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Trying out phonic-based approaches with ESOL students – an action research approach

By Laura Kehdi – Westway Trust. Member of PDNorth’s online practitioner action research group

I am currently teaching ESOL pre-entry at Westway Trust and I just love it, as it is very rewarding. I have based my research on a pre-entry group of lovely international students, who I teach on Mondays and Wednesdays for two and a half hours per lesson. Each student has a different background, nationality and age. Most of them are illiterate and many also have learning differences and difficulties. Many speak Arabic as their first language, others speak Portuguese, Spanish and Farsi.


Stage 1: Getting feedback from students

Image by Kidaha on Pixabay

I asked my students what they like about my lessons, what they don’t like, and what they would like to continue doing. As they are beginners, I did this by talking to them directly (using translation when necessary), and by taking notes. Their response didn’t surprise me at all; they were all very happy and enthusiastic about what we are currently doing. However, what everyone really wanted to be able to do was to keep trying to learn how to read and write certain words. In essence the group want to become literate, which as an ESOL teacher, is my aim for them too! Following some phonics training our team accessed in November as part of our Outstanding Teaching and Learning (OTLA) CPD, a particular approach caught my attention – something so simple but so useful at the same time. I had never thought of it before, and I felt it could potentially help my students very much when it came to learning a new word, especially when writing and reading it.


Stage 2 implementing a new teaching strategy: From copy and speak to copy, copy, copy, no copy, check!

The technique I first tried out with students is focused on copying words while speaking them at the same time. So, while a student is writing one word, it is extremely helpful to speak the sound of each letter instead of being silent. However, notice that it is the sound of the word that we are taking in consideration, not the name of the letters. So, for example, with the word “cook”, students would say k-ʊ-k (c-oo-k), and not see-ou-ou-key / c-o-o-k.

I shared this strategy with my students, as a new way of practising and learning a new word while becoming more independent; in fact, students can use this strategy anytime and anywhere, without the teacher‘s help. However, I found that just copying the words wasn’t enough for students to both understand the word and to check how much they had actually learned. Building on my reflections, my work with students, and my learning during the CPD course, I developed the following exercise: copy, copy, copy, no copy, check!

STEP 1 Copy, copy, copy

Students copy the word multiple times and concurrently speak the sound of the word (we copied the same word at least 10 times).

STEP 2 No copy

Students cover the sheet where they have copied the word many times. On another sheet, they then try to write the word without copying, just one time.

STEP 3 Check!

Students compare the word they have written without copying (step 2) with the original word (step 1). Students can then see if the word is correct, how many letters were right and how many were wrong – by doing so, students can see by themselves what was correct and what they need to practise.

Repeat this cycle as many times as needed with the same word. Once students feel confident with the word chosen, they can change it and start all over again with another word. I found that it was helpful to stress the name of the steps ‘copy, copy, copy, no copy, check!’ almost like a chant, as this was very helpful for students to memorise the sequence of the exercise, which also helped promote students’ independence.


Stage 3: Reflecting on the results of copy, copy, no copy, check!

I am very pleased with the outcome of the activity so far; I could see huge improvements in every student! For instance:

  • Most of the students can remember and write the word at stage 2 100% correctly. I was impressed on how much copying while speaking the sound of the word, could help students to memorising it – incredible!
  • A few students did not write the word completely correctly. However, I saw a huge improvement in my group. Sometimes from one letter correct to three or four.
  • Speaking the word is key. The sound itself massively helps students at stage 2, when they have to remember the spelling of the word without copying it. Students have combined and memorised the letter and the sound together, therefore this helps them with remembering each letter of the word when saying it.

A key finding from this intervention is that it has helped students to become much more independent when studying a new word. They learn how to practise, to check and correct the word by themselves, and not with the help of the teacher as usual. This is a huge step, especially for illiterate pre-entry ESOL students. 

There are however situations where this approach could be less successful; it is helpful to be aware of these problems, to avoid disappointment. For instance:

  • Students might not be aware nor confident enough with the pronunciation of the word. Make sure the teacher does a lot of drilling first and records the word with the student’s phone to help them and to promote self-study.
  • Students might start spelling the word (name of the letters) instead of speaking the sound of it. For example, with the word “cook”, students would say see-ow-ow-key / c-o-o-k, but actually they must say k-ʊ-k (c-oo-k).
  • Students might struggle with speaking the sound of the word and copying/writing it at the same time. For example, some of them might have just started copying the first letter but finished to pronounce the whole word already. Teacher’s must show students a few examples on the board first, and the stress the fact that writing and speaking must be concurrently.
  • Many students forget to continue speaking after a while. They get back to what they used to do, which was copying without any sound. Make sure you always monitor and encourage students to persist with the nature of the exercise.
  • Students might struggle with remembering the chant at first. Make sure to reinforce this as it helps students to be independent, knowing what to do without any help. Without the chant, it is extremely difficult for students to remember what to do at every stage, especially at pre-entry levels.

