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Showing posts from March, 2016

Customers or Students

Are you a customer or a student - do you expect a service, or are you expecting to learn and grow as a result of your educational experience. I have often encountered students who see themselves as customers - especially when they are not getting what they had hoped out of the course - especially if they fail.
Of course as a biased academic - this would be my view.
I am all for every student having every reasonable opportunity and like customers they should have a reasonable expectation that they will have a sufficient service for their investment. However - people fail - not everyone understands the topic they have chosen to engage with. In spite of the best efforts of an educational establishment - not everyone is going to 'get it'.
For all who read this blog, what is your experience of students as customers and vice versa?

Skills and Knowledge for a Computing Qualification ...

A contact on LinkedIn asked the following question ...
What skills and knowledge should be taught to students studying Computing at 16-19? All ideas welcome. What do you find is the problem when this age range starts work in Industry? A great question and one that has slightly perplexed education for all the time I have been working in teaching. The reality is that many of our 16-19 students still need to learn (to work) once they leave the classroom and there is no situation where FE is equipped to truly resemble the 'Computing/IT' workplace. Efforts are often admirable - but work has a different immediacy.
If you want your students to succeed the best advice I can offer educators is to: Teach them to learn how to learn, Help them learn the principles of tech, Show them that what they are learning will be out of date, Help them learn to learn new stuff based on the previous three principles  ...  then teach them some current clever stuff that they can use in both Univeristy a…

Setting the clocks? ...

At last check, in the Smith household, we have two remaining timepieces that need changing. We seldom wear watches as technology now does this for us.

Most of us now get our time from an internet enabled telephony device - I use mine like a pocket watch. It uses a protocol to synchronise its time with one of the atomic clocks used to synchronise devices running the Internet. The chances of inaccuracy are remote as it regularly checks in to compare its own time to the the time being monitored by these servers.

One wakes up, looks over, checks phone (aka pocket-watch) and is already in the correct timeframe - it takes mental little effort to change the two other wall clocks in the house. Yet - you will see everywhere for a couple of days in advance --- "Don't forget to move your clocks forwards/backwards etc".

So, my question - is this beginning to become a needless reminder.

An Academic fine line - balancing education with PR and Marketing ...

I often hear academic colleagues bemoan the public relations and marketing functions of their respective educational establishments. This isn't unique to the OU - this is a recurring theme around higher and further education and is one of those archetypical them/us situations.

While there is an element of truth - I have often held the view that many academics do not make the necessary effort to understand the motivations and demands placed on these marketing and PR types. Having been a guilty party, I think it is better to get to know them. Usually they tend to show a more human and pragmatic side.

They do come, they do go and you do need to cultivate relationship and know that your subject may not always be the Zeitgeist and nor will you always be the go to person. Once you overcome this minor egocentricity they tend to be a useful way of helping develop the courses/content and research you may be involved with.

If you want it tomorrow, only asking yesterday - forget it, that is…

A little bit of historic educational prejudice ...

In the long gone past, when I worked in further education - we would occasionally employ students who had promise and were very capable as visiting lecturers. At most, some would get three hours a week - sometimes it was based on supply/demand where we had to solve an immediate skills gap in our teaching provision - often it would be because they had shown promise and an opportunity would arise.

One student (like many) - was a whizz with computer hardware and decent with networking skills, so was perfect for a basic computer maintenance session. Except - my boss did not want to employ them. The prejudice was simple - we gave them a couple hours a week additional support because of their dyslexia.

Paraphrasing my line managers words from memory - "how can we employ someone getting additional support as a tutor?". My reaction was a mixture of incredulous and ape shit - my response was simply, what is the point of additional support if you are saying that we cannot employ this…

Why are newspapers still trying to 'out' people?

It is rare for me to share a view on such a personal subject - why are some newspapers still keen to 'out' people. In my youth it was about outing homosexuals - now it seems that transgender is a target.

They are not committing a crime, they are not affecting our nation, their transgender inclinations will not cause large corporations to fail. Some men want to be women and some women want to be men. Is this really an issue?

While many of us do not have these feelings (or is it inclinations) - what someone feels or wishes to be really is of no media interest whatsoever. Celebrity, film director, CEO or not.

Stop it, it is immature, report world news, report facts about what is really affecting people - if you think that someone who prefers to be another gender is newsworthy then you are really not a part of this century!


Loading the educational scattergun ...

I often encounter souls who lament why they were taught X or Y at school, as they never use it in everyday life. To be fair on the curriculum creators and the teachers we:

Do not know what will become of you - chances are we are building the foundations for a career that will rely on the clever stuff we are trying to wedge into your minds.Appreciate that often you miss the point - you do use X or Y, is simply the case that you often do not realise (for example equations when buying multipack soft drinks in a world of ever changing deals) We sit down and think - what will most people need most of the time. As well as, what is actually needed by each discipline we teach. Create the programme, load the educational scattergun and shoot away.
It is rare to have taught (or created) a programme where someone somewhere does not struggle to see the relevance of what is being covered. Citing all manner of reasons until we observe that it is either a threshold concept to get them from A to B or …

Accumulating new Cisco Academies ... an alternate model for a UK Cisco ASC ...

I have an exceptionally long memory, better than I may let you think. Long ago one was in the process of setting up our first Cisco Networking Academy. Very green and very inexperienced - our senior management on the advice of someone (no longer) within Cisco Systems. They directed us towards soliciting advice from another regional academy (as they were in those long lost times). Instead of helping us at our launch, they were more inclined to try and poach prospective academies as their own customers - something we have never forgotten.
Incorrectly assuming that it would be a localised model (as originally explained) - we discovered much to our amusement that it was very much a free for all with everyone out for themselves. We also discovered that Cisco at that time (at least in the UK) - had a view that you had to acquire at least ten academies otherwise you were not considered to be a viable regional.
Happily ticking along, we rapidly realised in the free for all - some academies wer…

The Magic Wand Brigade ...

I cannot take any credit for this term - imported from a particular soul in Western Australia - experience with some individuals in education makes me agree:
There is a Magic Wand Brigade! You know, the kind of soul who says 'it will be done' and thinks that now they have clicked their heels and waved their wand that the problem is solved and the deed done. In perpetual denial and swoosh they are off to the next opportunity - they also seem to be able to claim credit for work that was never theirs and probably wasn't even their idea.

If you see any senior managers waving their magic wand, snatch it from them, snap it in half and stick it up their ****. Leaders will help, guide and advise, poor managers will wave their wands like ineffectual phalluses.

The multi threaded art of being an @OpenUniversity distance learning learning tutor ...

It dawned on me that I have a distance learning tutor (or associate lecturer) at the Open University for more than ten years. While in the next six weeks I will have completed eight years as a full time academic at the OU - my experience of the student experience always informs how I support each of the modules I chair.

Being a distance learning tutor is a multi threaded art - it is unlike traditional face to face teaching as you have to form a relationship with multiple souls who you have never met. From the outset you have to present your credentials and make yourself contactable - while setting some straightforward ground rules.

I have mistakenly helped students while out for dinner, at the cinema (text conversation) and at all manner of strange times. This has taught me to convey when I am easiest to contact and also when I am unavailable. Nonetheless, my lifestyle does not always work for the student so one must try and be as flexible as possible - and also avoid annoying my wif…