For the last couple of months, I’ve been producing a toolkit of step by step guides designed to encourage language tutors in the Adult Community Learning sector to explore the potential of new technologies to enhance their existing courses.
The idea of the project funded by The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) and coordinated by ACL Curriculum Manager for Languages Nola Marshall is to offer students a blended approach of distance learning and face to face contact so they can extend their learning outside of the classroom at a time that suits them.
In addition to creating the comprehensive guides, I delivered 3 consecutive days of training to participating tutors at Witham Adult Community Learning Centre with the help of Nola, Maria the Curriculum Manager for ICT and e-learning and two lovely technicians Bob and Paul.
We looked at different ways of creating, publishing and subscribing to content concentrating on the tools and technologies I had covered in the toolkit. These included:
- Posterous as an easy way of blogging content via email in an open, moderated or password-protected environment
- Audacity for recording and editing podcasts
- Accessing creative commons licensed images through Flickr and different search tools such as Behold, Compfight and Xpert
- Creating and editing video clips using digital video cameras and Movie Maker
- Subscribing to blogs, podcasts and wikis via RSS for distance learning with Google Reader
- Flashmeeting for videoconferencing and recording meetings
- SlideShare and publishing PowerPoints or creating Slidecasts with embedded audio
- Collaborative writing and publishing resources with Wikispaces
- Creating interactive exercises with Hot Potatoes
- Creating word clouds with Wordle (not covered during the training due to time constraints)
- Using Text to Speech software Speakonia to support listening and reading skills (not covered during the training due to time constraints)
We also touched upon using Twitter as microblogging service and a way of developing a personal learning network and I suggested tutors follow colleagues from the MFL Twitterati. I was delighted minius666 and ElinorMcN rose to the challenge there and then!
Everyone set up their own Posterous blog to publish their outcomes on to. Here is the one I created for this purpose and here is the one I set up prior to the training to show examples of my outcomes for each tutorial. Maria created a wonderful example called Moodle Magic.
We covered three tutorials a day which some found quite intensive, but with the comprehensive notes I gave out I'm sure tutors will have all the support they need as well as time to reflect over the summer. I've also told tutors they can contact me if they get stuck which I hope they will.
Hats off to Rick, ACL IT technician in Harlow for agreeing to take part in our Flashmeeting on the last day of the training, the full recording of which can be found here. He did brilliantly fielding questions from the tutors and all while keeping a smile on his face too!
To assess the success of the training and the impact on practice, I asked tutors to record their thoughts at the end of each day and you can listen to their feedback here.
At the beginning of day three, I also recorded a few thoughts from Nola herself about the project and how it was funded.
During the course of the training we did come across a few technical issues, namely:
- We couldn't create more than 10 gmail accounts from the same IP address and so I realise now we should have asked delegates to create theirs before the start of the course.
- We had difficulty in setting up SlideShare accounts simultaneously. Again, it would have been better to have asked tutors to do this beforehand.
- Movie Maker continually crashed due to to only having 1.5 GB of RAM per machine. To get around this I asked delegates to import CC Flickr images instead and add a soundtrack, transitions and effects, music for the end credits and a title page which worked fine.
Admittedly, the gliches did put some people off as it knocked their confidence, but with a bit of encouragement we were able to work through this OK.
Complying to the terms of the funding, the toolkit will be made available for free to ACL tutors in the autumn term via the Excellence Gateway portal. We will be recommending however that centres hire me in to provide hands-on training for some or all of the tutorials as well to ensure staff are fully equipped to embed the techniques covered. We are also looking at offering a revised version for schools and again will be strongly suggesting that they also buy in hands-on training to support them in offering students these new and exciting distance learning opportunities. Watch this space!