Keeping up

Three old foggies in BlackpoolI’ve been quite guilty of not keeping up to this blog page for quite a while now. For that I must apologise.

However, I’ve had so few opportunities to work over the last few months that I’ve had little or nothing to reflect upon (or pontificate about). And things are no better now.

I’ve decided to cut my losses and to stop doing face to face work nationally or regionally. I have a couple of half-promises for part time salaried work next (academic) year and the possibility of some online work too – so that will have to do. If the promises and the possibility come off, it will keep me out of mischief.

I’ve always enjoyed my face to face work and it’s what I feel I’m best at – but there is no longer any demand for my services. None of the national agencies that survive have the money to create opportunities and none of the colleges I’ve worked for can afford to buy-in e-Learning expertise. I know that others like me are struggling but they are younger and need to keep looking for work and for work opportunities. I’m coming to the end of my working life and I have no intention of leading myself into an early grave worrying about where the next job is coming from.

So EduVel’s WordPress page may not be published quite as often in the future as in the past. I still have an interest in education and educational technologies – but the current state of education and the institutions that deliver it fill me with rage – so I’m better off backing off (a little)

I intend to spend the spare time I might have learning Spanish and improving my French, and, as a means of keeping the grey matter up to speed, I intend to start researching an important aspect of European history – one that seems to have been neglected in schools (certainly, no one has taught me or my kids about it).

Watch this space.

Many thanks to everyone for contributing to this blog over the years. Your comments have always been welcome. Please feel free to contact me again through the blog comment area, or through one of my email/twitter/facebook contact addresses. I’m not going anywhere – I’m just working on e-Learning stuff a bit less 😉

Happy Summer.

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Arbeitslos

Arbeitslos 2013I have found this post quite difficult to compose. The subject matter is completely alien to me and I had to think long and hard about whether or not I should write it. I am doing so in the hope that it’s personally cathartic, as I don’t really expect any of the circumstances to change any time soon.

For the first time in over thirty years I find myself without work.

The last time this happened was in 1982 when, following several hard years of self employment a previous recession forced me to close the business I was then running. At that time we sold our delightful semi-detached home and moved into a fish and chip shop. This was good accommodation, but living ‘over’ the shop isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A fish and chip business wasn’t the most lucrative to have at that time either as all of the local businesses and mills were also closing – but we were able to keep a roof over our heads and to feed the kids.

It was following this experience that I moved into Education, starting as a part-time chef-lecturer at Dewsbury College.

I became self-employed once again; seventeen years later in 2005, when my ‘e-Learning Manager’ post at Dewsbury was made redundant. Since then, until the middle of 2011 it was ‘rock and roll’ – I was as busy as anyone else in this business and, I like to think, just as equally respected. Since the summer of 2011, things have slackened off remarkably. Without work given to me by the redoubtable Lilian Soon (at Leeds College of Music) and by LSIS (directly and via various routes), I would have struggled much earlier. I have had other work – not to mention that provided by TechDis (for whom I do still have some residual bits of work) and one of the RSCs, but now that LSIS are no more and the JISC are also tightening their belts, there is nothing on the horizon at all.

I know that I’m not the only one as I’ve seen several status updates on Facebook and on Twitter from respected, often eminent e-Learning gurus – saying the same thing: where is the work?

It would seem to me that at this time; when colleges are being forced to re-think the way they operate due to massively reduced funding streams, that the creative, thoughtful and effective use of e-Learning would be most necessary – but there’s no evidence of that.

I spent a full week in a college last month delivering ‘basic Moodle training’ (17 x 90-minute sessions) to as many of the staff (teaching and non-teaching) as could make those sessions – almost the entire staff body. And, that’s a good thing – but there is no cross-college, management inspired plan to back up the basics with anything more advanced. Yet, with just a little more guidance, some input on ‘other tools’ and a modicum of ‘this-is-how-to-make-online-work’ – next year’s intake mightn’t be faced with meaningless lists of files – or the scroll of video death*.

