Rewarding

This is a longish post – please bear with it 🙂

Picture of Chirk aquaductHow many of us ever know what becomes of our students once we’ve finished teaching them? How many of us ever care?

I still see many of my ex-catering students on Facebook: they ‘friended’ me years after I finished teaching them, which was years before Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were ever thought of. They are all getting on with their lives, working, bringing up families and doing all the normal stuff I probably did myself when younger.

But not all of my ex-learners are able to function quite like that.

I’ve known Larry since he was born; his father and I went to school together.

I’ve known Larry professionally since he was 16 when his class came into college on a Friday morning for a 2-hour cookery class. Larry has some minor disabilities and a moderate learning difficulty, but these didn’t prevent him from taking part in the class – in fact his SLDD school classmates were often unable to take part at all without someone to one help them one to one. Larry was more able.

When he left the SLDD school at 19 he came into the college ‘foundation studies’ department and eventually, when that particular funding stream ceased, he came to me in Catering:  We had created an NVQ level 1 catering course especially for learners similar to Larry. The cookery part of the qualification wasn’t beyond them; the ‘realistic working environment (RWE)’ wasn’t impossible and we could go to town with the life-skills aspects – something my team believed in passionately.  We squeezed two years out of that funding stream and taught them basic maths, basic English, work skills and IT – all of these were coordinated and where a learner was weak in one subject, but strong in another, we paired them up and they helped each other. It was a brilliant course which I was happy to hand over to the talented, tenacious, energetic and inspired Sarah Mowet when we created a level 2 course for them to roll onto.

Snow up Golcar 2013

We knew that the learners would not be quite as successful at this higher level because the cookery requirements were just too complex, but we could still help them to improve their life chances by continuing the basic skills tuition and food service skills until funding once more (finally) kicked them out. For level 2 we needed them to have work placement experience and it was Sarah who found Larry his position at the local Pizza Hut. She fought for him to get the placement and Larry fought to keep it – twelve years on he’s still there. Thank you Sarah. Thank you Larry.

Larry has kept his job at Pizza Hut – two days a week – despite the ever changing managers and other Pizza Hut personnel. He has kept it by sheer force of personality, hard work and the ability to adapt (even if slowly, over time) to changing job roles. He has never worked front of house and has always had to carry out some of the more mundane tasks in the kitchen: making up the pizza boxes, washing up etc. But he has never ceased to learn.

Through all of this time, Larry has lived with his parents. He’s in his mid-30s now and last week he moved into his own ‘pad’. It’s not quite sheltered housing, but there is someone on site (a complex with around twenty other similar pads) in case there’s any real difficulty. Larry’s pad has a shower/wet room, a bedroom, a living room and a small kitchen; all of which he will look after on his own. He is responsible for his own cooking and cleaning; he even has a washing machine.

He’s been greatly excited as his new home, which he will share with others in similar positions to him, was being made ready. Because of his slight visual impairment, he has a large T.V. and when we moved him in, we made sure that this would function as a monitor for his laptop – it did, wonderfully. He had a remote keyboard and mouse and can control his computer from the settee, along with his music. We also fixed up his Wii – so he can continue to exercise.

Prior to him moving, mum and dad had been working with Larry to consider what he would eat, when and how best to prepare it. The majority would be frozen meals that he’d either bought or that he or parents had cooked ready for him to use. They agreed between them, a five-week menu that meant Larry had a varied diet and which would help him to plan what he would take out of the freezer before going off about his daily business.

And here’s the crux of my post.

More snow up GolcarI spoke to Larry after his first week there and he said it had been ok (in his Yorkshire bred, understated way) and then I went walking with his dad on Saturday.

Dad told me that they’d been wondering how he was going on (and I think they’d been missing him too) and popped around for a cup of tea on Wednesday. They found him sat on the settee; he’d re-connected the laptop to the T.V. and was working on a document (it could have been either Excel or Word – I don’t know) that looked really complex. When asked, he said it was an inventory of his freezer’s contents. The table contained all of the food types to be found in his freezer and the two end columns were titled: Yes – No.

Dad asked him what it was for he said he’d made it himself so that when he went out shopping he could see from his stocktaking which things he would need to buy to replace things in the No column.

