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?

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Where do I live?

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Shownotes

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

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Keep Calm and Carry on

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Shownotes

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.

“million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”

One of my favourite quotes from Terry Pratchett is that “million-to-one chances happen nine times out of ten”. When something awful happens, or freakish, we hear news reporters say “it was a million-to-one chance that this would happen”.

In February 2009 we had the worst snow for twenty years. Across the UK many schools, colleges and universities closed for a few days as travel made it impossible (and unsafe) for learners to get to their lessons and classes.

As it was the worst snow for twenty years, any idea of planning to use the VLE or similar to support learning from home was thrown out of the window, as it was obvious that such bad snow probably wouldn’t happen again for another twenty years…

Of course less than twelve months later, we had even worse snow. We saw even more closures and for even longer!

What were the chances of that happening?

What are the chances of it happening again?

Probably less than a million-to-one!

Even if it doesn’t snow really badly next year, other things may happen that result in the physical closure of the educational institution. It could be floods, high winds (remember 1987), flu or similar viral infections, transport strikes, fuel crisis, anything…

So how should educational institutions be responding? How should they prepare?

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 such million-to-one chance happens.

We are going to discuss these issues and more on day two of the Plymouth e-Learning Conference, April 9th, between 11.15 and 12.45.

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?

It also links in nicely with Dave White’s keynote that happens immediately before our panel discussion.

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.

How can we change the culture of our organisations when we sometimes focus too much on the new tools that appear in our Twitter stream?

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.

Is your institution prepared?

Further reading:

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #031: Store it, Tag it, Share it

With David Sugden, Ron Mitchell, Lilian Soon and James Clay.

This is the thirty first e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Store it, Tag it, Share it.

James, David, Ron and Lilian discuss various web tools that can be used to store your stuff; like documents, notes, files. Tools that allow you to tag your stuff and share your stuff. They talk about the tools they use with their stuff and they talk about how these tools can be used for learning. 

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Store it, Tag it, Share it

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Shownotes

  • Use Evernote to save your ideas, things you see, and things you like. Then find them all on any computer or device you use.
  • Dropbox is a way to store, sync, and, share files online.
  • Etherpad – When multiple people edit the same document simultaneously, any changes are instantly reflected on everyone’s screen. The result is a new and productive way to collaborate on text documents, useful for meeting notes, drafting sessions, education, team programming, and more.
  • Now that Etherpad is open source, other versions of the service are now available such as iEtherpad
  • Our snow podcast from last week.
  • TinyGrab is a simple yet extremely powerful utility for Mac OS X and Windows. Harnessing the power of pre-existing and new OS screenshot taking capabilities, TinyGrab instantly uploads and allows you to share with a small URL— all in under thirty-seconds.
  • Skitch is a Mac application for  making screen grabs and then annotating them, before uploading them to a web service.
  • Screenr – Instant screencasts for Twitter. Now you can create screencasts for your followers as easily as you tweet. Just click the record button and you’ll have your ready-to-tweet screencast in seconds.
  • Jing
  • Screencast-O-Matic
  • Format Factory
  • iPadio takes any phone call and streams it live on the web, makes phonecasts and phlogs simple and immediate.
  • Veho USB Microscope
  • Delicious

Photo source.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #030: Snow Joke Two

With David Sugden, Lilian Soon and James Clay.

This is the thirtieth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Snow Joke Two. After a bit of break, well we’ve not had an episode since October, this is hopefully the first of a more regular podcast.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Snow Joke Two

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Shownotes

Snow

From BBC News

The coldest snap for 20 years shows no sign of letting up, with the freezing weather expected to last all weekend and into next week.

Then we read this

Thousands of children are affected by school closures in England, Wales and Scotland after more heavy snowfalls.

Oh these stories are not from last week, but from last February!

Last February we had some of the worst winter weather for twenty years, unprecedented and somewhat unexpected. As a result many schools, colleges and universities closed their doors to learners and students and staff got a “free” holiday.

Sound familiar, well last week we had even worse weather, something not seen since 1963 in some places. Lots of snow, freezing temperatures and once more many more schools, colleges and universities closing due to the snow.

John Popham in his blog does ask the question

Why, in 2010, we are not making more use of the Internet to cope with these conditions. As in many areas of British life, you will probably tell me that the UK has such extreme weather conditions so infrequently that it is not worth the cost of preparing for them, but, as this is now the second consecutive winter where we have had significant snow fall, and it appears likely that climate change may well make this a regular event, surely we should seriously think about how we prepare for such occasions. And, in this context, as we are supposed to be moving increasingly towards both delivering more education online, and adopting more flexible working practices, surely these should come into their own at these times, shouldn’t they?