Stage 4 – Concluding thoughts and next steps

I am truly pleased on the very positive results I had with my group. I believe that having included the technique as a three-stage cycle improved the outcome even more. This activity works very well not only when it comes to helping students, (especially those who are just beginning to learn to read and write), to learn and practise a new word, but also to promote self-study. I designed this activity for pre-entry students, but it can be adapted and used with higher levels too. For example, instead of learning one word, students might want to practise a whole sentence. Timewise, the exercise can be done in 5 minutes or in 15 – do it as much as it is needed, I would say. I intend to keep adapting my approaches based on learner feedback and my observations, and I will continue engaging in action research as a way of reflecting upon the strategies I develop to support my learners.

I am grateful for having had the opportunity to engage in action research and to work on such an enjoyable and important project. I hope that many teachers will find this activity as useful and efficient as I did, and that they will use it to help students to become literate and more independent. 

Twenty years in FE: How Practitioner Research has shaped my professional development.

Cathy Clarkson from our CPD exchange (Yorkshire & Humberside) talks about the impact practitioner research has had on her own continual professional development.

I’m no stranger to practitioner research. It’s formed a valuable part of my CPD throughout my career, with the support of organisations such as the NRDC, LSIS, SUNCETT, EMCETT and the ETF*.

iPad set up and storage (screenshot: click to see video)

I was involved in a few of the NRDC projects. I really am a child of the Skills for Life agenda and it seems crazy how critical we were of it at the time. My first foray into practitioner research was with the ICT Effective Practice study. I was one of the nine practitioner researchers, working with the fabulous people at the Institute of Education. Whatever happened to webquests? Just one of those technologies that comes and goes, although the underlying principle of guiding students through the complexities of the internet seems even more relevant today.

I took this model of collaborative action research to my MA dissertation, which I was fortunate to piggy back with an NRDC practitioner-research grant. The Lancaster University tutors were amazing, and the mentoring I got from tutors at Leeds Mets and the Institute of Education was invaluable. The Action Research Network is still viewed through the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia by the Dewsbury College gang. With the MA under my belt, I managed the application for the college to become a Cambridge-approved centre offering both the CELTA and the full DTE(E)LLS – the only place outside of London offer the ESOL subject specialism. Because of this, I managed to secure a grant through the Creative Routes project and with this money bought a set of iPads to be used by our DE(E)LLTS trainees to support their CPD. The highlight of this project was a trip to Morocco to run a workshop for IATEFL and MATE where the post-it notes we’d brought were more novel that the mobile technology.

iPads in a maths class

With the demise of NRDC, LSIS picked up the baton of supporting practitioner research. With support from the SUNCETT team, the theme of emerging technologies continued in my practitioner research as I looked at what we could find out about iPads by working collaboratively with tutors and students from different curriculums. I learnt that I couldn’t answer the question about how to use this emerging mobile technology in the classroom, because I had been focusing on how the technology supported independent study out of the classroom.  This led me to apply for an EMCETT grant to explore the question of mobile technology in the classroom. I brought my (now aging) iPads together into a class set and I worked with my beginner ESOL group to find out what this technology had to offer in the classroom. We explored ESOL apps of varying quality and I got some insight into the differing opinions on what 16-18 year olds thought were good or poor apps. My next project, once again supported by EMCETT, broadened this question into other curriculums. I worked with other tutors, who worked with their students, to explore how a class set of iPads could be used effectively.

It may be no surprise reading this, by the end of the year I was pretty tired, I needed a break from practitioner research and I needed to get a little more control of my work/life balance. It’s one thing to get the grants and the college to promise the time, but the reality is that practitioner research eats in to your life. Of course this doesn’t mean that I stopped trying new things. Not at all. It just meant I stopped writing about it, I cut back on blogging and Tweeting although I still ran some sessions for NATECLA for a short time.

English apps in class, at home and on the bus (screenshot: click to see video)

In the summer of 2018 something changed. The universe realigned and the stars pointed me to an EdD, which is basically a taught PhD. This has given me over a year since I started the course to get a feel for what I want to study, and today I have submitted my proposal. I am also dong an OTLAEnglish project, funded through the ETF. It is very interesting doing these projects simultaneously. It feels very different doing a doctorate to doing any other practitioner research. I am both intrigued and scared by the philosophical nature of research. It has taken me about the same amount of time to write my EdD proposal as it has to do the entire OTLAEnglish project. But the start/finish notion of these projects is deceiving. The EdD isn’t just starting, it has started and I can already feel the messiness of engaging in action research. The OTLA project isn’t finished, the report may be written but the activity continues.

Playing games helps English (screenshot: click to see video)

Without funding from organisations such as the NRDC, LSIS, and ETF I’m not sure that I would be taking my EdD now. I certainly could not have done these projects without the support of the people working with the organisations who provide the funding. The money is of course always welcome, but as we found out in the Action Research network, a group of willing tutors with a rota of baking, can create the time and space needed to be able to reflect on changes made in the classroom. I would recommend anyone to look for funding opportunities, particularly through the ETF. Twitter is a fabulous place to find out about these things and there is a growing base of FE tutors chatting and sharing. Going to conferences is also useful, look out for a local teachmeet, FEbrewed and the upcoming ReimagineFE conference heading into its fifth year.  There are also the regional Professional Exchange Networks (PEN). Internally you could hunt out your Advanced Practitioner, who I am sure will be more than happy to support you in developing your own practitioner research project or find some like-minded colleagues to create a Research Space to talk about your practice – don’t forget the cake.

