Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Short bursts of activity

Today, I did a Q&A session with one of my groups who are notoriously difficult to keep on task.  It was Q&A with a twist though.

I wanted them to research a few subjects on the internet.  If I had handed out the questions, or posted them on the VLE, a handful of them would have completed them in the lesson, but many would have failed to maintain the momentum to see the handful of questions through to the end, and it would have taken an almighty effort on my part to keep them focused.

So I decided to read out the questions one at a time.  I sold it as 'speed searching', giving the students only 2-3 minutes to research each question.  My students are not dull, they just find it hard to commit themselves, but the fact that there was only a very short space of time to get an answer down meant that they carried out efficient searching, excellent scanning, and following a warning from me (and the frantic tapping sounds of fingers on keyboards), a fair attempt at putting what they found into their own words.  As I observed them, I was pleased to note that many found some excellent, reliable sources of information - and not just the obvious ones.

There were six questions in all, and in the timed slots between one question and the next there was near silence in the room - something I experience very rarely with this group.  At the end of the question session, I used (and had explained this would be the case) targeted questions to individuals to ensure everyone had participated.  Everyone I asked was able to answer their question.

I think the group enjoyed a change of activity, and they produced some good work as a result.  Well worth using again.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Extending learners learning

I've questioned my judgement today.  One of my BTEC classes have been writing up a task about three contrasting businesses, which covers one of their pass criteria for the course - they've been working on this for several sessions.

I decided (with plenty of forethought) that I would get them to extend this work by getting them to do a presentation in pairs or threes, comparing one business from one learner with a contrasting business from their partner. I asked them to create a simple, fairly informal 5 or 10 minute presentation, explaining the key differences between their chosen organisations.

On introducing the idea, I was immediately met with great resistance.  Several of the learners asked if this was merit criteria, and I told them it wasn't.  They wanted to know why they had to do the presentations, and said that they thought it was completely pointless.

I was rather taken aback by this outburst.  After initially responding by telling them that they had to do it because I had told them so (it's hard to leave your parenting one-liners at the door sometimes!), I thought about my reasons for asking them to complete the task in this way.  One of my key reasons is that I'm conscious of the fact that all too often they cut and paste bits of information from the internet, without really absorbing it and analysing it.  By standing up in front of their peers, they will have had to do at least some form of evaluation and comparison, and I felt that this would help them to develop their critical thinking skills.  This wasn't about criteria, this was about developing their ability to analyse and explain their views.

Towards the end of the lesson I explained these reasons more clearly, but sadly the students complained to their course tutor, and it was me that felt like I was in the wrong when I went back to the staff room later that day.

What most upset me was not the students' reluctance to take their learning further than just ticking the pass criteria off one by one, sad though this is.  What really upset me was that I ended up feeling like I had to defend my choice of activities to another member of staff - never a comfortable position to be in.

Writing this up gives me the confidence to say that I do think this is a worthwhile activity for my learners.  Perhaps the fact that they'll have to think a bit harder is the reason why they're resistant.  I don't want them to leave my class at the end of the year with a score card of tick boxes, I want them to be able to get a job, to be confident that they know what they're talking about, and to be able to reason and justify their actions with their colleagues.  Isn't that what teaching is all about?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Collaborative Documents

Today I experimented with using a collaborative spreadsheet with my Extended Diploma students.  They were given the task of detailing software on a shared spreadsheet, set up using Google Docs.

I made the same mistake initially that I did with Wallwisher when I used that, which was forgetting to log in first, so that I was able to quickly delete any unwanted comments.  I did, however, remember to give out some posting rules before we started (no swearing, nothing inappropriate, blah blah blah).

After an initial flurry of inappropriate comments, mainly along the lines of song lyrics, I gave a warning, and then locked all the students out.  I said that instead, as they hadn't followed the rules, they would have to discuss their comments in groups instead.  They weren't happy with that, so we agreed that we'd have another go.  This was more successful, and almost all of the students took part and seemed to enjoy it.

