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.

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Maslow v Internet

I’ve just returned from a short break in Spain and for five of the six days that I was away from home I was without Internet access. Many of you might think that that was a relaxing situation to be in, but I can assure you that for me, it wasn’t.

It’s surprising how much you (I) can miss the Internet.

Earlier this year, Sharon and I bought a 10% share in a one bedroom apartment on the Costa Del Sol – it didn’t cost too much and we get to visit almost as much as we like, which probably won’t be more than once a year. We wanted something (somewhere) that would almost certainly be warmer than it is here at any given time. I realised that the need for warmth is a basic need and can be found supporting all of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs.

That started me thinking …

Without me realising, the Internet has become something that fulfills my Belongingness and Love (social) needs, as well as my Esteem needs; both of which Maslow recognises as higher requirements en route to self-actualisation. Only whilst eating our lunch in a pub in Gibraltar – where WiFi was available, were we able to check emails, Twitter and Facebook. In our apartment complex and in all of the cafe’s and restaurants we visited in Spain, we were not!

How then were we able to:
a) check when and who Spain were playing in the European cup (and thus avoid the crowds in certain bars)?
b)
check emails (after all I’m still self-employed and need to reply as quickly and as often as required to correspondences)?
c) check Twitter and Facebook to keep up with family and friends?
d)
provide the answer to simple arguments (where DO you find out the name of such and such an actor)?

I do all of that without thinking at home on my iPhone, my iPad, my laptop etc. when I’m out and about I have WiFi ‘cloud’ access, 3’s MiFi access and a variety of other logins that permit me to access the Internet freely and easily – so when it’s not available, it comes as a shock.

Not having access to the Internet ‘on tap’ really did come as a surprise.

Now we’re home, I managed to catch up a little on Sunday but then on Monday BT seemed to be having a problem in our area, as we have had no Internet and no landline for two days! I’ve no idea why or what’s happening so it’s lucky that I still have some data left on my MiFi this month but with guests staying with us – all of whom are Internet-savvy, who knows how long that will last!

Footnote

The apartment complex committee’s chairman has agreed that we can boost our signal in the apartment (!) with the installation of a box that sounds like it will give limited ethernet access to laptops – but which will still not give WiFi access to the variety of other devices we have become used to using. They only have a 3gig connection for around 200 apartments!

Previous notes on Maslow

Maslow:

I’m quite interested in the way we might revisit Maslow, with an eye on the social and economic changes that are happening around us. I think there’s a real need now to recognise how the (especially) lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy are changing. Young learners now have technological needs that the original paper preceded. As Dan Bevarly (@dbevarly) says: “You can’t engage if you can’t connect”. I am working on this, but as with everything else (and work etc), it’s a slow process.

From my 2009 post: https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/02/21/experiential-learning/

BT Home Hub

BT are my broadband provider. There’s little point looking around for a new provider as they would have to use the BT line anyway and I know for sure that despite all the noise around ‘Infinity’ and super-fast broadband speeds, all that I can expect from my local exchange is around 4mb/s.

I’m happy enough with that, there’s no point wishing for something I can’t have.

screenshot of my broadband speed

I have a fairly old but serviceable BT Home Hub and (touch wood) have only ever experienced intermittent problems – the most recent of which was dealt with by making a short call to BT’s help desk in India. My hub allows any of my visitors (with the password) to connect. No worries.

However, that’s not the experience two of my friends have with their BT Home Hubs. These two hubs, one as old as mine and another one of the 3rd generation hubs, just do not work properly! A thousand calls to India will not (have not) make them work and they are just frustrating wastes of space.

Gill bought a new MacBook Pro last week. The Apple chaps made sure that everything worked for her before leaving the shop – so she was doubly disappointed when her new laptop wouldn’t pick up her BT Home Hub. Or rather, it did pick up the hub, it just WOULD NOT connect to it. Another (she made more than one) 40 minute call to India did eventually find a roundabout way of connecting but it’s hardly satisfactory and, as the weekend has shown, not very long lasting.

Gill’s old Windows laptop (XP) did connect to the hub but her husband’s Windows 7 laptop never could. Whenever Sharon and I visit, none of our ‘i’ or other devices EVER connected to Gill’s home hub. It has always been faulty but just try getting BT to understand that.

