Effective methods to engage students in the classroom.

I’m doing a presentation at Huddersfield University soon and this is my PowerPoint.

The presentation is about the importance of motivating and inspiring your students with engaging activities in the classroom. It’s also about using feedback a teacher obtains from students and saving it in a digital format so students can use it outside the classroom. Saving information is important so that students can remind themselves about the class session and also so they can use the information in their assignments to help them improve their grades.

If you have any comments please let me know.  

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Online education gathers pace

Excellent article in The Guardian asking the question Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university.

We all buy books and listen to music online. Online shopping is causing our high streets to be ghost towns. Newspapers are going online as paper versions struggle to sell. Is education next? I think the answer is yes and within 10 years Higher Education will look different to what it is now. High tuition fees will mean it is inevitable that online universities will proper.

Teaching though is not just about university lectures it is also about learning from those around you. The Guardian article is well worth a read.

Personally, I think a combination of online and face to face might work best (blended learning) but the juggernaut of online learning is now gathering pace and it will be interesting to see where it ends up.

Take a look at the online universities below. They have already signed up tens of thousands of people. All the courses are free. I quite fancy taking the online computer programming course myself !






What the Olympics can teach all of us

With the spectacle of the Olympics over and the Olympic athletes returning to their home towns and civic receptions we are all having to get used to life without the likes of Usain Bolt on our television screens. Despite some reservations about the cost of the games there is no doubt that Britain made them a success. It made me proud to be British and that the whole world was able to see us as friendly enthusiatstic people with an amazing historical and cultural heritage.Lets hope that the £10 billion cost proves to be a good investment.

But the legacy of the games is far more than encouraging more people to take up sport and be challenging for Oylmpic medals in the future. The legacy is also something that is intangible in that the efforts and sacrifes of our athletes has a lesson for us all. To have a chance of an Olympic medal athletes need to train very hard. It can take 4 years of training and personal sacrifice to reach the pinnacle of your sport. These athletes had a vision and a goal. They knew exacltly what they wanted and they were prepared to put as much effort in as was needed to succeed.

It’s a well known fact that if we don’t have a goal in life we will not get there, so that’s the first lesson. Write down your goals, have a vison of what you want in life and aim high. Once you have you goals you need to work out a way of achieving those goals. They won’t just fall at your feet. This usually involves getting to be good at what you want to do. Whether its football or working in a restaurant. If you are good at it you will progress, and the way you get good at what you do is to be enthusiastic and to train/work hard. It means being the best you can be!

Just like the Olympians we need to raise the bar that we set ourselves and also we need to raise the bar in education. As A level and GCSE results for this year are released we have the annual debate on whether the exams are hard enough. Whether that’s true or not we need to raise standards and one way of doing that is by making the exams harder. If everyone is getting A’s or A * how can we pick out the exeptional ones ?

One thing that I really liked during the Olympics is the way the parents of the athletes were treated. They were interviewed on TV and treated as VIP’s. I think we can learn from the praise that was heaped upon these parents. An athlete or indeed any young person will find it difficult to succceed without support from parents.It’s the same with succeeding in education and gaining qualifications. Parents need to be supportive of their childrens aspirations and teachers need to become very good at inspiring children with the love of learning.

There is no doubt that we have plenty of people who have a vision and a goal and have the support and self determination to achive in sport, education and in life in general. The Olympics showed everyone that we are genuine, friendly and can organise a hell of a party.

The Olympics also showed us how to succeed in whatever we do. There is a lesson for all of us !

Pushing the boundaries in business and education.

For companies, organisations and retailers one of the biggest challenges they face is establishing themselves in the online market place. This involves much thought and planning to implement a strategy that works and is going to be competitive. Being online is far more than having a website and putting some products in a database and hoping that you might sell some. Once you have your website you need a marketing plan and I would encourage any business that has a website to think about this before setting up the website. I would also strongly suggest that you look at Social Media Marketing but above all else I suggest you think about how you will engage your customers. What I mean is that you must use your website as a method to “talk” to your customers. You can answer questions and this builds trust – vitally important if you want to be a success in the online world.

My online travel business, Global Holidays, was set up in 1996 and I was one of the first travel agents to have a website. I added videos of holiday destinations way before anyone else did ! I wanted to be a pioneer of the online travel world and by 1998 I had a full blown e-commerce travel website.

In the last 12 months I have got involved in teaching travel and tourism students and have since then been gradually introducing new e-learning methods of teaching into my classroom. I am no expert yet in e-learning but I will try to be. I have written articles about online universities being the future, and I can see private companies trying to muscle in on the act and being a threat to universities and colleges.