I repeated the same task with a second group later today.  We came across similar issues with posting at first, and with this group I had the opportunity to discuss whether they enjoyed the activity.  The feedback was interesting - they felt that there was not enough focus (this could have been easily rectified with clearer guidance from myself and perhaps a more challenging task for this group), and that they found it annoying that other students could delete or modify their entries, which I agree was an annoying feature.

I think I'll use this again, but it needs to be more than just filling in a spreadsheet to make it a worthwhile learning experience.

Saturday, 5 November 2011


This week, I got one of my classes to complete an activity using Wallwisher. It worked really well, but I learned a few things in the process!

The activity was to 'brainstorm' how our college uses the internet.  I got the students to start their discussions in small groups and jot notes down on paper.  I then showed them the wall I had created, and gave them the address.  I showed them how to post a message, and then asked them to add sticky notes for all the ideas they had jotted down.  The wall was displayed using our IWB so I could monitor the posts.

My mistakes

I forgot to mention the 'rules' before they started.  These were that they mustn't post messages about other students, all posts needed to have the right focus, and language used should be appropriate. As a result, we had a couple of dodgy (though not too serious) posts.  This highlighted error number two on my part - that I hadn't logged in to my Wallwisher account before we started.  I therefore needed to log in sharpish in order to delete the offending messages.

The outcome

After these initial teething problems, the students seemed to really enjoy being able to post their messages, and see other messages being posted by their peers.  I turned a blind eye to some of the slightly tenuous posts, because overall, the result was a good one - some really good ideas were posted up, and because everyone wanted to 'have a go', they all made a good effort to think of something original.

The limitations are currently that I cannot now 'lock down' the page to avoid the students posting again (which I'd like to do in case they get any ideas about posting something inappropriate when I'm not checking it), but other than that I thought it was a really good tool, and I'll definitely be using it again.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Online collaboration v research

For the past few months, I've wholly believed in the power of networking and the benefits that collaborative working can bring.  For example, being able to connect to other educators via the internet - and in particular Twitter - has meant that I'm frequently exposed to, or directed to, tools which may enhance the learning experience for my students.  On an almost daily basic, I'm clicking on links to educators' websites or blog posts which help me think about how I teach and what I could do differently.  This is highly valuable to me, and I don't doubt will continue to influence my teaching and own learning for some time.

However, starting back on my MA course this month, and being involved in a course delivered under the UHOVI project has reminded me how essential it is for me to read reports and publications from key bodies within the industry - such as BECTA (abolished earlier this year), JISC and so on.  Whilst my online colleagues can provide me with instant examples and ideas, as well as workable solutions to problems and an insight into what has worked for them, there is no substitute for the critical, in depth reading that is available from bigger organisations with a wider remit.

Today I have read (and thoroughly enjoyed) "Emerging Technologies for Learning" published by Becta in 2006.  It hasn't given me immediate ideas for the classroom, but it has given me a broad overview of some of the key areas of growth.  As it is some years old now, I can see how Becta had a thorough view of what was to come and how many of their suggestions (such as the BBC's then non-existent iPlayer) are already mainstream now.  It's provided me with much food for thought, and taken me away from the immediate question of 'how can I make this interesting' to thinking more broadly about teaching strategies and how education is changing in today's world.

So, note to self:  "continue to read beyond what might seem necessary, and search out those interesting articles to broaden my own understanding of changing pedagogy in a digital world".

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs

An odd title for this post, perhaps to sum up the mixed bag I think I'll be getting next week.  So far, my new timetable has me down for one level 2 class in college, two level 2 adult groups, one level 3 class in college and ... wait for it ... possible foundation degree groups :O

Whilst feeling somewhat under-prepared (oh how understated this comment is), I'm almost (dare I say it) looking forward to the challenge.  I love IT, I think I'm ok at teaching, and I've lately been thinking that I'd like to move into HE at some point in the future.  It seems to be coming earlier than planned, so whilst I think there may be stormy seas ahead, I hope that there will be clear skies not too far away.  Immediate forecast:  changeable.

Saturday, 10 September 2011


I thought it would be useful to review my experiences of using e-Portfolios for the first time, as last week they successfully went through moderation.

After a Level 1 web design course, where there was a considerable volume of work produced, I decided that it would be more suitable to produce the work as an e-Portfolio.  This would more effectively demonstrate the skills the students had learned, as well as vastly reducing the amount of paperwork to submit.