Cartoon image, courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearmancartoons/Yet another college will soon move into a new build. As far as I’m aware, there will be no (or much reduced) physical file storage there and everyone will ‘hot-desk’. But I’m not aware of any training being delivered to help staff to cope with the necessity of storing online or of the benefits and challenges that this will bring.

After talking with other ‘e’ friends, some of whom are in a similar situation to me, I feel that much of the ‘e’ progress we have seen (and been party to) over the last 10-12 years is in danger of being lost – or at the very least stalled. Which is a real shame, because learners still need to be well taught – but nowadays in less time and with less face to face guidance.

So, although I’m fairly sanguine about my personal future – I do feel for those ‘e’ colleagues who have families to support. I just need to sell my house (it’s been for sale on and off for over two years already) and any immediate pressure will be off – but the reason for it not selling is much the same as the reasons for reduced funding across Education – and I don’t want to fall out with anyone by going into THAT!

🙂

*Now that I’ve shown teachers how to ‘embed’ videos in ‘labels’ (also in ‘Book’ – but that’s a step extra) I expect there to be a repeat of the days when teachers first saw PowerPoint and immediately adopted that – for everything, for ever! Leading to the original ‘death by …’.

Credits:

Cartoon image, courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/bearmancartoons/
Main image original courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/evaekeblad/ [links to original]

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.

Winter working

I’m writing this in the comfort of a delightful cottage, just off The Green, in Reeth, North Yorkshire. We’re here for a long weekend with friends and after a two hours drive, began the day with some shopping in the local Friday market followed by lunch in front of a roaring fire in The King’s Arms. Lovely.

On Monday (probably tomorrow, given my current lack of Internet access) I begin a hectic three weeks. I’m travelling to Maidenhead, where I will stay until Friday – working at Berkshire College of Agriculture. I’ve been asked to work with the college on training staff in the use of their new Moodle installation.

The following week I’m back in the south, this time working on face-to-face aspects of the TechDis Ambassador programme (follow on Twitter – https://twitter.com/TechDisAmbassad). I’m travelling to Lingfield on the Tuesday, to work with Young Epilepsy (http://www.ncype.org.uk/) on the Wednesday. I’ll then travel to Weybridge that evening before working at Brooklands College (http://www.brooklands.ac.uk/) on the Thursday. I’ll travel home that night, so I’m home for my birthday on Friday.

My TechDis Ambassador (follow on Facebook – http://on.fb.me/XS317i) work continues the following week with and overnight in Aylesbury, where I will visit Haydon Training http://www.haydontraining.co.uk/home.cfm. I will return from them on Tuesday evening and then set off again on Wednesday to Margate, where I’m visiting the Margate Adult Education Centre.

All of the projects appear to be wildly different at the moment, but we’ll see – watch this space.  Also see the TechDis Ambassador blog: http://jtdambassadors.posterous.com/.

June

It’s been a while since I wrote anything here; sorry if anyone missed me. I’ve still been writing, just not here.

I’ve written on my Saturday Walks page (link), which I tend to use as a non-work, social-ish, ranting blog.

And I’ve written a holiday blog (link) during the time we were in France recently.

I’ve also managed to make an addition to my Blogger blog (link), which is mainly about the books I’ve read – not all of them, but many/most.

I also have a ‘House for Sale‘ blog at: http://sharehill.wordpress.com/one day I will get around to putting the address in big city newspapers. Surely I can’t do worse than the estate agents!

I do have things to say, but I’m still arranging them in my mind – mainly situational awareness stuff and 3G. In the meantime, thank goodness, I’ve got busy again. I’m just coming to the end of a period of marking for City and Guilds – made more intense by coming towards the end of my holiday in France. But – phew, I’ve not let anyone down yet …

I’m also currently working with friends/colleagues on a couple of urgent jobs and trying to get my head around another ‘really urgent‘ job! I also have jobs booked in June and early July for other friends and colleagues, so things are good again, for a while.

