Sunday, 14 June 2015

Conversation with my 15 year old self

This seems like the right time to have a conversation with my former self.  Although it's only a snippet of my life (see me for the raw and uncut edition), if I met my 15 year old self now, this is what I would say if I were to meet him...

I am 14 years in front of you Dan.  And I want you to listen to me as there's things you need to know so you can make a change.  Because what you are about to go through is going to be a long and emotional journey.  But you will come out stronger than you have ever imagined.  So listen up and don't be stubborn about it, I know what you're like, thinking that you know it all and you've got it all worked out!

It's July 2002 and you have not long since left school.  You'll probably feel a bit lost without being with your friends everyday.  You're pretty unsure what to do as a career.  You need to think quick and wise about as you may lose a bit of time here.  More than you lost at school with messing about!  You could have succeeded at school Dan, but you being silly was too easy for you.  But saying that, you weren't the sharpest pencil in the box.  By being silly though, you left school with little than desired.  But you'll have the opportunity to redeem yourself.  And I'm glad you'll recognise it.  You will do animal care as you love natural history and all things wildlife because that's what you feel connected with.  It was a good choice mind!  But is it the career you want?  You'll complete the course and want to do the next level.  But you're not sure of what you want to do with it.  The clock is ticking and I know you'll be conscious of that later.  Time doesn't wait for no one, so I want you to think hard of other things you are good at.  You will be told that your good with using computers and the internet, so try to build on this as this will help you get the career you were originally thinking of.

In November 2003 you will get a part-time job at Morrisons in town when it first opens, then you'll go there full-time until you decide what you want to do.  Try not to get too bogged down with this job.  I know it's something you don't want to do long-term, but just stick out and keep thinking about the career you want.  Just plough through the days and carry on searching for what you are wanting.  It paid for many great nights out mind and you made some great friends.

In November 2004, on your second night on Barnsley's gay night, you will meet your first love through a great friend you met the time before.  He's handsome and you will fall in love with him.  He's the best friend you always wanted.  But try not to be in his face so much!  There's worshipping the ground people walk on, but seriously?!  He will inspire you to make the career move you was searching for.  The one that will change all events and circumstances in your life.  You will have your first holiday together in Greece and you'll never forget the magic and memories of it.  It might not work out between you both, but you will always be in each other's lives as you will both promise.

In May 2005 you will have an interview for an apprenticeship in Business and Administration and you will get a placement at Barnsley College.  Whoa!  This will make you happy Dan!  You're surrounded by lovely and supportive people and in an environment you will love.  You'll not want to leave, seriously, they nearly had to remove you!  But the time will come to move on.  Just as I know you would, you'll take everything they have to offer.  This is your catch up time after you left with school with little qualifications.  You did great through this time, you did more than you thought you would have done.  Like your Mum will say, you're doing something that you're interested in, unlike school.

In August 2006 you'll get a great first proper job at Sheffield City Council.  You'll be in awe of this job as it is something you liked and worked for.  But it's not as smooth as it should have been.  You will get bullied and intimidated by your manager.  This sounds horrible, and it will be of all kinds.  I'm not going to lie to you.  But you need to keep strong and fight it.  You'll learn great life skills from this period.  You will fight it for a few months until your Mum knows, then you won't go back by order.  But keep looking for jobs while your off, don't sink into unhappiness.  Keep that fight going (well you will keep going in without no sick days).  And don't take your Grandma's sleeping pills that she got from Spain! ;-)  You'll get a tad addicted to them haha.  But seriously don't rely on these Dan.  But during this year, your parents will get divorced, but don't get too upset about it.  It won't affect you a lot.  Only when you lived on your own for 6 months+.  You lived like a king for a while!  You'll have many parties and bad alcohol memories!  But do eat proper food yeh, not takeaways and rubbish!  During 2006, you will meet your second boyfriend who is adorable and geeky.  This will last a great few months.  His family will look after you through this year.  They will fill the gap of your broken family and provide you with a loving home when you visit.  You really did love this family, you will never forget their generosity and love.