The course was already set up on Moodle, so for each session I added an area to upload the work that had been done.  I also set up all the course criteria so that I could add outcomes to each of the assignments as appropriate.  This took a while as I incorrectly set up one criteria initially and it took me a while to work out how to remove it and replace it with the correct one.

Building content

Early on, I discussed with the class how I wanted the portfolios to work.  I wanted them to create an over-arching website, which would include, in some format, a list of all the criteria which should be covered during the course.  This site would then contain subsites of all the websites they had created during the course, and the criteria list would have links to corresponding evidence throughout the subsites. I suggested that the students add to their over-arching site whenever possible, to avoid having a huge amount of compiling to do at the end of the course.

Completing the Portfolios

In the final few sessions of the course, I got the learners to upload working versions of their final portfolios, and I made suggestions for improvements where necessary.  Some of the portfolios were excellent, and the students had done exactly as asked.  A variety of cross-referencing methods were used.  Several students downloaded the criteria checklist as a Word document (as provided by me), and then made clickable links into the relevant area of their portfolio.  Another student practiced creating drop down menus using CSS, and used the menus as links to all the criteria.  Several others created a new web page at the front of the portfolio, and linked to all the criteria from this.

Moderation site

I then created a moderation website which included a few details about the course, along with a page for each student.  Within each student's page, there was then a link to their portfolio, which was packaged into my moderation site. 


There were just a couple of students who ran out of time to create their e-portfolio.  One student collated their work into a website, but didn't have any cross-referencing, another two failed to compile their work at all.  However, as all the work was on Moodle anyway, I was able to draw this together into a single folder, and incorporate it into my moderation site. Where evidence referencing was absent, I created the links from a standardised criteria page - and clearly marked this up in red so that any internal verifiers / moderators would be able to see what work was the students, and what I had added.  Even in some of the best portfolios, there may have been the odd cross-reference that was not linked correctly, so I used the same technique here, adding the link but marking it clearly in red.


The final moderation website passed internal verification and moderation without any problems, and the internal verifier commented that the evidence had been very easy to find.  There was a fair bit of work to do on my part in collating the portfolios into one site, but in many ways it was easier than ordering what would have been close to 100 sheets of paper for each student and adding page numbers and cross referencing manually.  Now the site is set up, it should be easier still to repeat the method. I will definitely use e-portfolios again.

Friday, 9 September 2011

New term, new era

After busying myself over the summer preparing new workbooks for our workshop classes,  I had a shock this week to learn that I'm being redeployed to the campus to teach 16-19 years old.  I don't yet know what I'll be teaching them - other than 'IT', whether I'll have set classes, or be doing cover, or anything else.

This has put the cat amongst the pigeons so's to speak.  I have nothing prepared for these groups - nor could I since I don't know what I'll be teaching.

In the interim, I have been looking for some teenage friendly ICT icebreakers.  No joy from my tweet asking for resources, but my friends in ILT came up trumps with comicmaster and I'm thinking of being brave and trying Wallwisher (though I fear there may be consequences!).  I'll also try the old working with pairs to find out something unusual about your partner.

Now I've just got to see what happens next....!

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Catching up

What with the summer holidays and all, I haven't posted much lately.

But, now I'm back to work, and striving to get all our Office 2010 updates ready for the beginning of September.  I've also been charged with setting up a Moodle site for our centres, which is something I'm looking forward to doing, but I'm also busy rewriting my Web Design courses for the latest Dreamweaver software, and writing a brand new Level 1 Photoshop course.

On top of all this, we are likely to have an inspection this year, which means I need to ensure all our course files are bang up to date with schemes of work and lesson plans a-plenty.  Oh - and did I mention I'm due to start the second year of my MA in Education & ICT?

And as if that's not enough, I'm training hard for a half marathon in October, where I'm hoping to raise money for Macmillan on behalf of my mum who's currently battling with ovarian cancer.

No rest for the wicked, eh??

Friday, 22 July 2011

My app works!

Mission complete.  I've successfully created a QR code and installed the app on my android phone.  I've used a photo of my own cat so it's clearly my own app.  I even tried to record her purring, but sadly it wasn't loud enough.

