Gateshead Induction

It’s been another busy week. I’d reached a stage in April, where I thought all my busy weeks had disappeared along with government interest in post 16 CPD, but since returning from France [link] I’ve been rock-on.

On Monday I was up and out of the house by 5.40am, to catch the early train to Newcastle. I’d been asked by the JISC RSC- Northern, to deliver two half day workshops for them on Mobile Learning. It didn’t start well because of assumptions I’d made. I’d assumed there would be computers available at the venue and had therefore not asked for any. No matter how foolish we think the question, we must never assume that it doesn’t need asking! So finding a room set out cabaret style, with no computers came as a shock.

The wonderful RSC team sorted this out, but it did lead to some uncertainties and some changes to the planned programme. Luckily, those attending seemed to remain engaged and were able to participate in a number of active learning activities. I arrived home about 7.30pm – and I’m still tired.

Then on Tuesday and Wednesday I completed the work I’d been doing with Nigel Davies on behalf of another JISC RSC; South East this time. I’d spend much of the previous week on this too. We’d been asked to research and develop a Moodle site that RSC clients could use on the subject of Induction. It took the two of us quite a while to track down everything we could on the subject from relevant web sites. We collaborated initially on an iEtherpad and then organised our findings by using a Mind42 mind map. We also spoke every day via Skype, which allowed us to share screens and re-organise the mind map on the fly.

We then agreed which section each of us would develop. I concentrated on the Generic aspects whilst Nigel concentrated on Learner specific and Staff specific inductions. The course is HUGE. We could not use Moodle-Book, so the ten topics take up a lot of space. However, we were also asked to present the course via Web 2.0 and for this we used Bitly (see my earlier notes regarding Bitly), which we believe worked just fine.

If you are registered with the RSC-SE, you can access the Induction course here: http://moodle-rsc.ukc.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=130

On Thursday I began planning for next week, when I will be working for most of the week with Di Dawson and James Clay at Gloucestershire College, and I attended a training session at RM’s Salford TEN centre, on their re-vamped VLE.

On Friday I travelled to Leeds, to work on the new Leeds College of Music learning platform. This is part of the work I’m doing for Lilian Soon, who is project managing this massive project. After a few visits and only making baby steps, I feel that we made great strides yesterday and that things are beginning to take shape.

Sharon met me off the train and we had a few beers, a curry and caught the 8.00pm bus home. Sorted!

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Gloucestershire

Yesterday I delivered workshops to 22 people over three sessions.

I’d set out to show how the ‘m’ in m-learning could also mean ‘modern’ and not just mobile. Like others I think that the ‘m’ and the ‘e’ before learning needs to disappear – but not just yet. There is still a lot of work to do before we can truly say that ‘learning’ is all encompassing and includes the use of tools and resources appropriate to that learner (those learners) at that time (24/7) and in (or out of) that place.

We did a little texting early on to show how we could engage learners and then tied this activity to Bloom’s Taxonomy. I notice sometimes, when I introduce this, that shoulders sag and wry smiles are glanced at each other. But no matter – I like to think that I deliver it in a palatable way – I was a chef after all. Having fixed Bloom’s in the minds of my groups, I moved on to show how technology need not be a barrier to the delivery of higher order thinking skills. I did this by means of two simple odd-one-out exercises. The first had an easy answer but the second needed thought and discussion before coming to a conclusion. This works well as it allows the groups to become animated, talking to each other and working out (often wrong) answers. They all see/saw the point I’d tried to make and was able, once more, to tie-in the result into Blooms. (For those who’ve seen this: I’ve replaced Bush with Barak!)

We then went back to texting and to an exercise that required the group to evaluate a piece of Shakespeare (the two morning groups had to do the same with a newspaper article). The activity engaged the group at the higher levels of Blooms and I like to think that they understood that once again, the technology was by no means a barrier to the learning that took place. Hopefully they will realise that THEY are the experts in their teaching rooms and that as such it is their job (their skill) to make the learning as valuable and inclusive as possible. Simple thought and preparation are often enough on the one hand, but on the other, an understanding of the available tools is just as essential.

We addressed the current plethora of tools next by looking at various Web 2.0 facilities. The discussion around Web 2.0 (what it is and what it isn’t and what it might do and what it might not) was valuable and I think that each person took a better understanding of blogs/wikis; Web/Web2.0 away with them. They explored the various sites for around 20 minutes. Videojug and MoleTV were favourites of most vocational tutors with builders and hairdressers becoming quite animated at what they found on these sites. MoleTV was a big winner with the practical trades. Others found online Mind Mapping software useful. No one really looked at Flickr or YouTube, although one or two did investigate Delicious.

During two of the three sessions we were able to discuss how these web sites could be made to address our Blooms pyramid and on the third we looked at individual tool types (video camera, MP3 player etc,) and addressed these in the same way. I’m a big believer in going where the learner needs to go at that time and provided it fits my aims to roll with it. The time exploring Web 2.0 sites was very much an example of this. I’d planned a 15-minute session with 10-minute feedback and identification of pedagogical opportunities but the group were so animated and engaged I allowed them the full 25 minutes to explore. They were discussing use across the room anyway!

I thought that the day was a really useful one, with engaged learners throughout. I had prepared too much (as always) and struggled to fit everything in – in fact on two sessions I stopped well short and on the third, we adjusted the session to fit the room. Sadly, the room did not engender group work, which is what I’d planned. But that’s always a difficulty in colleges: computer rooms are for computering and non-computer rooms are designed for ‘stand and deliver’. We need to make more rooms (spaces?) available that offer the opportunity to blend learning activities. Two or three to a computer is not always a bad thing especially if the activity is well planned.

My room was also very very warm – so to the teacher I met at MoLeNET training last year but whose name I have forgotten :-() who loaned me his fan – I must say a hearty ‘thank you’. It was a real life saver. Thank you Gloucestershire College.