Assistive Technology

I’ve just returned from delivering three 90 minutes sessions on Assistive Technology.

Despite its importance for many learners, I’ve always been surprised by the lengths that some teaching staff will go to, to avoid Assistive Technology training sessions. However, two of the three sessions I delivered today were well oversubscribed with almost 30 in each; the third had a credible dozen in attendance.

So well done Abingdon Witney College, you made my day.

I’d been invited to attend the college’s staff training day by the delightful Ellen Lessner. It was my first visit to Abingdon (hopefully not my last) and although marred by a few technical problems, it was a great day. I had hoped to start off by showing the SimDis website and then allowing those attending some time to explore the simulations on offer. However, the shockwave plugin could not be updated by anyone without ‘admin’ rights, so staff were unable to explore the site. The techie people told me that there was some hold up or other with their request to Adobe. Hey ho.

So, instead we explored (see previous post –, which many thought they would find useful. Then Victoria, a talented member of staff, showed Inspiration ( to each group and allowed them chance to explore its basic possibilities.

Then finally, I introduced MyStudyBar.

Ellen had always wanted her colleagues to explore the potential for this collection of FREE software, but had never been able to make it work in the college until Windows 7 was installed. Despite the numbers, we only had 8 USB sticks as the 8 I’d brought with me were quickly quarantined by the very keen virus protection software (it didn’t just quarantine the file – it deleted it!). Anyway, we still managed to explore MyStudyBar’s potential in groups of three or four.

It was disappointing not to be able to experience the delights of the TechDis Voices, which have been downloaded but not yet deployed. These two new voices are better for most learners than Microsoft Anna and as MyStudyBar provides two text-to-speech software items, they would have been given every chance of an airing. Hopefully, learners will shortly have an opportunity to experience the new voices if they are deployed sooner rather than later.

I think that everyone enjoyed most of their session and suspect that each person took at least one thing away with them for further exploration or immediate use.

Thank you to everyone at Abingdon Witney College for your interest in the sessions and to Ellen for her kind and generous hospitality.

10 years of Blogging

I was out walking with John Rousell yesterday, as usual on a Saturday morning [see the more recent photographs taken on Saturday jaunts here], when it occurred to me that I had actually been blogging for over 10 years. It came as quite a surprise to realise this, but in many ways quite rewarding to become aware that my ‘first’ blog post hadn’t been that made back in May 2005, just a few months before leaving my employment at Dewsbury College. As I’ve said before, I’ve always been something of a diary writer, but our conversation yesterday made me realise that I’d also been a blogger for some time too, even before I knew what the word was or meant.

Our conversation had drifted back to the time John and I spent a week cycling from Barmouth (in Wales) to Great Yarmouth (in East Anglia). We’d not realised that it was now over ten years ago (July 1999) since we’d done that trip. We had wanted to cycle from coast to coast and not only did this accomplish that feat at the widest point of the country – but the names rhymed!

John had been showing the cycle trip website to a friend last week and was telling me of his friend’s reaction (incredulity!), when I realised that this was indeed a rudimentary, early blog. We’d photographed our way across the country and kept notes about the journey, which then ended up online as part of my personal website. I had web space at the time from NHL (that might be wrong – they started as Cabletel, then became whatever they were called beginning with ‘n’ and were themselves taken over about the time I moved house and over to BT for my internet). Nevertheless, my ability to edit etc, was lost after my move but I eventually managed to regain the pages and re-post the site a few years ago by simply searching for it (this was before Google offered such a service). I lost some images, but was able to reform it in pretty much the way it was presented originally and to put it back online – back under my control. I’ve never really advertised it as part of my Village e-Learning site – but that’s where it is. Some of the pictures we took that week (on on subsequent Saturday mornings) were later used as part of John’s brilliant SimDis web pages not hosted by TechDis at

This week I’ve been to Birmingham (picture above) once and Leeds twice for work. I learned much more about each city during these visits and although I’ve always liked Birmingham as a city, I’ve similarly always hated Leeds. In both cases – my visits increased my liking for the cities themselves. Well done Leeds. I’ll write more about this later as my interest in Leeds will become a developing theme.

Whilst in Leeds the second time, I was helping Dave Foord and Lilian Soon to deliver a conference/workshop event at The Carriage House for the RSC-YH. This introduced a support service for regional ‘Pathfinder’ bids. We all felt that it went well and now look forward to the contact from delegates to ask for advice and guidance regarding the equipment side of their bids. Whilst there I took this video of Lilian making paper boxes.