Anyway, I'm rather pleased with my efforts so far, but will need to dig into further tutorials to take it any further.

App Inventor Phase 2 / 3

Ok, so the next phase is to install app inventor software on my machine.  90Mb of download (my ISP won't like that), but it's a necessary evil.

Being a bit wary of working directly onto my phone, I've decided to start by using the emulator.

Phase 2 complete.

Phase 3 - so I worked through the Kitty tutorial and it worked :D  The tutorial was excellent, but I did use the emulator and I think I ought to be brave enough to create it on my own phone.

My next plan is to use a photo of my own cat instead, so that it's personal, and then I'll do the last bit and actually add it to my phone, so that I can show it off to everyone.  App designing here I come!!!

App Inventor

A colleague of mine is creating a Moodle site for a course on developing mobile apps, and is looking for interested people to get involved.  Not being adverse to a bit of programming, I thought I might have a look.  Initially, I think the idea is to get started with app development, and to record progress as it happens.

Today, I have gone to App Inventor for Android and made a start on the set up process ready to begin playing.

Step 1 Remove old versions of Java...
After an online test, it appears I've got rather a lot of old versions of Java and Runtime, so I'm firstly removing all the old versions (a little bit tedious but should free up a lot of space and make things a bit more stable). 

Step 2 Installing up to date version...
This caused me a bit of grief - no idea why really, but that darned little Java applet wouldn't show, so did a second install of the latest version, and now it's working fine.

Step 3 Testing Java for App Inventor
Carried out the simple (well, it was for me!!) notepad.jnlp test as talked through by the App Inventor set up pages, and it worked perfectly.

That's all I've got time for now, seems I'm good to go....

Friday, 15 July 2011

Late night networking

Last night I had a somewhat heated discussion with my 13 year old daughter.  When I popped upstairs at 10pm she was still up, chatting to Facebook friends on her laptop.  I asked her to switch off and get to bed, it being a school night.

A few minutes later I went back to check on her.  She was in bed, but still chatting away, this time on her ipod.  When I told her that it was time to shut everything down and go to sleep, a somewhat heated debate took place about what time it is reasonable to expect a 13 year old to switch off.  She told me that a lot of her friends are only just coming online at 10pm, and that it's the best time to talk to everyone.

I threatened to remove all her internet enabled gadgets if she didn't go to sleep, but I did leave her wondering if perhaps I was guilty of being a little over the top.  I had to ask myself what my reasons were for insisting she went to sleep, and whether I was perhaps guilty of relying my own childhood memories to make such a decision.

I suppose the questions are:  is she grumpy in the morning because she's stayed up chatting, is her school work suffering as a result of tiredness, does she have trouble getting out in time for school?  The answer to all those questions is 'no'.  In fact, she's done very well in her recent school exams, and I'm proud of her progress.  She has lots of friends and seems to be well liked.  By denying her the opportunity to maintain those friendships via her online networking am I putting these social networks in jeopardy?  Times are different now, and just because I would have put my book down and blown out my candle before 10pm doesn't mean that she should.

I've not come to a conclusion about this, but I do remember getting really annoyed with my parents when I was a teenager for making arbitrary decisions about things, and feeling even more aggrieved that when asked for a reason, they would answer 'because I said so'.  I fear I may now be guilty of treading the same path.... 

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


I enjoyed reading this blog on Twitter from @torresk.  It talks about the five stages of Twitter - from denial through to acceptance.

I first created a Twitter account several years ago, followed two people, and never posted a word, but things have changed now.

A few days ago I blogged about mobile phones in schools.  I felt quite strongly about a ban that is being enforced in my daughter's secondary school, and wanted to write about it.  I emailed Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth - thanks Steve) a link to my blog.  I follow him on Twitter, and find his ideas and comments on educational technology insightful and interesting, and I wondered what he thought about the subject.

I didn't really expect a reply - in fact, I felt a bit guilty emailing him because I don't know him, but he responded very quickly, and posted a link to my blog on Twitter.  He didn't commit to whether he agreed with my views or not, but as a result I did get several comments on my post, and just under 200 visits.  I found the comments made me think more deeply about my views on mobile phones, and there is no doubt that they helped clarify my thinking further.