I loved that story – which is why I’ve written so much background (because without context it might not mean much). Larry was always good with IT and could always follow careful instructions but creating an inventory and then stocktaking are two things we’ve never taught him. He’s taught himself that.

And that’s rewarding for everyone concerned.

Larry isn’t his real name.

Face to Face

I had another great day out yesterday. Once again, I was working directly with practitioners.

Sincerest thanks to West Thames College, in Isleworth for inviting me down to deliver two sessions on the pedagogical use of mobile phones in teaching and learning

And thank you too, to the thirty odd staff members that passed my way for being so receptive, positive and enthusiastic. Your students are very lucky.

Since the downturn, I’ve found it hard to get this type of face-to-face event, but every time I do I come away reinvigorated and recharged.

Since all of the national eCPD progammes stopped, several colleges and providers have been kind enough to invite me in on their staff training days and each one has told the same story: Practitioners still need help in learning how to utilise technology in teaching and learning and how to recognise opportunities for that utilisation – the difference is that they are now ready to accept this learning.

There is nothing like face-to-face workshops to encourage this kind of development. I never just deliver, I always show and then allow time for practice. Yesterday it was TEXTING (we all sent texts and explored Wordle as an aside) >> PEDAGOGY (some Q&A interaction around Bloom’s Taxonomy) >> QR CODES (everyone created codes and discussed uses) >> MULTI-MEDIA (we looked at iPadio, and sent photos and videos to Flickr). Everyone contributed and everyone stayed on board. Well done.

Over the last twelve months, I’ve also been invited to lead workshops at Blackburn College, Gloucestershire College, Leeds College of Music, Pontefract New College and at a small number of events with mixed audiences. Each time it has been like giving ice creams to children: much appreciated and very much enjoyed.

Thanks again to all concerned.

https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/boring-ict/

https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/enaging-with-moodle/

Boring ICT

As I suggested in my previous post, last week was a cracker. Two days out, working with practitioners and both days 100% successes.

Brilliant.

On Friday I presented a workshop for Glynis Frater of Learning Cultures at the National Railway Museum (NRM) in York. The course had been discussed and planned almost a year ago, but getting enough participants to make it viable has been a challenge, so there was some relief that we were able at last, to deliver it for the first time in such a wonderful venue. We’d been let down at the last moment by our original venue choice, so we were lucky to be able to secure the NRM at such short notice.

The workshop had been designed to “introduce or update teachers and other practitioners to the real power that ICT holds to engage learners” and I first planned to show participants (remind them of) some of the interactive features of MS Office. Features such as forms and comments in Word, ‘IF’ statement quizzes in Excel and drag and drop in PPT

Then I wanted them to explore the huge potential of mobile learning (mobile in the sense that the the learner, the device, or the activity could be mobile), Web 2.0/social networking and accessibility/inclusivity. I’d also planned on working with them to explore their use of VLEs – but none of those attending actually used their VLE because each one was an authority wide installation (authority controlled) and (I’m told) unusable, which is a sad reflection on VLE use in schools.

All of those attending were Heads of ICT in their secondary school.

Yet, they’d never used forms or comments in Word before, never thought of teaching ‘IF’ statements by asking learners to create an ‘IF’ based quiz and had never seen ‘IF’ statements embedded within ‘IF’ statements. Interactive text boxes in PowerPoint were a mystery to them.

As a consequence, they were overjoyed to be shown these new (to them) techniques and came up with some good ideas for using each one. It did however reinforce my previous statement from an earlier post, responding to Michael Gove’s inference that ICT was boring …

What is really required [..] is a commitment to teach teachers (all teachers, all sectors, in-service and pre-service) how ICT [..] can be taught in exciting, encouraging, effective and efficient ways. ‘e’ learning?

Initial Teacher Training should, instead of simply requiring trainee teachers to use PowerPoint, include the effective use of modern and emerging technologies for both teaching and learning.
From: https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/teaching-ict/

There was some resistance to the mobile side of things and a little nervousness to the wider applications of Web 2.0, but all in all the participants had a great day and left us full of praise. They loved Wordle [also see my previous Wordle post] and Tagxedo.

