Back to Work – Tomorrow

The “Plan” for this year!

Well its back to work for me tomorrow. This year I am (hopefully) going to concentrate on getting a lot of e-stuff happening for my students. The plan is to provide very customised online resources and links for adolescents and adults in Literacy, Numeracy and Employability Skills. This is already under way – thanks to project funding from the WA Department of Training.

In 2008 we won Building Diversity funding from the Equity Development and Innovation Program to start developing an online blend for delivering and/or providing additional support/resources at Australian Certificate I level in the Certificate of General Education for Adults (CGEA). This is particularly useful for our regional students as they often can’t attend a campus because of distance. We still have some funding available to April which will help us have time to continue development.

First page for Cert I and Intro

What was and what is!

Traditionally distance learning for CGEA in the Wheatbelt of WA has taken the form of booklets (called learning guides here). For me this doesn’t make much sense because giving students who have low literacy levels a written booklet to read with activities to work through in isolation seems like setting them up to fail.

So far we have developed a blend that uses virtual classroom (Elluminate) for delivering some topics and/or for tutorials and a range of resources and tasks provided through a Learning Management system (LMS) – Blackboard CE6. We piloted this with a group of English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

The best thing for me about using an LMS (at least with CE6) is that you can provide each student or group of students with a customised pathway through the resources using the selective release options. However you can also enable them all have access to some shared discussion topics which is great for our students who are often geographically isolated from their peers.

What will be!

This year I plan to extend the range of options for customisation for Introductory and for Certificates II and III as well as Certificate I, so that we have focussed resources that address the possible interests and preferred learning styles of youth at risk students and Indigenous learners.

Currently I use one of the discussion options (an individual journal) in CE6 for students to collect together work/tasks they have completed, although this is quite limited in some ways it has the advantage that the students only have to go to one place for everything. This helps some of our students who don’t have high levels of computer literacy – but may disengage those who have, so I am looking at other options and may use blogs, Flickr, and other tools with some students instead of the LMS journal.

It is difficult to customise completely for individuals (time constraints) but by using groups I hope to use different strands for each of our broad target groups and then some individual threads if needed

Blogger’s block?

Oh dear – I was about to write only my fourth blog post and I’ve already hit writer’s block (that was block not blog!). Perhaps it should be/is called blogger’s block? My problem is I can’t really see why I’m blogging. I am not generally a written reflector as reflection usually happens in my head. If I am looking for ideas/help/advice I usually search the Internet, ask/email specific people and/or (since joining Twitter) send out a Tweet. I also can’t quite see why anyone else would be interested in what I might write. Much of my work involves writing in one form or another – teaching and learning resources, funding applications, project reports etc. All of these have very specific audiences and objectives so I am not much given to writing without a defined purpose. I also find I want to include absolutely everything relevant and to get it perfect (in my dreams!) so I’m not very good at just “running something off” quickly.

Can I de-block?

I do occasionally write long, rambling (and illustrated with pics) emails about activities on our block to my best mate in the UK. This happens much less often than it used to as we now usually chat on Skype about once a week. So I thought if I wrote a bit of a “ramble” for my blog it might help me get over the blogger’s block.

A bit of a ramble through my current activities

I have got rather used to being on holiday – for those of you anywhere other than Australia, schools and TAFE here have their long summer break over Xmas and the New Year. This means (in my particular college) that unless you have a good reason for being on campus you have to take leave from just before Xmas to the end of January. However being “on holiday” doesn’t mean doing nothing work related. I am currently (and rather intermittently) trying to get my head around Flash – more of that in a later post, learning more about PLNs, slowly extending my Twitter network (tweeting regularly). Sue Waters and myself also re-started our Free Online PD sessions for the year and the next one is on Friday 23rd Jan, 09:00 Western Australian time through Elluminate. The link is:

If you are thinking of joining us and are not familiar with Elluminate you will find it useful to go to their support site and this will step you through configuring your system

Online PD on Friday 16th Jan 2009

At last Friday’s Online PD session we heard about the Poweful Learning Practice model for professional development from Robin Ellis and Chris Harbeck. There was a lively discussion about the merits (and otherwise) and some implications of using Facebook with students – particularly school age ones. We finished off with a discussion about using time limited challenges as a learning facilitation tool.

Ideas on time framed challenges - whiteboard from Free Online PD 16/01/09

From Free Online PD Friday 16th Jan 09

Now for something completely different – the other part of my life!

As well as all these unofficial work related activities we have lots of things happening on the block. This time of year tends to be a peak time for lots of fruit and veg to be ready all at once, since well before Xmas we have been eating zucchini, summer squash, bush beans, carrots, runner beans, strawberries and raspberries. We fought a continuing battle with small brown birds (SBBs) (weebills and silvereyes) – they get through the most amazingly small holes in the bird netting – to eat some of our cherries before they did. We still have zucchini and carrots and the next row of beans are starting to flower. We have also been harvesting sweetcorn

(some of these will be frozen) and are picking tomatoes, cucumbers and okra as well as lettuce and radish. Plums are being picked.

Peaches and grapes ripening, melons and pumpkins growing larger every day. All of this largesse means much processing – drying, making jam and some freezing. The ultimate aim is some veg fresh from the garden available all year round and surplus preserved one way or another for use when there is not much fresh.

As well as all the garden stuff (including sewing up holes in bird netting) we are preparing our outdoor area (courtyard and under verandahs) for paving. It will be sooooo good not to have the outdoor area and pool in a building site after over 6 years of sand and gravel underfoot between house and pool, wobbly chairs and unlevel table and barbecue for sitting out – I can’t wait!! However this means 2-3 hours each morning – when it is cooler than our current 38-40 deg C daytime maxima – leveling and moving sand.

We have to level it all (250 square metres) down to this!

Luckily there was plenty of excess on the house pad, and we just need to take it down to the bottom of the brickwork – we are having poured limestone and hope this will be lower maintenance than pavers.

The end!

At last I have finished – this is a very messy piece of writing that lacks both a real theme and much coherence – but at least it got me past the non-writing stage!