Acronym Key

  • CELTA – Certificate in Language Teaching to Adults
  • EMCETT – East Midland Centre of Excellence in teacher training
  • NATECLA – National Association for Teaching English and Community Languages to Adults
  • ETF – The Education and Training Foundation.
  • LSIS – Learning and Skills Improvement Service
  • OTLA – Outstanding Teaching, Learning & Assessment programme (ETF)
  • PEN – Professional Exchange Networks
  • MATE – Moroccan Association for Teachers of English
  • NRDC – National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy
  • SUNCETT – University of Sunderland Centre of Excellence for teacher training
  • AP – Advanced Practitioner
  • CPD – Continual Professional Development

Showcasing Digital: Inspiring others to #HaveAGo

by Susanna Brandon, PDNorth Northwest TLA exchange

As part of the PDNorth TLA (Teaching, Learning & Assessment) professional exchange, our Myerscough Director of Quality and procedures Sue Keenan facilitated an afternoon showcase of our latest digital skills projects and teaching tips delivered by members of the Myerscough digital skills team and selected teaching staff with the aim of building further collaborative opportunities to share good practice and really drive the project forward.

At Myerscough, we have a dedicated digital skills team who have been generating some fantastic training opportunities for staff to develop their digital skills and also working on new projects funded by the Education & Training Foundation (ETF) to further embed and use technology, such as Virtual Reality (VR) to bridge skills gaps between training and employment.

Over 20 delegates from colleges and University centres around the North West attended on the day. The afternoon events started with an overview of the Myerscough developed Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Spiral, by Sandy Hunter. Then for the majority of the afternoon the visitors attended five short showcases where they had the opportunity to immerse themselves in some of the VR programmes; including milking at the farm, buying fresh flowers at the wholesaler and also the use of VR to stimulate creativity in creative writing. There was also the opportunity for the attendees to access a range of free Apps that tutors at Myerscough have successfully utilised within their own teaching.

One of my remits as ATP is to liaise with the digital skills team in trialing new technology in my own teaching and then sharing with my team. The digital skills fair allowed the extension of this approach beyond Myerscough and into the wider teaching community.

The close of the session was delivered by Punam, who shared more technology in her briefing in the form of her (Mentimeter) presentation, which linked to the ETF professional standards and also the proposed method of communication (Zoom) to allow all attendees to stay in touch, share experiences and generally support each other in developing outstanding teaching, learning and assessment.

Some of the comments taken from the day included;

 ‘It’s been great, I just wanted to stay and play!’ 

‘…feel more confident about encouraging staff.’

‘Great for my own CPD and how I can share my work with others.’

‘Very inspiring.’

As you can see from the comments, the afternoon proved a great success. Hopefully the energy from the room will continue to filter through all of the educational settings and we have lots to discuss when we next meet. Monthly Zoom meetings have been scheduled to keep everyone on track and we look forward to hosting again in July 2020 when the attendees come back to Myerscough to share the impact of their individual projects.


Susanna Brandon is the Advanced Teaching Practitioner (ATP) for Greenspace and Creative studies at Myerscough College.

Contextualising maths and English within vocational learning – reflections from a professional catering teacher

Robert Broome, a practitioner from our online action research exchange, explores how language and context matters when embedding Functional Skills.

My name is Robert Broome. I’m a level 1 course team leader in professional cookery at North Hertfordshire College and I am also completing my PGCE teaching degree at Bedford college. As part of my course I was asked to complete an action research project of my choice. Because I teach on a vocational course, I decided to see whether adding contextualised examples of maths and English work within my cookery sessions could help students with their maths and English studies. This has been of interest to me not only within my profession but because, I too at 28 years old struggle with English in a general sense (e.g. reading, spelling and breaking down of text).

A report from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, Department for Education, and The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP (published 2 July 2014) stated:

‘Many students have problems in maths and English all the way through the progressing to adult life. “40% of pupils do not get GCSE grades A* to C in English and maths by age 16. Worse still, 90% of those who don’t reach this basic standard by 16, don’t achieve it by age 19” (dept. of education, 2018).

Another interesting study made by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), states that older generations tend to perform better in maths and English based tasks than younger learners.

I researched into these claims by the government by conducting my own experiment with a few of my level 1 professional cookery students. I asked a few GCSE standard maths and English questions and the average score out of 13 was 7-8, which works out to be 57% of the mark. I then asked the same questions to adult learners, all of whom were over the age of 40. The average score for the older learners was 11-12 out of 13, which is 88% of the mark.’

After compiling data whereby I had asked students GCSE standard questions in both Maths and English, I then used their knowledge of Professional cookery to help them progress and challenge them in these areas. In order to do this I took the GCSE questions and “re-worded” them with terminology based around catering and hospitality. I also gave students visual aids to help them around the kitchen classroom. This process was much the same with maths; my aim was to get students to think of maths in the hospitality industry as opposed to working from a textbook. My hope was that this approach would help learners:

  • See the relevance of maths and English skills within professional cookery;
  • encourage a subconscious style of learning, helping students learn through experience and by what they saw and heard in the kitchens.
  • encourage reluctant students to learn important maths and English skills, without these needing to be explicitly taught.
  • Help close the maths and English skills gap I noticed between younger learners, and adult learners.

