Looking back on 2012

Tray of brussels sproutsOnce again, it’s time to round up the year’s events: to clear away the past to prepare for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.

It’s been a strange year work-wise with little in the way of continuity. Without work from LSIS, JISC TechDis and the JISC RSC-SE, the year would have been very bleak indeed.

I started the blogging year with a rant about Michael Gove’s well-publicised wish to turn all school children into computer programmers.  However, in the speech he used to announce his programming initiative he also said: “As online materials grow and flourish, we all need to think about how we can guide students through the wealth of information and techniques freely available and accessible online.” … a statement that I heartily agree with and something that is still sadly lacking in everyday teaching and learning environments.

Learners need to check the validity and veracity of the information they find on the Internet and to evaluate its worth for their purpose.

Quite a number of teachers spent their own ‘learning’ years, studying worthy tomes without any thought of the way that contradictory, conflicting and simply inaccurate information might ‘one day’ be easily found ‘online’. They were not brought up to undertake research in the manner that today’s information sources demand; the ways that their charges need to employ.

Moodle training has been a great feature of my work this year and will hopefully continue to be something that draws interest from customers. My first Moodle training event was in January at Pontefract Sixth Form College, arranged by the Yorkshire and Humberside RSC. The most recent was for Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA) in December. I spent a week at the college, close to Maidenhead, towards the end of November, delivering training to Moodle Champions in VLE use and then again just last week, I delivered a short online course to the same team – about features of Moodle Admin.

Ambassador logo

During the summer months, I was employed by TechDis to be their RSC-Conference Trolly Dolly.  In this role, I promoted the newly launched ‘TechDis Voices’ and ‘TechDis Toolbox’; two of the most significant and exciting initiatives of the year.

I continue to work with TechDis over the winter 2012/13 as part of the Ambassador programme. I’ve already travelled widely in the south east of England as part of this face-to-face TechDis Accredited Trainer role, visiting Lingfield, Weybridge, Margate and Aylesbury.

During December, I decided to deliver a series of #Advent #SugSnips#SugSnips. This revived a very successful delivery of #SugSnips during 2011.

I’m not convinced that this current short series of posts, delivered in a completely different way to before and copied to Facebook, has been quite as successful. Time will tell (I haven’t checked the individual logs yet). However, re-tweets and shares have been non-existent. Maybe it’s time to re-think the #SugSnips idea?

Finally, back in August 2011 I asked why does Flickr not have a belting App? Well, it does now – having released a new (and absolutely ‘belting’ App) during the latter months of 2012.  Well done Flickr. Here it is.

Anyway, if you’re still reading this, may I wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year?

Happy New Year.

Trolly Dolly

Over the last few weeks I have been attending a series of JISC Advance Regional Support Centre (RSC) summer fairs on behalf of TechDis. Many readers will know that TechDis are one of JISC Advance’s advisory services promoting:

‘… inclusive practices, resources and advice for learning and teaching in UK higher education, further education & skills, and independent and specialist colleges’. From http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/ [downloaded 4th July 2012]

My most recent (final) two roles were in London at the RSC London ‘eFactor2012’ event, which took place in the magnificent Senate House, close to Russell Square and at Hartlepool College’s superb new build for RSC Northern. I wasn’t at my best for the London event having contracted a mild dose of man-flu earlier in the week.

However, I did manage to rustle up enough voice to talk with the many visitors to my stand.

I was there primarily to promote the newly launched ‘TechDis Voices’ and ‘TechDis Toolbox’.

As before in Glasgow, Leeds and Taunton there was great interest in both products but what was interesting here in London was the fact that the range of attendees seemed to more widely cover the F.E. and Skills sector. There was equal interest from college teachers (not just the techie types, but real teachers) to ACL and WBL representatives. Many of those I spoke to here were not aware of the potential for text-to-speech or of the free tools which might allow it to happen. ACL (adult and community learning) tutors were even more excited by the range and simplicity of Toolbox, which will hopefully help their learners to better overcome and fears of technology.

Sadly, my trip to Hartlepool was a little less successful due to the leaflets and banner being sent to the wrong address by couriers. It’s surprising how much these colourful artifacts do attract people to the stand. With just a laptop, a white tablecloth and two hastily created A4 notices, it was hard to attract attention of anyone. Some folks who had been involved in development did stop by and chat but very few others.

Did you know that folks around here are called monkey hangers?

Please see the previous two posts concerning my visits:

https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/jess-and-jack/

https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/toolbox/

… and the post by Rosemary Leadley, from which the video above is kindly loaned.

http://jiscrsclondon.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/jisc-techdis-introduce-jess-and-jack-at-e-factor-2012/

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!

Where will June go?

Laptop, garden and pond - early Sunday morning

Laptop, garden and pond - early Sunday morning

Sunday: I’m writing this in the garden, under the shade of our willow, listening to the calming sound of our (newly installed- last week) cascade of water. And it’s only 10.00am. Brilliant. Why can’t all work (half work, half play today) be like this? Because I’ve decided to learn how to properly use the Mac Book Pro before it becomes my main machine, I’m using the Vista jobbie today. Which was confusing to start with because the touch pad (like all touch pads before it and for the entirety of my laptop experience) needs to be ‘double-tapped’ to replicate the left-mouse-click. Because the Mac Book Pro has a sweet ‘click‘ feature, where the entire touch pad becomes a left-click, I’d forgotten to double-click and was (doh) confused when the pad wouldn’t depress (double doh!).  However, there are many ‘Apple’ idiosyncrasies I need to master too. Like – why is there no delete button (the forward-delete I mean, not the back-delete – which exists)? Only last Friday did I find the shortcut (Fn+backspace) to delete to the right one character at a time. Hey ho.

Another noticable feature of the Vista laptop today is just how tenuous its connection is to the WiFi. V. Slow, whereas the Mac ‘just does it’.

Tomorrow sees the beginning of a very hectic period for me. It starts tomorrow with a fairly long Skype meeting about material development and hopefully future work, then there’s the RSC Yorkshire and Humberside summer conferecne on Tuesday – where I’m helping Lilian to ‘man’ the ‘interactive corner’ (or something like that). We’re both working together then on the Wednesday (if that’s ever confirmed) and on Thursday I’m working at Ashton 6th Form College. Friday is a ‘phew, where did the week go?’ day. Next Sunday I begin my week-long European venture with Khawar Iqbal. That week fills me with some trepidation because I’ve never delivered to non-native English speakers before. Much of my delivery is based on anecdotal humour (along with sound common sense and good training techniques) and it’s a worry that I can’t easily fall back on that skill (?) But Khawar assures me that I will be fine. Watch this space.

The rest of the month would need me to look at my diary but I know that I am going to be at the RSC Northwest conferecne in Southport and at the RSC Southwest conference in Weston-Super-Mare, where I am working with Weston’s Super-James Clay!

Yesterday was a fabulous day too. Because the weather forcast had been so good we decided to invite the family round for a BBQ. Ben couldn’t make it because he was going to a stag party in Manchester but my mum and dad, Emma, Charlies and the girls and a couple of friends came along. We had a brilliant time.

Amy and Charlotte with their babies

Amy and Charlotte with their babies