FERL etc.

I recently read this blog post by Col Hawksworth: Afterglow.

In it Col expressed his frustration that just as he felt things were beginning, things were actually ending.  He saw the dying embers of investment in e-Learning across the wider F.E. Sector.

I know how he feels.

Several years ago when I was the college ILT (and then e-Learning) manager, I had the opportunity to attend quite a number of ‘e’ focused meetings and committees which aimed to support the take up and use of good ILT practice across the sector. Many of these were formulated by the superb FERL team working out of Becta. (e.g. The Ferl Practitioner’s Programme, Preparing for Inspection etc.). Then, about the time of and following Becta’s decision to become more strategic (which hasn’t seemed to do them much good in the long term) the FERL team disipated. Some stayed on and carried on the good work as best they could but many moved onto other areas and continue to ensure that ‘e’ is pedagogically embedded as well as possible. Remnants of the FERL team can be found in all walks of UK ‘e’ life. Just look closely.

For a period until about five years ago, there was an annual FERL Conference and no matter which Becta imposed political title the FERL conference bore, those attending relished every minute. And it wasn’t just the workshops that caused the enjoyment (even though at that time they were introducing a whole host of new and exciting tools, tips and techniques), it was the delegates themselves. Each person had a tale to tell and I for one enjoyed every tale I heard. Those war stories were in pre-Twitter and Facebook days and our community of practice (COP) continued (continues) on the ILT Champions mailing list, which  must be one of the more enduring and successful JISC mailing lists ever.  Many thanks are due to Rob Englebright for holding this together.

Now, like Col Hawksworth, I always felt a sense of sadness when those meetings and conferences broke up. This was because I knew (it was my belief) that we ‘the COP’ knew what was needed to embed ‘e’ and change institutional practice and not the Quangos, to whom the Government went for advice about funding. And I knew, in my heart, that nothing would change. And so, capital money was thrown at the sector, lots of it – but little or no ring-fenced revenue to support staff development.

Over the last six years, one shining light of ILT staff development has been the NIACE led e-Guides programme, which has always received tremendous feedback. More recently this has been funded by LSIS and been seen to complement the eCPD programme which they also funded.  Both programmes, like MoLeNET have been hugely successful and had begun to change the hearts and minds (the culture?) of staff rooms. The eCPD programme had begun to change the culture across wider areas of institutions. Because, we must not forget that ‘culture’ is not a single entity, it manifests itself in many ways; so much so that ‘culture change’ will always require vision and flexibility.

However, all of these programmes have now foundered on the rocks of low investment in staff skills.

As I commented on Col’s blog:

“I hope you come though this and use whatever means you can to disseminate and spread news of the excellent works you have done at Birkenhead 6th Form College. As you suggest (I think) there should be no cut off point and good practice should be allowed to flourish.

Time has proved that my own post-conference feelings (2002-2005 ish) were truly misplaced. Whereas my fears were that nothing would ever happen due to changes in Government priorities and a general failure to understand F.E. (by the Gov), they were wrong. People made the necessary changes happen. The early adopters and innovators (the original Champions and Mentors) are still out there and have worked long and hard to embed the ‘e’ we see being used in such a wide variety of ways today. They should be saluted because without their tenacity both in-post and as they moved on, have made the programmes we now see closing, a reality.

You [must] now take up the mantel and shout out VERY loudly. Keep blogging, keep tweeting and most of all keep up the good work.”


This week has been great. I’ve been able to carry out work that I enjoy and that I know I’m good at.

I thrive on learner feedback and these days my learners are teachers, trainers and people who work most closely with those we might call ‘real’ learners. So; smiles, curiosity, ‘bright ideas’ and enthusiasm for the subject are my reward. I’ve encountered all of these this week.

I delivered two sessions at The Sheffield College for MoLeNET on Tuesday and then co-trained with the delightful Nigel Davies (@e4communities) for NIACE e-Guides in Nottingham on Wednesday.

My MoLeNET presentation was a similar one to that delivered by me last week at The Newcastle College. It dealt with the potential for ‘m’ learning – but for these sessions I doubly interpret the ‘m‘ as meaning mobile AND modern. I try to model ‘m’ activities and techniques throughout.

I try to fix all of the session’s activities, tool-use and techniques to Blooms Taxonomy. This is the taxonomy of thinking skills which aims to raise learners’ achievements through simple knowledge acquisition, comprehension of that knowledge and its application (lower order thinking skills – LOTs) – through analysis, synthesis and evaluation (higher order thinking skills – HOTs). There are lots of reasons for doing this, but my main reason is that Bloom’s is a recognisable theory, one that should/would have been addressed during Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and therefore be an understandable foundation we can build upon.

I suggest to my participants that each learner will progress through the taxonomy’s stages at varying speeds and with varying success; often having to return to a previous level (in a cycular fashion – which fits nicely then, with Bruner’s spiral curriculum model: e.g. “Curriculum should be organized in a spiral manner so that the student continually builds upon what they have already learned.” from: http://tip.psychology.org/bruner.html) where they begin their learning journey again. I emphasise that ‘they‘ the teachers, trainers etc. ARE THE experts at this and that ‘they‘ are the creators of activities designed to allow learners to climb (cycle?) through the levels.