Following this period of embedded and contextualised maths and English work, I then asked students the GCSE standard questions again and cross referenced their answers with the previous ones to see if there were any improvements, big or small. With each group of learners there were slight improvements, with most learners scoring at least one point more than they had during the first test. The graph below shows the differences in learners’ scores, before and after they had accessed contextualised English and maths work:

 Whilst the gains in learners’ test results initially seem quite small, perhaps more telling was their improved spelling of contextualised vocabulary. One example I did of this was when I asked the students how to spell ‘Tagliatelle’. Initially, only 1 student out of 15 got it correct. I then posted around the two kitchens a glossary of types of pasta where Tagliatelle was on this. A couple of days later I asked the class to spell Tagliatelle again. The number of students who spelt it correctly grew from 1 to 3. Not a huge leap but then an additional 4 students were only 1 or 2 letters off the correct spelling, a huge improvement in such a short period of time!

If I was to sum up my research it would be that vocational courses can have an impact on a students’ maths and English skills in both a positive and a negative way. The positives are clearly seen in my research, if teachers keep pushing maths and English in their lessons then students will progress. The negative however is that I noticed a lot of my students didn’t realise how important Maths and English is to vocational courses and professions. The mentality is for most was once they have finished maths and English at GCSE then they don’t need to think about it again. This is where students can slip on their skills in Maths and English over the two to three years they are in vocational courses at colleges. This potential for slippage adds to employers’ concerns that college leavers do not always have the maths and English skills they require for the working world. I believe that by constantly reminding students on vocational courses how important Maths and English is in the working world, alongside constantly embedding and contextualising maths and English work (to the point where students may not realise that’s what they are doing) vocational teachers can make a massive impact upon students’ motivation, engagement and success in maths and English, during their time at college and in the future.                   

I also think it’s vital for tutors to keep up to date on their own Maths and English, so we can help students and so we can improve our own confidence to teach these essential skills.

Developing Digital Literacies in English

A colleague asked me about digital resources for teaching English so she could support one of her exchange groups. They were looking for resources with low impact on workload but positive impact on learners. I thought I’d reformulate my reply into a blog but then decided that sharing my email reply would be just as authentic and play with the traditional lines of a blog post. I hope you find some or all of it useful 😊 ~ Chloë


Hi Punam,

Oh goodness – where to begin 😃. I’ll be as brief but as informative as possible:

PDNorth Youtube
Please recommend our screencasts via our PDNorth Youtube account. There are lots more to be added from an English & Maths PoV over the coming months too, from the OTLA Digital folks. Our screencasts have an element of practical ‘how to’ but most importantly they include pedagogical uses (and limitations) from real life experience in the FE classroom/training room/library!

I would fully recommend the Padlet* screencast which focusses on approaches and strategies as I detail a range of uses from personal experience in ESOL, English, Food Safety and Digital training contexts. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa3XL5tqV6TwbirjbXbRM5Q?view_as=subscriber

One of the latest blogs on PDNorth is about Screencasting* and that again includes my experience of using it for ESOL/English with some practical examples and suggestions. Read it here: https://pdnorth.org.uk/pd-north-blog/

Shaping Success Courses
Perhaps signpost practitioners to the digital approaches / multimedia webinars we have via Shaping Success (£25 per person or free if they fit one of the freebie criterion)? These webinars speak about specific websites / apps and how they can be used to teach English &/or Maths but these require a little play time to explore. We also encourage people to think critically about using digital in the classroom (ie not just for sparkles!). More info:
https://ccpathways.co.uk/shaping-success


Just…websites!
Average bog standard websites can be really useful for English teaching to explore comprehension and navigation whilst using websites they may already use (or need help being able to use). These days job applications are all online / shopping online is more convenient / accessing transport timetables etc so embedding personal digital skills and digital literacies with everyday websites is
paramount.

An example of one ESOL lesson I did (at an FE college in a computer room): Students accessed an Excel spreadsheet (quick one I made) on a Padlet and downloaded it. It had a ‘shopping list’ of 15 items on it for which they had to find and price up at Asda / Tesco / Sainsburys online. Then they worked out the total etc to see which one was the cheapest. At the end they uploaded their document to the Padlet so I had a record of their work (also useful for RARPA). Okay, I’m using Padlet, Excel and 3 websites there but they also wanted to know how to use Excel and upload/download/add an attachment so I incorporated that into the session too. It took me minutes to make the Excel document and add it to a Padlet so it wasn’t a burden on my time (I know this is a real concern with digi stuff) and I reused the document / Padlet with other classes. However, you could just do a paper version of the Excel Sheet and learners could access the supermarkets on their phone (if they have access to one).

Blogs
I highly recommend using a blogging website when teaching English. Particularly reading. The one I used originally a few years ago was Blogger* but issues with that included needing a Google Account/Email address which was a barrier to many of my learners. I ended up turning to Edmodo* as that ticked lots of boxes and has a familiar interface (it looks like Facebook with similar functionality). I’ve gauged from colleagues though that Edmodo hits it off with ESOL learners
better than English.

Phone Apps

Specifically ones that come with the phone and don’t rely on learners downloading things/using their space. For example: voice recorder is great for recording themselves before writing an essay. Or recording a convo and transcribing it. Also good for practicing pronunciation (ESOL).

