Showing posts from July, 2012

Saying something positive about the #Olympics ...

Often weary of the negative hype of the media, always looking for something at fault and available for criticism, with members of the governments opposition jumping in. On behalf of my wife, daughter and oneself i would like to say ...
"Thank you London 2012, today has been an immensely enjoyable experience" We are not particular sports fans, but with the Olympics being a once in a lifetime experience, we decided to request tickets when the 'lottery' started over a year ago. Unsuccessful, we were determined to get tickets, getting up early on the day they opened the 'free for all' at 06:00.

I felt we were fortunate, getting 3 tickets for the Ladies Hockey and Football Final ... neither sports are 'our thing' but with a 16 year old daughter, each seemed appropriate. We did not want to spend too much money, but wanted to have that memory, as chances are, we may never see any Olympic event again.

So, maybe we were a little bemused when so many were com…

Yet earth still spins ...

Minutes of poetic nonsense, minute prose, making rhymes from words that mean little. Triptychs of time, temporal moments, minutes minute as they pass. Microseconds collect, becoming momentary delay. Adding up, collecting, accumulates each day. As each breath passes, each heart beat rendered, another day drifts on our journey to our end. Once begun, we hurtle towards a definite path, with only a moment to make an impression on our world. Words lost into an ether as each year becomes more and so even more. Decades, accumulate, maybe a century passed.

Yet earth still spins, every day.

Flying lessons ...

Now this has to be back in the first year I was teaching. For anyone new to teaching, working with 16-19 year old males in an urban setting can be a baptism of fire. You do need to have your wits about you, it is an alpha male culture and you do have to be on top, ahead and not 'worth the effort'.

Being the new lecturer, the second years see you as prey whereas the first years are blithely unaware.

Most of the characters 'trying it on' were easy to bat away with a little wit, leadership and 'taking no shit'.

But, as befits the experience of any new educator, there are some situations that come from left field angle and takes one completely unaware. Blowing up in a matter of minutes, if not seconds, as befits the tempestuous nature of the young adult male.

Early on in my career I was working on the 'if I am late" ... "so can you" policy, this worked as I am quite obsessive about time keeping, often at appointments early much to the chargin of…

Feckless frustration ...

Before you get irate about the title of this post, check out what feckless means.

Over the years I had motivated students, students who coasted and those who were alas a waste of time. It may seem unfair to label students in such a manner, but having taught 1000's you do get to see a varied and interesting cross section.

When I started in the 90's, I recall a student who joined us early in my teaching career and meandered their way onto a BTEC national (level 3). Never impressive, their work ethic was minimal and by the time they completed the second year was a 'pass only' candidate (after two tries at year two).

So, already three years with the college, the culture of the time was 'bottoms on seats'  so some colleagues found it difficult to turn away students. Having a successful Computer Maintenance / Systems Support strand. We were into the second year running of a successful 'Networking' Diploma using another vocationally oriented qualification. Sa…

Decaying monoliths ...

You know when you have been involved with something for too long when you see the greats come and go. When you are able to lament on what was and laugh at what others are doing, as you have already made that mistake.

A mark of longevity is when you see/hear of innovative practice and when you read it think "didn't we do that, way back when?" or more often "many were doing this, but why not now?".

Moreover, you often hear of some organiastions, schools, colleges or universities being the 'best' at X or Y, having acquired a reputation that is no longer a reflection of their current reality.

The reality is that in education, monoliths come and go, often with rapid ease. As education is entirely reliant on the one resource of the professionals teaching the topics in question. Unless there is the collective enthusiasm, supported by an ability to deliver the topic and get results. It can easily be lost in the mists of time.

Sadly, the culture cultivated by …

The old FE/HE relationship ...

At a 'national' event one was co-leading last weekend I bumped into someone from 'the dim past'.

Over coffee, we recalled how both of us, in our respective further education colleges had to endure the relationship with a local University.

If this University was good at teaching computing; it may have had a ring of justification. But the issue was the opposite, in a relationship imposed by the senior exec of all local organisations in a consortium. Suddenly the 'Computing' faculty of the incumbent university found that whilst they had to service this widening participation partnership they were also in line for exposure over the quality of their teaching.

We both had a torrid time, their fight lasted for a few short bouts, mine, over a period of five years was the 'unpublished' reason I started looking for work elsewhere. Unhappy at both the treatment and lack of support from local and corporate management.

For the other incumbent, the fight was never t…

HE in FE is it a con?

Having taught HE in FE over four years ago, I used to manage a programme where over 95% of the students enrolled came from our FE college already. So, they did know that they were coming onto a programme that was already at their college.

This article from the The Times Higher Education, does concern me.

Whilst one was in a situation where we worked with local students to give them a local choice, we made it very clear that they are moving locally from their level three qualification into higher education.

Crowd control ...

After being away from face to face teaching for some time, you have to take my word for some of the stuff I share. Some former colleagues still in 'the game' can back up or refute, I am sure they all have an equally interesting take on education.