From January 2007, while you were off sick for two months from that vile environment that was like The Devil Wears Prada, you will come across Michelle Dewberry's book, the lady who won the series two of The Apprentice.  You will be drawn to her and inspired by her story on TV.  You came across her book by surprise and were obsessed with her story as it was similar to yours.  Her career plan in the back of her book will change your life and it will serve a great tool for you later and you'll go on to sharing this with people to help their careers.  In March 2007,  you will meet your third boyfriend who you went on a lot of social outings with which helped build you back up after your spirit was nearly taken.  You will have your first camping experience and you'll go off to Spain for a great holiday together.  Later that year you met your fourth boyfriend who you were like two geeky buddies when together.  You knew this one would be a short relationship, but you enjoyed the time you had.  In Summer 2008 you both parted.  Although these relationships were short, you had great times that helped bring some spark back in you.  Later that Summer you met your fifth boyfriend who was a super geek, but you will love him to bits.  You will both do great together and become a little team.  You'll go bike riding and be placed with another loving family.  You'll do a lot for this family by just being there.  This again became a second home as you will be loved by their family.  You will help this guy too, with your outgoing, honest and open nature you'll introduce him to new things and bring him out of his shell!  This will be one of the longest and most challenging relationships you had, but a worthy one.  You will make many memories throughout 2009 with bike rides, social madness with friends and a holiday.

In the background you were studying hard on many evening courses.  You've been doing courses since 2005, so it's like second nature to you now.  As with the last few years, it's around here when you'll further commit and dedicate your career to develop yourself.  You'll put your heart and soul into making you a better, knowledgeable and more rounded person.  You'll observe and learn strong work ethic skills from two pop artists and three particular songs.  As you will, take the inspiration and re-work it to your own meaning.  You will learn how to do this and see the magic of it.

At the beginning of 2010, you started your new job.  A job that you will just love and have so much passion for.  However, it was a year of revelation and change of sorts for you.  It's going to be the biggest year of your life!  So hold tight!  You'll meet a special person that opened a very unique door for you.  One door that will open up a whole new world to you.  But I'm not going to tell you this as you're not ready for it right now.  You experienced so much in this year that you felt it was like a new life, like you were born again.  This is the year Dan that you cut the chain on many things and flew high.  A particular song that came out that year paved a foundation that you will share with others later in life.  A year later after being in this dream job you will do a introductory teaching course and you will fall in love with the learning and teaching process.  But you will also find that you will throw yourself into teaching to deepen and sharpen your interpersonal skills, especially your communication skills.  At the end of 2010 you will meet your sixth boyfriend.  You were a great couple that lasted around a year.  You shared many great times, a holiday and spiritual growth.

At the end of 2011, you'll move into your first house.  You moved in over Christmas and felt like you didn't have one with all the madness of your new home.  At the beginning of 2012 you were single again.  At first you will feel extremely lonely and you will visit many places on your own.  You had trips in UK and abroad.  You felt you had to do this, maybe you thought it's because you have your own place and that you needed to lead yourself more.  But also to make new friends and strengthen your social and inner abilities.  But 2012 will be the start of a two year period where you'll discover to be yourself and learn how to be in your own company.  But don't shut people out.  Let them join you on this experience.  Like your Mum will say, maybe because you have been independent all your life, you feel you have to do everything on your own.  Trust me, let people in and be with you.  Stop being so bloody stubborn!

2014 is a year when you will be noticed, respected and viewed more strongly than you have ever before.  You have worked extremely hard to get to this point.  You have worked for your career and the friends you have around you.  It's not been easy for you.  But you pushed on and made it.  It's around here that you will realise that you are somebody and a special somebody, even though you are overwhelming at times.  But you mean no harm.  At the beginning of this year, you met your seventh boyfriend.  It was like a movie scene where you met on a night out.  You both had great passion for music and humour.  You both helped each other in different ways and made yourselves stronger spiritually.  But you went onto become best friends the year after.