Yesterday I followed an #edchat conversation - I even added a few tweets.  It's a fast and furious affair, but full of nuggets of information, and perhaps most importantly of all it encouraged me to think, absorb ideas, and it networked me with many people that I would never otherwise have had contact with.

Twitter has brought a wealth of information to my fingertips.  As my PLN grows I am learning more and more about the things I am interested in.  It's stopped me being complacent about what I know as I see how much everyone else knows, and it provides me with endless resources (if only I could find more time to look at them!). I still fall under the 200 Tweet mark, but I'm getting there.

Twitter is a powerful tool which will grow as more people become brave enough to break through the denial and depression stages into the acceptance stage - it's informative, far reaching, thought provoking, and above all, it's great fun.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Mobile phones in secondary schools

Yesterday I went to a new intake meeting for my daughter's soon to be secondary school.

During the presentation, the Head of Year said that the school had made a decision to ban the use of mobile phones during school hours from September.  This would be actioned by automatic confiscation of any phone seen out of a school bag / pocket once inside the school gates.

The reasons given included that students were increasingly using phones to video school activities and then post them on social networking sites, which I agree is inappropriate. Another reason is that students text each other from one end of the dinner queue to the other, which the head felt was completely pointless.  I can see his point, but I am learning that just because I wouldn't do it, doesn't mean I should expect my children not to.  They live in a different technological bubble to us oldies (well, almost oldies!).

The final reason, which gave me the greatest cause for concern, is that the school have had instances where students have been 'bullied' via social networking sites or through a series of text messages, and that the school are then having to deal with the repercussions of this in school hours.  This is where our views clearly differ:

A school wouldn't dream of trying to brush playground bullying under the carpet.  Most schools in the UK have very clear and firm policies for dealing with bullying, and certainly in both the schools my children have attended, bullying is not tolerated in any circumstances.  Yet banning mobile phones seems very much to me as though the school are trying to turn a blind eye to an increasingly common problem.  By telling the kids to put their phones away, we are not helping them to deal with difficult and inappropriate activities, we are instead giving them the message that we are not interested.

I really believe that we need to equip our children to deal with all aspects of social networking and technology - whether good or bad.  I have taught my children not to reveal their identities online just as I have told them never to get in a car with a stranger.  I've also explained to them that 'cyber bullying' is just as unacceptable, and I have supported them on the odd occasion when they have felt undermined by an unkind text or post from a 'friend'.  I want the school to be teaching them safe networking habits, praising good use of technology and explaining the consequences of bad.  Those 'anti-social networks' that the Head talked about are a fully integrated part of our children's lives, and we, as parents and teachers, have a responsibility to help our children learn how to manage them. To imagine that we can prevent them from using such tools by simply confiscating their phones would be madness.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Quote for the day

Liking this quote:

'Don't limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in a different time.' - Rabindranath Tagore

So true.

Why teachers should blog

I really enjoyed reading this blog post linked from Twitter (Steve Wheeler) on why teachers should blog.  I also liked many of the comments that were posted as a result, including that Blogging is fun...  I used to keep a diary as a teenager, and this is a sort of professional version of that I suppose.

Importantly for me, it's a place where I can reflect on good and bad teaching experiences, write down nuggets of information that I think I may want to review at some point in the future, and it is also somewhere I can look back over in the future to see how far I've travelled as a teacher.

I related to Audrey's comments about lack of blog comments and feedback - something I also need to work on, but at the moment I'm happy just keeping a blog for my own purposes... if at some point someone wants to read it, then that would be great :)

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Lesson Observations

Today I had a final lesson observation for the year.  Thankfully I did better than my last one, but it's made me reflect a little on my teaching style.

Constructive criticisms from my last obs were that I didn't push the students enough, so that the more able students were challenged to go beyond the set exercises and tasks.  Hmmm, as all our students work from work books I was concerned that if I digressed during an observed lesson I would be penalised for not sticking to the criteria. I was also criticised for helping too much - demonstrating or giving answers too readily when asked a question.