The MacBook Pro is working fine (it worked ok in the shop, it also detected and connected to my MiFi without a problem) and the Home Hub is receiving Internet from BT as the MacBook Pro connects easily when using the Ethernet cable – but it simply won’t connect to the Home Hub via WiFi (as AirPort is now called).

Karen’s third generation Hub simply won’t allow anyone except Karen to connect to it either, and from time to time it won’t even let her use it.

So what’s the answer? Who do my friends contact to tell their story, without going through the Indian merry-go-round again and again?

Why don’t BT recognise the signs that suggest the ‘caller’/paying customer has faulty apparatus?

How can they make their Internet Hubs more accessible for themselves and their visitors?

Digital Traveller

I’ve just spent a pleasant weekend away in Ford, near Leek, Staffordshire with family (Sharon’s). We had great weather in great countryside but with no connectivity whatsoever.

i.e. No Internet connection and no phone connection: With all the consequent ‘no’s: no text, no emails, no checking crossword answers on Google, no checking facts for any of my blogs (e.g. Food blog; Saturday blog; Blogger blog amongst irregular others), no researching #SugSnips. It was bliss. Although, that’s quite glib, it WAS bliss, but for how long could I (we) have managed?

I’m writing my notes for this on the Sunday; we got here on Friday and we’ll return home tomorrow – and for me, that’s quite long enough thank you. I’ve managed to turn myself into an information junkie. I always feel that there is always too much information ‘noise’ out there, but when I want to know something – it’s the Internet I turn to. When I want to contact someone, it’s their mobile phone or their email I use – I rarely pick up the land-line ‘for chat’.

That’s me and that’s my problem (and to a lesser extent Sharon’s). But what about the others?

Two sisters in law say they are quite okay without any of the connectivity I crave and with Joanne, that’s more than likely true as she’s not a texter and rarely has her mobile phone with her – but she does use the Internet well for research. And she’s a big time Kindle user. Rosie on the other hand, despite her joking derision of my ‘loss’, has greatly missed her ‘text’ connectivity, having to make several walks up the field behind our cottage to get the sliver of connectivity she needed to keep in touch with her extended family. Unlike me, neither of them ‘need’ connectivity for their work.

We are all of us (society in general) digitally connected, yet we all have different communication needs. From those that have my all-encompassing need to access to the Internet 24/7, through Joanne’s need to have people available on the end of a land-line, to Rosie’s preference to letter writing (with pen and paper).

But we cannot be a completely digital society without complete digital coverage. So, come on service providers – you must do better.

1996 – 2011

It occurred to me the other day that I should perhaps reflect upon my fifteen years of Internet familiarity and use. And then, this morning thanks to a Tweet by Sarah Horrigan, I came across this:
http://mashable.com/2011/09/09/internet-yesterday-today/

Spookily, the dates coincide with my own Internet usage.

I’d heard about the Internet for a couple of years but when, in August 1996, I travelled to Australia with workmate Stephen, I experienced it for the first time. Pat and Joe in Berowra (north of Sydney), Stephen’s close relatives, had an Internet connection and I tried and better tried to get a grip of what it was I was looking at. Yahoo! seemed to be Joe’s favourite site and because he ‘searched’ with it AND emailed with it, I was marginally confused about what it actually did.

All rights belong to https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/1d/Altavista-logo.pngDetermined to find out, I used to spend every spare moment I had at work, on one of only two Internet-enabled machines available to Dewsbury College staff. Much of the rest of 1996 was spent looking at Yahoo! and other sites like Alta Vista and Excite.

I also enrolled on an html writing course and although I would never say I could code a full web-site, I learned enough to get by (as I still do).

My time on the college Internet-enabled machines was noticed and I eventually became involved with in-house staff development. I spread my burgeoning Internet skills amongst staff and over those early years, to evening classes, often populated by what we now call silver surfers.  So what else has happened over those fifteen years?

Well, an awful lot.

The college started to use email as a main means of communication (that took some explaining/training); the college (thanks to Becta funding and JANET) began to buy more computers that could be linked to the Internet; more and more sites then began to be blocked by the college, the Internet doubled in size each year (at least); other technologies thrived alongside the Internet (Flash etc.); Microsoft began to create usable tools like Word ’97 and PowerPoint; YouTube came along and blew us all away; MySpace and then Facebook came along; Twitter won the battle of micro-blogs (at the expense of my favourite Jaiku) and – eventually, colleagues began to ‘get’ the technology revolution.

It’s hard to imagine what the next fifteen years will bring.