Pre-made resources
However, I wonder from your email if you mean very specific resources that have already been created…? If so, I recommend: The British Council / British Council
NEXUS (ESOL),
One Stop English (ESOL), Film English (ESOL + ELT), English My Way (v low level ESOL), BBC Skillswise and of course: the Excellence Gateway!

I know it’s easier said than done, but I truly believe in the importance of sharing with colleagues who you work with. Many departments/organisations don’t do this (especially if tutors are 0hrs or don’t work together physically etc) but it really does help to lighten everyone’s load if everyone shares something. Infact this reminds me of a quote (by George Bernard Shaw) that Sue shared with us which I think helps to sum up the purpose of PDNorth tbh:

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I will still each have one apple.

But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

Hope this helps – let me know 😊

Chloë  


* If you would like to use platforms like these, I’d recommend introducing them at the beginning of the year and using them regularly in order to increase user experience and recognition. Don’t waste time introducing a ‘flavour of the week’ because most of your lessons will be taken up with the initial ‘getting to know you’ stage of a new platform. This will frustrate your learners, increase your workload and decrease the teaching/learning time significantly. With any digital elements of your TLA ask: Could I get the same result easier without the tech aspect? What (if anything) does the tech aspect add to the learning?

PD North HQ – meet your 2019 – 2020 team!

Images (top row) Chloë Hynes, PD North’s Creative Director;  Lou Mycroft, Events Lead; Kathryn Semple, PD North Coordinator; Vicky Butterby, Creative Support Officer and Online Practitioner Research Professional Exchange Lead (bottom row) Your PD North Regional Leads: Petrina Lynn (NE & Cumbria); Gail Lydon (Y&H); Punam Khosla (NW).

At PD North HQ, we are extremely excited to be moving into year three of the programme. PD North is going from strength to strength, and our ever growing membership list is bursting with passionate practitioners from across the North (and beyond), each of whom are as excited as we are about improving teaching, learning and assessment practices for learners through practitioner-led research and knowledge exchange. With this in mind, we felt now would be an excellent time to introduce our 2019-2020 PD North team, so you know who we are and why we are so passionate about the our work for PD North and across #FE (in all its manifestations).

About Chloë – PD North’s Creative Director

Hi I’m Chloë, PD North’s Creative Director. After working on the PD North project for the past two years I’m incredibly excited to take the team into year three. Every year the project has grown following feedback from members as we aimed to make an exchange network that had practitioners from all parts of the sector at its heart.

The first year of PD North I was working ‘on the ground’ as project officer for the North West. Last year I was working behind the scenes, building our social media presence via YouTube, Twitter, our blog and the twice monthly newsletter. This year I’m looking forward to pushing the project forward by supporting our team in encouraging practitioners to make PD North their own.

About Kathryn – PD North’s Network Meeting Coordinator

Hello I’m Kathryn, and I coordinate the professional exchange network meetings for PD North. For the past 25 years, I have worked in Education and Training, either in Work Based Learning, Welfare to Work or Adult Skills and I have over 20 years Management experience in this Sector.  I currently work as an Operations Manager at a Training Provider that focuses on upskilling adults in Functional Skills English and Maths.

Initially, I was involved in setting up the Professional Exchanges in the North East and Cumbria and supported Petrina Lynn in the management of the exchange groups.  I have worked with PD North for the past 2 years supporting the Regional Leads in organising meetings, arranging CPD days and day to day correspondence with group members.

I am excited about going into Year three as I can see how much the sector has developed, shared and moved forward as a result of the exchange groups and happy that I am part of this.

About Petrina – PD North lead for the North East and Cumbria

Hello l’m Petrina and l’ve worked with the sector for more years than l care to admit to!

Staff Learning and development has been a passion of mine for most of my working life. Consequently, when the opportunity to become involved in Professional Exchange Networks (PENs) became available, l jumped at it.

PENs have been a big part of my life for the past few years, particularly focussing on the North East and Cumbria provider base.

The existing network has established seven groups across the patch based on agendas identified by practitioners. I am never ceased to be amazed at the outcomes from the groups and the productive networking that is established.

Going forward l feel a sense of enthusiasm and optimism at the prospect of working with you all again.

We will be in touch soon about year three. Anyone wishing to participate please don’t hesitate to contact us.

About Gail – PD North lead for Yorkshire and Humber

Hi I’m Gail, Regional Lead for Yorkshire and Humber. I’m looking forward to a new year for the Professional Exchanges in our region – it is going to be an exciting one.  This year my focus will be on the word network.  Although we will have fewer networks the ones we have will be bigger and be informed by what the members want and need.  The expertise in the PENs last year was amazing as was the members’ willingness to share and work together – in challenging times we need this – we need our network community.  So please get involved, I will be in touch shortly with the dates of the first meetings.  Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me with your ideas.  See you there!

Our Gail has also recently been awarded Chartered Teacher Status: To find out more about qualifying as an Advanced Practitioner in #FE, please click here.

About Punam – PD North lead for the North West

Hi I’m Punam, Regional Lead in the North West for the PD North Professional Exchange Network. A core part of my role at PD North involves developing networks and organising regional events. I am passionate about delivering excellence and I combine an engaging enthusiasm with an attention to detail which enables the organisations I support to feel safe enough to innovate for excellence in a risk-positive way.