After that obs, I felt extremely deflated and yes, upset.  I didn't want to be a satistfactory teacher, but a good, if not outstanding one. I told myself that the scoring system for the observation was flawed and demotivating.

But as a result, I did rethink my strategies.  I noticed that with my children I too readily do things for them, instead of encouraging them to work things out for themselves.  I started to hang back from giving information too freely, but rather encouraging both my students and my children to try that little bit harder to work it out for themselves. Reflecting on today's experience, I think that whilst I really dislike the grading system for observations, it has made me rethink my teaching strategies, and ultimately, I think it has made a better learning environment for my students.

My final thoughts then are that perhaps observations do serve a purpose and do have a place in developing better teachers, but that they need to go hand in hand with positive support and suggestions, and yes, encouragement for the teacher themselves.  After all, a good teacher should still be learning, just at a different level to their students.

Thursday, 23 June 2011


I've been having lots of fun over the past few weeks developing jQuery skills to pass on to my students.  Having successfully downloaded the jQuery library, I've used it to create a simple toggle effect.

One student has specifically asked for a carousel of images.  After a bit of research I found jcarousellite which is a very easy to use plugin.  Without much effort I've created a simple carousel too. 

Teaching is much more satisfying when I'm learning too :)

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Learning from my colleagues

A while back I wrote a post about learning from my learners.  Yesterday, I was lucky to have a colleague assisting in the classroom, and I found it very interesting to learn from her.

I had a student struggling with a particular aspect of their course (English skills).  Having spent some time with him already, I was finding it difficult to explain it any other way, so I asked my colleague to help.  After a little thought, she explained the subject completely differently to the way I had been doing it.  She was extremely patient with the learner, getting him to think about the subject in a way that was more meaningful to him, rather than looking at it in an abstract manner.

It made me reflect on how I had approached the subject, and gave me ideas on how I could do it differently next time.

My final thoughts?  That teaching is not easy - it takes a considerable amount of effort, creativity and skill - and that we, as teachers, must never be complacent about our work, but rather that we should take every opportunity to expand our own thinking and share good practice.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Social Networking Session

I think the session today on social networking went very well.  There was a lot to cram into a few hours, but all the sign ups seemed to go pretty smoothly, and everyone seemed to get to grips with posting tweets and the basics of facebook.  Not so much time for blogging, but hopefully enough of a taster to get people started.  Is this the future?

Social Networking Session

I've been running a social networking session today at the Learn IT Monmouth.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Social Networking Taster Session

Over the last few days I have been busy preparing for our taster session on Social Networking, as part of Adult Learners Week.  I will be covering Facebook, Twitter and Blogging.  I think it'll be a great session, as I'm going to encourage all the learners to Tweet during the session using a hash tag.  Hopefully there will be lots of interactivity.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Letting my learners do the teaching

In my web design class yesterday, we did a recap of adding an image to a site.  Well, I say we - I decided at the very last minute to pick on a capable students (who was at that moment being distracted by some other feature of Dreamweaver) to talk the rest of the class through the process.

She started to talk - and I politely asked her to take my seat at the IWB monitor - and talk it through from there.  The rest of the class were delighted, and it was a successful few minutes.  We gave her a round of applause for her efforts, and I then decided to take it a step further and asked another student to talk the class through adding a rollover button.

What was most interesting to me was to sit back and observe the learning process taking place.  I could see who was struggling much more clearly, and found it fascinating to see how the 'teacher' dealt with stragglers.

Not only was this a more engaging method of learning for the students, I think I really learnt something here as well - it gave me breathing space to take stock of what learning was really going on in the class.  I will definitely be doing this again.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Be careful what you Tweet

I'm following with interest the story as it unfolds regarding a guy called Chambers who tweeted that he would blow up an airport if he didn't catch his flight after a heavy fall of snow.  Stephen Fry has given his support to Chambers' appeal, joining many others in saying that the tweet was taken out of context and was clearly meant as a joke.

Not sure if I agree or not - on the one hand we should all be allowed to joke, but on the other hand, we all have a responsibility to censor our 'comments' as appropriate.  There are some things I would say in front of my husband that I would never say in a classroom, and there are some things I would say to my friends that I would never say in front of my husband.