I like it when organisations look to the future and make an attempt at doing things differently. The same applies to colleges and schools. I love it when they try something new to improve learning.It’s essential to do this to improve.

When I heard about South West college in Northern Ireland having a “Virtual Week” I was very impressed. For one week the majority of the students stayed at home and had their lessons online. The lessons were taught by teachers using multi media and connected together in an online classroom. The Virtual Week must have taken a lot of planning and organising but the results seem to be that the week was a success.

To make progress both in life and business you have to push the boundaries, go outside your comfort zone and try something new. Mistakes will be made but we all know that that’s one way we learn.

One of the reasons South West College say they had their virtual week was so they can teach when students can’t attend due to bad weather. There are though far more uses for this type of teaching.

So, what can education learn from the online business world? Well, e-learning needs to be user friendly, it needs to be reliable, it needs to offer the best learning experience with plenty of choice. There needs to be plenty of support available. Far too many e-commerce sites have no telephone number to call if you have a question. 

If anyone is interested in watching a short video of the Virtual Week you can watch the video below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tywrB6MQKM?rel=0]

Online universities are just around the corner

Following on from my recent article about online education there was an interesting news article on the BBC website today which you can read here which is about the news that Edinburgh University is to be the first UK institution to join an influential US-based online university project. Many US universities are now providing online courses which have seen tens of thousands of people sign up for.

Whatever happens in the US happens over here in the UK so I think we can expect to see many other UK educational instituations offering online courses.

Only time will tell how engaging and successful these courses will be. In my opinion there does need to be some form of communication, mentoring and contact between student and teacher for there to be effective learning and how this will be done is going to be very interesting to see. It could be that the student has to go to the university from time to time or it could be that the student communicates by video link.

What is just as interesting is the business model that these online universities are using. They are offering free courses and intend to generate income in other ways from the huge number of students that they will have.

Because these online courses are free there seems to be a high number of students who fail to finish the course. Part of a teachers job is to offer encouragement, guidance and advice and this could be difficult if you don’t see your students.

In any event, educational establishments need to be gearing up to combat the threat of these online universities because in not too many years their “customers” might be tempted to go online rather than learn in the traditional way!

One of the universities pioneering online teaching is Stanford University. You can read about their online teaching and how they aim to retain personal contact here

PowerPoint vs Prezi – Which is best for teaching?

As part of my teaching of travel and tourism classes I have got to give presentations. I use PowerPoint but have lately been using Prezi. I think both PowerPoint and Prezi are excellent but I have become a big Prezi fan because I think it is more professional and is better at engaging an audience than PowerPoint.

I have made a 5 minute video comparing PowerPoint and Prezi and you can see the video below. I have just started making video’s of my presentations so I apologise if you think they are of poor quality. I am working on improving them as I do more !

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2OvV_6ykHw?rel=0]

Higher education on the verge of a revolution?

Let’s start with a bold statement ! – Teaching, at the further and higher education level, is on the verge of such a huge change in the way it is delivered that in 5 years time we won’t recognise the educational lanscape.

Teachers has been slow to grasp the importance of technology and have relied on the lecturer to teach a classroom full of students for far too long. However, with the cost of a university education spiralling out of control and further education budgets set to decrease for many years to come change will be forced on these establishments.

Running a college is a very expensive business in terms of its buildings, staff costs and other resources. Its also expensive for the student. Its also very restrictive on the number of students who can attend the course and imposes strict rules about when a student should attend. As budgets come under increasing pressure, it is always the way that new ideas are born and new ways of doing things are found. This is already happening at the Khan Accademy. Also, the Stanford University professor who taught an artificial intelligence course to more than 160,000 students has abandoned his teaching position to aim for an even bigger audience.

Sebastian Thrun, a research professor of computer science at Stanford, has given up his teaching role at the institution to found Udacity, a start-up offering low-cost online classes.

A few years ago who would have imagined that we would download our music rather than buy it from a record shop. The high street is suffering whilst online retailers take their market share. Why can’t it happen in education too? The signs are already there and the environment is there too, Combine these factors with the technolgy that exists now and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see the writing on the wall.

What might look like a challenge to large educational institutions is actually an opportunity. However, I fear the worst, because large companies and institutions are normally the slowest to change. We saw it in the travel industry when new airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet came from nothing to overtake the slow changing national airlines to change the airline industry forever.