Let's put this little life story at aside for a moment.  You'll find that you'll be ever searching for yourself Dan.  At times you will think you don't know who and what you are.  It's all been part of the struggle of not knowing how to find yourself or know what you want.  So you became easily influenced by others.  You'll find that you find things harder that others don't.  But don't let this put you off, we are all different.  You once said you were a follower and not a leader.  Well that will change and you will hold onto that phrase as a reminder of your former self.  You do struggle to express yourself sometimes and people will judge you on the outside rather than the inside for it.  People view you as misunderstood.  But so what, let them talk.  Everyone is a work in progress.  It's because you don't know how to express yourself.  You're unsure of who you are, you don't know how you should look and feel.  It's like you are living the ugly duckling story.  You need to know how to believe in yourself that you can do great things and have ability to make people smile and laugh, even if it is at you sometimes.  Take compliments graciously too!  You can still be a bugger for that, I tell you!  You appear as a loner, but so bloody what hey.  So bloody what.  You're a decent and genuine guy that could give the world if you could.  But you're never alone.  Believe that.  You will cry many nights and wishing that you had more friends and were going out often.  You're erratic and will be very methodical and persistent of how you work and do things.  Just be weary of this and try not to be too overwhelming with it.  Some people won't like this, but you are you Dan.  Try not to change for others.  We can modify ourselves, but we can't fully change,  As your Grandad once said "don't break his spirit".

You will go onto inspire and motivate people from the journey you have taken.  You'll learn that helping others will help you.  You'll grow a massive passion for people and living life.  Knowing how to inspire and motivate them and having sticking to the principle of "we all must help others".  You'll become a great philosopher of sorts through your writing and wisdom.  You have a powerful message to carry which is about discovering who you are and the making of you who you are.  You've found your purpose, you should be proud of yourself.  But you don't say this to yourself enough.  You're biggest achievement is knowing what you needed to improve, what you wanted and how to embrace what you have got and life.  Look how far you have come in making yourself what you wanted to be!

You will look for relationships and feel you have to be with someone.  But that is not always the case.  Solitude is a skill everyone should practice, it's a life saver and maker.  You live for love, but you don't have to be so hung up on it.  You'll look up to the night sky most nights and wish that your one true love was looking at the same star.  You deeply care about the loves you've had.  Because when they end you write letters to show your gratitude for them being with you and the good times and learning you both did.  You're so romantic Dan, but many of it can go unseen.  Keep showing and giving love Dan, it's your biggest gift.

You've been to so many places and had so many experiences, and you will have the opportunity to do more and more of them.  So get ready!  You're a lucky man Dan, be grateful for everything which I know you are and you can't express it enough.

I'm nearing 30 now.  I'm about to start the last year of doing a Masters degree.  Yeh, you're probably thinking, WHAT?!  But anything can happen as I've told you.  It's been tough, it really has.  I've had moments when I really want to give up on everything.  But you'll make a pact to yourself that your life is not done until it's done.  You're here for a purpose and that needs to be fulfilled before you leave.  I'm not sure where our life will lead us.  How many doors do we have to open and close?  Will we marry our one true love?  I'll write to you again soon, I promise.  Just hold tight and have lots of courage and strength.  Everything else will fall in to place.  You'll see.  You're a caterpillar Dan, one that is soon to becoming a cocoon then into a magnificent butterfly.  It's called metamorphosis.  Believe it.  I love you Dan, more than you ever will yourself.  See you soon *hugging you tightly and holding your hand*.  Until we talk again, good luck. X

Friday, 12 June 2015

Putting learning into eLearning

I'm in my second and last year of doing the Technology Enhanced Learning MSc.  So I've started to think and plan for my dissertation proposal over the Summer.  My title or working title at the time of writing is:  Putting learning into eLearning: exploring the gaps between face-to-face, blended and self-directed learning methods to improve eLearning delivery.  It's not a case of reinventing the wheel so to speak, but the effort I'm doing to make changes and change thinking of eLearning practice is what it is about.  I want this research to examine how converting from face-to-face learning into eLearning can lose essential pedagogical components.  As in most eLearning activities they can be viewed as 'page turners' and can be demotivating and cause learner fatigue.  By the end of the research I want to develop a model of good practice that is successfully tried and tested and that is built upon the framework on the face-to-face learning method and how that can be incorporated into future eLearning innovations.  I suppose I touch on this in A Desktop Analysis of eLearning Packages.