On the whole, the majority of younger students are well behaved. It is a case of crowd control, if you create the impression that you "take no shit" you do need to "back it up" and more important "be even handed". You cannot be dishing out the "love" to one and not the other, they will feel neglected and you have no end of trouble on your hands.

Once I had established myself, class discipline is not too difficult. For most students in most groups, the establishment process appeared in two easy stages.
Stage One: On the first session with the new unbroken group, simply warn them that my reputation precedes itself. They are free to ask around many others will tell them what I am like. Normally th…

Innovative my a$$e ...

It is frightful when a report from ofsted, otherwise slamming the vocational sector, highlights one innovative practice that makes you chuckle and think .... hmm we were doing this over ten years ago.

Take a peek at the section that describes teaching telecommuncations and cabling as innovative.

Yeah really, I wonder if the eejits writing this report knew what was happening at the turn of the millenium, what some of the centres who became "centres of vocational excellence" were up to and the many hours we had with many groups professionally cabling different 'real' environments to ensure that they had the vocational experience.

Job titles for beginners ...

Now don't we all like a title, a role or a description of what we do.

Am I a creative, manager, in leadership or a director and dreamer of dreams.

When you meet many of this title holders, it becomes rapidly apparent that their title (job role) has more to do with the way their employer has encouraged their self importance (in return for less cash I expect) rather than individual thinking.

So, national directors, regional managers, strategic liaisons be aware, the title belies an empire of paper that comes with ease and goes with speed.

Maybe I should become a strategic regional lead for ...

... nah can't be bothered.

Recollection ...

Often at dinner parties you get some interest when I share that I used to teach in a further education college. Often this would be followed by a statement, vaugely resembling "bet you are glad not to be teaching the kids anymore".

My normal retort is, most of the time the Kids were fine, you would only get the occasional one. But the staff, now that would be different. For someone who is sixteen, an emotional childish outburst is part of the rich tapestry of 'growing up', we have all done it and many learn from it. But some of the childish, obnoxious behavior I have seen from 'so called' professionals over the years would make you wince and holler with laughter at the same time.

After all, should they not know better.

Maybe I should start sharing some tales, with interesting facts obfuscated.

Long lost lament of knowledge not needed ...

Looking at a former exam paper from the early eighties, covering my fave subject of computer science. Some posting about it on twitter are taking a default position of lamenting all that is lost, such as the skill of working out floating point numbers from the binary.

In some part I agree, there is clear evidence of dumbing down, this is a CSE paper and the C level skill is missing from many higher qualifications today. But, let's stop and think for a moment, professionally how many of us actually apply some of these abstract skills.

From an understanding perspective it is useful, but most programmers seldom need to know the detailed mathematical principle behind each of the numerical primitives they use. Yes, they need to know what it is, but seldom such detail.

The complex skills now lie in many other areas, but in some intellectual attempt to return to the womb of our learning long gone. We do lament the loss of topics that may not be so critical as we would like to think.

- Posted…

Then there was the one who wimpered about the Mathematics ...

Some time ago I was approached by a centre who was having a chunter about the mathematics module they elected to teach.

In my youth and until the late 90's, the qualification I am involved with had a core computational mathematics based module. Which I recall teaching in my early days in the profession (that has another interesting story attached to it).

Anyhow, for reasons you can guess, this module was dropped long before I entered the world of verification and was replaced by an optional module. So I am sure you can predict what many centres decided to do.

Once one was involved in the development of the newer programmes, whilst one could turn the tide on moving it back to the core. It was possible to create some more 'practice based' criteria, where the educators and the students would work on computational mathematics that had clear links to activities they would carry out in the industry.

The query from the centre in question did irritate. 

We can't teach this m…

Raspberry what?

Sitting with a group of educational professionals who come from different parts of this sceptered isle. They all work in the ICT sector, they all teach subjects that include programming and hardware. They are all noted experts, otherwise I would not have been with them and presenting.

So, question asked "any of you used a Raspberry Pi yet?".


Next question, "do any of you know what a Raspberry Pi is?".

Tumbleweed ... and a private moment of angst.

They were not being shy, they did not know, honest guv.

So, one did explain, one did encourage and after five minutes it could be said that some may engage and use them to enthuse the students they teach.

I cannot work out how they missed out on this advent of teaching technology, where they were on the 29th of February and what news comes their way.

One hopes that they may do something with what was shared and the ideas on what may be a good way to teach many IT topics, including programming.

Off to bang head a…

Stamping their little foot ...

Over the last week there was an exchange of emails between oneself and a centre in Englandshire.

There is a unit, which has reasonable criteria, but depending on your experience and therefore expertise, you could easily over 'egg' the expectations of this unit and send the poor students down a journey of discovery that is beyond reasonable.

When the few centres looking to deliver this unit, when they spot this, they do check; and happy with the explanation/rationale that is given.

Yet one recently, seemingly bolstered by a perception of self importance, wanted to rant about how their view was better.

That's nice, ahhh well, consider yourselves ignored.

Lost to education ...

Last week a college in an adjacent county lost an excellent educator to industry, entirely through the malice and ignorance of a vindictive agenda. Unfortunately unable to see the long view, they may not be aware what is coming around the corner in the next couple of years.