Having held many roles working within FE,  ranging from practitioner to senior manager working locally, regionally and nationally, I appreciate the challenges in terms of strategic planning for an ever-changing policy landscape, which compels senior managers to respond in a responsive manner, realigning organisational priorities and strategies accordingly. This professional history, together with a grounding in culture-changing Thinking Environment processes, allows me to support providers with understanding and empathy at appropriate levels of challenge.

I am looking forward to year three of this exciting opportunity working with PD North members across the North West and beyond. I will be working with my PEN’s to grow the membership of the networks and add to the increasingly diverse range of organisations already involved. We will be focussing on hot topics and the key development areas for organisations. The networks will provide an opportunity to continue to share effective practice and provide support to organisations.   

About Lou – PD North’s events lead

Hello I’m Lou and I’ve been involved with PD North over the last couple of years, initially as Digital Nurse then moving into the PD North Events. That’s what’s exciting me most about Year three! The events we held in the summer at Liverpool, Durham Cricket Club and in Leeds were real highlights – educators from across the North of England getting together to share ideas and learn new stuff. Each of the days had the affirmative spirit that always happens when practitioners get together who are critical – yes, and who challenge themselves too – but who are never cynical. They were feelgood days, so I’m delighted to be doing the same again next year with the PD North team. Look out for dates from us in early September – PD North on Tour! 

PD North sits with the other work I do nationally to raise the profile of FE, particularly FE research and voices from the sector. Although my focus is pretty much the events for Year 3, I’d still be delighted to support you to get writing, podcasting and publishing the stories of your practice. You can always contact me on Twitter @loumycroft or by phone 07779135201.

About Vicky – PD North’s virtual action research group lead (and occasional creative content developer)

Hello I’m Vicky and I’ve been working in education in various guises since 2005. I’m an Access to HE specialist, as well as spending a lot of my working life in the wonderful worlds of community education and community youth justice. I hope that I’ll be meeting (and re-meeting) many PD North friends as we begin our latest online action research professional exchange series (starting September 2019). During these interactive sessions we will be blending talks and training from experienced FE action researcher-practitioners with the opportunity to explore, discuss and reflect upon your own research projects. You can often find me on Twitter – @VickyMeaby, where I get very excited about collaborative working and the power of participatory action research as an enabler of socially just teaching, learning and assessment practices.

Audience Engagement

My thoughts and learning as I prepare training on alternatives to ‘death by Powerpoint’.

By Nicki Berry, PD (Y&H) Digital.

I have to confess that of all the Microsoft Office applications, PowerPoint is probably my least favourite. I used it briefly as a primary school teacher, many years ago, but quickly switched to Smart Notebook and ActivInspire when interactive whiteboards became the norm.

I can’t really pinpoint what it is about PowerPoint that turns me off. It might not be the application itself, but rather the way I’ve seen it used. We went through a phase of every child in a class of 30 doing a presentation about their holidays, complete with flying, whizzing and cheering items on each and every mouse click. Even adult presenters can have a tendency to put too much on each slide, sometimes with poor text/background contrast, and then just read it to the audience, as though we are incapable of reading for ourselves.

So my heart did an inward leap for joy when my boss recently asked me to prepare and present a one and a half hour session on alternatives to PowerPoint for engaging an audience. My audience will be senior managers, who give presentations on a regular basis as part of their work – a potentially tough group to try to downsell PowerPoint!

Anyway, I’m going to give you (and them) a brief glimpse of some alternatives.

Microsoft Sway

I first used Sway, whilst studying for my Master’s with the Open University. We were discussing whether Wikipedia is an acceptable study tool (let’s not get started on that here!) and here is a presentation I made for one of our tutorials.

There are advantages and disadvantages to Sway. The biggest disadvantage, which Microsoft much surely address eventually, is that is cannot be used offline and cannot be exported, so if the Internet goes down, you could well be stuffed! Also, branding is more difficult than it would be with a traditional PowerPoint presentation, though it is possible to adapt colour schemes and fonts used.

The advantages are in some of the features that make it look that little bit more modern than PowerPoint. It can be presented in slide mode, like a traditional presentation, or by scrolling vertically or horizontally. This makes it good to share for ‘after the event’ viewing, as it is easy to find the section you want, quickly. I particularly like the way that images can be stacked, allowing you to click on them and shuffle through, just like a stack of cards. From an accessibility point of view, it is great because you can switch easily to ‘accessibility view’ and it automatically changes the presentation so that visually impaired users can view it through a screen reader more easily.

Socrative

When presenting to an audience, I think many of us have that worry about whether anyone is actually listening, engaging with us or understanding what we are talking about. This is where some kind of quiz can be handy.

There are various quizzing tools out there but I like Socrative and find it fun and easy to use. You can set up a quiz or survey to engage your audience during a presentation and then get them to interact on their own devices (or you could provide some). It works on PC, laptops, tablets, phones… pretty much anything that is online. You show the question from the front, it sends to their device and then all the answers can be seen, with various options on names, anonymity and so on, on the screen. When working with a group, particularly in a training situation, my favourite is to run the quiz as a race. I generally get a member of the audience to choose what type of character we will race as (unicorn, space ship, etc) but I was writing this in December, so reindeer seemed like the only real choice!