What we need next is more teachers from the wider curriculum, not just heads of ICT – the more the merrier. See Learning Cultures web site for event details.


Teaching ICT

After all of the fuss surrounding Michael Gove’s speech yesterday [Published in the Guardian] I wondered what it is he was trying to say.

First of all let me say that I haven’t read the speech in any great depth, I only skimmed through it; the man and his policies makes me cringe, so I find it hard to read beyond the dogma and understand the core issue. I have however, seen and read comments by my peers – who I know and trust.

And, they seem to be mixed.

The banner headlines would appear to be something along the lines of “Briton should get rid of ICT teaching because it is boring”, and “Briton should teach programming languages because they are far more interesting“. If it wasn’t Gove that was saying this, I’d probably agree – to a point.

ICT teaching in this country has been boring for a long time, it’s surprising that it has taken so long for HMG to realise that. Even when I was teaching in college (remember, I taught Catering – but I also taught IT to caterers), ICT teachers were simply passing out Fofo tasks and assignments that held the interest of no one. Back then, I tried to make the work more interesting by getting learners to make Wordsearches (creating tables, formatting cells), posters (importing images, formatting etc.) and job applications (real life skill) before we had to deal with the more mundane, qualification dictated, boring stuff.

So getting rid of all that is a must. Nevertheless, word processing is a life skill, so it shouldn’t be ditched just because it’s taught in a boring way. Word processing skills include the use of spell-checks and the understanding of a modicum of grammar – both of which are required for communication throughout life as well as in all types of social media. Spreadsheets and Presentation software are also used in all kinds of industry and on every University (H.E.) course. Neither Industry nor H.E. will be very happy if they suddenly have to start teaching basic ICT to recruits, especially because it has been thought to be ‘boring’!

As for the programming side of Gove’s argument – I can go with that, but only to a certain extent. He’s obviously been impressed by something he’s seen at MIT, but for goodness’ sake stuff like this has been around for years and years. Seymour Papert was playing around with Lego years ago and there is still a body of teachers that can easily subscribe to his methods. And (just to wrap up this part of the argument) what good is programming to a kid who wants to be an accountant, a plumber, or God forbid, a chef?  Get real Gove.

What is really required and what has been required for at least ten years is a commitment to teach teachers (all teachers, all sectors, in-service and pre-service) how ICT (or IT, or ILT – whatever you want to call it) can be taught in exciting, encouraging, effective and efficient ways. ‘e’ learning?

Initial Teacher Training should, instead of simply requiring trainee teachers to use PowerPoint, include the effective use of modern and emerging technologies for both teaching and learning. Using mobile devices, using social media, using games etc.

Information, Communication and Technology for use in a 21st Century world.

There are enough examples out there Gove – just look.


Moodle 2 and so on

I’m just coming to the end of a longish period of time, working with a great team of ‘e’ people.

Since June this year we’ve been working on a Super Moodle for a College in Leeds. The team was put together and managed by the wonderful Lilian Soon.

Now that the work is gradually coming to a close and we’ve begun to reflect upon the outcomes, we have realised that all VLEs could be like this – if only colleges and university departments had the vision to set such a thing in motion and if staff (academic and non-academic) could comprehend the benefits.

We’ve used Moodle 2 at the core of this development and integrated lesson capture tools like Adobe Connect and Panopto. Panopto has a plugin called Unison that allows video and audio to be uploaded ready for streaming to the user a’la YouTube. Mahara is integrated to allow easy portfolio building by learners – but which also allows easy sharing and collaboration by all. Xerte too, is incorporated – giving staff the opportunity to easily create interactive, accessible multimedia resources. There have been other more technical developments as well – but far too clever for me to understand.

At the college, they wrap all of this up in a fairly seamless learning environment. Whatever you think of ‘naming’ VLEs (and this college does have a ‘name’ for theirs), it has worked – because all of the various non-Moodle integrations have been skinned to have a similar look and feel – all down to the careful planning by Lilian and her team.

My part in all this has been quite small (on the huge scale of things) – I’ve worked with various staff to prepare them for using the end-result and to help them build both on-line and in-line learning pages.