So thank you for your patience. 🙂

The Shroppie Fly

It has not been easy getting back into the swing of work related things this year. There is not much new work around but I still have some residual work with the RSC-YH and RSC-SE. I did have some dates in my diary, but catching people during the first two weeks of September to arrange other meeting dates has been (is) difficult. So my diary now is made up of preparation for gig dates, meeting people to try and generate work dates and phoning-up to organise meetings and gigs dates.

The preparation dates are OK, because I give myself time to ‘prepare’ and find it hugely enjoyable because as I consider new ways to deliver something (or just to update) I’m also learning. The meeting people dates are frustrating because nothing comes from them immediately, or they get cancelled. Phoning-up days are similarly frustrating (as I say, early September is not the best time for doing this) and tend to end up with a batch of emails having to be sent.

Still, since we got back from the USA http://dsugdenholidays.wordpress.com (July 31st – August 26th) we’ve managed to resist slipping into a boring routine. Last weekend we went looking for another car to replace Sharon’s clapped out Subaru. For me, this is a tedious trail of agencies that never seem to have the model you’ve researched and wanted. Auto Trader is especially frustrating because by the time you ring them to see if the car is still there – it’s gone. We eventually found a Renault Megane Saloon, which seemed to fit the bill (3 years old and only 12,500 miles). So, we came away to do the research – which proved to be positive. However, our plan to swap Sharon’s car may have to be changed to replacing my car or not buying it at all – for reasons I can’t go into now but will explain in good time.

The previous weekend we spent in Chirk with Karen and Dave. That was a pleasant change. I love Wales and the border country around Karen is particularly nice. Having said that, we spend most of our time in Shropshire checking out the canal system around Audlem. This is an especially nice part of Shropshire, where history becomes a relaxing walk along the towpath. Karen’s son Andrew, his wife Ange and baby daughter accompanied us on our walk and during our meal at The Shroppie Fly alongside the towpath in Audlem.

I’ve also made two visits to Wetherby recently, for discussions about my trip to Prague next week. This visit follows the workshop we delivered in Wetherby during the week that the volcanic ash cloud erupted. Many of the delegates (project partners) were greatly delayed by their cloud and had to lay out extra expenses just to get home. We also met this team in Vienna in May. https://eduvel.wordpress.com/?s=Vienna In Prague Sharon and I will represent Khawar and TLC at the climax of this project.

Action Plans

There’s nothing much to report or rant about this last week or so: work seems to have fallen into a humdrum never-ending pattern. The last two weeks have pretty much involved reading, passing back and eventually accepting action plans for one of the programmes [see rant-note below re: spelling] I’m working on.

What is it that’s so hard about Action Plans? I remember Janet Pittaway, my boss at the time, making me realise that for every action there needed to be a desired outcome and the bits in between were how you make sure it gets done. The ones we’re looking at for this programme also have impact measures and that really seems to be a difficult title for many. I’ve tried to say (did say to one guy) that an action might be along the following lines:

Aim: (to play football and) to win the game
Action 1: To score a goal – Outcome 1: goal is scored.
Action 2: To prevent other team scoring goal – Outcome 2: opposing team are prevented from scoring goal. Impact: Game is won. Measure = 3 league point awarded.

I know it’s corny but it seemed to work – I got better actions and impact measures!

Anyway, I’ve also been to Liverpool and Birmingham over the last two weeks, researching European Project work and representing a colleague at a seminar requiring ICT input. Sharon came to Liverpool with me and we ended the day with a nice meal at el Rincon in Manchester – nice Tapas.Programme

Programme – that’s our word for, well … programme isn’t it? Well, because I got a red line i double checked and it seems that Americans think it’s a variant of program. Surely it’s the other way around?  Grrr. See https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2009/11/16/americanization/