Thursday, 5 November 2009

Are you the next Bill Gates?

If you're a student entering University in 2010 then here's a nice opportunity to get some fees paid and probably lots more goodies too! Although part of a marketing campaign by an organisation called XMA, still worth a try.

Here's the link. Good luck. Remember me if you do win - you might need a chauffeur, someone to make tea, fix your spelling and grammar . . .

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Catch a wave

Delighted to get a Google Wave account at the weekend. And 20 invitations which I have already had requests for at a ratio of about 5:1. If you haven't heard of this then you soon will (and there are links in some previous posts). Think e-mail, IM, live collaboration on a document, image or video sharing, maps showing where you or something mentioned is, polls all rolled into one application that lets you see someone's message or additions as they enter them rather than waiting for them to hit send and you may get the idea.

I'll be trying it out with some carefully chosen friends, probably doing something silly like planning a trip to Greece or boring like agreeing a meeting agenda at first and then hopefully extending it as we get more expert and figuring out what we can achieve.

If you think you could be a useful ally in this trial then contact me - there should be a link somewhere on the blog. Or look on my web site.

So, to end as I started, with a Beach Boys track, Let's go surfin' now, everybody's surfin' now, surfin' USA . . . and UK.

Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age: what people said

This excellent discussion produced a host of intelligent and thought-provoking comments, as well as reassurance that there appear to be plenty of others who share my views on how well and how not so well e-learning is developing.

Fifty statements/quotes from panelists taken from notes at the Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age Forum, Oct 27 & 28, 2009 made by Cheryl Davis, Miramonte High School can be seen at the link below. What I really like is the use of Google Sites to publish this! That makes it 51 statements!

Monday, 2 November 2009

By the time we get to Phoenix

SARS Farce

Hundreds, no thousands, of middle managers across Further Education (and maybe schools too) are probably locking themselves away in their rooms or burning the midnight gin at home on something they call SARs. Because virtually everything in education has to be reduced to a set of initials, like I'm sure STUDENT came not from the Latin studere, to be diligent, strive after, but seldom turn up daily eventually never there or something along those lines, SAR stands for Self-Assessment Review. It's a set of facts and figures and comments that every curriculum area has to do within an organisation. All the data comes from records maintained by the institution but, of course, they get re-written again here. Then, all the individual forms, which can be a dozen pages long, get sent to someone at the place who has to combine them all into a single document which gets sent off to a government agency and, amongst other things, can form the baseline against which people like OFSTED may assess progress.

Collating the data and setting targets for improvement, commenting on things that may or may not have gone well are all sound enough and the general concept is a sensible enough management procedure but what really strikes me as crazy is the way in which the process is handled. My guess is that just about everyone will be filling in Word forms. Except they won't even be real Word forms (the type where you can type in boxes to update a document rather than editing the whole thing). Even if they were decent Word forms, though, the business of typing, printing, putting in pigeon holes and then some poor person having to extract bits or somehow make sense of the whole before transferring it all elsewhere (never mind what could be several interim approval meetings) is crazy in this day and age. It's bonkers, which is more than mad.

Firstly, all the data should be filled in before anyone gets the forms. It really shouldn't be re-entered again and again. Some institutions may have figured that one. Let's hope so. But still we have people handling, many literally, all this paperwork.

I say it's time they forget worshipping at the statue of Word. Why not use a Google document that lots of people can collaborate on? All that each manager needs to add will be comments, actions etc. in the areas related to their activity and maybe check data and other standard stuff. As they progress with the on-line document it can be shared with others and, as necessary, older versions retrieved if someone makes a mess. Then, when it's ready, they can share it with the person collating all of them or anyone else for that matter.

No need for any repetition or printing. No slow opening e-mail attachments, confusing file names, folders full of awkward files with names with [1] or [2] after them because people have used the same file name . . .

And then we need to think of the government agencies or departments involved. Why don't they demand a more efficient method of submission? It must be almost as crazy for them to have to sift through all the inbox attachments.

Everyone involved in the whole damn process really should know better and be setting a good example to others. New e-learning technology has the answers to this. Use them. It won't totally remove the stress from the faces of my colleagues but would make everyone's job a whole lot better.

Wake up, folks. Let's end the SARs farce.