Colleges and Universities already have the skills, knowldege and teaching expertise to offer qualifications in a radically new way. This will involve providing online learning so the student can learn at a time to suit them and also with a totally different way of monitoring a students progress. The way a tutor carries out assessment will change too. You have only to watch one of many You Tube videos about how the Khan Accademy is revolutionising how a students progress is monitored to see how things will look in a just a few years.

Colleges and Universities need to start to steer a new course now otherwise they face being left behind by new online universities that will offer cheap flexible ways of learning and obtaining a qualification.

If you want to see how teaching in the further and higher education sectors will look in the near future watch the fascinating video below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEJ_ATgrnnY?rel=0]

Kids should code

There has been lots of publicity about kids being able to code. When I was at school we had binary computers. There was no such thing as a desk top PC. I remember going on a school trip to Burtons Head Office in Leeds in the 70’s and they had an air-conditioned room full of giant computers. That total computing power, back in those days, was probably equivalent to a standard desktop PC now. If only I had had the forsight to realise that computers would start a technology revolution and that I should learn how to be a computer programmer !

School children and students have learnt how to use Microsoft Word and PowerPoint and that’s about it. I agree that students should learn how to code. Knowing how to make an app. is just as important as learning PowerPoint but knowing how to code an app. will open more doors and give them the power to be creative.

Being creative, in my view, is just as important as literacy and numeracy and we need to encourage that in our schools and colleges.

I found this great You Tube video about coding and it features some famous faces!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxhGIajRsq4?rel=0]

Bored of listening to music? Listen to TED!

Quite a while ago I discovered TED. No, this is not some strange man that I found in a remote place! TED stands for Technolgy Entertainment and Design.The BBC in an article today describes TED as a cult. I wouldn’t quite go that far but there is no doubt that since videos of TED talks were put online they have become mainstream rather than just listened to by those willing to pay thousands of pounds for an annual membership.

TED talks, if you don’t know are lectures lasting about 20 minutes that are given on just about any subject you can imagine. The talks are given by experts in that field or by people with a passion for the subject. They can be inspiring, educational, informative, bewildering, bizzare and mind bogggling but the one thing they all have in common is that they are very thought provoking. TED talks are an outlet for ideas and there is something that will interest most people.

Some of the quotes and subjects you can see online range from -“The Secret to Happiness is Low Expectations” to “Lessons from Death Row Inmates”.They are educational and as the website says are “Ideas worth spreading”

I find TED talks so interesting that I have found myself listening to talks rather than listening to music. I have downlowded the TED app and I often lie in bed at night listening. I can understand why the talks have become cult listening material and if you haven’t tried listening I suggest you give it a go.

The top TED talks you can watch are:-

1. Ken Robinson on schools killing creativity – viewed nearly 11 million times

2. Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight – viewed 8.7 million times

3. Pranav Mistry on sixth sense technology – viewed 8.3 million times

4. Steve Jobs on how to live before you die – viewed 8.2 million times

5. David Gallow shows underwater astonishments – viewed 7.4 million times

6. Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense – viewed 6.4 million times

7. Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire action – viewed 5.7 million times

8. Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability – viewed 5.1 million times

9. Arthur Benjamin does “Mathemagic” – viewed 4.2 million times

10. Hans Rosling shows the best stats you’ve ever seen – viewed 4.1 million times

Viewing figures as of 20 June 2012 on TED website

Shocking state of 80% of school leavers in Scotland.

Shocking news in The Scotsman newspaper today about an employer who says that 80% of young people in Scotland are unemployable. Being involved in both business and further education myself I was both interested to read this story and it left me wondering whether the same could be said of young people in the rest of the UK.

The paper reports that –

The “recurring” problems identified among applicants included a poor attitude to others, no concept of citizenship, poor communication skills, a poor understanding of the standards expected and an “inability to make a decision based on anything other than ‘I want’.”

But the submission added: “The single biggest issue causing difficulties for the transition from school to employment is the discrepancy in working hours. Our apprentice intakes consistently describe a maximum of 18 hours in class per week, extended holidays and little or no access to extracurricular activities.” Youngsters who go on to college come into the workplace a year or more year later with a “further deterioration in concept of ―working week”, the submission added.

I suspect that in England the figures will not be as high as those in Scotland but other employers in England have also said similar things in the past.

The employer concerned, in Scotland, said the firm had 2,280 applications for apprenticeships in 2011 – but found that 1,850 were simply not fit for the workplace. It took on 121 youngsters, although 430 were employable. If these numbers are indeed mirrored throughout the UK then educational establishments really do have to try harder to supply the skills needed for employment.

Read the full article in The Scotsman here