A quiet month

April never promised to be the busiest month in this year’s calendar and work-wise, that has been particularly true because of the way in which Easter has fallen this year. However, on a social, family and learning front – it has been non-stop rock and roll. See http://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com for more about the social side of April (and especially, Easter).

I started the month by finishing off some City and Guilds Functional Skills ICT marking; all done and dusted by 7th. Earlier, on the 4th, I went into Leeds to meet Lilian Soon, James Clay, John Whalley and Ron Mitchell for a meal and a chat – a fabulous F2F! We talked about all sorts and as always, it’s great to meet these creative friends.

On the 6th, I met Lilian and Ron again (along with many other fun and ‘e’ type chums) at a special Techdis (no longer TechDis) meeting for Accredited Trainers. Then on the 7th, I went over to the Salford TEN centre to join the RM team at a day-long LEGO training session. This session concerned a grown up version of LEGO, not the WeDo version I’ve been playing with in-between everything else this last few weeks.

On the 9th, we realised that the good weather which had started earlier in the week, just wasn’t going to go away – which was good because Sharon and I had to drive up to Glasgow to retrieve her mum Pat. Pat lives in Dothan, Alabama and had been staying up near Plockton, Kyle of Lockalsh visiting her terminally ill sister (Sharon’s aunt). Sadly, her sister had passed away and her nephew David agreed to bring her down to Glasgow for the ‘exchange’. It was a beautiful day and the journey was an absolute delight.

w/c 11th was spent playing with LEGO and carrying out some preparation for work I have coming up in June and July. I have a small piece of work to carry out for RM on their learning platform on the 28th and that’s that for April. Remember to look at http://saturdaywalks.wordpress.com for more ‘Easter’ blogging.

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Full Stops

This won’t be a long post, I just want to share something I learned recently.

Yesterday, I visited my friend and colleague Lilian Soon at her home. We were discussing the potential for supporting and delivering the new iTQ in Accessible practice across our region. Part of this discussion was to compile a proposal for the local Regional Support Centre.

During our discussions, and whilst compiling the proposal on a shared Google Doc, Lilian remarked that we should really put full stops at the end of our bulleted lists, as this helps screen readers to know what they were reading and therefore to make the whole list (of bullets) clearer to the ‘viewer’. Aesthetically, I’d always thought that bulleted lists looked better without full stops or commas, but the minute Lilian mentioned screen readers – I ‘got’ it.

This is a prime example of how small changes to practice, often quite irrelevant to most people’s thinking can make significant benefits to the way in which learners access learning. That’s it. that’s all I wanted to say: put full stops at the end of your bulleted lists, to make screen readers function better.


I forgot that Lilian (in a Tweet of her own yesterday) and then @petejbell (quoted) in a Tweet today said: “Y11 pupil suggested “why not make full stop same colour as background?

Also @didaw said on Twitter: “otherwise screen readers won’t catch a breath!”


Improving language and culture with ICT.

Tomorrow, Sharon and I will meet most of the sixteen people arriving from all over Europe to take part in this course. Some won’t arrive until very late evening, so we’ll meet those people first thing Sunday morning at breakfast.

The course is taking place in Leeds.

This is a city I’ve hated with a real passion ever since I was dragged there twice a year as a cub-capped, short-trousered boy needing summer, then winter clothes from C&A (do you remember C&A?). I used to find it big, noisy and far too full of shops for comfort; the only good thing about it was the train journey from Huddersfield. Yet things change, and whilst it is still big (too big), noisy and far too full of shops for comfort, my preparations for this course have changed my view of Leeds.

The course was conceived by Khawar Iqbal and she’d asked me to help her deliver it if she won the European funding required to run it. Both Sharon and I have been heavily involved in the planning. Basically, Khawar has done the early people-stuff (recruitment, flight and transfer booking, hotel booking etc.) and Sharon has done the later people-stuff (venue planning, food, goodie finding and purchasing, bag packing, David pushing). I have had the leisure of planning the course around Khawar’s original ideas and with Khawar’s support and input.

And the planning has been a real pleasure. I’ve learned more about Leeds than I ever thought existed. I’ve walked the streets with new eyes. Until September this year, Leeds was still the place of boyhood dread; these days even the train journey was (is) to be dreaded (mainly due to the times I generally have to visit Leeds, the trains are overcrowded for about three hours at each end of the day). But researching the history, the culture and the city itself has opened my eyes to it’s (mmm, lost for a word here – not quite beauty …) Well.

So  we start on Sunday with a full-on day and continue through to Saturday with another full day planned (although the afternoon, like Wednesday is fofo).  We will also visit Bradford to look at culture within culture and part of our historical/cultural research will include Bonfire Night! What is it? Why is it? What does it say about us?

Because I have to help deliver Advanced PDA/e-Guide courses in London and Birmingham this week, the lovely Lilian Soon will be working with the group Monday through until Wednesday – so I know they will be in good hands.

Which reminds me – I plan on reading through the Advanced course today (as well as the Leitch 2006 Report, the Digital Britain Report and another big paper I’ve already lost the will to read), so I’d better go.

Jet lag and jelly

I’m not doing so well on the jet-lag front this week: On Monday morning, I was in my office at 3.30am trying to do something useful as sleep wouldn’t come my way. Then on Wednesday, after another night’s disturbed (almost non-existent sleep!) I was up at 5.00am to get ready for an early trip to Blackpool, where I’d been asked to deliver a mobile learning workshop at the 6th form college. Initial discussions had taken place via email while I was in America.

I’d initially decided to re-work one of the MoLeNET days Di and I designed because it involves plenty of activities and related pedagogy. I would just tailor the programme to suit my audience.  Then, I was told that the college was a Mac college – entirely equipped with Macs and MacBooks! Apparently the only college in the country so equipped. This was a blow – as it meant changing the way it was delivered because some of the planned day’s activities involve software that Mac won’t support. I searched and found CaptureIT which supposedly does similar things to Cam Studio but stopped exploring it (I still haven’t explored the video bit yet) because I got another phone call on Tuesday to say that it wouldn’t be an all day gig as originally planned – but a 2 hour one repeated three times (I’m good value!!) That meant starting again as there would still be a need to include engaging activities that didn’t appear too rushed. My objective was for the groups to explore mobile learning without being too didactic.

I felt that the day went well. Each group remained engaged and fulfilled the activities I’d set them with the resulting discussions going the way I’d planned – without dissent.

One of the activities involves reading a piece of text 300-350 words long (I used a newspaper article on two of the sessions and a piece of Shakespeare on the other – readers think the Shakespeare is “hard”) and then composing an SMS text (up to 160 characters) or ‘Tweet’ (up to 140 characters) to demonstrate their understanding of the piece. Part of the value in this comes from the concentration required to sift through the prose, picking out important aspects and then combining them in a very short message. Once all the received messages are shown to the group the full value is realised in the ensuing discussion of submitted ‘understandings’. Lilian and I plan to use this in our ALT-C workshop.

Talking of which, Lilian and I met on Thursday for lunch and to catch up on things that had happened over summer and that needed to be done for the upcoming academic year.  It was a great afternoon, during which we both felt we had achieved something and left each other feeling invigorated. We had pretty much planned our workshop for ALT (Programme) Wednesday morning 9.00am (currently).

And today (more later on Twitter and via blog next week I’m sure) we’re setting off for Wembley to see Fartown (the older persons’ term for Huddersfield Giants) play in the Rugby League Cup Final. http://www.therfl.co.uk/challengecup/