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.

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IPD – 2

Many thanks to those of you that read my previous IPD post and special thanks to those of you that took the trouble to comment. The time and effort you took to respond is much appreciated.

Each comment is blog-worthy in itself.

I did say, at the end of that post that I might do a part-two to IPD and so here it is.  After those thoughtful and constructive comments made by technical experts in the field, I will try to be more conciliatory than I might otherwise have been.

Throughout, I use the word ‘I’ as a composite of personal experience and those experiences related to me by various teaching practitioners up and down the land.

What is it about ‘builds’, or ‘disk images’ that is so hard to manage? I’m sure there’s a reason, but it’s not clear to me what it is. As Col said in his comment: “[we] … don’t always have a realistic insight into the roles of other departments”.

I know that this is a contentious subject – I used to have frequent discussions with colleagues about it but I’m not a systems guy and therefore find it hard to understand. “We can’t add that piece of software because we’ve finished that build now” or “sorry, it’s not part of the disk image”. Another favourite is “oo – you’ll have to wait until half term for that”. I understand the words, I hear the sounds – but not the reason and it just doesn’t translate. Why can’t I have Audacity downloaded and installed on my computer for next week? Really – why?

Somewhere on the institution’s VLE or IntRAnet there will be a software policy. I wonder when was this last updated in collaboration with people who teach or (whoa – what are you about to say??) people who learn? When was there any actual discussion about the policy?

We send our teacher colleagues out on staff development (CPD – maybe eCPD) sessions, often at great expense and during these sessions they become enthused by new tools and techniques they see and become aware of the potential for them and their learners. They then return to base where “no” is the first answer and “not until blah blah blah” is the last one.

De-motivated, the teacher resorts to chalk and talk or worse.

Management, often advised by ill informed IPDs, frequently issue diktats that result in sites being banned – I know I touched on this before but how do we move forward from the stalemate?

I was at a college recently, where Facebook had been banned. The safety of learners and teachers was the reason (in a nutshell). This seems to fly in the face of informed opinion. E.g. “Pupils given a greater degree of freedom to surf the internet at school are less vulnerable to online dangers in the long-term, [ofsted] inspectors say.”http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/8505914.stm

The thing that is missing from all of the scenarios on both IPD and IPD-2 is discussion, mediation and decision. The three parties involved should be teachers (informed by and in collaboration maybe, with learners), technicians imbued with the remit for systems safety and management. No one or two of these parties should be able to make unilateral (or bi-lateral?) decisions. This needn’t be an arduous or long winded procedure.

It would seem that Louise http://loujak78.wordpress.com/ and Col http://mindmug.wordpress.com/ have this cracked in their institutions and that Ben http://homepage.ntlworld.com/armaitus/work.htm would be a welcome (if underpaid) leader of any institutional systems team.

So – are you prepared to talk?