What do you think?

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Learning from my students

In my web design class there is a young artist who is building a site for the local art community.  He often asks me in depth or difficult questions for things he want his site to be able to do.  In the past, this might have worried me as I can't always answer his questions, but today I realised what a joy it is to move beyond the constraints of what can be done easily, and to challenge both his and my learning.

All too often we limit ourselves to the things we are familiar with, instead of taking a step back and asking "what do I really want to achieve, and then trying to achieve it.  This is perhaps one of the advantages of not knowing the software.  My student has a "surely this is possible" attitude which makes us both try that bit harder to find a way of doing what he wants.  Great stuff.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Collaboration on Google Docs

I have discovered the power of Google Docs for sharing.  Forgive me for my enthusiasm, I'm not so quick as some of you.

What a brilliant tool.  I've created several documents already to share with colleagues, and we've all had fun adding comments and using the chat facility.

Above all though, I think this will be really productive.  An easy way for us to share a combined piece of work, adding to it as we have thoughts or ideas.  Fab stuff.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Twitter chat

Well tonight I followed (well, tried to follow!) a Twitter chat on EdChat.

Just about kept up, but it's definitely a skill which could be improved.  Some interesting thoughts on Shared Decision Making, and I'll try and follow others when I can.  A sort of virtual meeting I suppose with people from all over the world.

ESW, Job Skills and the Job Centre

Visit today from the Job Centre, looking at our ESW / Job skills classes.  Seemed very positive, so perhaps some good links will be made here.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Busy busy busy

A fun filled day today, CSS, Google Docs & Google Bookmarks to name but a few.  No luck with the Grand National though

Google Bookmarks

I'm seriously getting carried away, now I've gone and added my first bookmark to Google Bookmarks.  There's simply no stopping me!

Google Reader

As I'm halfway through reading Will Richardson's Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts - a book about Web 2.0 tools for the classroom - I've decided to follow his advice and set up Google Reader.  This is a space where I can set up RSS feeds for all the things I'm interested in.  The principle seems very straightforward.  Will says that you should check it daily for feeds of interest, to build a skill set in skim reading and finding what you're looking for.

So I've made a start, currently only following two feeds, one from Paul's E-learning blog and one to Emerging educational technology - a feed I found through using Google Reader's subscription search.

I've even gone so far as to add a star to a post I'd like to follow up later.  Next, I need to create some folders so that I can organise the feeds more intuitively.  I'll let you know how I get on!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Remember the milk

As someone who needs to do lists in order to remember everything I'm not supposed to forget, Remember the Milk looks like it could be worth a further look....

LAN school opportunity

During my Web class today, one of my learners called me over because her computer was 'infected' with a virus.  The screen had turned into one giant warning message, with a list behind of her folders and files marked "infected" in red.

This gave me an excellent opportunity.  Only a couple of weeks earlier, my daughter had the same message on our laptop, and the following evening, my neighbour too.

I displayed the screen using LAN school to the rest of the class.  I told them the message was fake, and asked them how I could tell.  No one was able to answer, though they tried moving the mouse around to see if that gave them any clues.

It was because the message appeared in a browser tab that I knew it was fake, and we closed it and opened a new browser window with no further issues.

I hope that, as a result, all my students are now better equipped to look out for such scams which tempt unsuspecting surfers (such as my neighbours) to download malicious software.  The benefits of LAN software were unquestionnable in this instance.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Always Learning

There is no doubt that as teachers we are always learning.  I suspect a good teacher should be learning just as much as their students do.

I learnt today that the complex session I taught on CSS went fantastically well, because I was primed and ready for it.

The 'easier' session I did on optimising graphics for my later group was somewhat less successful.  It lacked clarity from the outset, because I had spent so much time concentrating on my more difficult session for the day.

So, next session, I'm going to approach the same task as a puzzle - here are my images (a bmp, a photo with a huge file size, and a photo that is simply too large in its dimensions) and get my learners to add them to a website.  This will force them to solve the same issues, but in a more practical way than just 'optimise these images'.  I think that will get them to see the reasoning behind the session.