Furthermore, I’ve been involved in the generic preparation and training of staff for use of ILT/e-Learning and with the preparation of extensive on-line ‘help’ and training materials for all users. I’ve learned a lot about Moodle 2 and those many peripheral tools.

But most of all, I’ve learned a lot more about what a learning environment can be – if we put our minds (and expertise) to it. Well done Lils, Ron and everyone else. (Contact any one of us if you want more details)

Shoe Shine

I was talking with Steve Smith the other night and by an indirect route we arrived at the subject of vocational skills (although we didn’t use that term). We’d both been working that day at Leeds College of Music and were waiting for the Manchester train on Leeds City station. Our talk continued in the carriage, into which three policemen jumped, just as the train was about to set off.

I remarked to Steve that I’d seen that happen once before.  As soon as the train set off (the train in my story) they, the three policemen, began to hand out leaflets. I can’t remember now what the leaflets were about, but probably they referred to fare dodging and the penury outcomes of trying to do such a thing. Our three however, did nothing more than ride the train as far as Huddersfield.

Nevertheless I’d said, whilst relating my story to Steve, it might have been more cost effective to have had a trainee or a young person of some kind do the leaflet distribution, than three full-fat, five star policemen. Steve immediately expanded that thought to ‘shoe shine’ philosophy!

When asked to explain what he meant, he said that when someone sets up a shoe-shine stall, they are more often than not looked down upon and regarded as underachievers. We both wondered why, when all they were doing was trying to earn a living [I found this later – http://www.arnoldwesker.com/synopses/lady_shoeshine.htm]. We drifted then into the fact that nothing below Foundation Degree seems to be valued any more and even that is sometimes looked down upon. Again – why? Surely anyone who is managing to hold down a job in this climate should be applauded. Furthermore and again surely, their skills should be constantly supplemented with anything that can make them do their job better and (I’m drifting into dodgy territory here) make their company more profitable and therefore more likely to employ even more workers.

Whilst I realise that, as the chief benefactor of such a theory would be the employer, he/she should be the one to pay for this extra training, why does the government not think it worthwhile to properly fund and support real vocational learning at any level other than H.E.

I know that much more money has gone into apprenticeships this year (and ‘going forward’) but that isn’t enough – is it? Not all of our plumbers and electricians can be apprentice trained, not all car mechanics and engineers want to work for just one company all of their lives (nor can they expect to), so why can there not be the skills training that used to be available many years ago – when having a ‘trade’ was both respected and respectable?

bit.ly – a better LMS?

Some readers may have followed my exploration of facilities offered by http://fur.ly and how it might be used as a learning management system (LMS). At the end of my most recent post, (see 3, below) I said ‘watch this space’, as I intended to explore another service – http://bit.ly.

I have now had the chance to delve into bit.ly and explore what turns out to be its greater potential for use as an ad hoc LMS.

First of all, to get the most from bit.ly, you need to register. It does work as a URL shortener without registration, but to use it to its full potential (which I don’t think I have yet fully tapped), you do need to register. It’s a painless process.

When you have logged in, you will see that over time, the URLs that you have reduced in length are all logged in your ‘area’. If, as I have done today, you wish to bundle some links together you can do this. Simply click on the offer to bundle your most recent links. You then have the opportunity to add/delete links as required and to rearrange them. Where http://bit.ly has the edge over fur.ly, is the way it allows the LMS designer to add an introduction (instructions) and allows the end user to comment/collaborate on the outcomes. This looks like it might be a powerful feature but I haven’t explored it. Please let me know if you do explore it.

There is also an analytics section which I have not explored either, but which may in time come into its own. If you have a play with it, do please let me know how you get on.

Have a look at my David Lloyd George ‘lesson’: http://bit.ly/f4RX56

Interested users will see that I have once again added a Google Form to gain feedback – you could use this as a formative test at the end of the web site sequence.

Please do let me know what you think.

Related posts:

1) https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/fur-ly/

2) https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2011/04/11/the-power-of-fur-ly-part-one/

3) https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/the-power-of-fur-ly-%E2%80%93-part-two-lms/