Tag Archives: planning

It’s challenging…

…but planning helps!

Over the years I have spent a lot of time working with teachers helping them to embed digital technologies into their practice. I have also collaborated with colleges and universities and seen the strategies they use to embed digital. In an earlier post I described my journey and the approaches I have used for support and strategy. In this series of articles I am going to look at the process that many teachers use for teaching and learning and describe tools, services, but also importantly the organisational approach that can be used to embed the use of those tools into practice.

One of the challenges of embedding digital tech into teaching and learning is making the assumption that teachers are aware of and are able to utilise the digital tools available to them and understand which tools work best for different situations and scenarios.

Gaining that understanding and confidence isn’t easy and often requires a paradigm shift in approaches to using technology and the digital tools and services available. Just because a member of staff has been given the training in how to use the tool or service, it doesn’t mean they know how best to use that tool or service to enhance teaching and learning, and for what function or process of the learning activity the tool would support or enhance.

When I was teaching at City of Bristol College, one of the main reasons I started using and embraced technology was to aid planning my curriculum and lesson planning. The way it actually started was using technology to save time. By using, initially, a word processing package and then a DTP package, I would write and design assignment briefs, handouts and workbooks. The reason for using technology in this way was so I could reuse them the following year. Making them digital meant I could edit and update them if needed.

I also started using a presentation package (Freelance Graphics) to create presentations. There were no digital projectors back then, so these were printed onto acetates in black and white and shown via an OHP. This for me was much better than hand writing onto acetates, again for updating and changing.

Though I did write basic schemes of work for the curriculum at that time, it started to make sense to me to start creating a more detailed scheme of work.

When I noticed the web in the late 1990s I realised that hyperlinks could mean I could create a digital (though back then we called it electronic) scheme of work with live links to the digital resources I had created. It didn’t take much to then add lesson plans to the scheme of work with live links to the presentations, handouts and other resources.

A final step was to start adding extra resources and links, in order to allow for a learner to go to the web site and differentiate their learning journey.

I didn’t initially use digital technologies to plan, but what those digital technologies allowed me to do more effectively was to both plan better, but also link everything together. The process also allowed me to easily and quickly adjust resources and plans as and when required.

It got to the stage where I would plan a whole year in advance and have everything ready for all my lessons and courses.

When I spoke about this to people (outside my college) the response I usually got was I plan the night before and there is no way I could plan more than a week ahead. Their explanation was that they couldn’t know how a lesson would go in advance and therefore couldn’t plan more than one lesson in ahead. At the time I did struggle with a response, but now reflecting on this, I realised that I had in fact planned flexibility into my plans. Combined with links to all the resources and additional stuff, it wouldn’t matter if we didn’t cover everything in a lesson, or if the lesson was cancelled (snow closure for example). It was also later that I recognised as a teacher that though I had a responsibility for my curriculum, it wasn’t my job to teach the whole of the curriculum, it was responsibility to ensure my students learnt the curriculum. Some of this would be through teaching, but some could be through reading, or other learning activities. Some would be formal and some would be informal. Resources could be digital, but they could also be analogue.

Of course back then we didn’t have a VLE, so I “created” a VLE, well it was a website with some additional tools (such as a discussion forum). As I had used digital tools for planning and content creation, it wasn’t a huge job to transfer everything to the website. I do remember buying Adobe Acrobat so I could create PDFs more easily, especially I was using a bizarre range of software to create stuff.

A VLE today makes the whole process of planning much easier and I have written before about this in my series, 100 ways to use a VLE.

100 ways to use a VLE – #25 Scheme of Work

100 ways to use a VLE – #26 Lesson Plans

The main conclusion I came to was that planning was really critical to the success of my curriculum and my teaching. Also technology made the whole planning process easier and quicker.

So what tools are you using to plan your curriculum and your lessons?

Image Credit: Lesson Plans by hurricanemaine CC BY 2.0

#blideo – You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!

