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    Who are you? What do you want? – ocTEL

    April 5th, 2013

    Having avoided taking part in a MOOC since they became the latest fad, I have now taken the plunge and enrolled on the ALT ocTEL MOOC.

    So who am I?

    What do I want?

    I have been working with using technology in learning since the early 1990s.

    Prior to that I used technology as a learner. I remember sending e-mail in 1987 at the University of York and getting “flamed” by a technical administrator at Brunel University for sending the “wrong” kind of e-mail.

    York

    I also recall a friend of mine at University creating (what today we would call) a social network on the VAX system, it was very similar to Facebook! That VAX system was also my first introduction to WordPerfect.

    After a few different things I settled down as a Business Studies and Economics teacher at colleges in the South West. It was in this role that I started to make use of various technologies to enhance my learners experiences. This started with using DTP programmes such as PagePlus to create engaging handouts, Freelance Graphics (and an early version of Powerpoint) to print off acetates for use with an OHP (no projectors back then). I made my own VLE (okay a website) back in 1998 to enable my learners to access links and resources and have discussions. Due to the sort of things I was doing I started doing a lot of staff development, helping staff at City of Bristol College where I was working to gain new skills in using technology to enhance learning.

    City of Bristol College

    From there, apart from working in a museum for a while, I worked for a consortium of FE Colleges all using a common VLE, TekniCAL’s Virtual Campus. Following five years there I got a job at Gloucestershire College as ILT & Learning Resources Manager.

    Gloucester Campus of Gloucestershire College

    In this role I am responsible for the strategic direction in the use of technology to support learning, the VLE, mobile learning, libraries, use of ebooks, digital and online resources and a fair few other things too.

    Over the last few years I have been researching and looking at the use of ebooks and also mobile learning.

    Have always had an holistic approach to embedding the use of technology, lets get everyone moving forward and where possible try and avoid shiny things unless they help and support learning. Okay yes I do have an iPad.


    Short and Sweet

    February 7th, 2013

    Short and Sweet

    So just how long should a training session be? 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour, all day, a week?

    It is a challenge to both design training that covers what needs to be covered within a set timeframe, but also to ensure that it is sufficient, robust and effective. Also no one has all the time in the world for development activities, so compromises have to be made, yes a day’s training would be ideal, in reality you have an hour.

    There is also no one model that fits all needs, so though this blog post is on “Short and Sweet” sessions lasting fifteen minutes, this is not the only model of development we deliver, there are also sessions lasting an hour, half a day and the odd whole day development.

    One of the problems we have faced is that what we want is staff attend a training session, get all excited and inspired, hopefully then embedding the ideas and tool into their practice. However with any training session of an hour or more there is an assumption that the practitioner will find the session useful.
    They might not know if it will be or not, and won’t until they attend. As a result they are likely to be cautious and probably won’t book in or attend, they don’t have the time! Of course providing information on the training in advance can help, but there is another assumption that they are aware of the training and read the information; that doesn’t always happen.

    Sometimes practitioners don’t actually need training, did you ever get training in using iTunes for example, but need inspiration. They will then think about what they were shown and work on it in their own time.

    Time, no one has any time anymore… I could argue for ages about how it isn’t “lack of time” that’s the problem, but “prioritisation” which is key, but you and I don’t have the time!

    It was these concepts that made us think about revisiting training that was delivered to teams at a time and place to suit them (okay at team meetings), on demand, from a menu and to be quick and digestible.

    I came up with the name, “Short and Sweet”, the idea was that there would be a selection of choices, and teams could pick and mix what they wanted. It also allowed me to theme the training with sweets. Well initially I was going to do just sweets, but I did think about healthy eating and all that, so I also used fruit too.

    Each session was to be no longer than 15 minutes. The concept was to provide a taster, to tease and to inspire. Where possible there would be a follow up session available so that if so inspired they could then go to a more in-depth practical session.

    I am also going to “digitise” some of the sessions and make them available to view on demand and on a mobile device.

    I delivered my first few sessions of “Short and Sweet” and they worked well, and I did get some positive feedback. It will take as little longer to see if they have had any impact. It will also take longer to see if the concept lasts.


    QR Codes on the noticeboard

    February 8th, 2012

    So there I was walking down one of the corridors in the college when I noticed that there was a QR Code on the noticeboard.