I agree with him.

Part of the issue in my view is the culture of snow closures.

Look at this tweet from the University of Bath.

Part of a co-ordnated effort as described on Brian Kelly’s blog how the University of Bath used a range of communication channels and technologies to inform their staff and students that they were closed.

Just to note it’s interesting to see that the University is closed, isn’t it just that the physical site is closed? Can’t at least some of the University continue virtually? However by using the language “closed” it implies that no activity will take place, well no formal activity will take place.

Culturally is it because those not involved online can’t see that closing a physical location need not have a significant impact on the business of the University, if that business can be carried out at home or online?

Using the word “closed” also sends the message to staff that the University is closed and that they do not need to go to work, or even do any work – even if they could.

The University of Bath is not alone, many other educational institutions followed a similar line and message to their learners and staff.

The statement from my college initially to all staff was that the college was closed. Obviously the site was closed, but the VLE was still operational. It wasn’t until a few days later that a message about the VLE was put on the website. However I wonder how many staff are “using” the VLE and how many are taking advantage of the closure to have a bit of a break from work.

David Sugden also brings in another institution in his blog post on the snow, he wrote

With no contingency in place, my wife sent texts to her learners and told them that ideas for work would be posted on the Moodle and that she would be there – on chat – during the class time. But no one came. There is no culture amongst the learners (in Sharon’s case full time nursery workers/managers who were probably too busy with extra children anyway) to visit online learning activities at times like these.

He also asks the question

So, how do we change that culture? How do we prepare our colleagues AND our learners for ‘snow time’?

A good question. At the moment staff and learners see snow as an excuse for a break and won’t even think about let alone consider the possibilities that technology allows them to continue despite the snow and site closures.

David also says

I believe that we have to get them all thinking about the use of audio and video for instruction and assessment as a matter of course and to use online collaboration tools as part of their day-to-day college, school (whatever) life.

Last February we recorded a podcast on this topic and it is still relevant this winter.

David continues

We need to wear the technologies and associated techniques like comfortable coats!

This view is also echoed in an Audioboo by Graham Attwell who brings in David White’s excellent Digital Residents and Digital Visitors model. Those of us who are digital residents didn’t see the snow as an issue, those of us who are digital visitors probably didn’t even think about the possibility!

If all staff and learners were familiar with the technologies then snow closures wouldn’t be such an issue. However if the snow in February 2009 and again in January 2010 has shown anything, it has shown that there is there still a long way to go before educational institutions really are making best use of the internet and digital technologies to enhance and enrich learning.

What about those staff who did work from home? Will they get any benefit or overtime for the day that they worked, but others made snowmen and went sledging? Why should I work from home (because I know how and can) when everyone else is not?

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? Well even if you ignore the possible impact that climate change can have on our winters, making them colder and with more snow, institutions can still close for other reasons. My own college was closed in 2007 because of the floods in Gloucestershire. Schools in 2009 were closed because of swine flu. 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.

Last year we had the “worst snow” for twenty years, here we are less than twelve months later and the snow is not only back it’s even worse! Culturally we have some way to go I think before snow only closes the physical location and doesn’t close the institution.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #012: It’s Snow Joke

Recorded during the height of the snow at the beginning of February 2009 the panel discuss the role that learning technologies and communication tools can have in supporting colleges and schools that get closed because of the snow.

This is the twelfth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, It’s Snow Joke.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: It’s Snow Joke

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

It's Snow Joke

James is joined by Di Dawson, Lisa Valentine, David Sugden, Dave Foord and is joined later by John Whalley.

Shownotes

  • The view from Di’s office.
  • Ping.fm which can be used to send the same message to various micro-blogging and picture services.
  • Spinvox a service which converts audio into text. Allows you to phone into your blog, convert voicemail to SMS, and much more.
  • Gabcast is a simple way to make podcasts, by just phoning in…
  • Dim Dim is a free to use online conference and presentation tool.
  • Elluminate another online presentation tool which was used at the recent LSIS eCPD Launch Conference.
  • Instant Presenter as used for the MoLeNET online conferences.
  • Oovoo which is an alternative to Skype and can be used for four way video conferencing.
  • Ustream is a online video broadcasting service.

John Whalley’s final comment, as I didn’t give him much notice on the podcast recording.

Thought on one thing to do if it snows – have a series of general podcasts prepared on a ‘non-mainstream’ area for your subject, distributed early in the course.  Ask learners to review if can’t get in to college.

Apologies for the poor sound quality at time on the recording, which we are putting down to the poor weather!