Question Screen (on individual screens)
Answer Screen (shown on the board at the front)

One advantage of Socrative is that only the presenter (teacher) needs to have an account (free option is more than sufficient for my needs) and the audience log in using the presenter’s room code. So you don’t have to try to get your group set up with their own accounts.

I also really like the fact that all the results can be stored, exported and used later on to inform further training. When I’ve used this for tutor training, I can easily see who might need further support and who has really got the hang of what we’re learning, so could support others.

Twitter

This one can be a little risky, so it’s only for the brave, in my opinion. It is based on the concept of back-channelling. So first of all, what is back-channelling? Well, it has always existed. Back-channelling is the communication strategy that we use to let a speaker know that we are listening and following what they are saying. So it can be as simple as just nodding, smiling or saying, “Aha!”

Using Twitter, the idea is to engage your audience in live discussion and get feedback, questions and comments on your presentation as you go. Depending on the nature of the audience, it either works well or falls flat. If you’ve got a high proportion of those kind of people who like digital multitasking… the ones who are going to be on their phone, checking their Facebook while they should be listening, and can probably pull off a reasonably convincing ‘I’m paying full attention’ face whilst they do… they can be lulled into a middle ground, where they get to do social media and listen and interact, all at the same time. Just decide on a hashtag – #mysession – and ask your audience to post questions, feedback, quotes they liked and what they are learning/will use back in their day job. It’s worth checking that your intended hashtag isn’t already going viral with something else though first.

Why do I say it is risky? Well, not everyone will agree with what you are saying. They might post negative comments or ask questions you don’t know the answers to. You need to give some thought to how you would respond to these. I generally try to be quite open, but set some guidelines at the beginning.

Sometimes the conversation can be all friendly and pleasant like this extract from an online conference I attended in 2016.

Sometimes, though, the feedback and questions can be more challenging, as some TV programmes have found.

Finally, of course, if you’re going to use social media for something that really matters, it’s worth considering that not everybody will have an account. I generally put out a warning in the pre-course blurb, saying that we’ll be using Twitter and it would be helpful if they could create an account.

What’s the big deal about Screencasting?

By Chloe Hynes (PDNorth Social Media Comms)

I first heard about Screencasting about 5 years ago during a small action research project being carried out at work between a few colleagues and myself. We were exploring ways of giving learners feedback that’s individual to them, personalised and not following the ‘one size fits all’ department wide approach of the time. One of my colleagues decided to use Screencast’s which was an absolute game changer for me and opened up a world of tech used right in adult learning.

So, what is Screencast-o-matic?

Screencast is a program that allows you to record (visually and audibly) your screen. It also allows you to record yourself by webcam either at the same time as your screen recording or just you on your own.

You can record as many screencasts as you like for free but the maximum is 15mins.

You can upload to your own Screencast account, Youtube or download as a video file and do with it what you like!

Screencast-O-Matic have a tutorial video that shows how easy it is to use. To access go here: https://screencast-o-matic.com and click ‘Watch Our Video’.

To visualise what a screencast looks like, here’s one I prepared earlier…

https://youtu.be/AbDfrnPUMjg


A little comment about money

Before I get into the thick of Screencast approaches and issues/considerations, please note that this blog is exploring the FREE version of Screencast which I believe most practitioners would be accessing. However, there is an Educational paid for version with many more bells and whistles to play around with including video editing and full integration with Moodle and Google Classroom etc.

For solo payment plans (that detail all the features you get), see: https://screencast-o-matic.com/plans#solo and for the team, go to: https://screencast-o-matic.com/plans#team

Using Screencast with learners

The colleague I mentioned above explored using it whilst giving feedback to learners on their written work in Word. Our learners were ESOL learners so listening to your tutor’s feedback for some was much more productive than trying to read hand written notes. The audio feedback allowed our learners to go back and rewatch/relisten which they can’t do when they receive feedback in class (unless they record you). He originally trialled this with our highest learners who were Entry 3.

I also had a bash using this same technique but with the lower levels but instead of recording Word, I would scan in a piece of their handwritten work and save as a PDF. Then, I would create a screencast highlighting/ circling/ underlining certain parts and talking through their work. I found for the lower levels it was best to also film my face as I spoke so learners could see my facial expressions and my lips moving. For all learners it was a good way for them to get used to my accent and my voice as their teacher complete with regional inflections!

If you and the learners have the technology, a really good way to reuse a video like this, could be for learners to transcribe what you’re saying by adding subtitles on Youtube (or writing a script on paper).

In any classroom use of screencast, consider how you can reuse the video you’ve created so you’re economical with your production time. Even better is if your learners like using it, they could create their own. For example:

  • Ask learners to walk through and complete a mathematical problem on their screen. This can be added to a revision bank used with by learners in the class.
  • For literature explorations : ask a learner to describe a passage, highlighting phrases/sections on the screen as they go to highlight figurative language etc. You could create a reaction video or just notes (for the whole group) – but the main brunt of this activity is providing the learner with time to think and verbalise their thoughts before committing to paper.
  • After a learner watches your feedback they redraft their work and make another video to you explaining how they have improved it.
  • Ask one learner to watch another learner’s video and ask them to transcribe it or interact with it in some way.
  • Make videos with wrong information in or missing information (like an audio version of a cloze task/gap fill) that you can reuse with other classes.