    It linked to a survey by students on bands and music, they were using surveymonkey that works well on a mobile device. The questionnaire was a simple one so could be easily completed on your mobile device.

    I think the only thing I would have changed may have been adding some idea of what the QR Code was about. Also I would have been adding a short URL to the QR Code for those that did not have a QR Code reader.

    Interesting to see learners using QR Codes on their own accord.


    Developing

    December 3rd, 2011

    Gloucestershire College

    Thursday was our College Development Day, one of two days of the year where we “close” the college and every member of staff takes part in staff development activities. For the first time in a few years we did a “pick and mix” in which staff are provided with a choice of sessions and can pick and mix to create their own personalised day of training and development. There are, as there was this year, a few compulsory sessions, but generally staff are free to pick what else they will do on that day. An example would be that all teaching staff had to attend a session related to our forthcoming inspection, but were free to pick what they wanted from the menu for the rest of the day.

    The challenge for me however was that this process means is that staff generally choose what they want to do, rather than what they should or need to do.

    So the sessions we planned on Turnitin, LanSchool and Accessibility were either cancelled or cut back, and the sessions on digital imaging and iMovie were oversubscribed. It also is apparent how you need to “sell” sessions to staff to get them to sign up.

    I generally spend the day delivering training and this year was no exception, my first session was for my Learning Resources team and looked at the strategy, vision and focus for the next three years as part of a re-positioning of the strategic vision for learning resources which includes the library. It was also an opportunity for the teams from my three libraries to get together as a whole team. It was an interesting session and it was great to see that they could see the importance of a focus and a vision but also the need to revisit what we do and why we do it. I will probably cover this in more detail in a future blog post.

    The second session I ran was an introduction to Mac OS X. I planned this session as we have recently recruited new staff into the libraries and as we have Macs in the libraries they asked for an introductory session. I kept it simple, first showing them this video from Apple, before going through Finder, Safari, iMovie, iPhoto and Garageband. I mentioned Keynote and Quicktime too. Overall feedback was positive and many of the session participants realising that OS X isn’t that different than Windows and if you can use Windows you can use OS X.

    My afternoon session was much longer, and was a supportive VLE workshop. The session allows participants that time to reflect and build on their courses on the VLE. If they get stuck, need advice or want ideas, then I am around to provide that support. It worked very well with staff having a chance to “play” and try out new things that will enhance their learners’ experience.

    As well as the ILT sessions I was delivering we had booked some excellent external trainers, many of whom will be familiar to readers of this blog for their appearances on the e-Learning Stuff podcast. Each of them delivered a range of sessions with a real focus on adding interactivity through ILT into teaching and learning.

    These days reinforce the importance of training and development for practitioners, especially in regard to the use of learning technologies. Our focus for the day was less on the technologies themselves, but much more on the actual use, how they can support, enhance and enrich learning.

    Over the next few months I will be following up staff who attended not just my sessions, but all the ILT sessions to assess the impact of the training. Experience has shown that not everyone takes on board what they learnt, but most do.

    Image from here, created with Paper Camera.


    Why do you have sofas in the Library?

    November 5th, 2011

    One of the features of the libraries at Gloucestershire College (well the Gloucester and Royal Forest of Dean campuses) is that we have sofas in the library.

    Reflection Zone

    GC Library Refurbishment Week 6c

    I have been asked a few times why do I have sofas in the library when the library is a learning environment?

    I would ask then, where is it written down that learning has to be uncomfortable? Where is the rulebook that states learners should sit at desks on hard chairs? Is it not possible for a learner to learn whilst sitting on a sofa? Why can’t a learning environment be enticing, comfortable and even a little bit social?

    What myself and the Learning Resources team have created in the Library space is a learning environment that will encourage a range of learning activities, from group work, individual activity on a computer, individual study and importantly places for reflection and for reading. The sofas are part of the environment that recognises that individuals do different things for their learning, they learn in different ways at different times, and as a result we need to provide an environment that meets these different needs.

    Sofas in the library is not about turning the library into a social area, it’s about creating an environment for learning that meets the diverse needs of our learners who will want to learn in different ways at different times; the end result is learners who achieve their qualificational goal.