Friday, 29 June 2007

RSC NW Annual Conference 2007

I've been on the JISC infoNet conference stand today at the RSC NW Annual Conference in Blackpool - a rare chance for me to attend an event in my home town! The theme was Personalised Learning.

There were two keynote speakers and a number of breakout sessions, although I was busy on the exhibition stand whilst the latter sessions took place. The wireless network enabled me to allow delegates to drill down into some of the online resources at JISC infoNet.

A lot of interest in our resources for Planning & Designing Technology-Rich Learning Spaces, our Social Software and e-Portfolio resources, and our more traditional core infoKits such as Project Management and Change Management.

First keynote was by Dr Cheryl A. Jones, an HMI, whose session I think a few of the audience were itching to grade... I'm not a fan of lots of "what" without "how" which is how this presentation came over to me.

"We need to get students to recognise the skills they have," she said, quoting a Jamie Oliver programme where student chefs thought they had no skills at the start of the programme, but who were taught to bake a loaf of bread and went home proud of the achievement.

All very good, but it didn't bring out the skills they had - it described a skill they were taught on the day. I remember a similar conversation I had with Carolynne Cotton, a lecturer now at Blackpool & The Fylde College, but then at Preston who had once had a waiter tell her that he had no skills.

"Do you take orders from diners?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied.
"So you have some skills in answering questions about the menu, listening skills in taking the orders, the skill to note orders down and relate them to the kitchen," she said. "Do you serve the meals?" Again the answer was yes. "So you have organisational skills in remembering who ordered what and in carrying meals in a way that allows you to serve without walking to and fro around the table. Do suggest options for sweets or ask if they want wine?"
"Yes," came the reply, now in a slightly wondering tone.
"Then you have some experience of sales and knowledge of what to suggest..."

I'm sure Carolynne could remember (or recreate) that conversation from several years ago in much more detail. I was spellbound at just how many skills she drew out of that waiter who thought he had none.

There was a nugget from Dr Jones' talk that I heartily agreed with. "The notion of contribution should be introduced to learners at the earliest opportunity with a view to developing individuals who are 'givers' as well as 'takers'," she said.

The second keynote at the end of the day was from Bill Pollard of Cheadle & Marple Sixth Form College. Bill gave an excellent talk, with video of learners relating their experiences of how personalised learning and placing learners in charge of how they learned had made a great impact on those who had been disaffected at school.

"We have operated on a 60/40 basis, where learners have control over 60% of what they will do and how they will do it in a lesson," he said. "This approach is not however popular with Ofsted, who want to see a lesson plan and can't cope with the fact that the learners will write it at the start of a lesson! It can also be rather scary for the lecturer!"

1 comment:

Chrissie said...

Hmm - a familiar conference to me. Glad you enjoyed it. Once we get an archive up on our new website, I'll post a link to your blog. There's some interesting comments there about the keynotes - I'm best not commenting on. But, we've been discussing here and are starting to consider a different format for the conference next year. Any ideas greatfully accepted!