Saturday, 12 September 2015

New beginnings

Next week I will start a new (albeit temporary) role as a Teaching & Learning Mentor.  I'm exciting at the prospect, as well as being a little nervous.

Applying for - and subsequently getting - the job have made me think a lot about what the role of a Teaching & Learning Mentor should be.  As a lecturer, I look to my campus Mentor for support with lesson plans in the main.  I'm pretty competent when it comes to technology for learning, so this is not something I need a lot of support with.  But when it comes to lesson observations, I find it handy to be able to chat through my lesson plan with someone else who can give me suggestions or point out areas that I have not explicitly included.  I guess it is useful to hear an objective point of view on what I have put together.

Today, I read the Guardian's Secret Teacher post on inset days (Guardian, 2015).  I agree with the author that there is nothing worse than sitting in training which feels less than relevant, whilst thinking about all the prep and / or marking that is sitting on your desk, whilst trying to control the building sense of panic about when you are going to manage to fit it in.

Last term, I was involved in putting together an inset for a specific group of staff.  One of the things I was determined to do was to ensure that during the session, staff would complete something tangible which they could take away and use in a lesson.  We did this by including a brief introduction, and then four activities - short 15 minute group sessions which introduced a teaching tool or technique and then gave the staff an opportunity to begin planning their own take on the technique - something that would work for them and their learners, and that they could take away at the end of the session.  As an example, my session was on the use of online collaborative forums as a way of developing higher order thinking skills.  I explained the purpose of the forums and briefly some of the technicalities, and then I got the group to think of a forum topic that they could use within their own subject area.  Once they had done that, I asked them to think about how they could drive the online discussion forward to develop those critical thinking skills that we so desperately want our learners to have.

Feedback from the session was very good, and as a team I think we did a good job of making use of the time in a way that the staff felt was productive.  My post now will be to replicate that productivity every day, with every member of staff I interact with.

There is definitely a need to bring staff together to plan and to disseminate information, but how we do that is just as important.  We are telling teachers that they need to be less didactic and more interactive, but that's not always how inset sessions run.  Perhaps now I have an opportunity to lead by example.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

So much to learn, so little time

I found this post from this time last year which I never got round to publishing.  The subjects may have changed, but the principle still remains!

Sept 2014

I've re-connected with my piano.  Last week I had it tuned, and just before he left, the piano tuner played a short but beautiful piece of music on it.  I sat in the other room and listened and it reminded me how much I love playing the piano, and how much I miss playing it.  So I've started playing again.  I picked up a piece of Chopin that I've tried to learn once before, and practiced, and it's been a joy.

What I need now is lots of time to practice.  But wait, I don't have lots of time.  In addition to getting back to the piano, I'm also two weeks into an online Mobile App course, learning about the ins and outs of Android applications, Eclipse, SDK's, Java and XML.  I'm really enjoying the course, but it's very hard with so many system tweaks and downloads, and complex programming and packaging.

And then in a week's time, the Introduction to Guitar Playing starts on Coursera.  I've already delayed starting this course twice because of lack of time, but I think I'd love to be able to play the guitar, and apart from a couple of chords and one short piece, I've never really dedicated much time to it.

I'm also getting to grips with MIT App Inventor for one of my modules at college - that's great fun too, and I'm looking forward to getting the learners enthused about what they can do with it.  I'm writing lesson plans for my Website Production class - next week it's client and server side scripting - that'll take a while to put together.  Soon, I'll be joining a Preparing to Teach class, so I'll need to refresh my memory on learning styles and theories for that.

I'd also really like to get to grips with a bit of Visual Basic programming, so that I can tinker further with my home automation system, getting lights to turn off after a certain amount of inactivity in a room - but I've never done Visual Basic before so that's proving quite challenging.

And of course, I'm trying to allocate a bit of time to training my border collie for his agility classes - we're even planning to enter a competition next month.  Gardening, housework, taxi driver for three kids, and I'd like to have a go at making my own bread without cheating with the bread machine.

Life for me is about learning.  I love learning.  If I don't know something, I google it.  If I don't understand something, I read about it.  If I want to get better at something, I practice it.

Now if I could just stop time for a hour a day of dedicated learning, that would be perfect.  There is so much to learn, so little time.  Perhaps a course in astro physics is what I need...