I iterate, time and time again that the ‘m’ technique and the ‘m’ technology should be the tool and not the master.

Occasionally, a colleague will ask me if I am demeaning the workshop participants by addressing Blooms in this way. I most certainly am not – I am often thanked/congratulated for reminding them of this long-forgotten rock upon which their teaching skills are built. Just this week one participant caught me as she left and thanked me profusely for introducing her to Blooms and for making it so interesting. She said that she had never heard of the Taxonomy. I wonder how the ITT team at ‘wherever’ missed that?

I start with techniques for using sms text and for this we use the superb Text Wall supplied by http://www.xlearn.co.uk (£25 per annum – Bargain). Two simple questions illustrate how simple it is to move from knowledge to comprehension, simply by thinking about how the question is worded. A third task (task, not question) shows how sms text can be used to deliver synthesis and evaluation. So – the simplest of technologies is addressing several levels of thinking skill. I then deliver a simple ‘odd one out’ exercise stolen from Lilian Soon (@xlearn). The idea being that the technical skills required to build the task (simply adding words and images to a PPT slide) are the same; even though the two slides require considerably different approaches to the answers (LOTs versus HOTs).

We then move on to Web 2.0 sites and their potential (I’ll return to this in another post), finishing this section with a very practical, hands-on floor exercise (keep ’em moving). Having looked at Web 2.0, I finish with an exercise that investigates the pedagogical use of mobile tools.

Experience has taught me that I cannot rely on there being access to any such mobile tools – and certainly not the variety that I would need to use to underpin my message: So I have laminated sets of cards showing pictures of mobile/handheld tools and a brief description of what they might do. These are accompanied by a handout taken from: http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet25/cheung.html and participants are asked to consider how they might use each of the tools and to film each other deliberating this. The simple act of being filmed helps them to focus on the achievable and to consider things they might not otherwise have considered.

I felt that both MoLeNET workshops were well received and that lots of ‘real’ learners will now benefit from the teachers and trainers’ newfound skills and ideas. Well done everybody. And thank you Benjamin Bloom.




My Delicious – Blooms URLS

Leeds 2

Cold Turkey.

I’m now at the end of a rock and roll week with only one more day to go before I can put my feet up for a short while [I wrote this on Saturday – I’m now on my ‘feet-up’ day]. I’ve booked myself a day off on Monday [today – yippee] but have already committed to make many phone calls and ‘quick’ replies before it starts again in earnest on Tuesday.

Since Saturday last, Sharon and I have been in Leeds working with a large group of adult learners, here to improve their language, understanding of British culture and ICT. Also see https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2009/11/02/leeds-1/ Through Monday to Wednesday, we were joined by Lilian (@xlearn : www.xlearn.co.uk).

Advanced e-Guides and PDAs
Late on Monday afternoon, I had to leave the group and go to London where I worked with other colleagues to deliver the Advanced PDA/e-Guides course. Sally Betts, Nigel Davies and I worked through the day to deliver this course for the first time. We’d spent Monday night having dinner at a place on Tabernacle Street, just behind the hotel on City Road. Apparently, the restaurant was a member’s club but really – you had to be a member to find it. The only recognition that it existed at all was a small plaque above a buzzer, by the side of an innocuous door. Inside it looked great and the food was good – what we could see of it. The light was so dim, we each had to use our mobile phones (or iTouch in my case) to read the menu. We shared the most wonderful and most green bowl of olives I’ve ever seen.  On Tuesday, we repeated the course again in Birmingham but without the excellent food.

And then it was back to the Europeans.

Back again
It sounded like they had had a great time in Bradford on Tuesday, where they had gone to explore the Pakistani culture living within the British culture. For many, this was the first time they had witnessed women wearing the burkha outside of television news and made them stop and think. They also visited a Mosque and were given a talk about Islamic tradition and culture. The National Media Museum also provided them with a two-hour workshop, where they learned the tips and techniques of television. http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/ Their enjoyment of this day was reflected in their blogs (read on)…

Lilian had introduced blogs on Wednesday, so my plan on Thursday was for them to continue with blogs for a while and to move back onto their Bonfire Night web quest before lunch.  Which is what we did, but there was such a lot of questions about blogging that many neglected the web quest. Although Blogger is remarkably simple to set up and use (and links directly to all the other iGoogle tools) it was not the best choice within the University.

Techie Stuff
Each room we used represented the interface differently. The Thursday room even had different versions of IE – which the techies told me was impossible. But IE 7 has tabs and prior to that there were no tabs: Our room had a mixture of tabbed IE browsers and non-tabbed! Then some machines needed Flash updating, or Java updating or simply updating. WHY oh why can’t this be done automatically? Why do learners have to suffer because the technology is bollocks? On Friday, Internet Explorer simply would not show the normal Blogger interface. Learners could not ‘add’ pictures or videos because the buttons were simply missing. I eventually got most of them onto Firefox – but then Blogger had updated itself since Thursday (it probably hadn’t, and probably has a slightly different interface for Firefox) and the video button was missing until you went to settings and asked it to revert to the ‘older version’ – which caused huge amusement amongst the older participants (all except two were over forty and many fifty plus – one was 21 on Thursday).