Using Screencast with colleagues

I’ve used Screencast with peers and colleagues mainly to visualise how to use specific technologies whether in the classroom (e.g. Padlet above!), organisational (e.g. Google Drive) or personal (e.g. how to add a signature to an email). Since working with the PDNorth team, I’ve began to curate these in a more organised fashion via the PDNorth Youtube. Similarly, I’ve heard about PDNorth professional exchanges who’ve created screencasts as the APs in their organisation to share on their Moodle with their colleagues. Another group made a digital learning wall in the staffroom with QR codes to Youtube videos and screencasts.

Whilst screencasting in this way and for this purpose is great for staff CPD on the go / in your own time, it’s always better if the workload is shared. Whilst this is easier said than done in practice, there’s always something you can learn from a colleague and there’s always something you can share with another.  

Screencast considerations

-You only get 15 mins! However, I think any more than this would be too long anyway and you’d lose your audience. — Whilst you can pause and resume, if you make a mistake you can’t edit it out.

-The close captions/subtitles process isn’t user friendly.

-You need to download a recorder which may not be possible on work computers depending on your system permissions.

-Depending on how you use it: it could just have one time use.

+ / – If using for feedback: it may be easier for the tutor to verbalise and show what they mean than write it down and it may be the best way for the learner to receive that feedback. Likewise however, tutors may find it more time consuming than writing written feedback and the learners may not give time to watching the video, not have the technology to do so or may ignore it completely.

+ It doesn’t require wifi to record (once the recorder has been downloaded).

+ You have a choice of where you can upload it. Including the ability to download as a video file and share/upload however you choose (rare with free apps).

+ simple and easy to use meaning a lot of our learners are able to get on with it.

+ It can be a reusable and recyclable resource.  

+ It’s so personable!

+ It can be used by teachers and learners alike. I’m sure there are so many more ways than what I’ve tried out and I’d love to hear about all the other ways that Screencast-O-Matic has been used!

#HaveAGo

Dipping into Digital

A story of two digital “dinosaurs” foray into blogging and other digital unknowns!

 

A couple of members of the PDNorth team (Sue Lownsbrough & Petrina Lynn) have begun a journal detailing their journey navigating digital literacies from personal to organisational/work to classroom/training use. They cordially invite PDNorth members to follow them on their journey…

To read more, click the link above!

 

Square Pegs & Round Holes: Finding your fit in education

by Vicky Butterby

Member of PDNorth: North east & Cumbria

 

When I was 25 I was adamant I was leaving the teaching profession. I was working in a large secondary school where I taught over 300 different young people each week. The pace was intense and my entire day was mapped out, from who I taught and when, to the time I ate my dinner. Building relationships was also difficult, I felt like I didn’t know my learners and that they didn’t know me. I saw other staff members fleetingly in the staffroom, but most of the time I felt isolated and alone, watching the world from my classroom door as an endless sea of people passed by me.

Many people I’ve met and worked with tell me that school wasn’t for them. They tell me they hated school because of its rigidity, its rules, its routines. They tell me that they ‘didn’t get’ their learning or that their teachers ‘didn’t get’ them. Over the years I’ve come to accept that school isn’t for everyone, and that includes its teachers too!

I fell into community learning by chance. I had left secondary teaching and begun working for the local authority as their Healthy Schools lead. When my role was made redundant, I was offered an opportunity to become a community youth justice teacher, supporting young people who offend to re-engage with learning. Additionally, I was asked to teach an evening course in criminology for Access to Higher Education students. Suddenly I was in a whole new world, a world where building relationships was everything, a world where an hour a week with a young person really mattered, a world where supporting adults to grow in confidence and achieve their dreams of university study was a core aspect of the job. I loved this new world!

Instead of churning young people through a system, working in community learning has enabled me to help people become excited about their learning, to help people enjoy their learning, to help people realise they are capable of learning and that they can achieve great things. When I work with young people who offend we structure our time together, we have cups of tea when we want, we take a break when we need it. These seemingly small things have made a huge difference, to my learners and to me. Working this way has allowed me to work collaboratively with my learners towards shared goals. As a result, each teaching moment feels as though it has both point and purpose.

When I was 25, I thought I hated teaching. I thought I was a rubbish teacher, that I wasn’t cut out for the job. Ten years on I’ve realised that it was the school system that wasn’t cut out for me, not me who wasn’t cut out for teaching. Hundreds of highly qualified, deeply passionate people leave the teaching profession every year. For some they will have left because teaching wasn’t the right job for them. I wonder however, how many excellent teachers leave because they haven’t yet found their fit? Community learning carries with it an ethos that aligns with my values and my personality. I work at a place where I feel inspired by what unfolds around me, where there is always hope and where nobody is forgotten about. Community learning is my fit and I’ve met many other square pegs along the way who tell me community learning is their fit too. Teaching is such an amazing career, but only if you’re in the right place for you.

This article is dedicated to Grace. Grace began her learning journey on our Study Programme, completed her Access to HE diploma, finished undergraduate study at Teesside University and is now in the process of applying for her Master’s degree. Grace is just starting to realise she might not be that rubbish at learning after all! The determination, growth and achievement of community learners such as Grace continually reminds me why I love teaching in this sector.