Thirty years ago I lived in Golcar, just across the valley from where I live now and for two years running we had to dig ourselves out of the estate. Great fun it was as well; two or three hours digging to make sure we could get out the following day and then off we all went to the pub. None of us seemed to consider NOT going to work during that period. And my own children had a great time playing in the snow with their mates too (so did I).

I have two distinct memories of snow when from I was (much) younger. As a child in the fifties (time passes so slowly when you are very young), the snow seemed interminable, very deep and so much fun. I vaguely remember the milkman’s float having chains on the wheels and those neighbours lucky enough to have cars, changing their types in winter to ones that gripped – these might have been chains too, I can’t recall, but people certainly seemed to get about. Then in the sixties, as a young teenager, it became even more fun with sledging and snowballing and making huge snowmen. We used to make super glass-like icy slides down the footpaths too – brilliant but very deadly. The householders used to throw ash from their coal fires over these to prevent anyone from killing themselves (we hated them for that).

Ash was the grit of the day then: a virtuous circle of fire >> warmth >> useful waste. No big holes in Cheshire.

Well done so far Kirklees Highways Dept. Not so well done Kirklees schools – you have VLEs!

And not so well done Kirklees whatever the bin-men department is called. December 9th was my last gray bin collection. Tut tut.

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ALT-C 2009

I’ve just cleared the decks after returning from an interesting week at ALT-C. Well, when I say ‘cleared the decks’, I mean that I’ve caught up on as many emails as I can and have phoned as many people as I’d promised or needed to. And, when I say ‘an interesting week’ – I mean it’s been an all-absorbing, full-on, learning, networking and interesting three days, not quite a week.

The last time I attended an ALT conference was back in 2006, in Edinburgh and I blogged throughout that conference: http://dsugden.googlepages.com/alt-c. This time I haven’t, I just didn’t seem to have the energy to blog. Instead – I Twittered (Twitted?) http://twitter.com/dsugden #altc2009 and learned about Twitterfall. I’d left the Edinburgh conference disillusioned and dispirited and purposely avoided the next two in Nottingham and Leeds (although I now wish I’d managed Leeds if only for the conference dinner which was apparently a great success by Thomas Danby College students).  It costs me a lot of money to attend and I can’t afford to come away feeling like that. This year though, Lilian Soon [www.xlearn.co.uk] and I had been accepted for our delivery of a workshop called: Active Learning with mobile and Web 2.0 Technologies: http://altc2009.alt.ac.uk/talks/show/6854.

Since my return, it has been interesting to review my comments from last time and to match them against this year’s reflections (both Twittered and not). I’m not sure that Twitter was around in 2006, it might just have been, but this year has seen an explosion of comment on the #altc2009 Twitterfall. Similarities?

  • People are still talking about blogs – one speaker promoting them to her learners said ” I wouldn’t blog in a thousand years”!!
  • Talk of using the Social Networking giants (Facebook wasn’t around in 2006 either – much) as disappeared
  • There is still a lot of angst about how ‘it’ will affect the institution (and copyright and IPP and – so on) ‘it’ being anything new, unresearched or disruptive (i.e. everything I like)
  • PowerPoints are still badly made. The final keynote – Terry Anderson (whilst interesting) had very wordy slides – no change there then, since 2006. Another guy in a workshop I attended had red text on a black background – poo-er! Teacher Trainers seemed to have the worst PPT slides. Some of the best were just images (2nd keynote Martin Bean – VC OU elect – was a good example of an entertaining, informative talk with imagery and very few words on screen)
  • There is still a poor F.E. showing (% wise not quality wise)

On the first night (for me and Lilian) we went with James Clay and Ron Mitchell (their second night) to el Rincon de Rafa Tapas bar just off Deansgate in Manchester. We had a great time in this comfortable and very Spanish restaurant. I really can’t remember everything we had to eat but whatever it was plentiful and very tasty. I do like the beer here.

The second night was gala dinner night and this was presented in the magnificent Town Hall (Manchester) by a joint team of students from Sheffield and Manchester Colleges. Once again I can’t remember exactly what we had for every course (James saved me a menu, but I forgot to get it from him) but it was delightful; spoiled only by the awards having to be interspersed with the courses – instead of at the end. The petit fours were a bit extravagant!

Once again it was great to re-meet so many friends and colleagues from up and down the country and to reaffirm friendships and relationships. AND – it was great to go up on stage with Ron, James and Lils to pick up a ‘highly commended’ award from ALT on behalf of the MoLeNET team. Well done Elaine, Mick, John and Di.