Well I have been avoiding this whole #blimage thing, but even not entirely, as a certain person who shall remain nameless, let’s just call her Bex, wanted to borrow this image for #blimage.

Then, that David Hopkins, decides to write a blog post, not using images, but a video clip, another hashtag, #blideo, and then decides to challenge me (and Julian Stodd, and Terese Bird) with this clip from The Italian Job.

I have to admit my first reaction was to ignore it and dismiss the challenge. It’s not as though I’ve not done these before, back in 2008 I was challenged by someone called Steve Wheeler on a meme called Passion Quilt.

Right. It’s an interesting challenge and looks a little like a chain letter, but here goes. Mike Hasley, of TechWarrior Blog, has laid down a challenge for me and 4 others to add to a collection of photos that represent our passion in teaching/learning. I have to tag it ‘Meme: Passion Quilt’ and post it on a blog, Flickr, FaceBook or some other social networking tool with a brief commentary of why it is a passion for me.

That Doug Belshaw challenged me in 2011 to write 500 words on the purpose of education. There was also an image challenge with that too

So for this challenge I need to look at the video clip, and what it makes me think of, professionally or personally. As I said I was going to dismiss it, but hang on a minute…

The Italian Job 1969

The Italian Job is one of my favourite films of all time. I like it for a lot of reasons, it’s also the same age as me. I am surprised it didn’t make my cinematic advent calendar I did in 2012.

It’s a classic British 1960s crime caper. It’s got Michael Caine in it, as well as Noel Coward. Yes it’s full of cliché, yes it’s rather sexist and does have a fair few unfair stereotypes in there too, the Italian Mafia and Camp Freddy are examples of this. Having said that, if you can forgive a film of it’s time, this is an enjoyable romp through 1960s London and Italy, with a great script, photography and cast.

The story tells how Charlie Croker gets out of jail and plans a heist of Chinese gold that is been delivered to the Fiat factory in Milan. The film has a classic chase sequence as the three Mini cars are filled with gold and driven across Milan, with the Italian police in pursuit.

The Italian Job 1969

The film ends with the cliffhanger clip shown above, showing that despite a successful heist, crime doesn’t pay…

From a professional perspective, what does this clip mean for me?

Well what the film shows is a robbery, but an expertly planned and executed h, one that takes into account a range of issues and the plan mitigates these. The success is dependent on the planning and planning down to the smallest detail.

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”

From checking how the Mini cars would perform with all the gold in the boot, the amount of explosive to evading the traffic jams.

“If they planned this traffic jam, then they must have planned a way out of it.”

The Italian Job 1969

In addition there is a lot of preparation to ensure the success of the plan, from people to resources, to computer programming.

However as the clip shows, despite all the planning resulting in success, one slight mistake and success is on the cliff edge (literally) with the prospect of it going either way. Despite all the careful planning, innovative thinking is required if disaster is to be avoided.

I am a great fan of careful planning and good preparation, when it comes to teaching and learning. When I was a teacher I would plan out the entire year in advance, including lesson plans for each lesson. Alongside these I would prepare the majority of the resources required and these would be printed in advance and stored ready for use. When I “discovered” the internet, for some courses I created my own “VLE” and the scheme of work and resources were available for learners to access and download. On the site were additional resources, links, news items and a discussion forum – this was in a time when not many people had internet at home.

However what was also important was having the space to be innovative and responsive to accommodate unexpected events and issues. In addition there was space to allow for topicality and for ideas from the learners. When opportunities arose, they were grasped (as there was the flexibility in the planning to allow for this) and not ignored because we had to stick to the plan.

If you think of the impact snow can have, or service failure, having the space and the initiative to adapt is critical to take account of these unexpected million to one chances that happen nine times out of ten.

I know speaking to teachers over the years, that many don’t like this approach, they see planning as inflexible and doesn’t take account of what happens in the classroom on a weekly basis. So as a result they don’t plan. They take a more ad hoc approach, though this can work for some people, often it can result in core elements been missed or rushed.

