New for 2018/19, this will be the space where PD North members and some special guest Bloggers will share ideas and experiences. Watch this space and, if you would like to write a Blog for us, on the topic of further / adult community education and skills, please contact Chloë at firstname.lastname@example.org
WORD: 300 – 1,000 words. Keep it short and engaging. Something folks can read in their break, on the bus or in the staffroom when they have a spare moment.
STYLE: Flexible. We’re interested in: Voices from the classroom/staffroom. Resource explorations. Reviews of books, blogs and events. Think pieces. Descriptions of PDNorth exchange activity. Critical thoughts.
REFERENCES: If you choose to mention other people’s work, events, videos, resources etc please reference them and give them the kudos they deserve.
By Sue Keenan, Head of Teaching and Learning at Myerscough College.
A long time ago, I was on a training course about preparing
to work overseas in a new culture. One question posed was ‘are you going to be
a garlic or a tofu?’ . The definition of a garlic was someone who went with the
attitude that they knew best, their way was best and that things should be done
their way. In other words, infusing and overpowering
everything with their strong garlicky flavour so that other flavours were
obliterated. In contrast the tofu was someone who absorbed the range of favours
around them. A tofu was a person who learned about the new culture and soaked
it all up,recognising that they needed to change their
It’s a metaphor that’s stayed with me and can be applied at
times to our culture in education. I’ve worked in many staff rooms and offices over
my career where there can be a couple of garlics….these are the people that
constantly permeate the space with negativity. They moan about the leaders and
managers, the learners, teaching, the job….for whatever reason they aren’t
positive about the job anymore. I get the challenges. We are in a time of deep
cuts in funding in the FE sector. We don’t feel confident about job security.We
work hard teaching, marking, planning and preparing.
The garlics in education can be very toxic. They can suck
the enthusiasm out of teachers who have come into work feeling positive, they
can have a huge impact on staff morale and organisational culture.
That’s why it’s really important to surround yourself at
work with the positive sunny people, the ones that love teaching, the ones that
get a real buzz from seeing their learners achieve. If we go into lessons
feeling negative then this will have a huge impact on how are learners feel and
what they achieve. And after all, the learners are the reason we’re all working
in education, aren’t they?
We can all be a little bit garlic sometimes, we might not
agree with a decision made at a higher level, we might just be a bit fed up, but
we need to manage our own behaviour as professionals and keep our outlook
positive. We need to recognise if we are becoming a little bit toxic….
Surround yourself at work with the sunny people, the ones
who come into work with a smile on their face. The ones who are new to the job
and are excited to do it. The ones who have been teaching for a long time and
still enjoy it. Lots of sunny people together have great power to do great
things in education. They determine the culture of an organisation far more
than senior leaders do.
In these tough times, try to keep your outlook and attitude
as a teacher sunny side up.Have fun at work and enjoy the job. Have positive
impact on those around you. Together lets try to support those pungent garlics and turn them into tofu,
soaking up the sunshine and positivity around them.
When the North West TLA
Professional Exchange Network first met, we were challenged to decide three
things we wanted to work on over our year together. There was conversation
about the ever present challenges in Further Education and Skills. We discussed
the usual suspects; maths and English, motivating reluctant learners, doing
more with less etc etc.
Despite all these ‘real and
present dangers’ we wanted to focus some of our thinking and time on teachers.
Teachers are the sectors greatest resource, they truly are the front line of
education. The experience a learner receives when they walk into a classroom is
critical. Teachers have an impact on learners’ lives forever. Everyone has a
story to tell about the worst teacher they ever had. Mine was Mr X who spent
most of his time smoking in the Art room stock cupboard and gave me 2 out 10
for my drawing of a shoe that I’d spent all Sunday doing, therefore destroying
any love and interest in that subject for many years. He didn’t tell me why it
was a 2 and what I needed to do to get better – hopefully times have moved on
as this was in 1984….
We also all have stories
about the best teachers we’ve had – those who inspire us, interest us, and make
us want to know more. Many of our choices in life and the routes we take are
determined by teachers. Just take a moment to think about the teachers who
inspired you and the influence they have had on your career and life choices….
We wanted to think about
how to develop teachers’ confidence in a world where too often the focus is on
what you haven’t done rather than what you have. We decided to go back to the
start and ask teachers to think about why they started teaching and what their
high points have been. Group member Lynn Naylor set up a Padlet for partners to
We have had some amazing
contributions from teachers and reading the Padlet truly is rewarding and
inspirational. Teachers’ comments
‘It is rewarding in itself to help students create memories,
not just in an academic context but through giving them an experience and the
tools to enjoy learning all their lives.’
‘It is also great when students share their knowledge and
experiences with you, so we all learn together.’
importance of looking after ourselves and each other as teachers is perfectly
summed up by this contribution.
‘I was motivated by an inspirational teacher myself when I
was a student. I thought at the time what a great job it must be and it has
proved to be the case.’
Let’s keep this padlet
rolling across the sector and capture the reasons that teaching in FE and
Skills is such a valuable job. Feeling confident and empowered about our
professional results in a great experience for our learners, and that, after
all, is the reason that we teach.
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!
going to give you (and them) a brief glimpse of some alternatives.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!”
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.
conversation can be all friendly and pleasant like this extract from an online
conference I attended in 2016.
though, the feedback and questions can be more challenging, as some TV
programmes have found.
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.