Tag Archives: snow

Snow problem there then…

Any regular reader will know I have this thing about snow and snow closing down educational institutions despite having the technology in place to continue even if bad weather disrupts travel and transport.

Nice to read on the Microsoft UK Schools Blog of Monkseation school making the most of their “IT system”.

As the school website itself says

We want to thank all staff, students and parents who have all worked together to ensure that students could continue their learning at home during the closure of the school. The school’s electronic communication system, website and Learning Platform enabled us to get messages out promptly and set work for all students.

A good thing though that the leaking roof didn’t disrupt the server room!

Now I would say that though the IT system certainly helped, it has to be more than that, the culture of the organisation must support the setting of work via the learning platform. The teachers and learners have to be aware that if snow (or a leaking roof) means that the physical site is closed then they need to go to the learning platform for their learning. It would be something that was organised and prepared for in advance. There was an expectation that this is what was needed and not just done at the last minute. I would also suspect that learners and staff were able to easily use their learning platform as they were already using it when there wasn’t snow.

Could your learners use your learning platform or VLE? I would guess so if you’re reading this, but what about other learners in your institution?

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #067: Where do I live?

The new Kinect, defining innovation, supporting innovators, snow (again). The e-Learning Stuff panel discuss all of these and James forgets where he lives!

With James Clay, David Sugden, Lilian Soon, Ron Mitchell, Rob Englebright and Di Dawson.

This is the sixty seventh e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Where do I live?

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Snow more problems!

Sometimes I wonder if we are ever able to learn from the past.

Some things never seem to change….

Back in February 2009 we had the worst snow for twenty years. Many colleges closed, most publishing similar notices to the ones above to their websites.

At the time myself and few others recorded a podcast about the role that learning technologies and communication tools can have in supporting colleges and schools that get closed because of the snow.

I remember discussing the issue with colleagues once the snow had melted that we as a college did not make much more use of our VLE during the time we were closed. The result of the discussion was that closing for three days every twenty years was not something we really needed to spend resources and time planning for. There is a point, when there is an “out of the ordinary” event, contingency planning probably isn’t required in any great depth. Much easier just to deal with the problems resulting from the closure than try and plan just in case (which at the time) for a remote chance of closing.

However back in January 2010… the snow came back, this time the worse snow for forty years!

Once more lots of colleges and schools closed.

I discussed this at the time in my blog post on snow. My main point was:

Yes snow makes it dangerous to travel, but with the internet and mobile technologies, does it mean that learners need to stop learning just because the decision is taken to close the physical location?

So what if this snow is unprecedented? What if we are now not going to have bad snow for another twenty years?

Closures happen a lot, time to start thinking about how an educational institution can make best use of the fantastic tools that are available to it for learning. Though the first thing to do will be to change the culture. It’s not just about contingency planning, it’s about changing the way people work when there isn’t snow and changing the way people think when there is.

So here we are less than twelve months later and once more snow seems to have a massive disruptive effect. It’s not that it wasn’t even expected.

The BBC reported on the 24th November that:

The UK is entering a prolonged cold snap which could bring one of the earliest significant snowfalls since 1993, according to weather forecasters.

So more snow and we have snow closing institutions… despite the fact that we currently have the technology to enable institutions to remain “open” virtually, whilst keeping the physical site closed.

So how should educational institutions be responding? How should they prepare? John Popham back in January wrote an excellent blog post on this issue too and how we could make use of local learning centres.

So have things changed since earlier this year?

Well they had the time, they had the warning, and this is now happening on a regular basis. However we are still seeing this notices on college websites!

We do need to change the language of snow closures so that it’s not about closing, but about safety and that where possible learners should if possible be able to study and learn at home. Don’t say we’re closed, say the physical location may not be accessible (closed) but learning can continue via the VLE, online, social software, phone, SMS, local libraries, local learning centres.

Personally I think that it is not about preparation, but having the staff and learners in the right frame of mind about using online and digital tools before any more snow appears.

Changing the culture is going to take time, having access to the right tools can help, but attitude towards those tools is just as important. Culturally we have some way to go I think before snow or any other “disaster” only closes the physical location and doesn’t close the institution.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #043: Keep Calm and Carry on

Recording of the Keep Calm and Carry on debate at the Plymouth e-Learning Conference.

During the Second World War, the British government sought to use appropriate communications tools to convey policy to the populace, whether via posters, newspapers, radio, or legislation. Resource restrictions meant that there was not always a free choice in which to use.

Sound familiar? It should.

As James Clay indicated in a blog post on January 10th snow, floods and swine flu all have the potential bring our physical campus to a halt, for valid health and safety reasons. Institutions announce via local radio and the web that they are closed to students and staff. In most institutions such crises effectively bring the entire workforce to a halt. Despite the digital options available, the word ‘closed’ implies that no (formal) activity will take place, and sends the message to staff and students that they do not need to go to work, or even do any work, even if they could.

Culturally, most institutions do not incorporate online or virtual learning into everyday working cultures, at any level: management, staff or students. Those who do not routinely use digital options can’t see that closing the physical institution need not have a significant impact on the business of the institution, if that business can be carried out at home or online. The issue is not to focus upon contingency planning, but to focus on changing the way people work when there isn’t snow and changing the way people think when there is. Although this debate will centre largely upon Web 2.0 methods, it will take an outcomes-focused approach, rather than a tools focused approach, in line with William Morris’s quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. We consider what is necessary, not just in times of crisis, but in implementing everyday e- practice to meet learning and teaching needs.

With a focus upon communities rather than machines, and a recognition that no tool offers “one size fits all”, each panellist will focus upon a specific relationship, specifically ‘Institutional Representation’, ‘Collaboration’ and ‘Teaching Purposes’. What institutional cultural factors will need to be addressed? What do electronic communications approaches offer that previous methods haven’t? What drawbacks are acknowledged in the use of each with regards to the outcomes required? Which tool is most appropriate for the outcome required, and what are its pedagogical purposes?

With James Clay, Bex Lewis and Carolin Esser and of course delegates from the Plymouth e-Learning Conference.

This is the forty-third e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Keep Calm and Carry on

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PELC10 – Day 2

It’s day two of the Plymouth e-Learning Conference.

I am looking forward to Dave White’s keynote.

The education sector is constantly chasing the tail of the latest technology. Innovation ‘out there’ on the web generates paranoia that we might be missing the latest opportunity and the suspicion that our students are experts in everything. We create profiles on every new platform just in case they become ‘the next big thing’, collecting solutions-looking-for- problems and losing our focus on what students and staff might actually need.

Having seen him speak at the ALT-C Fringe I am expecting to enjoy his presentation.

After the coffee break, it will be time for the debate session I am taking part in, Floods? Snow? Swine flu? Terrorist threats? ‘Keep calm and carry on’.

Culturally, most institutions do not incorporate online or virtual learning into everyday working cultures, at any level: management, staff or students. Those who do not routinely use digital options can’t see that closing the physical institution need not have a significant impact on the business of the institution, if that business can be carried out at home or online. The issue is not to focus upon contingency planning, but to focus on changing the way people work when there isn’t snow and changing the way people think when there is. A

Also read my original blog post on the snow in January and my more recent post, “million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”.

After lunch I am chairing another debate, the great debate.

This forum will explore methods for categorising learners approach to online platforms and how this can influence edtech/pedagogic strategies. It will focus on Marc Prensky’s famous ‘Digital Native & Digital Immigrants’ trope and the more recent ‘Visitors & Residents’ idea proposed by David White.

Following the infamous Devon Cream Tea it will be the closing session and the prize draw! Overall a busy second day.