Good planning does not mean rigidity or lack of flexibility. Having a plan doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for innovation. No effective planning, will build in room for innovation, will be flexible and will allow for topicality and spontaneity. In reality an ad hoc approach usually results in a bland approach falling back on using the same methodology,

We often do things because we have always done it that way. We take the same route to work, we go the sandwich place for lunch, we choose the same thing from the menu when we go out to lunch.
I recall an apocryphal story about the Royal Horse Artillery who have not used horses for a hundred years, but still have five people for each artillery piece, four to fire the gun and one to hold the horses. The essence was that we do things because we have always done them that way and sometimes the reasons for doing it this way have actually changed or disappeared, but we still keep doing it.

Doing everything last minute, usually means doing everything the same way every time. Planning allows for innovation, creativity and the last minute cliffhangers.

Just going back to the Italian Job, if you didn’t know, a few years ago the solution to the problem was “discovered” in a 2009 competition.

In addition to that competition, according to a making of documentary, the producer Deeley was unsatisfied with the four written endings and conceived the current ending as a literal cliffhanger appropriate to an action film which left an opportunity for a sequel. The documentary describes how helicopters would save the bus seen on the cliff at the end of the first film. The grateful gang would soon discover that it is the Mafia that has saved them, and the sequel would have been about stealing the gold bullion back from them.

So as this is #blideo in theory I have to challenge someone with a clip, well here’s the clip, as for the challenge, well that’s open to everyone.

Cheese

Do you remember ever playing Trivial Pursuit?

You recall the general knowledge quiz game, where you had to fill in your six pieces of cheese (or cake) covering six different subject areas.

One of the traits of playing the game was that you favoured certain subject areas and avoided others. You liked History and Geography, but avoided Arts & Literature. As a result you answered many questions on the subjects you liked and virtually ignored the subject you didn’t.

When it comes to embedding of learning technologies (ILT) into a curriculum area, managers of those areas do something similar.

They may be excellent at pushing the use of interactive whiteboards with their staff and teams; but as they don’t like the VLE that much, it gets ignored or only paid lip service.

Likewise when using learning technologies to solve issues in the area; you may use it to solve some areas, whilst ignoring other areas.

The same happens when it comes to writing ILT action plans for curriculum areas. These plans will favour particular technologies and some problem areas. Other technologies and other problem areas will get ignored.

In order to avoid this happening, we have decided to make use of the cheese concept for Trivial Pursuit in order to ensure that curriculum teams make best use of the range of technologies available, ensuring none are left out; likewise ensuring that learning technologies are used to solve issues in a range of areas, rather than one specific area or a few areas.

The areas we have chosen for our cheeses are based on the needs of our corporate college ILT Strategy.

We have two sets of cheese, one with a technology focus and one with a learner focus.

Technology Focus

Learner Focus

In later blog posts I will go into more detail about the different cheeses and exemplar action plans for those cheeses.

The key though for managers is that they MUST plan and COMPLETE action plans for each of the twelve cheeses. They can’t just ignore a cheese because they “feel like it”.

This should have the result that across the college there is a more holisitic approach to embedding of ILT into the curriculum. That weaker areas are not ignored in favour of stronger areas. Eventually the whole college will be moving forward in the use of ILT to enhance and enrich the learner experience; something that is essential as the world of technology is moving too.

We’ll see how this goes…

Photo source.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #021: Goldilocks, what's that all about then?

So what do you understand by inclusion? Can we use learning technologies to improve inclusivity?

We discuss the ILT Champions Conference at Gloucestershire College, including the unconference format used and the learning spaces seen at the college. Do we need big names at conferences? Do we need keynotes? How do we make conferences financially viable?

We move onto planning. Do you plan your lessons a week, a month or a year in advance? Is planning a good thing or does it hinder creativity?

Audio MP3

This is the twenty-first e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Goldilocks, what’s that all about then?

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Goldilocks, what’s that all about then?

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

James is joined by Dave Foord, David Sugden and Nick Jeans.

Shownotes

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