I started this off by trying to think about how people learn by finding out methods to get to know learners more, to inform designs and solutions to increase cognition in the eLearning experience.  I've also recently become aware that eLearning tends to meet business objectives rather than learning objectives, which is another reason I wanted to seek more methods of needs assessment for learning.  I asked this through the ALT Mailing List and to see if I was approaching this in the right way.  It turned out I wasn't but it did help me consider some other things such as metacognition, learning analytics and learning to learn skills.  I also asked our Advanced Practioner teachers on what their views were, which was mainly ongoing evaluation and feedback with learners.  But it wasn't a wasted effort as it has given me ideas and theories to consider later on.

So to summarise, I'm looking at what is lost between these learning methods through conversion and suggesting how they can be bridged with improvements: Face-to-face > blended > self-directed.  In each one I'm looking into:

  • Why they came about?
  • What each one is made up of?
  • Why are they being used?
  • Why are they good?   
  • What do you get in that method that you don’t get in others?

In my first year of doing this masters I have talked about how much I need to improve my academic ability.  I will continue to seek ALT's expertise and intellect throughout this next stage.  I just hope to provide something that is not only is meaningful locally but to others in this profession.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Digital move-meant

This came about when I was thinking about how our department may have two different focusses, which could be split into two areas.  First one being Learning Technologies by us researching, developing, promoting, supporting and evaluating websites and systems to enhance the learning and teaching process.  The second area being eLearning where our apprentices are designing and developing eLearning materials for curriculum departments.  I wanted to determine if they are different areas or are they one as such.

It then got me thinking about what do these two actually mean?  Whilst I have a great understanding of both of them, I thought I would ask out to the super minds on the ALT Mailing List of what their views were before I made a judgment.

I'm glad I had a similar view, and it has helped me to clarify and justify my position on both of these areas.  Below I've summarised the contributions and my thoughts.

Learning Technologies is about the overall tools and systems that can manage learning, such as publishing software, social media and Virtual Learning Environments.  Learning Technologies can be viewed as a toolkit in which they help you to design learning with technology in mind.  Learning Technologies should support and enhance face-to-face, blended and self-directed learning methods. You can't use technology for technology sake. It has to be underpinned with pedagogical value and purpose.

eLearning is the pedagogy that can be used within the chosen Learning Technology.  eLearning is a process that enables learning to be facilitated and supported appropriately within the chosen technology.  eLearning provides the essential pedagogical foundations that is usually missing within the technology.  eLearning can appear in many forms such as self-directed learning objects and online participation.  However, depending how eLearning is designed it can be both online and offline.  At this point, a definition could be that Learning Technologies are the tools and systems that support and carry the eLearning pedagogy.

Furthermore, whilst there are many phrases for this type of learning, design and method, it could be grouped together as digital learning.  We should look at what is happening within the entire process of Learning Technology and eLearning and try not to dwell too much on the meaning, as the happening will define the meaning.  Digital is a more modern and holistic approach to the pedagogy, processes, tools and systems involved in supporting and designing learning with any technology.  However, you could say that the meaning of digital should also include Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills, inclusivity/participation and creating knowledge with others.

In summarising this, I suppose it backs up my recent statement of; if eLearning "was" just copying, pasting and uploading a file, there wouldn't be a wealth of pedagogic and academic research on it.  Plus, this kind of discussion all contributes to the never-ending thoughts of what a Learning Technologist should think about and carry on thinking about, which all links into my thoughts on Developing a Learning Technologist.