On a plus note, we made great use of LAN school as a way of demonstrating a very well thought out response to the task by one learner.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Life Before Google

How true this post is: Life Before Google.  I have a constant list of things in my head that I 'need' to look up using Google.

My mind would be a far emptier place without it! (perhaps that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing!)

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Power of the Retweet

A few of the publications and links I've been reading have mentioned the importance of Retweeting to attract more followers on Twitter.

So, as an experiment, I retweeted the link to the "Those who can, tweet" article that I mentioned in my previous blog post (retweeted from @MoodleMcKean).

24 hours later, I have another 5 new followers.  This, after having only a trickle of followers since I properly started Tweeting back in November time.

My conclusion, therefore, is that the Retweet is a most powerful tool if you wish to gain followers....

And if you're not following me already, please do ;) @clareontherun

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Those who can, tweet

Like this article from TES Those who can, tweet.  It summarises a lot of what I've been reading lately, and how useful I'm finding Twitter as part of my own personal development and as an aide to my Masters in Education.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Essential Skills Wales

Teaching ESW today.  Several students ready for the assignment stage, which is quite daunting as it's such a new qualification.  Got the Internal Moderator visiting next week though, so that should be a great help, and a heads up on our progress so far.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Moodle outcomes

Just added all my L2 Web Design outcomes to my course on Moodle, so now I can attach them to all uploaded assignments.  I think it'll help me keep track of what the students have completed, and what is still missing.  Good stuff.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


Well, I've just created a LinkedIn profile :/


Submitted my evidence for the Coleg Gwent Moodle Up & Away certification, and feedback was that the site was "outstanding".  Big cheesy grins all round :D

Saturday, 5 March 2011

LAN School

Had training this week on LAN School.  Seems like a useful tool - I've already used it just to check on student progress in class (without the student's knowledge).  This may seem a bit sneaky, but actually it enabled me to observe where the individual students were struggling, and then offer directed help without them actually having to ask - I suppose it's a way of giving support without the student having to alert the rest of the class to the fact they are struggling.

I'm not sure how useful it will be in a mixed workshop setting - interrupting adults when the are all working on different things may be more detrimental than beneficial.

I did use it a little in my web design class though, and can see that if students produce a good example it will be great to show to the rest of the class, or to get students to demonstrate a skill to the others.

Another thing that I found particularly interesting was the tutor himself who delivered the LAN session.  He is so clearly in tune with Estyn requirements, that he managed to weave Welsh / ESDGC / H&S etc etc into the session with apparent ease, and he directed us to where we might also be able to do this.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Mixed emotions

So a pretty mixed few days.  Firstly I was complimented on my Moodle site at work, from the Moodle trainer himself.  Apparently the Moodle site I have developed to accompany my Web Design course is one of the best in the college.  That was great to hear.

Then a blow.  My low grade in my teaching obs was surpassed by a lower paid individual, making my position feel altogether awkward.  Great for my colleague, difficult for me.

Then another plus.  An A in my masters assignment.

So am I good or not?  Hard to say, and one minute I feel like a great teacher, and the next not.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Moodle & Interactive White Board

I had training today on Moodle.  I already have a Moodle site for my Web Design L1 course, and was told that I had one of the best Moodle sites in the college at the moment which was great to hear.

Still room for improvement though - so planning to set up an initial topic with graphics that lead into each session to make it more aesthetically pleasing.  I'll enjoy doing that!

As far as the IWB goes, I was shown the spotlight - which I'm sure will be really helpful in Web Des, and the recorder - again something I'm sure I can use.  Think the hide & slide will be less useful - but perhaps just need to think more imaginatively and now I know it's there, I may come up with a use for it.

Talked about LAN (?) being able to link all users to the IWB so that I can demo good work, and again this will be great to include.  Feel very motivated to get going now :)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Management and Leadership

Session this week discussed differences between managers and leaders.  Still not sure I fully grasp the issues, but in essence I think (stress, think) that managers deals with processes and outcomes ie practical stuff, whilst leaders motivate and inspire.  So, managers deal with tasks and leaders deal with people.  Some useful reading suggested, so I'll try and get some books from the library.  Interesting to compare my managers and leaders with what I've learned!