It has been the most wonderful, entertaining, wet, though-provoking, funny, rewarding and exhausting experience. The group; from Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria, Latvia, Italy and England have worked together well this week and to say that they had not met each other before last Sunday, they have made remarkable progress.

Outcomes include the sharing of experiences and of each other’s cultures. Both of these were addressed in abundance. It became very clear to everyone that when national boundaries and prejudices are set apart – we are all the same. We share the same concerns and the same pleasures. This has been a wonderful week.

The group had said during their first day (last week) that they wanted to be bloggers – let them tell the story:

(Please note the use of videos, pictures they have edited and pictures made into movies too)

Our blog addresses:

http://leedsexp.blogspot.com Roberto

http://unver64.blogspot.com Fahrettin

http://vonweitzel.blogspot.com/ Christoph

http://eduwholearning.blogspot.com Eduardo

http://jnmarin.blogspot.com Javier

http://guntistravel.blogspot.com/ Guntis

http://secretary-fall-secretary.blogspot.com/ Mairita

http://learningwithpeople.blogspot.com Angus

http://mpwbauhuette.blogspot.com/ Edith

http://annavuerich.blogspot.com Anna

http://leedsandbradfordexperience.blogspot.com/ Gabrielle

http://siegfrieddierl.blogspot.com/ Siegfreied

http://vivianapurina.blogspot.com Viviana

http://cristinadelfabbro.blogspot.com/ Cristina

http://atanurcaglayan.blogspot.com/ Atanur


http://xlearn.co.uk/blogger.html Lilian’s blog

http://sharonsugden.blogspot.com Sharon’s blog

Just a quickie

Simbas_Magnolia-2It’s that time of year again and pressures are mounting on all sides. Things that seemed so far away when they went into my diary are now upon me.

Luckily, early draft planning keeps my head above water – so only a review of work required and a period of last minute preparation is required. Like today’s visit to a Hospitality Diploma consortium, to carry out a health check. Much of the preparation was done six weeks ago and all I had to do was email last week to confirm (they had cancelled on the day once before!) the visit and ask them to print out some documents. The problem is that I forget the exact details! I knew I’d emailed, I know why I am going but had forgotten that I’d asked them to print the documents and consequently got up early today to do just that. Hey ho.

Tomorrow evening I travel to Southport, where the RSC Northwest Conference is being held on Thursday. I’m sharing a stand with Steve Smith and I will be Mr MoLeNET while he is Mr LSIS BDP PDA eCPD man. I’m going to deliver (I think) a Pecha Kucha on MoLeNET – so that will be a new experience for me. It’s taken me longer than I thought to prepare it – in fact it’s not quite ready yet, but will need to be by the time I leave tomorrow. The time is being taken by me wanting to leave a fully detailed notes page on each slide. When it’s done, I’ll try to share it.

The rest of this week I’m working on an e-Guides project that has to be completed by weekend. Phew.

Personal Projectors

3M_MPro-3It’s been a strange week. I’ve had lots of time at home to do lots of preparation for upcoming and existing work. But I’ve really found it hard to motivate myself. Time slips by so quickly and I find myself lurching from one cup of tea (or coffee) to another with short bursts of activity, which are themselves interspersed with visits to Twitter, Jaiku or now; FriendFeed.  My work list has included geeing up PDAs (they have to submit draft Action Plans by today); preparing for my week’s work co-delivering an ILT course to European delegates; preparing for one-off gigs at Birkenhead 6th form college and Ashton Under Lyme 6th form college and finishing some work for NGFL Cymru.

Yesterday was an enjoyable interlude. I delivered and e-Guides plus event in Leeds. My co-trainer (although I suppose officially he wouldn’t be called that) was Kevin Campbell-Wright from the JISC RSC. Although the day itself doesn’t involve much input, we still have to try and keep participants on track and motivated. It seemed to work.

During my mobile learning input (really, the only input I did yesterday) I showed them my 3M MPro 110 Pocket Projector. I’d prepared by putting the projector in one waistcoat pocket and my phone in the other. Despite the lightness of the room we were in, most of those present were impressed with the display. It’s convenience for some (one guy was from the WEA) was seen as impressive.

There are two (basically two) types of Pocket Projector available – mine (see picture) which operates from battery or mains and will show off images from portable devices AND (here’s the main difference) from laptops. The other works from battery (re-chargeable but can’t be used when plugged in) BUT can work on its own without any other device – taking the presentation (whatever it is) from a memory card. This type does not have the capability of projecting from a laptop.  See the comparison page at http://www.personalprojector.co.uk/ (tell them I sent you and they may give you a small discount).

And today has been like the early part of the week. Lots of phoning around this morning, some European work this afternoon and now – the bath! 🙂